- Know why you are choosing to homeschool. There may be several reasons including: lack of academic challenge, negative peer pressure, the need for individual attention, boredom, lack of opportunity to develop areas of interest or strength, health problems, the need for quiet, the need for more or less time in a particular subject, waste of a gifted student’s time, loss of self-esteem, ideological differences with school agenda, desire for a more flexible schedule, spending more time together as a family etc. The list goes on and differs for each family who chooses the homeschooling route. Knowing why you are deciding to homeschool will help you to stand by your decision in challenging times.
- Educate yourself about homeschooling. Just as you would educate yourself about different institutional education options (i.e. public, Catholic, private, Montessori etc.), read about all the different homeschooling styles and options. Read homeschooling blogs to gain an idea of daily life in a homeschooling family. Contact homeschooling educators and organizations about any questions that you may have (see links below).
- Ensure that both parents are on the same page. Choosing to homeschool is not just an educational decision, it is a philosphical shift in how a family lives, learns, and works together. When both parents agree to pursue homeschooling, questions of income, curriculum, teaching responsibilities, socialization, and daily routine can be approached in a joint effort. At times one parent may be more reluctant to try homeschooling because they feel uncertain about stepping into the unkown. In this situation, agreeing on a trial period (I would suggest a minimum of one semester–or even better one year) will allow both parents to evaluate whether homeschooling is the right choice for their family.
- Inform yourself about provincial requirements. In Ontario, all that parents are required to do is simply submit a ‘letter of intent to homeschool’ to their local district school board. If your child has never attended school, it is up to you whether you would like to submit a letter of intent. For complete provincial requirements visit https://hslda.ca/downloads-ON/
- Choose your curriculum. Now that you have made the choice to homeschool, your educational options are limitless. In order to narrow down the available options, consider which style of homeschooling will fit your family and your student’s learning style the best. The various methods include classical education, Charlotte Mason, notebooking, project-based, traditional school-at-home, unit studies, unschooling, umbrella programs, DVD based, or a combinaton of the various methods. For a detailed description of these approaches visit https://homeschool.today/education-methods/. Homeschool conferences are a great place to examine curricula hands-on and also speak to the providers about any questions you may have. Experienced homeschool families who likely have shelves filled with different curricula, and the experience in using them to go along with it, are also a great resource in helping you choose.
- Connect with other families. Every homeschooler will agree that connecting with other families for socialization, advice, and encouragement is essential. There are an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 home-educated students in Ontario alone, countless facebook groups that organize social and academic gatherings, as well as a variety of co-ops and groups; so there are many different options to get connected. For a list of support groups visit the Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents, Canadian Homebased Learning, or AtoZ Homeschooling.
- Have realistic expectations. Homeschooling is exciting, rewarding, flexible, and enriching; it brings a family together. It is also exhausting, frustrating, challenging, and at times overwhelming. But so is all of life. Remind yourself that challenges would also arise if your child were attending school (although they might be of a different kind). So yes, challenges will arise, but that does not mean that homeschooling is not the right choice for your family. It might mean that your are trying to do too many things in a day, that there is a need to adjust the curriculum or teaching style, that you need to rethink priorities, that you need some encouragemnt from other homeschoolers, or maybe you simply need a day spent walking together.
- Enjoy your educational journey! One regret that you will never have as a homeschool family, is not having spent enough time together. Children will grow up incredibly quickly (altough it may not seem so at the time), and there is nothing more valuable that you can give them than your time, your care, and your love.
Sites that will get you started
ontariohomeschool.org – The Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents.
Homeschool.Today – Excellent starting place for answering questions about legal issues, socialization, homeschooling styles, etc. Also has a free online virtual workshop for new homeschoolers.
The Learning House – Here you can book a free homeschool consultation with Louise House. With over 20 years of homeschool experience, she can answer some of your questions and help you create a program best suited for your children.
Homeschool Legal Defense Association– Access to home education resources, including a digital library. Free downloadable forms for letters of intent to homeschool for each province.
Ontario Christian Home Educators Connection – A wide wealth of information, resources, support group connections, and annual convention.