The first step to homeschooling, I think, is making the decision that the child will begin homeschooling. Usually before that decision is made some research about homeschooling is done by the parents. After the question of “is it legal” is answered (a quick and easy one to answer) then the question most parents ask is “how to do it” or “do I feel I have what it takes to do it”. Once a parent has figured those things out, they usually have made a decision. So if the decision is to begin homeschooling they often ask, “What should I do next?”
Although some people perceive the second step is buying curriculum, I have a different answer. I think the second step to take is to begin networking, especially in the family’s own geographical area.
Internet sources for inspiration, support and encouragement are fine and well. However there is nothing like the different and important type of information and support that others right in your own backyard can give you.
I advise all new homeschoolers to begin reaching out to their local homeschooling community as soon as possible. On Internet forums, strangers often ask what to do next. While I am only a stranger on the Internet to them, I encourage them to reach out locally.
Judy Aron blogged a great piece about networking with homeschoolers that I’d like you to read.
To explain my own reasons for feeling that local networking is vital, I’ll list them out:
1. Local homeschoolers can tell you what classes; co-op’s, community events and cultural events are available right in your backyard. If you try to find out about these by yourself you simply won’t know the full range of choices that you actually have available to you. Word-of-mouth is the most common form of advertising for services for homeschoolers.
2. Having a friend who is also a homeschooling mother, someone you have a face to face relationship with is special and unique, better than even the most helpful and respected “Internet friend”.
3. Just being around other homeschoolers can be more comforting and reassuring than even a full inbox of email chat from strangers. Seeing other homeschooling parents and children in person can help a homeschooling mother feel that our alternative lifestyle is perhaps not so weird after all, if all those people are homeschooling too.
4. Local homeschoolers can share experiences with various towns in the state, such as telling which towns are homeschooler-friendly vs. homeschooler-hostile.
5. Local homeschoolers often will let you look at their homeschooling materials so you can see books or curriculum rather than relying only on catalogue descriptions for information. This can help you make a more informed decision.
6. Local homeschoolers often will re-sell their used books and curriculum to other homeschoolers at bargain prices.
7. Your children can make friends with other homeschooled children, so they don’t feel that they are the only children homeschooling. This is especially important if a child was formerly in school. The last thing we want is for our children to think they are “different”, “odd”, or “isolated”.
8. You will be linked in with others to hear about local legislation regarding homeschooling. A key to keeping homeschooling legal is being able to quickly find out about pending legislation. Time is of the essence. I like to rely on local sources of information rather than waiting for the trickle-down from national sources.
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