There are lots of things that people will say you NEED to homeschool. During this “back to school” season, there are pretty of shiny, new things to tempt us as well.
There’s plenty that you CAN use, many things that will make it easier, and some things that you’ll feel like you couldn’t really live with out. But when you get down to it (you COULD homeschool without internet, or a laminator, or a printer, really,) there are really only three things that you truly NEED.
The ONLY three things you need to homeschool your kids.
Homeschooling is completely legit. It is entirely possible to educate your children from home and raise successful learners who are prepared for life.
Though homeschooling isn’t the easiest thing you’ll do, it will be one of the best things you could do with your time and for your kids. But it does take a lot of time and patience among other things.
When you homeschool your children, you will need the emotional and mental stamina that keeps you going through the frustration of, say, teaching your kid to read, until you see the success on the other side. You will need that patience while you teach your kids to multiply and divide and find the square root (again and again and again.)
More than the tiny little elementary pieces of schooling, though, it’s much harder to teach all the deeper bits — how to be independent and confident, how to think and analyze, to draw conclusions and create solid arguments. It’s much more difficult to teach your children how to be decent, honest, and hard-working than it is to teach sums.
The biggest challenge of all for Christian parents being that of Deuteronomy 6.
Parenting is, by itself, a marathon challenge. Homeschooling is even more so. For the marathon, the first thing you need is heart. Determination. You need conviction to stay the course and overcome the challenges.
God has put homeschooling on my heart. I am convinced that this is what He wants me to do, and I have the heart to stay the course. For Christians, we really need God to put this on our heart, and when we know this is His will for us, we know that He will go with us, and we have what we need to see it through. If you’re not a Christian.. I’m not saying you can’t do this if God doesn’t tell you to — you can. I *am* saying that you still need heart conviction, certainty, determination and drive. Homeschooling is definitely not a whim, it’s a firm decision.
The second thing you need to homeschool is support. Yes, from family, but also, other homeschoolers who have traveled this road before or who are traveling the same road now. Through the support of your friends and family, you can find a great sense of community, encouragement, wisdom and advice.
No two homeschool families or journeys are alike so you will likely need to draw from many sources for advice and encouragement to find the unique blend that works best for you and your family.
It is true that you can find a certain amount of support through the online homeschool community. For some homeschoolers, this may even be the majority of their support system, if they live in areas with lower concentrations of homeschool families or if their families aren’t supportive. There are numerous great blogs and groups that you can learn from. There is valid advice, wisdom, and encouragement to be found here.
I encourage you to also seek local community if you can. If you have homeschooling friends or family members to go on field trips with you, encourage you through difficult spells, and help navigate the path, you will be much stronger than if you have to travel this journey alone. It may not be impossible, but this would be a very, very difficult journey to travel alone.
“GOOD” means good for you, not necessarily expensive or popular–and God and Support will help you find that. When God has called you to a task, He will help equip you for it, leading you to the right decisions if you follow His lead. When you have found some good homeschooling friends that you can trust and respect, they can help introduce you to a variety of trustworthy resources as well.
Here’s one truth about homeschool curriculum that you don’t often find: They are, almost all of them, perfectly acceptable. Quite often, for as many people as you can find that will tell you that curriculum A is better than curriculum B, you can likely find just as many that say the opposite.
What it comes down to, in the end, isn’t really finding “the best” curriculum, but the best curriculum for you. What’s best for you and your family will depend on a variety of factors including teaching and learning styles, price range, worldview, and goals. If you have some good homeschool friends that you trust, they can help you figure out what kind of approach you might be looking for, and they will also have knowledge about what types of curriculum will help meet your needs.
And there is also this: my two main goals are preparing my child so that he or she is able to attend college, and preparing my child for life – as a child of God. The only things I *really* need from a curriculum is an education that will help me meet those two goals. Everything else is just personal preference.
When my child gets to college, or gets married… it won’t matter if we went with curriculum A or B, it will only matter if I helped him or her learn how to understand, apply and master it.
Everything Else is Fluff
As I said, there is very little you actually *need,* and everything else is personal preference. Fluff. Sure, a lot of that other stuff makes the journey a little bit nicer. But it really doesn’t matter if we have popular curriculum, free curriculum, choose traditional or classical, or if we school in the dining room or in the living room. A lot of that stuff will work itself as we travel on our journey with the first three needs and our two main goals in mind.
Of course we will make specific choices on certain curriculum items or extracurricular activities to meet our needs and goals, and that is part of what shapes our unique experience.
Our earlier years of homeschooling were exceptionally lean and basic. We have been blessed in the past couple of years to be able to have a dedicated space for school, to explore some new curriculum, and to participate in more activities. We have quite enjoyed that, certainly. What I have learned from the experience is that, as in all of life, there is a distinct difference between needs and wants.
During the back to school season, it’s incredibly easy to get caught up in wishlists and wants. If you’re just starting the homeschool journey, it can be especially daunting. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Remember…
There are only three things you really need to homeschool: heart, support, and good (for you) curriculum.
P.S. I know this may sound odd coming from someone who regularly shares curriculum lists, homeschool ebook bundle sales, and giveaways. It comes to this: pray about what investments you need to make, and let God lead the way. I think God has led me to some pretty great resources over the years, and I’m sure He’ll do the same for you if you ask. =)