So you want to homeschool your child. . . IMMEDIATELY? This is “How to Homeschool Starting Today”–The Elementary School version.
You’ve decided, for whatever reason, to pull your child out of elementary school today, now what? This is how I would go about it:
1. Be Legal.
First, get online and find out what you need to do to homeschool legally in your state. Complete any required paperwork immediately and KEEP A COPY of it. Be sure to stay in compliance of regulations and meet any deadlines (such as turning in monthly attendance reports).
Then, contact the school and officially withdraw your child. Be sure to take any school books or materials to return to them.
2. Get her started with school—quick start ideas.
Now you need to figure out what to teach her, but you also need to have something for her to do while you are figuring out the big picture plan. It might be nice to make a big deal about the first day of homeschool. We like to go to a park, or on a hike or day-trip or explore a new museum. You might want to explain to your child how homeschool will be different from public school and discuss expectations for both of you.
As to the daily work, here are some ideas to get you learning while you figure out what you really want to do learning-wise:
One of the most fun ways to start is with a folk tale/fairy tale unit. Take her to the library. On the way there, discuss fiction and non-fiction. Show her how both the children’s and adult sections are divided into “fiction” and “non-fiction” areas. Books of fiction can be found using the author’s last name. Non-fiction is found using a number system and then the author’s last name. Show her how to use the online card catalog to find “folk tales”. If your library uses the Dewey Decimal system, you’ll find folk talks in the 398 section. Show her how to find this area of the library and to look for one of the specific books you found in the online card catalog. After finding that one, it’s fun just to choose books straight from this (398) section. Check out 6-12 folk tales and fairy tales. You may want to get some folk tale/fairy tale collections on CD as well—or find some online.
While you are there, pick up a science experiment book (see below), and an age appropriate book about a period of history, especially one she is interested in. If you can find a DVD with a story from that period, grab it too.
If you don’t already have a large world map, go to a school or office supply store and purchase a laminated one. When you get home, hang it on a wall at a level your child can reach.
Read a couple folk/fairy tales to your child each day. Reading out loud is a great time to get in some snuggling. Also, plan some reading time for her to illustrate the story you are reading. We use quarter sheets of paper for this. The title of the story is written at the top of the page, with your child’s illustration(s) underneath. If she can already write, have your child write those titles being sure to practice capitalization of each word in the title (except a, an, and the).
Use a piece of yarn or string to connect the story illustration from the outside of the map to whichever country the story is from.
You might enjoy making a graph of how many stories you read from each country or continent.
Many countries have different versions of the same story. You could also make a graph of how many versions of the same story, such as Cinderella, you read.
Do some regular physical exercise every day with your child and encourage her to do some on her own as well (running, jumping on a trampoline, bike riding—whatever is appropriate for her age).
Practice math skills each day using Khan Academy online or manipulatives and homemade worksheets.
Have her write each day. If she is younger than 2nd grade, let her dictate her essay to you. You could write about 5 Favorites—one each day—Food, Friend, Memory, Holiday, Vacation or Trip.
While you are at the library, grab a science experiment book such as Janice VanCleave’s 201 Awesome, Magical, Bizarre, & Incredible Experiments (Science for Every Kid). Help your child do an experiment each day. Consider having her watch The Magic School Bus, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Planet Earth or another science program you have screened and found child-appropriate.
Read together from the history book a little while each day.
Possibly consider teaching her to make cookies one of these first few days, too. Cooking is a great way to incorporate math and life skills while having fun together.
Explore some new art mediums. (Has she sculpted modeling clay? Made paper? Used watercolors?)
Choose a chapter book to read to your child. Read a little every day. This is a nice time to let her draw. Suggestions: Little House on the Prairie, The Phantom Tollbooth, Harry Potter (for older elementary), Mrs Piggle-Wiggle or The Moffats .
3. Then figure out curriculum for the rest of your school year.
Start with figuring out a math program and a language arts program as those are the most critical skills through which students develop the skills to learn all other subjects.
Science, social studies (history, geography, etc), and life skills can be done as unit studies (link) or you can use textbooks.
This scope and sequence may be of help. I developed it for my children as we homeschooled. While you may choose different materials, it will help in covering subjects.
As part of your school package, look into extra-curricular activities and homeschool groups to join for fieldtrips and other stuff.
Places to look for resources:
Timberdoodle. Visit them at www.timberdoodle.com, but also request a hardcopy catalog. They have great hands-on learning materials.
Explore www.home-school.com. Check out the Practical Homeschooling magazine archives for articles by numerous authors about different approaches to homeschooling. They have homeschool product reviews, too.
Google lesson plans for specific topics.
Check out Teacher’sPayTeachers.com
Visit a local homeschool store or curriculum fair (these are usually in spring and early fall) to actually get materials in your hands and thumb through them before purchasing.
Many libraries now have homeschool specific materials, in addition to their whole inventory of learning products (usually called books, etc.)
I find it helpful to loosely block out the topics we want to study using a topic form divided into 6 week or 6 semester sections. Usually, I block out the general plans for the six semesters of the year, then fill more details in a six week planner for each semester. I use the same simple form for both. (attach form)
Just be careful not to over-analyze it and become paralyzed. Also, don’t go overboard purchasing and trying to do everything. There is too much great material available now to use it all. You’re going to have to let go of many things!