Remember that once you start, you'll always second guess yourself. There will be days when you wonder why you are doing it (I've had quite a few this year because of our moving and missing school days that we'll have to make up this summer). There will be days when you'll struggle just to get out of your pajamas.... but your kids will turn out wonderful and you'll still be able to have a relationship with them when they are teenagers! God is there, the whole way, if you just lay it all at His feet and remember that you can't do it on YOUR STRENGTH ALONE.
2. Join a MOM's Support Group, a Co-op, and a Homeschool Email List.
You should get with like-minded folks and listen to their war stories about how they've managed to run a household and school five to eight kids over the past fifteen years... and see their successes as little Betty Homeschool the seventeen year old can hold a conversation with you (looking you in the eye) and actually seem like she's enjoying herself. These moms are not turning out a new generation of fleshy Bratz Dolls (heaven help us!), nope... they are growing the next generation of home-makers, politicians, college professors, rocket scientists (at least Amy is), surgeons, veterinarians, and godly parents. These people's kids are usually the kind you imagine your own little Bill and Betty growing up to marry. Thank the Lord for other homeschooling moms!
To find a list, do an email search in your browser. Type in something like "My City Homeschool Email List" or "My City Homeschool Co-Op". Of course, you sub your city's name for the "My City".
If you are in Houston, Texas, you can JOIN THIS EMAIL LIST:
Greater Houston Area Home Educators (G-HAH)
They are a secular/all-inclusive group, but have many Christians also. They list all the free events and field trips going on around Houston, and you can get to know people and ask questions there.
3. Read about homeschooling.
There is a wealth of information available today about homeschooling. If you are just starting out - chances are, you aren't alone. The numbers of homeschoolers today are growing rapidly (see my previous post about Homeschooling in America Today). Gone are the days when everything was underground and police carted you off to jail for truancy. Praise the Lord! Homeschooling is becoming more and more understood and accepted all across the nation. I am listing a few interesting articles about homeschooling that will help you in your mission to convince dad that it's a good choice, ward off the criticism from nosy family members and friends, and to help you feel confident in your decision. It may take you a few months to read all of these, but bookmark the permalink for this post (click here for the link to appear in your browser, then save it as a favorite), and come back later and read them when you have time. I promise, they are great articles.
A Brief Case for Socialization
More Information than You'll Ever Need About Homeschooling
Nobel Winners Hate School
The Government Endangers Education
Socialization No Longer an Issue
Colleges Recruiting Homeschoolers
Homeschool, Or Else...
Publik Skule vs. Home School
Seceding from School
4. Join a Local Homeschool Organization/Check out Local Event Websites...
Usually, in each state, there is a homeschool organization that puts on book fairs, conventions, and even graduations and such. These types of groups are not really for meeting people, but rather just information you can use to help you in your journey. There is usually a small fee and it gets you in the door at events. They will most likely send out a newsletter that has all the upcoming event information, advertisements, and helpful articles. There are also helpful websites that will display local events and co-op opportunities. You can search for them the same way you search for co-ops and email lists (see #2).
If you live in Texas, some of these links might be helpful:
I could go on and on... but you get the point... these links are not that hard to find if you just do some keyword searches on your browser.
5. GO to a book fair or convention.
It is priceless to hear the speakers at homeschool conventions. I used to just go and browse all the materials in the main building - drooling over curriculums I couldn't afford and countless books I wanted. Then I discovered that the book fairs are really about encouraging and equipping mom through listening to the speakers they provide. You will laugh, you will cry, and you will walk away with a mission.
My favorite Texas Book Fair is the Arlington Book Fair. I would HIGHLY recommend it if you live anywhere within four or five hours of Arlington, Texas (between Dallas and Fort Worth). I used to drive up there from Houston (four hours away). Another added plus to attending the Arlington Book Fair is that usually, Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington has a Homeschool Day (the lines are shorter than usual), and you can make both events in the same week. For more information about either, visit their individual websites. If you are not on a homeschool email list, you might not find out about the homeschool-only event (on the website it usually lists it as a CLOSED to the public event, without a name).
6. If you are worried about legalities, or live in an area that is hostile or difficult to homeschool because of public perception or school officials, please join the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).
The membership fee is a bit high, but it gets you discounts on homeschooling materials and conferences, and also provides legal services for free if the truancy officers, school officials, or nosy neighbors bother you or try and turn you in to CPS. They also have wonderful state-by-state legal summaries of the laws regarding each state's stance on homeschooling and upcoming legislative watches.
There are other groups like this one, but this is the most well-known. If you know of another great group that champions homeschoolers rights, please leave the link in my comments section to share with others who might be searching!
7. Visit a homeschool book store.
The people who work in these stores are usually either homeschoolers or previous homeschool veterans. They offer a wonderful variety of curriculums, books, and educational supplies. Some times it helps to go and look at curriculums without the pressure of "sales people" such as you would experience at the book fair. There are also books and articles that compare different curriculums that you can read. You can also get ideas from the various catalogues that sell homeschool curriculums and supplies which you can get through the mail or visit online. A few of them are linked in my side-bar. One of my favorites is Vision Forum.
Two Houston Homeschool Book Stores that I visited when we were in Houston are:
Love 2 Learn (Tomball)
The Homeschool Store (Northwest)
8. Choose your curriculum.
There is so much to pick from, that it can be overwhelming. Everyone has their own ideas about what is best for them (and they will be sure to tell you about it). The best thing to do is to know your goals. What is your main mission in educating your kids? What are the most important characteristics you want them to have when they grow up? What skills do they need to work on now? What are their learning types and personality types? Do you have any special needs? These are questions that will help you narrow your search. There are websites, articles, book stores, book fairs, speakers, and books that can help you in this quest. It would take me all day to research the links, so I'll leave that up to you. My strongest suggestion in this area (besides PRAYER - see #1) is to get with a homeschooling family who has been homeschooling a while and sit down over coffee with the mom (or dad if he's the main teacher), and DISCUSS what they do, and what you are looking for. Chances are, God has placed the perfect seed in that person which they, in turn, can share with you... and it will produce a garden of ideas and a crop of educational success.
And REMEMBER... as you grow in your homeschool journey, you can always CHANGE curriculums (even mid-semester!), change schedules, and change goals! You are a living, breathing homeschool family with changing needs each year. As you learn more, you will tweak your homeschooling and every year will be a different experience. You will find what works best for your kids as you travel the homeschooling journey together.
Here is an article about choosing curriculums from About.com that I saved in my email box from long ago: Finding the Right Curriculum
9. Stay encouraged.
Aside from prayer and fellowship, you should remember that you aren't perfect. You should make it a point - especially at first - to read uplifting articles about homeschooling. Just about every time I get to feeling like a flop as a homeschool mom, someone will send me a link or an email that will make me feel better... or the kids will tell me they had a great time, or hug me... or someone will say "My, what well behaved kids you have!" The little things are what keep you moving forward. God is in the details. He knows just what you need. Homeschooling isn't an easy way of life - especially if you are scraping by on one income and have to sacrifice a lot of the frills that make life easier. But, in the long run, your kids will thank you... and you can always re-join the work force once they are happy, godly, successful adults!
(essays about what people wish they had have known starting out... Etc. Grab your coffee and read these with your daily devos!)
I'm Not a Radical Homeschooler
Cindy Rushton Mom 2 Mom Discussion Boards and Inspirational Articles
Also, check out the many interesting homeschool links in my sidebar!
10. HAVE FUN!
Remember to hug your kids, kiss your kids, play with your kids, and pray with your kids. Set aside a time each day for family discussion, family reading, and family field trips or outings. Spend time with each of your kids alone. Make sure Dad has time with each of them alone as well. Take them on a kid date night. Make up a rules and rewards system. Set up chores and allowance. Give them a spot to show off their school work at home. Frame their artwork. Give them a certificate or award because they are GREAT KIDS. Laugh a lot. Enjoy your time with them. They will be grown up before you know it. That six year old will be driving and possibly WORKING in ten years. Those warm cuddly reading times on the couch will fade away. Make memories and cherish today. Take the spilled milk lightly. Pick your battles and don't fret over the small stuff.
Some of the best advice I have ever gotten is from a Konos friend. You'll have to forgive me if I misquote it... and it may have originated with Jessica Hulcy (one of the Konos brains), but I'm not sure. One day, when I was particularly frazzled, I got an email from a Konos friend who told me:
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