Homeschooling: You CAN Do It

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Want to insure that your child is getting the BEST education? Teach him yourself.

The decision to homeschool is a personal one  unique to each family embarking down the path, and it can lead to questions like: How do I get started? What does a typical day look like? What about socialization? After researching Tennessee’s homeschool laws, the first thing you need to know is there is no “perfect” or “right” way to homeschool. Teaching supplies and methods are as different as the families actually doing the homeschooling. Homeschooling in Tennessee can range from super-structured to complete freedom.

Getting Started

To get started, some parents buy a packaged curriculum with lesson plans, which works well for those who are unsure about what needs to be taught or where their child is on the academic spectrum. The choices can be overwhelming, so do Internet research, join online groups and find local homeschoolers to discuss what programs they are using and what they think of their packaged curriculum.

Different Homeschooling Methods

Classical? Charlotte Mason? Unschooling? How you choose to homeschool your child boils down to what you want for his education. That’s why you need to do your homework first. If you can determine what you want for your child based upon the type of learner he is, you can learn how to homeschool in Tennessee.  Next, explore the curriculums.  There are Christian curriculums, online curriculums, even “unschooling” curriculums. “Unschoolers” let their children lead the way with the learning. Jessica Mattingly, an unschooler in Franklin, says, “Our schedule is generally determined by our outside commitments (classes, work, co-ops, field trips, etc.), and when we are home we relax and pursue a variety of projects and interests.”

Unit studies are a fun way for a child to cover every subject by studying one topic. For instance, if your child is a dinosaur fanatic, you can incorporate reading, writing, spelling, history, geography and math into a unit study on dinosaurs. Your child can use a map to learn where dinosaur fossils have been found. Then he can read a historical book about dinosaurs, followed by a written book report.

The “eclectic” method uses whatever works for a child at any given time. Homeschoolers pick and choose from different methods (classical, religious, secular, unit studies, etc.), incorporating lots of play time and field trips. Tresa Cope of Murfreesboro says, “For reading, I make sure to read to the kids as much as I can. They help me in the garden for ‘science class,’ and grocery shopping is ‘economics’! When they’re older, I’ll consider a pre-packaged curriculum.”

    As far as the daily job of homeschooling goes, some parents are flexible while others prefer a certain amount of structure. Eileen Smith, Nashville mom of two, shares, “We try to start each day as if we are in a brick and mortar school … perhaps not as early. Everyone gets up, eats breakfast and gets ready to start the day. Some parents like to homeschool in their pajamas, but I prefer to get dressed like I’m going to work.” Some parents get started in the morning, taking frequent breaks.  “Twenty minutes of work then a break for 20,” says homeschooler Sharon Emerzian, “we do that pretty much all morning long and the kids do well with it.”

Socialization and Homeschooling

A big concern many parents pondering the homeschool decision have is socialization, but it isn’t usually a concern among homeschoolers. Get connected with other local homeschool groups to plug into social activities and go on outings to library programs,activities through parks and recreation, invite other homeschoolers for play dates and pursue opportunities.

As with anything new, when you first start to homeschool you may feel a bit unsteady and unsure, but keep in mind the reward, Smith says. “One of the best things is really getting to know your child personally and bonding in a different way, as well as influencing them in a positive manner and knowing that you are the one who did it,” she adds.

Kerrie McLoughlin, mother of 5, has been homeschooling eclectically for four years.

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