A popular children’s book is "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" by Laura Numeroff. This gentle story is a wonderful way to think about how to get started homeschooling because like the mouse, one step will lead to another as you construct your homeschool. So how do you take the first step?
Start with the legal requirements.
Arizona is the envy of many states because we have a specific law that enumerates our rights and responsibilities as homeschoolers. Go to www.azleg.gov and look up Arizona Revised Statutes 15-802 and read the whole statute. Section G(2) defines what a homeschool is in our state with some specific language. A homeschool is a nonpublic school conducted primarily by the parent or legal guardian of a child between ages 6-16 or nonpublic instruction provided in the child’s home. Since our law specifies that a homeschool is a nonpublic school, virtual schools which are tax-payer funded public schools are not a homeschool even though the teaching occurs in the home.
Next, start setting up your school.
This is the fun part! Every family’s homeschool looks different, and I don’t mean merely the room or the books. Some families are very orderly and structured. Some families are rather freewheeling and unstructured.
All styles can work so long as some basics are observed. One of those basics is to teach five core subject areas required by law which are reading, grammar, math, science and social studies (A.R.S. 15-802 A). After you choose curriculum for those subjects, then every family will fill in the rest of the schedule to reflect their own interests and include things they are excited about learning
Third, do all you can to observe other homeschooling families.
One of the best ways to observe is to become friends, and to find a friend you need to meet people in person. Don’t rely on the Internet more that meeting people through support groups. Our state organization, Arizona Families for Home Education (www.afhe.org) maintains a current list of support groups throughout the state for you. Find one and attend. And do more than just sit and wait for others to talk to you. Volunteer to help with something and meet others in a natural and easy way. Then invite a mom over and you’ll be amazed at how fast you make a friend. More is caught than taught, so catch-on by observing.
The fourth step is reading.
Set aside a budget for yourself and buy books that teach you how to homeschool. This is not a luxury, but an investment. There are some distinct styles of homeschooling and you’ll have to become familiar with the vocabulary we use.
I’ve written a “pop quiz” for you to pique your interest, but you’ll have to do the research. Have fun! You’ll know you’re a homeschooler if the idea of taking a pop quiz appeals to you! Many of us are naturally curious and that is why homeschooling is such a great fit.
Want a cookie now? I’ll get you a glass of milk…
Carol Shippy is lives in Tempe and has homeschooled her two children for the past 15 years. Her oldest has graduated and is attending a private college as a freshman this year and her youngest is a junior in high school. Carol serves as the Legislative Liaison for Arizona Families for Home Education and her husband Keith is the current President. Carol is an attorney and practiced for five years in Phoenix before homeschooling.
Homeschooling “Pop Quiz”
1. Who is John Holt?
2. How long has The Calvert School existed?
3. What are “unit studies”?
4. What are “living books” and who is credited with the homeschooling method associated with their use?
5. What did the Colfax children accomplish?
6. Who is Mary Pride?
7. Is homeschooling legal in all 50 states?
8. What is the textbook approach?
9. What is the classical approach?
10. What is unschooling?
1. John Holt was one of the early proponents of homeschooling and is considered the founder of the modern homeschooling movement. He wrote and spoke in the late 60’s through the early 80’s.
2. The Calvert School was founded in 1897 and was the first correspondence school. Many military families use Calvert when stationed overseas.
3. A unit study is an integrated teaching method structured around a broad topic that can be tailored to different age groups at the same time. Unit studies are flexible and great for families with children of multiple ages and stages.
4. A living book makes the subject “come alive” and engage the reader to want “one more chapter.” The Charlotte Mason Method employs generous use of living books.
5. The four Colfax boys were homeschooled and all accepted at Harvard. Their story is documented in "Homeschooling for Excellence" by David and Micky Colfax.
6. Mary Pride wrote the first comprehensive curriculum reviews and called her books the “Big Books” because they were!
7. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states although requirements vary. The Home School Legal Defense Association (www.hslda.org) has a comprehensive summary on their website.
8. The textbook approach utilizes the same method used in public schools where subjects are age graded and separated into distinct subjects.
9. The classical approach is rising in popularity. It uses the ancient instruction model of the grammar stage, the dialectic stage, and the Rhetoric stage. Latin is studied in this method starting in the elementary grades.
10. Unschooling is not doing nothing. It uses what is called “delight directed learning” to engage the child in fields of study they are fascinated by, thus making learning natural and enjoyable.