It’s Monday morning. You sit across the kitchen table from your children and wonder, “What next?” They look at you in anticipation of something great. Do you admit you haven’t a clue and send them out to play? Or do you start right in reciting multiplication tables because you can think of nothing else to do?
For many reasons, some families begin homeschooling in an “emergency.” It is preferable to be able to plan your homeschool program before removing your children from a traditional school. That is not always an option. In this case, an emergency is any reason parents feel they need to remove their children from traditional school immediately. If you are in this situation, you may feel like you’re scrambling to get your program set up properly and, at the same time, start teaching your children.
The first thing to remember is you don’t have to start right off with a full school day. Often children need time to adjust from going to school each day to being in the more relaxed atmosphere of home. While your children are adjusting, you do have some legwork to do.
Joining Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is highly recommended as your first assignment. You can find the application here. If a problem arises with the school when you give notification that your children will not be returning, you will find your membership fee to be well worth the cost, because you will have HSLDA’s expert legal assistance, which is available to members.
On the first day that your children are out of school, send a registered letter to the school stating that your children will be attending a private school. If the school has a call-in for absence procedure, follow their procedure. You don’t need to call the school and tell them your children are not returning as long as the school will receive your letter by the third day of absence. In most districts, unexcused absences are considered truancy on the third day.
You need to decide if you are going to establish a private school or enroll in an private school satellite program (PSP). You can find a PSP near you in the CHEA Homeschool Directory. If you choose to establish a private school, you will want to find other homeschooling families for support and encouragement through the CHEA Support Network.
Regardless of which you choose, you will, benefit from getting to know other homeschooling families. A local support group or PSP can help you find curriculum or enroll in co-op classes. Many groups have experienced home educators who are willing to mentor beginners.
What do you do with the children while you are taking care of these preliminary issues? It is fine for your homeschool adventure to begin with simply reading for the first week or two. Read the Bible as a family, with older children each taking a turn. Some of those classics that you remember from high school are more exciting when read aloud.
Set a routine for your days. This doesn’t mean you have to have a strict schedule, although children who have been in traditional classrooms for a number of years may be “programmed” to a strict schedule: It’s 9 a.m., we do math. Making a list of school preparation tasks you want to accomplish for the week may be enough of a lesson plan.
Beginning Lesson Ideas
While your children are decompressing from traditional school structure you can make some preliminary plans. Below are some ideas for decompression time.
- Reading. Establish a routine of reading from the Bible together. Older children can take a few minutes to write their thoughts in their journals. Pick a book to read together. Little ones may want to draw quietly while you or one of the older children reads the story.
- Writing. Copy work: Have your children copy from the Bible or the book you are reading.
- Narrative. Ask the children to tell stories back to you, or write a summary of the story. Small children can draw a picture about the story and you write their sentence(s) to go with the picture.
- Composition/Creative Writing. Write their own story. For younger children, you write the story exactly as they tell it and they illustrate it. Give your child a picture as a story starter. Make a book with your child’s words and pictures. Or get pictures books from the library and write the story. Write a letter to Grandma, to a missionary your church supports, or even to the president.
- Cooking. Not only does having your children fix meals teach a life skill, but many math lessons are included. Fractions and multiplication come to mind right away. If you have your children plan the meal and grocery list, they will also need to budget money and learn to shop carefully.
- Math Facts. Everyone can benefit from review of math facts. You can make flash cards for your younger children. If you have older children, have them make the flash cards and do the review with the little ones. All children will benefit.
- Games. Many board games have a mathematic component. Monopoly™ and Life™ require money skills.
Just look around outside and you will find plenty of science to keep you busy for weeks. Watch the weather, use a calendar to track it. Compare what happens with was predicted in a weather forecast. Older children can research the science of weather predictions. Bird watching, bug watching, leaf collections, or rock collections can become long term science projects or even lifelong hobbies.
Reading the Bible is the foundation for other history lessons. Reading historical novels will also give a sense of a specific time period. Does your child have a particular interest in a topic such as knights in shining armor or royalty? Go to the library and select books to read together or individually. Let your child pick a project to do, such as make a miniature village or draw the family tree of the Tudors or even your own family tree.
Most children are physically active by nature. You don’t need a specific P.E. program. Bicycle riding, jumping rope, and playing on the swing set provide plenty of physical activity.
Field trips are legitimate educational activities. Go to museums, libraries, zoos, art shows, or wherever there is something of interest to your family. Many homeschool groups sponsor group field trips with lower admission prices. These activities can continue to the end of the school year, giving you time to research learning styles and teaching approaches.
You may also want to plan to attend a convention near you to learn more about homeschooling and look at the materials available to you. Christian Home Educators Association of California (CHEA) hosts conferences each year, including the Annual CHEA Homeschool Convention, offering many diverse workshops and exhibit halls.
As you and your children settle into being at home together, you can start establishing a routine that works for your family. Begin slowly. Add one textbook or subject at a time. Establish your family’s school routine. Enjoy the freedom of having a school schedule that fits your family’s needs. And you don’t have to do math at 9 a.m.
Do you have a suggestion for a quick start to homeschooling?
Excerpt from An Introduction of Home Education by Susan Beatty and Karen Woodfin Middleton.