There are a lot of places to start. You can ask the advice of your friends who homeschool, you can research, you can google, you can buy books, you can compare curricula, you can poll your kids.
My suggestion is this: get a pad and pen, sit down, and start working on what you want to see after your kids have finished their home education. In the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, this process is described as beginning with the end in mind.
You want to ask yourself, “What kind of students do I want to produce for this world?” If you value character, that might shape your approach a certain way. If you want your children to be able to work hands-on with tools, that might take you in a particular direction concerning shops and mechanics. If your end goal is to have academic children, especially reading and writing abstract thoughts or mathematics or science—you want to determine what you really want to produce!
Beginning with the end in mind is important because it sets the frame for your schooling. I can tell you what we settled on. We wanted to raise happy adults, not necessarily happy kids. That was a bonus, but our goal was to produce happy adults who could teach themselves. In order to do that, we tried to balance education between art and science and literature. That was our conviction, because we were trying to grow self-taught self-learners.
So where do you begin? I say you begin with a blank sheet of paper, just like an artist with a blank canvas, and start trying to think through what you want your endgame to look like. That’s going to help you pick curriculum, clubs, support, and additional tools for your kids more than anything. Spend time with that and keep revisiting it regularly, because you’ll refine that vision, that picture, of how you want these kids to turn out.
-Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand
You may have wrestled with how to know if your homeschooling is actually successful.
To figure this out, I’d say there are three simple things you want to consider.
The first is measurement. You want to make sure that you’re measuring what’s going on with your kids. How many pages they’re reading, what kind of books they’re reading, where they are in math, what their grades are in math, etc. That constant measurement helps reinforce what you’re trying to do. It shows your child’s work to you and others, because you have a record of exactly what you did. Our kids wrote a lot and we saved their writing in binders, so that we could see how they were doing when they were 10, how they were doing when they were 12, and 14, and so on. You can’t appreciate the power of measurement enough.
Number 2 is comparison. Now comparison is a little tricky because it can potentially be depressing and frustrating. But if your kid is at grade level or ahead, you’re going to realize, “We’re doing fine.” If your child is several years behind, you’re probably not yet succeeding. You may have reasons for it. Maybe disabilities or special needs or something else is going on. That’s fine, that’s a different measurement, but realize that you don’t want to isolate yourself in such a way that you suddenly have your child show up in high school or college, and you realize they’re way behind. You just want to make sure you’re on target (or as is common with homeschoolers, ahead of target).
The final way to evaluate success is to ask yourself, “What’s my satisfaction? Am I satisfied?” Do you feel good about what’s going on with your kids in terms of field trips, academics, their ability to communicate, their ability to write, their ability to do math, etc, etc? If you’re satisfied, that’s a sign of success. It’s not the only way to measure, but it is an important piece. There needs to be a certain level where you feel good about what you’re trying to accomplish. If you don’t, you have to figure out what you need to do to feel satisfied.
-Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand
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