How to Stop Thinking in Terms of Public or Private School and Start Understanding How to Homeschool with a Learning Environment at Home

The thought of taking your child out of a public school or private school and having your child learn at home can be intimidating, even scary when the idea to do so, first comes to you. The first thought that occurs is: How can I do what a trained teacher does? The first thing that those thinking about homeschooling need to do is to stop thinking about the typical school structure in terms of the only way your child can receive an education.

Tradition may be telling you that in order for your child to learn he or she has to be sent away from your home, to be part of a group of children led through the learning process by a teacher or group of teachers. A child has a natural desire to explore and know about the things that he or she sees, hears, feels and experiences. There is an innate curiosity inside every child that urges that child to find out why, where, when, what and how. Yes, those words have meaning to you right? Those are the basic questions many of us ask when faced with new experiences, events or people. These questions receive answers not because children are in a particular building or there are special people around leading them. A child will learn by being in an environment that presents that child with the means to explore and to draw conclusions from elements in that environment that satisfy his or her curiosity about those special learning questions. Does that building have to be a public or private school? No, it does not have to be any particular building at all. It just has to be a safe, comfortable environment that contains tools that the child can use to explore what the child is curious about. Such a safe, comfortable, tool containing building, you may call home. Does the child need a particular person or group of persons in order to answer those questions? No, why do I say no? Because your child has been satisfying his or her curiosity about things from the moment of his conception. Up until the 19th Century when the first government schools were started, families’ homeschooled their children and felt capable to do so.

Was there a certified teacher inside the womb with your child for that child to explore the womb environment? Was there a certified teacher there alongside your child when the child discovered how to eat or how to walk? Most likely no, unless the parent just happens to be a certified teacher. Did your child explore the womb and learn how to suck a thumb, roll around and move arms and legs about? Yes, the child in the womb learns how to do these things because the environment is provided that encourages the child to do these things. The same thing happened when the child needed to satisfy the need to stop the hunger pains, or to satisfy the need to get from one position to another on a surface. He or she explored until the curiosity was satisfied and the task was accomplished. Who encouraged, gave praise and watched the child accomplish these tasks? These are real simple explanations for why a child can be taught in an environment outside of a public or private school. The concept of a child being able to learn without a certified teacher may seem contrary to your current belief system, but if you carefully look over your child’s beginnings you will see that you have been providing a learning environment all along. You just have not been thinking of your home environment in quite the same way before. Let us explore this concept a little bit further and apply it to the needs of a school-aged child.

The kindergarten-aged child learns the rudiments of how to count, categorize objects, socialize with others of the same age and to be able to follow instruction, pre-reading and beginning reading skills, communication skills and the appreciation of listening to music and exploring art forms. When my children were ages 4, 5 and 6 my home environment gave them the opportunity to explore these areas through books, arts and crafts, musical instruments, music cds and tapes, math games and age appropriate puzzles and a host of learning kits from the local library. We took field trips not only to the library, but to the zoo, greenhouses, nature centers, and other public places that provided areas to explore that a typical 5 year old wanted to play in. Neighbors and other homeschooling families met on a weekly basis to form playgroups so that our children could learn how to play together in relative harmony, exploring the concepts of sharing and manners.

Once the child masters these building block skills, advancing through the school years becomes like stacking Legos. You take one basic skill and you introduce the next level. How you introduce these skills depends on how best the child learns. One way to discover how your child learns best is to determine your child’s learning style. There are many resource books on this subject of learning styles. Basically each child has an ability to grasp concepts better either by seeing the concept demonstrated, and then doing the actions to achieve that concept, or by hearing a concept explained to them. Once you have gathered some information about how your child learns best, it is a matter of providing at home, a learning environment. Providing that environment is much the same as the manner in which you provided your child with a bedroom. You thought about his or her needs for that room and then you simply located and put into that room what your child needed. So it is, with the homeschooling environment. You listen to what your child is interested in, and then you locate resources such as books, arts and crafts, cds, dvds, games, and other forms of learning materials found in educational catalogs and stores. You can provide these items even if you are on a shoestring type of budget. You do not need to spend a lot of money providing this learning environment. There are plenty of free resources available both offline and online. Now, it is time to explore past the environment and into the area of who is doing the “teaching”.

In the many years of homeschooling I have often shuddered at the word “teaching”. It implies that you are taking a child by the hand and leading him or her to a concept that the child would not otherwise be able to grasp on his or her own; much like leading a horse to water. The picture conjures up the thought that without the person leading the horse to the water hole, the horse would otherwise go thirsty. Those of us, who have been around horses or any animal for that matter, know full well that if an animal is thirsty it will find it’s own way to sources of water. So it is with a child and his or her ability to learn. Providing the tools in a safe environment are the most essential elements that a child needs to be able to learn. If you do not believe me, just put a child down on the floor of a room full of toys and tell me if that child needs an adult to tell it to pick up a toy? More than likely the child’s eyes were on the toys the moment she or he entered the room and was anxious to be put down, so that the child could reach for the toys just as fast as possible. This is exactly the concept that we have followed in our own homeschool. You do not need to lead a child to what they naturally are drawn to. You just have to make the learning tools available to that child. The tools, be that text books, workbooks, games, videos, art supplies or a internet program on a computer (and I suggest a combination); your child will seize what you have made available in your home and explore those items because they are curious about what those items are and how they work. Each child will be curious about different things, as no two children are exactly alike. Part of your responsibility as a homeschool parent/adult, is to explore and understand what your child’s interests are, and what tools will enable your child to learn best. Introducing your child to many different learning tools can give you a good insight as to how your child learns best. Do not limit your child to just your home, there is a huge world out there to explore. Learning takes place in many locations and by introducing your child to many different people. People like librarians, zoo staff, museum curators, the local baker, just as an few examples of people who’s activities will inspire your child to explore the idea behind the tasks they see demonstrated. Instead of “teacher” think of yourself as an “experience in learning” facilitator. In other words, someone who cares enough about a particular child, that you are willing to provide the means for that child to satisfy his or her natural curiosity about the world.

Do you have the ability to provide a learning environment for your child? Yes, you do, if you are genuinely interested in how your child is developing mentally, emotionally and physically. You do have the ability to homeschool, if you care about what ideas and concepts your child is exposed to in his environment. You are uniquely gifted by the fact that you care about a particular child, to understand and provide for that child. As much as you care about and have the ability to feed and cloth your child, so are you capable of providing your child with a learning environment. There are many resources available both offline and online to help guide you in setting up a learning environment. The easiest way to find resources online is to simply put the word “homeschool” into any of your favorite search engines like Google, Dogpile, or Yahoo. This search will give you information about how to homeschool, including how to structure or not, your day. These resources can lead you to books and other websites to answer all your questions about homeschooling. The easiest way to find resources offline is to take a trip to your local library or bookstore and ask for books about homeschooling.

Homeschooling is certainly not appealing to everyone. Many families just like yours are discovering how homeschooling is a growing educational alternative to traditional education. Those who are homeschooled are accepted in colleges, are able to compete in spelling bees and other educational extracurricular activities, like sports and musical groups. Homeschooled children have the ability to engage in social activities with other homeschooled children and also with children who attend public or private schools through community sponsored athletic programs and other organizations that offer activities for children. A child given the opportunity to learn at home can and does excel in all the required subjects set forth by his or her state of residence. The state of Ohio, requires each child to demonstrate this, by taking a standardized test, or by having a certified teacher look over the child’s work for any given year and signing a certificate stating that the child has performed at the best of his or her ability. This state requirement is a measurement for learning progress and may differ depending on your state of residence.

Should you decide to explore homeschooling for your family, there are many ways to discover how to get started. Online you will find many Websites with information concerning how to homeschool, how to find curriculum, how to network with other homeschool families and just about any topic concerning homeschooling. Here is a list of Websites to get you started.

http://www.home-school.com You will find news, articles, and organizations

http://www.homeschool.com Here are resources, and a message board to chat with others.

http://www.hslda.org Explore the legal issues surrounding homeschooling

http://homeschoolcentral.com Learn about events, the latest news, and frequently asked questions

http://www.americanhomeschoolassociation.org/ Discover the history of homeschooling, how the homeschool movement is growing, communicate between your school district and your homeschool, read articles, find book reviews.

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