It is one of the scariest things you will do, taking that leap, crossing that line. So much of society tells you that your child must be educated in a certain way for it “to work” and that straying from that path will only be detrimental to their future. All of the statistics though, say otherwise. If you are here, and you are ready to jump, these are the things you need to know to get started. It is completely normal to feel overwhelmed at this point. That does change. You CAN do this… so let’s get you started.
The FIRST thing you need to do is find out what you need to do to home school legally where you are. For this post we are are going to be getting you started in the state of Alabama. Deven at Compass Point Homeschool states it best. There are 3 ways to home school.
1) Hire a tutor/ Teacher who reports to the school board
2) Declare yourself a private school & report to state school board once a year with this form.
3) Enroll in a cover school who reports to your local school board.
This is a hot button issue for our state. A few years back lawmakers decided to tweak a few things and made everything homeschooling clear as mud. This has led to a lot bad information being handed out across social media. I am not here to argue, and will not be joining in the crazy. I am going to provide a link to a very well put together resource of links to the actual laws that was put together by a home school parent in our state. Up until the law change you needed what was called a cover to home school in Alabama. You joined this cover, and they helped walk you through what was needed to be sent to the school board, and could answer all those getting started questions! Now you don’t have to have this cover, but if you choose to go without there is paperwork that must be filed. Due to all this rigmarole I HIGHLY recommend all new homeschoolers obtain a cover for their first year as it is still one legal option. There are so many new things that will becoming your way, and this simple step takes one off your plate. You know you are doing at least one of the legal options 100% correct. HSLDA did an extensive interview explaining all of this. HERE is the recording if you would like to watch it!
Something to keep in mind:
~There is no such thing as a “letter of intent” to homeschool in AL. You don’t ‘intend to homeschool’. You are offering “home programs” through the above listed options. If you choose not to use a Church school, which is perfectly legal, you are declaring yourself a private school and really need to use that official form provided by the state (as stated in the law).
~ The public school system employees, websites, and administrators are giving out erroneous information. Often. On everything from your curriculum options, to your child’s future options, to their interpretation of the law. THEY are not who you need to listen to. At all. The chances of them ‘coming after’ you is slim to none, but if you have a nosy neighbor, crappy grandparents, or a future employer causing you grief you will have needed to have followed the law. The law clearly states what our options are. I am including a link to a Doc the directly references the law on these points.
The second thing you are going to want to do is decide if you are going to jump right in, or take some time to deschool! Deschooling is something that is often recommended if you are pulling your child out of public school. It’s a time for your child to decompress, and come back to the table refreshed. This doesn’t mean they have to be laid out watching YouTube videos and scarfing down Cheetos! Take this time to visit the library, museums, and exploreums in your area. See what interests your child has. Jump in on home school field trips and make friends! This is also a great time to explore how your child learns best. When I pulled my two from public school after 6th grade I assumed they would do best all on the computer, they were that generation after all. Turns out they really learned better with hands on activities and actual books. This was eye opening to me! Which leads us into our 3rd thing.
As you are deschooling and exploring, you can also start taking the 3rd step, begin picking out your curriculum. This process can be the most overwhelming of it all. It feels at first like every choice is make or break. It’s not. Every choice is changeable. We have changed curriculums many times. What worked one year maybe wasn’t the best fit the next. We have also changed curriculums that didn’t work mid stride. This is where you truly start to feel the freedom you have as a homeschooler. The best advice I got when starting out was from veteran home school mamas who told me to NOT dump a ton of money into my first curriculum choices! It’s very exciting, and you want to buy the BEST, but the best doesn’t always mean costs the most. The Compass Point home school website has a handy list of free curriculum websites! Every curriculum will be laid out in such a way so you know what needs to be done when, and will either come with the teachers guides, or offer you the option to purchase it! You can also explore the concept of UNschooling. This concept of child led learning can be very difficult to wrap a public school trained brain around, but once you open to the possibilities you realize how amazing it can be. There are several TED talks on this, this is a good one to get you started!
At this point you may be beginning to sweat a little though. How can you take this deschooling time? Wont that put my child behind? If I swap curriculums will that not put us even further behind? This is when you have to start tilting your perceptions a bit. What is behind? As a home school parent you are on the front lines with your child and able to see exactly where they are. If they are grasping the concepts quickly, let them go on and move ahead. If something is a struggle take the time to work it till they get it. Some numbers to keep in mind. Public school children do go to school for 180 days, but once you start subtracting testing days, test prep days, days lost to almost holidays and coming back on a Friday, and that some schools are so swamped they aren’t even doing science and history on the same days, you start to realize that you have much more leeway in your time. Even breaking down a regular day in time chunks for learning, lunch, PE, computer lab, moving between these, bathroom breaks, settling kids down, wrangling many children…you realize your days don’t need to run your child’s school work time from 7:30am-3pm, you won’t have all of that extra. Don’t fear the fact that your days will be much shorter, and the time needed to complete curriculum shorter.
FINALLY you will look towards their….*gasp*….socialization. This is a trigger word for many homeschoolers. We tend to get asked this in the most disparaging tone of voice. If you are along the coast of Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida you are in a rich home school environment. In our south Alabama area there are home school specific groups for 4H groups, Girl scouts troops, co ops, robotics, Jr Civitan, archery, art, sewing, bowling teams, choir, band, swimming, karate, horseback riding, skating,volunteer opportunities, classes at local Universities, and more. You also have many of the community learning centers stepping up to offer classes on their own, with our Exploreums, Art museums, historical sites, and environmental centers all adding home school specific classes to their calendars.There are also several of the standard proms and graduation options! You have to actively choose to be unsocial to be not social. Your best resource to find these groups are home school Facebook pages geared to your area.
That is a lot of information to take in and take on. I know, I remember. Once you are in it though it really falls into place so nicely, and you wonder why you never saw the extent of this freedom before. The hardest thing is letting go of the idea that there is only one way for your child to be successful, and that there is only one way for them to be taught to get them there. You can do this. I promise! Good luck, and we hope to meet you at events soon!