My oldest daughter will be three in April and, since we live in the middle of a wildlife reserve, homeschooling has been on my mind. In fact it has become a bit of an obsession as I search website after website and try to sort out what makes sense for her and for us as a family. When we made this lifestyle choice we knew that homeschooling would become a part of it but then it was way off in the future and now I’m realizing that if we were still in the States Boo might be starting preschool soon.
I say might because of course preschool is optional in the States, so I am viewing age three and four as guinea pig years. I’m thankful to have them and hoping that through trial and error we will find a homeschooling style that works for us. I’m excited that I have this opportunity to continue to spend so much time with my children, watching them discover their world and develop their minds. Even if we had another option, I don’t think I’d be ready to give that up yet but I worry, am I capable enough? Will I provide the right learning environment? Do I have the patience and will my kids suffer due to a lack of peer interaction? These thoughts gnaw at me but the answer is that this is our reality and so here I am figuring out how to start homeschooling.
What I’ve discovered is that there seems to be one decision that will have a huge impact on how I begin. Do I purchase a complete curriculum or do I take the DIY approach and create my own curriculum?
When I was pregnant I told people who questioned how I would educate our child in the African bush that I would buy a homeschool curriculum and we would follow that. I was so sure of myself, but now I’m starting to realize that complete homeschool curriculums are big business. While in many ways they seem to be the more straightforward option, they don’t come cheap and they may not mesh well with our lifestyle. If I choose to go this route it will take a lot of research at the start to find a program that I think will work for us. If I choose poorly I could be stuck with an expensive curriculum that we don’t get a lot of use out of. If I choose well it could be a great investment that saves a lot of time with lesson planning and ensures that I don’t leave any major holes in my child’s education.
I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time searching the net and seen that there are zillions of free resources out there for homeschooling parents. There are a multitude of websites and blogs with free activity and curriculum ideas that, if I can just find the time to piece it all together and tailor it to our family, might just suit us better and be more relevant to my girls day to day life than a prepackaged curriculum. Besides that it will save us a bundle of cash, and if it doesn’t work well I always have the option of shelling out for a complete curriculum or adding a few purchased workbooks and resources in the areas I feel we are falling short in.
I’ve been participating in online forums and advice from homeschooling veterans to those of us just starting out seems to be an overwhelming, “try it out for a while before investing too much in any one approach.” Many have stated that it takes time to figure out your child’s learning style and while a prepackaged curriculum may end up being best for him or her in the long run, it can take quite a bit of trial and error to find the curriculum that is the best match for your child and your family. A recurring theme seems to be that new homeschoolers often buy every resource available in an attempt to overcompensate for what they fear their child will be missing at a mainstream school. I can relate to that feeling, and, if I had more shopping options available to me, I know I would be guilty of this.
So based on that advice and a hunch about what will suit us best, I have decided that, at least for this first year – age three to four, I will try to keep costs to a minimum and just amp up our play. I’m in the process of developing a list of things that I think Boo should be working towards this year. It will be a flexible list that I’m sure will change throughout the year as we figure out what works and what doesn’t, but I am a person who needs goals so I will use this list to, “begin with the end in mind.”
I’ve subscribed to a number of blogs, written by homeschoolers, educators, and stay-at-home moms, that have great activities we will begin using for fun and for learning. I’ve joined The Secular Homeschool Community which I am finding to be an excellent resource. The forum is a welcoming place to ask questions and to do research. I joined Pinterest a while back and have started boards to get ready for our preschool homeschool, it’s a great place to find ideas for educational activities and also to discover blogs and websites that you might want to read regularly. I have boards for Preschool literacy, math, science, and crafts, as well as gross motor and fine motor skills. You can follow me and see the ideas I’m collecting by clicking the red P on the sidebar.
So for the foreseeable future I will be making it my business to find out as much as possible about homeschooling my preschooler with free and reasonably priced resources. What I have on my side is that no one knows my little one the way I do and nothing is more important to me than giving her the best education I possibly can. I’ll be posting what I find here, so if you are in a similar situation, I would love to have some help on this new and exciting, if at times overwhelming and daunting, adventure.
To read about why I feel homeschooling is the best option for my children see my post, “What are the Benefits of Homeschooling?“