Inevitably, talk turns to homeschooling once people know I participate in said crazy lifestyle. I love to homeschool. I love talking about homeschooling, and I especially love helping people get started with the right information to help them make the best choice for themselves and their families. There is a wealth of great advice “out there” and it is actually overwhelming to know where to begin once the decision to start looking into home education has been made. I know. The strange looks, the incredulous gasps; they all made me feel wierd, too, at first.
First and foremost, the internet (of course) is a fantastic place to start, and here in Virginia we are so lucky to have HEAV. Heave? Like, throw up? Isn’t it funny how acronyms are made, and in hindsight they don’t sound so good? Well, HEAV stands for the Home Educators Association of Virginia. Since the eighties, this organization has been advising and helping parents get answers to their questions about homeschooling. The people who run HEAV are some of the nicest and most knowledgeable people I’ve ever encountered. The website is user friendly and intuitive, and if you can’t get your questions answered online, the office is staffed with people that will gladly help you. HEAV also puts on a conference every year, usually the first or second weekend in June. If you wish to be encouraged and inspired, make plans to attend. I go every year. HEAV is a Christian homeschooling organization, but for gleaning information, and the nuts and bolts on how to begin homeschooling, HEAV is a great place to start, no matter what your religious affiliation is. Another great source for people just starting out homeschooling is vahomeschoolers.org. Their website is also chock-full of great information. Although I don't have as much experience with the.org website, it looks to be very thorough with the information and opportunities it provides to Virginia homeschoolers.
Second, I highly recommend that you invest in some books you find easy to read and/or understand. Books, I find, are nice to have for quick reference. Especially once I researched curricula, philosophies and methods (and there are many) of how to homeschool, I spent many nights on Amazon reading reviews and purchasing books that I knew would help me be the best homeschool teacher I could be. I love books, can you tell? A few of my favorites include: Cathy Duffy’s Homeschool Reviews which is also a website, The Charlotte Mason Companion, Educating the Wholehearted Child, and The Well Educated Mind. Also popular are the Everything You Need to Know, and the For Dummies series, and each put out homeschool manuals. Repeat after me, "Books are good. Books are your friends."
Third, you must get a library card! The library is such a fantastic resource! The library is also free. You can take advantage of (free) language lessons, genealogy courses, used book sales, tutors, plus you can check out all the books and magazines that are available to everyone. There are also workshops offered on cooking, yoga, wellness, gardening, writing, and the list goes on and on. The library is simply awesome!
Fourth, look into local co-ops and homeschool groups. I know of several in the area, to include Grace co-op (not to be confused with Grace Prep, which is a private school), Christian Heritage Home Educators, Classical Conversations, Stafford Homeschoolers (send a request on Facebook), and REACH (google reach, homeschool, and Wanda Sloper- it’ll come up). Some of these groups are casual, where families hang out and do field trips together, and others are more rigorous and offer classes that range from preschool to high school. There is truly something for everyone!
Fifth, and this is important… have an open mind. You are your own best resource because you know your child better than anyone, and you know what might and might not work. Remember that homeschooling is a lifestyle, really. School at home doesn’t need to look like school in a classroom, in fact, it usually doesn’t.
So, don’t be afraid to look into home education. No matter what you decide, knowledge is power, and it’s an awesome thing to face a decision fully armed and powered up. Even if you don’t homeschool or wouldn’t think of it in your wildest dreams, the resources are still worth checking out. Education for our children is a responsibility we all share, and we can all benefit from sharing that information.
Keep calm. Share resources. Parent on!