This is a common question among new homeschool families. I know, I was there not that long ago! It is daunting once you realize just how much information and how many resources there are available. Some for no cost, some for more than we could imagine paying. Before you start selecting what curriculum you are going to teach or what your school days are going to look like you need to do a few things first.
I suggest writing down the reasons you decided to homeschool. All of them. From time constraints, to political agendas being pushed in the Public School system, or whatever your reasons may be. Write them down and keep them accessible. Most of the things you will have on this list aren’t fully flushed-out ideas. I feel them in your heart to be the reasons but you may not have the concrete evidences to back them up when confronted by friends/family/neighbors about why you are homeschooling. Keep this list close at hand you you can modify it as new thoughts occur. I swear, every time I turned on the news I was faced with yet another reason why I was glad I chose to homeschool. This list will be invaluable to you as you begin actually doing the homeschooling. It will be your reminder when times get tough and your kids are all whining about this or that and your friend calls and invites you to lunch because the kids are all at school and then she changes her mind when she hears the zoo in the background that is your children. You need to have an easily recall-able list of why you are doing it. Another excellent way of keeping these things in mind is if you include them in your daily prayers or meditations.
After you have you list, you need to do some research. My husband used to tell me that I couldn’t teach our kids as well as a trained teacher because that is what they went to school for and I didn’t have any experience in teaching math or science or how to read etc. A part of me used to fear he was right, but in my soul it felt incorrect. A false assumption. When I read A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille and Charlotte Mason’s A Homeschooling Series, it was there that I found out why I felt the way I did. They explained that no one knows a child better than the person who raises them. I know what works for my children and what doesn’t. I know what they are and aren’t interested in. I can tell when they left reality behind to go enjoy a daydream when they think I am boring. So long as I pay attention to these ques I will be able to teach my child better than most any teacher the Public School has to offer. The only exception to this is passion. If a teacher is passionate about their subject then they will generate a natural curiosity in their students for the root of that passion.
So, I suggest reading A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille, and Charlotte Masons’ Original Homeschooling Series by Charlotte Mason, The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and any other books about the other styles like Unschooling, Montessori, Classical, etc. etc. It is very important to at least have a basic understanding of each of the educating “styles” so you can determine which feels right for you and your family. When you know the styles, you can then further your research by reading the books, blogs, and anything else you can find about that style and the methods used in implementing it.
I do my own thing, I don’t follow any one style strictly to the letter. I do use the basis of A Thomas Jefferson Education and Charlotte Mason. I use their main ideas and make my own curriculum that works for me and my family. I don’t follow any pre-made set of curriculum for any of my subjects. I teach language arts the way Charlotte Mason advises and do lots of reading with my kids like TJEd says to. We have basic math fundamentals we do for now (since my children are all still fairly young), but when they get older my husband and I will sit down and make our own curriculum for them. Science is the Human Body this month, maybe something new next month depending on the children’s interest. History I have decided to start with personal history and move out from there. (e.i family history, community history, state history, etc) I am also teaching my kids Spanish. I do not know the language perfectly myself, though I know it well enough to teach the basics. Art and Music I interweave into my other subjects where I feel appropriate and my husband teaches the kids Kenpo when he comes home from work.
Every Sunday I sit down with my husband and we decide what I will be teaching the kids during the week. If we get to it all, fantastic, if not, we continue next week from where we left off. This gives us a chance to closely monitor and assess what is working with our kids and what is not. If they can handle more copywork, next week we give them more. If they didn’t get through it we discuss if it was a dilatory issue or truly needing a more lax agenda for that subject.
The number one thing in my education style is lots and lots and lots of good books. I went to the DI every week for a couple months and bought every classic book I didn’t have, every reference book I found enlightening or useful, and lots of my favorite authors for some flavor. Before I started this my bookshelf held a measly handful of books, most of them religious or high fantasy. I had not grown up reading the classics and I graduated High School having only read one or two. So I made that my next goal, read more classics! As I did so I found that they held so many of the qualities I wanted to teach my kids and I found ways to do it. I set the example for my kids, so they like reading as well. I still would like to read more than I have been able to, but we do what we can with what time we have.
I also came across Usborne Books & More a few months ago and found their books to be quite wonderful. In order to afford to purchase all the books they had that I wanted I decided to become an Independent Consultant and sell the books to earn the money for the books I want! It has been fantastic. The children will all sit on the couch crowding around me when I read these books. They love the illustrations and the flaps, interactivity and wit that goes into these books. And on the plus side, Usborne Books & More is owned by Educational Development Corporation and so they put a lot of study and research into how they make they books and how children react to them. It is truly wonderful.
The first way children learn, and most effective way, is by example. You can’t ask your children to read, or learn, or study if they have no example set before them. If I read my books in front of them, read books with them and so on, they will naturally see reading as a part of life and be excited about being able to do it themselves. There is so much I want to learn and study and know more of that I try to learn it in front of my kids as often as possible so that they can see it is not just “work to be done” but a great way to fulfill your life.
I hope this helped at all! It took me about a year of experimenting with teaching styles and methods before I settled on just how I wanted to teach my kids. Expect the time! It does not come instantly, but be patient and persevere!