We’ve gotten a few inquiries from folks interested in eventually homeschooling their kids as part of a strategic relocation, yet neither parent has any background in it and they are uncertain where to begin or if they have what it takes. Here’s a few starter tips on how to do it, and how to get into it if you decide it is right for your family.
Most often, I hear this question from younger families. The kids are around kindergarten age or younger, and maybe the family doesn’t want their strategic relocation tied to finding a good school district. Or even if you did find a district you like, there’s no promises that the high school will still be awesome ten years from now.
Homeschooling definitely gives you more freedom to raise your family anywhere. Found the perfect homestead property, but the school district is lacking? Who cares? Your kids won’t be using it, because you know you can provide better! (And that’s actually pretty easy to do on today’s public school standards.)
Prerequisite: Know the Law
Before you get into any homeschooling, make sure you are clear on the state laws that will affect you. The last thing you want is to do is go hot on the government radar because you missed some trivial paperwork deadline.
The best resource for this is probably Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which we link to in our resources.
Prerequisite: Know that You Can Do It!
The hardest part about homeschooling is making sure you don’t let it slip from your busy lives. Maybe your Bible has been collecting dust on the nightstand, because you’ve been meaning to read it daily. And those free weights are also collecting dust in a corner because you’ve been meaning to start a fitness routine any day now. But your kids are counting on you, so don’t let days or weeks go by and then realize they are slipping behind in schoolwork simply because you haven’t had time for school.
The younger they are, the easier it is. You graduated school. This stuff will be easy for you to understand and teach. Maybe if your kid gets into advanced classes in high school, it might be beyond your knowledge base, but if your family is young that is a long ways down the road. Shapes and colors and the alphabet and how to hold a pencil are all things you know. How are you at teaching your children? They already ask 1000 “Why?” questions a day, like why is the sky blue and why do they have a belly button. What do you tell them? Do you teach them the answer? Or tell them to sit down and shut up and stop asking silly questions? If you’re thinking about homeschooling, then you’re probably the sort of parents who care enough that you already take the time to teach them what you know of the world.
Also, it doesn’t take 6 or 8 hours a day for kids to learn. Did you go to public school? I did, and I know how many hours I wasted each day keeping a desk chair warm. (Turned out to be good practice for keeping a corporate chair warm.)
If you kid is in early elementary school years, their material probably takes only 1-2 hours to complete. (Kindergarten, about 30 min). And young kids often can’t focus longer, so don’t make them. If you need to take 30 minute bites to keep school fun, better to keep it fun so they have a hunger for learning and succeeding. So it’s not like a commitment to homeschool is a commitment for you to be a full time teacher like that in the public school.
But what do you do with the rest of the time? Teach your kid how to live well. Changing a tire or doing home repair? Get them to watch or get involved as fits their age and ability. Grocery shopping? Teach them about money, and food groups, and planning a menu, and stocking a pantry. Everywhere you go and everything you do has teaching opportunities. If you homeschool, your kid is not warming a desk chair for most of the day dreaming of playtime. They can (and should) be by your side learning how you make good life choices, so they can grow up to without making all the same mistakes you made.
Step 1: Gather Knowledge
Homeschooling has exploded over the past decade as growing numbers of families are grossly dissatisfied with the public schools. Maybe 20 or 30 years ago homeschooling was mainly among fundamentalist Christians who alone objected to public school curriculum. But nowadays, even secular families know that they can do better for their kids. This is good news for you, because it means the available knowledge has vastly multiplied and is easy to find.
Go back to the HSDLA resource I mention above. Their homepage has a featured section titled, “You can homeschool.” Reads through their stuff and start following their recommended reading and links. It’s a great starting point, and these guys have been professionally associated with homeschooling since Generation X was in diapers. It’s a solid start for you knowledge base, and any materials they suggest for further reading are also likely solid.
Step 2: Hit the (Text)books
Do a web search for homeschool curriculum conventions in your state. There’s a homeschooling organization in every state, and they typically hold annual conferences for curriculum vendors. Check the neighboring states as well, because even if your state has a puny annual convention, perhaps the next state over has one of the most popular conventions in the region.
Conventions will have a schedule packed with speakers and events, but that’s all fluff. There might be one or two talks you definitely want to check out. If HSLDA is doing a presentation on the laws on your state, that’s a must-see. Maybe a vendor like Rosetta Stone is doing a presentation on what they offer in the world of homeschooling, and you really want to see it before plunking down that kind of money on a product.
But what you’re really at the convention for is to put hands and eyes on curriculum.
You know your kids. Think about their personalities as you walk around. Got a bookworm? Then that one curriculum which focuses on lots of reading (like Sonlight) will be ideal. Maybe your kid is very active and hands on and you think Calvin and Hobbes is biographical about your kid? Then check out the curriculum with lots of hands on and outdoor activities (like My Father’s World). Or maybe you’re a firm believer in classical education. It worked for Western Civilization for 2500 years and was only recently dumped from American schooling about 60 years ago, so it must have something going for it. Well, there are classical education curriculums that help you bring back what arrogant moderns think they are too smart to bother with. Bet you the med-school student who’s known Latin since 2nd grade has an easier time than his classmates! Harvard doesn’t even teach Latin anymore. (But they still print diplomas in Latin…so students graduate not knowing how to read their own diploma?)
Once you pick a core curriculum (usually one manual and workbook covers all subjects in younger ages) you can add whatever else you think is appropriate. Maybe you want your kids to have a more robust math curriculum. Then add a Singapore Math book for their grade level. Maybe there’s a Logic curriculum that caught your eye that has age-appropriate levels. If your kid is a little older, maybe they would be interested in programming or robotics – there are subject specific curriculums for that.
The point here is not to spell out every option, but to illustrate that options are manifold and you can design a custom curriculum unique to your individual child. Because even if a curriculum is perfect for your first child, the second child might be totally different. And that’s the advantage of homeschooling! No one-size-fits-all curriculum that your kids have to grit their teeth through. You customize it to your kid, because no one cares more about your kid than you.
I even read about one dad who wanted to teach his son about the history of video games and developed his own curriculum in which his boy played noteworthy games from each era in order from oldest to newest. You could do something like that too in an area you think is important for your kid to learn.
Step 3: Phone a Friend
Because homeschooling has multiplied so much, there are certainly people in your circles who do it. If you move to the Redoubt, just ask around at your church and you’re bound to find several families scattered across several neighborhoods.
When you meet someone who homeschools their kids, ask them about it. How did they get into it? What do they like about it? What are the challenges? What curriculum do they use and why?
Even better, maybe there’s a dad among those homeschooling families who took advanced math in college and would be willing to help you teach your kid basic algebra, if it’s beyond your abilities. Or chemistry. Or physics. Meet people and your resources multiply.
You’re going to meet folks who’ve been homeschooling longer than you. Learn all you can from them.
A big part of survival mentality is self sufficiency as well as getting the government out of your life. Taking charge of your children’s education is a huge step forward on both fronts.