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New to Homeschooling?
By Andrea Bikfalvy
Don't panic. It is much easier than you might think. Yes, homeschooling is easy! A good book to read for information and inspiration is The Homeschooling Answer Book by Linda Dobson.

First of all, relax. You don't need to run out and buy a curriculum. I'm going to tell you an easy way to create your own curriculum for free or nearly free, and it's easy to customize for different ages, interests, and abilities--really! I have used a couple curricula that I liked and would recommend, but in general, I like the flexibility and thriftiness of designing my own.

I read somewhere that a student can do nothing educational before age 14 and then learn everything a child learns in school from K-12 in four years, working 6-8 hours a day, 5 days a week (which is not how I would choose to do it, but it's nice to know it's possible). This means that if you teach your child anything at all before age 14, you are ahead of the game--it takes the pressure off.

Homeschooling gives such freedom to experiment and find what works for your child(ren). Different people learn best in different ways (some from tapes, some from reading books, some from exploring physically, etc.) It's hard to meet all those needs in a school full of many kids. As homeschoolers, the whole world becomes the classroom, and every experience is a chance to learn or spark a new interest.

Here is a way to make your own simple, easy curriculum that costs very little:
First, get a calendar and call all the local nature centers, zoos, museums, libraries, etc. in the area to get schedules of their special programs for the year--sign up for newsletters or email lists if they have them. Mark down all the special events on a calendar. You can color coding for "must do" and "maybe" events if you want to.

Second, choose one day a week to go to the library. Each library day, check out one book on science, one on social studies or history, one on art, etc. The child does not have to look at each one each week, but they are there. Of course get fun to read books, too. Keep a record of all the books checked out so you can see what you've done.

Third, you may want to get some old-fashioned computer paper (the kind that is attached together and folded). Make a timeline with a century per page. It will fill small box. Mark family history (birthdays, weddings, important events) on the timeline as well as the time period of books read, historical events studied, etc. Over time, the timeline will fill in. Add current events of importance, too. It will be a good record of what happened when and how different things connect.

Finally, go explore the world! Look into memberships at zoos or museums nearby and go once or twice a month--at zoos, you can keep a log of animal behaviors noticed-over the year it will be a good learning tool.
Go on nature walks and do an fun activity when you get home--write a poem, draw a picture, make a craft with items collected.

Observe everything--birds in the yard, utility repairmen in the neighborhood, cars that go by, plants in the garden, bees on flowers, rain on the roof, etc. As your child asks questions and develops interests, look up resources at the library and on-line.

Play "store", blow bubbles, try chemistry experiments you can eat, nature crafts, math wizard books, play games with dice and money, use play doh, and blocks and legos, plant beans, paint pictures, tell stories, dance, record the weather every day...

As time goes by, you will find the areas you think are important to spend more time on and areas where your child is eager to learn more, be it asteroids or Picasso or algebra. It's really easy if you take it one day at a time. Teachers would love to be able to design an individualized curriculum for every student in the class, and as homeschoolers, we can. I love it. It's so much fun.

And don't worry about "missing something." No school can teach every bit of knowledge an adult needs to know. We all miss things. I never learned any world history in school, but I know a lot of it just because I read a lot. As long as you teach your child how to learn what he wants to know, where to find information, etc., he will be able to learn any bit of knowledge or any skill he may not have learned while he was at home.

If you want to help make sure your child learns the things that are important to you, sit down and decide what your goals are for your children. Do you want them to be happy? to serve others? to be a Christian? to be a leader? to interact well with other people? to have satisfying relationships? to know how to balance a checkbook? to understand differential equations? to understand logic? to pursue their passions? to know how to do a load of laundry? Whatever matters to you, set those as goals and evaluate once a year or each child. If you see an area where one child might need more help, you can focus on that.

Most of all, relax and enjoy your children. They will be grown soon enough.
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