Advice and Resources for Parents.

Homeschooling: Getting Started

Our journey had officially begun! Across me at the kitchen table sat a bright eyed boy and girl,
ready, willing and able to learn. We had had enough of the morning stress of getting up at 6:00
a.m.,eating hurriedly and rushing to make the bus. Today we enjoyed a leisurely hot breakfast
and stayed in pajamas a little bit longer. It was cold and snowy outside and we did not have to
get wet racing to a bus or car. We were where we had to be for the day.
Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?

The only bump in the road was that we had no school books to speak of. My children were
lifelong public school students and they were used to textbooks. They sat with their notebooks
and pens waiting while I sat there wondering “where do we go from here?”. Luckily I had found
a link online to a homeschool organization over the weekend. I had called the woman listed and
told her about our situation. She was more than willing to help and eager to meet us all. We
made a date to go to her house at the end of the week to look at the curriculum she was using.
She had explained that it would take about two weeks to receive our books once we ordered
them. Sitting at the table it dawned on me that I would have two weeks without a formal plan.
What would I do for two weeks?

Being a writer, books are my passion. Being a writer, I had raised two children that were also
book lovers.Our solution was to hit the library.

The children’s room was bright, cheerful and, best of all, empty. The librarian was sitting at her
desk working quietly at her computer. We sat down around a bright blue table.

“Ok, today is our first day so it will be our conference day. I’ll try to find out where you left off
in each subject and we’ll go from there. Until our books are arrive, we’ll work with these
books.” My daughter was thrilled to be “rid” of school books. My son, the scholastic child, was a
bit skeptical of learning from library books.

“Rich, make a list of what you last learned in each subject. Then we can at least find some topics
to start with.”

“Kaitlyn, make a list of what you last learned in science, history, and English and we can work
on those. For math we are going to make sure you have your times table down pat before we go
further.” My daughter had a blank look on her and raised her hand.

“Why are you raising your hand?” I asked her.

“Because that’s what I did in school.”

“Well, this isn’t ‘school’ anymore. Just ask me what you want.”

“Well, we only did science once in a while. I don’t know what to look for. And we didn’t have
history a lot so I don’t know what to look for.” Oh great, I thought, now I’ll have to really start
from the beginning.

By morning’s end, we had over forty books in plastic bags ready to load into the car. I was
feeling a little more comfortable with materials to work with but still unsure about how to get

I called Debbie, the homeschooling mom who was helping us with curriculum, and told her
about my dilemma.

“Don’t even worry about it. A lot of moms don’t even start teaching the first week or so after
they pull their children out. Most kids need decompression time. You know, time to unwind
from the stress and chaos of school. Just let them read all of their books. They’ll be learning just
from reading whatever books they are enjoying.” Somehow it sounded a little too easy and too
simple but I figured it was only two weeks. How much could they miss in so little time?

At the end of the week I was relieved to be meeting Debbie in person. I couldn’t wait to see what
books we could work from. I couldn’t wait to get them in so we could start “school”.

What I didn’t know is that there are different types of curriculum for different types of people. I
hadn’t realized that there are secular and non-secular curriculums out there. Though my motive
to homeschool had not been based on religious beliefs, many homeschooling families are.
Debbie’s curriculum was a secular curriculum, with all of the textbooks having quotes and
convictions from the bible woven throughout their pages. Being a religious person to some
extent, this didn’t bother me as long as the books contained the information my children needed
to know. I just wanted to make sure I covered the four academics, science, history, math and
English, properly. By the time we left Debbie’s home I was ready to order a complete 4th and 7th
grade curriculum from the company she was using. I was starting to feel ready and able to

Now, I thought, all we have to do is work with the books we have for another two weeks.

As it turned out, using the library books proved not only to be educational but enjoyable as well.
My daughter loved reading about the solar system and space travel. I would have her sit and read
a few pages and then I would take the book from her and ask her questions. In order to make
learning about the planets really stick, I bought her a big piece of oak tag and let her draw her
own pictures of all of the planets.

“Color them as you see them in the book. When you’re done, how about writing one fact under
each planet?”. She was happily drawing and coloring sprawled on the den floor. For my son,
who was a seventh grader, I had him read about the periodic table of elements for science. I gave
him a piece of oak tag as well and had him copy the set up of the table without filling in any of
the symbols and numbers. Each day I would ask him about the terminology in the book. I would
quiz him on the symbols. At the end of week I gave him back the blank chart he had started and
told him to close the book and see if he could fill in the symbols of the elements. This activity
really made him think and he spent the entire afternoon trying to recall the elements. In the end I
told him to just copy the elements he missed. Hey, I reasoned, back in the old days I had learned
many things by rote. Writing everything was one way to help memorize those elements.

For history I spent each day reading about different periods in time. Another great thing about
using your library for lessons: the video collection. Our library has a good collection of
educational video tapes that we used for science, history, geography, math, English and more. If
you really want to help your child understand history, run for the nearest documentary. Though
reading about the civil war in a textbook may put you fast asleep, I can tell you how exciting it
was to watch a re-enactment on video. I was amazed to see not only that they enjoyed the video
but that they remembered dates, events and people. I highly recommend using educational
videos to supplement learning for any subject.

After two weeks of videos and reading together during the snowy days of winter, it was with
mixed emotions that we greeted four boxes of curriculum at our doorstep that January morning.

Even though I was eager to get started with “officially learning”, I had the feeling that someday I
would look back on our very first few weeks of homeschooling as the “good old days”.

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Christina Lorenzen is a full-time writer specializing in parenting and health issues. With more than 125 articles published, she also offers her wisdom and experience to other writers by teaching writing workshops through local libraries, bookstores and online. In addition to this column, she is also a columnist for Connecting @ Home magazine. She can reached at [email protected]

Listen to an Interview About Homeschooling with Christine Lorensen

Homeschooling Resources

A free online curriculum based on the Charlotte Mason way of teaching
Lessons from Adventure of the American Mind homeschool program
Math lessons
For a small subscription fee of $19.99 you can get unlimited worksheets for every subject your child needs. The worksheets cover preschool to grade 12.
Listing of some great homeschooling sites

Curriculum provider. Saxon Math comes highly recommended and is popular among many homeschooling families.
a curriculum provider that offers complete packages for grades 1-8 as well as textbooks and workbooks for highschoolers.
A complete curriculum for grades K to 12 and many time saving services for parents such as record keeping.
Famous science curriculum that is used by many homeschooling families
Choice centered classical curriculum for a very low one price for whole family fee that covers grades K to 12.
A popular homeschool math program that is based on the fact that the Asian children are very much ahead of the American children when it comes to math.
Complete curriculum packages written with a Christian perspective LorensenHomeschoolingHomeschoolingHomeschooling Advice and Resources for Parents. Homeschooling: Getting Started Our journey had officially begun! Across me at the kitchen table sat a bright eyed boy and girl, ready, willing and able to learn. We had had enough of the morning stress of getting up at 6:00 a.m.,eating hurriedly...Parenting Advice| Family Fun Activities for Kids