How to Find Homeschool Resources for Your Child

As any homeschooling parent will tell you, finding the best resources to educate your child is the biggest challenge that these parents face. Finding the right curriculum, the right textbooks, the best tutors, and locating experiential learning opportunities (hands-on education, field trips, etc.) is enormously time consuming. And so often you keep wondering if there aren’t wonderful resources out there that you simply didn’t find.

Where to start?

Most parents begin with the major websites for homeschoolers. These easy to find sites offer prepackaged curriculum based on certain educators, or learning philosophies. Many of these are wonderful, but following a prepackaged curriculum goes against many parents’ goal of creating a customized education for their child. For many parents, that was their initial motivation for beginning to homeschool in the first place. The cookie-cutter curriculum of their local public schools simply didn’t work for their child. And beyond wanting to customize their child’s education, many parents have begun to learn the power and effectiveness of “experiential learning.”

The 3 key benefits of experiential learning.

A Chinese proverb states: “Tell me and I will forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I will understand.” Experiential learning is involving the student, hands-on, in the education process. Very simply, it is learning from experience. Students touch, feel, move and do as they learn. (Scientists call it “kinaesthetic imprinting”.) By using this technique, students gain whole body learning of a subject in physical, mental, and behavioral dimensions. The reason that more and more homeschool parents are seeking out experiential learning opportunities for their children, is that it is simply THE most powerful way to educate your child. Period.

1. It keeps the child engaged longer

Keeping children engaged in the learning process can be a bit of a challenge. And if your child is ADD or ADHD, then it is an enormous challenge. Children simply are not designed to sit in one place for prolonged periods of time. (Neither are adults, but that is another topic.) So it often takes the child a lot of concentration just to sit with their studies, let alone focus on what they are studying. However, if you involve a child physically in the learning process, they can easily stay with it for hours on end, without become distracted or bored. This means that they are more focused, so they are taking in information better, and they are getting more hours of education than through traditional learning methods (like reading, listening to a lecture, or computer programs). Both of these points are a huge win for parents.

2. It puts information into long-term memory

Initial learning and memorization occurs in the “front brain” or the cerebral cortex. This is where thought and reason reside. This is also the home of short-term memory. Long-term memory resides in the cerebellum (also called the “mammalian brain”). For a child, or anyone for that matter, to move information from their short-term memory to their long-term memory there are two basic methods. One is the more traditional method of: repetition. This method is slower and more labor intensive, and it also requires more patience on the part of the child. The reason this is the traditional method, is that it was the first method that scientists discovered, many years ago. Recently, scientists have found a second, and faster, way to move information from short-term to long-term memory, and that involves adding emotions. When a memory is accompanied by a strong emotion, it creates a stronger imprint on the brain and is more likely to be stored in the long-term memory.

An unpleasant example of this is walking into work one day, and your boss calling you into his office and telling you that you are being downsized. The strong emotion of shock imprints all the details of that morning into your brain. For years to come you will remember what you did that morning before work, what you wore, what the weather was like, what your boss was wearing, etc. Back to a more pleasant reality, this same mechanism works for education. No, you certainly don’t have to scare your children to elicit strong emotions, but more pleasant emotions such as fun, happiness, curiosity, and excitement will take what they are learning and put it in their long-term memory. Again, this is whole body learning: mental, physical, and behavioral. And it works so well, corporate trainers have started using it to train employees. It’s not just for kids.

3. It is simply the Fastest way to learn

As stated above, there are two methods to put information into our long-term memories. Repetition and memories paired with emotion. This is another reason that experiential learning is so powerful. Instead of spending hours repeating something over and over again (Remember practicing your scales for your piano lessons? Or learning your multiplication tables?) we can learn it once (with emotions) and it will stick. This may sound too good to be true, but that is simply because the old way of repetition is still so widely used. It’s the public school way of learning. And so we’ve become conditioned to believe that it has to take a long time to learn something, but it doesn’t. By learning in this way your child will have a more positive experience with learning (it will be fun), and they will be able to cover more information because they won’t be re-learning the same thing over and over. It’s a win-win for your child!

Choosing subjects where you can begin using Experiential Learning.

Now that you have become aware of the concept and benefits of experiential learning, you probably want to know how you can start using it with your children. It naturally applies better to some subjects than to others. Math, for example, is a one of the more difficult subject to use experiential learning, though not impossible. History can be taught experientially by visiting historic sites, especially ones with period actors reliving life during that time. And if your time and budget allows, travelling overseas to Florence, Vienna, Cairo, etc. would imprint powerful, lasting images and knowledge on your children. Also visiting touring exhibits like The Dead Sea Scrolls, or Ramses II is a wonderful teaching experience. The downside to this is that a lot of travel is often required, and it can be expensive.

A subject that many people don’t realize can best be learned experientially is: foreign languages. It’s also a subject that many parents neglect because they don’t know how to teach it themselves, and they don’t know that there are resources out there to help them. But foreign language is vitally important in giving your child a well-rounded education, as evidenced by the fact that all major colleges and universities require students to study foreign languages in order to earn a degree. Colleges also look favorably on students who have had foreign language experience prior to applying for college.

How to begin using Experiential Learning.

If parents consider foreign language education for their children, they often turn to computer programs. These can be a good place to start your child’s education. Children can learn basic vocabulary and some frequent phrases with these programs; however, experiential learning is key if they are to learn to truly speak the language and be able to remember it for years to come.

There are also a large number of overseas language immersion trips that are available. During these trips, students travel to a foreign country and stay for several months literally being immersed in the language and the culture. These are immensely productive and are wonderful experiential learning opportunities. However, they can be rather expensive, and for your child to gain the most benefit from these trips, they need a firm foundation in the language of the country they will be visiting. Otherwise, they will struggle and the experience will not be as positive as it could be.

An experiential learning tool that many parents have not yet discovered are: online tutors. This literally is the way of the future. Thanks to the easy and affordability of video teleconferencing, your child can now connect to tutors across the country or across the world. You can video conference (Skype) with a teacher in Europe for around 2 cents per minute. You are no longer limited to settling for the best (or only) tutor within 20 miles of your home. You can now easily find and give your child the best tutors in the world, literally. And what better way to take advantage of amazing international tutors than to have a native speaker teach your child French, Italian, or any language you can imagine. And it’s an actual video conference, so you child can see and talk to the teacher. It’s not just a phone call.

Experiential learning is an amazing tool to use in advancing your child’s education. The will learn faster, remember better, and have more fun than you ever thought possible. Keep your eyes on open for opportunities where your child can experience math, science, history, and foreign languages. And look for places where you can supplement their education with online tutors! You can find language teachers, math tutors, and even musical instrument and voice teachers.

Why The Homeschool Craze?

Why do families homeschool? That is like asking the question, “Why do families live in Orlando, Florida “or “Why do families have certain standards?” Every family has a different reason or a number of reasons for all of these questions! If you asked 1000 homeschool parents why they choose to teach at home, although you may get some similar responses, I can guarantee that you would not find two families that have identical feelings on the matter!

No One Reason

That does not mean, however, that explaining “why” is impossible. Although each family has a different answer to this question, many of the motives are similar. Perhaps it is about family values. Perhaps it has to do with a child’s particular learning style. Maybe it is about time – time together and time for learning things that are important to the child. Or maybe it is simply about curriculum choice.

The homeschool adventure begins with a different focus for each family, but the advantages are pervasive: parents as value-setters, customized curricula, attainment of individual goals, and closer family ties.

Top 35 Reasons Families Homeschool

Still wondering about why? Here are the top 35 reasons that others choose to homeschool. Which ones resonate with you?

1. Spend more time together as a family.

2. Spend more time with children when they are rested and fresh rather than tired and cranky from school.

3. Avoid having to struggle to get children to do the tedious busywork.

4. Allow children to have time for more in-depth study than what is allowed in school.

5. Allow children to learn at their own pace – not too slow or too fast.

6. Allow children to work at a level that is appropriate to their own developmental stage. Skills and concepts can be introduced at the right time for that child.

7. Provide long, uninterrupted blocks of time for writing, reading, playing, thinking, or working so that the child is able to engage in sophisticated, complex activities and thought processes.

8. Encourage the child to develop the ability to pace her/himself.

9. Spend a lot of time out-of-doors.

10. Children learn to help more with household chores, developing a sense of personal responsibility. More time spent on household responsibilities strengthens family bonds because people become more committed to things they have invested in (in this case, by working for the family.

11. Children learn life skills, such as cooking, in a natural way, by spending time with adults who are engaged in those activities.

12. Time is available for more nonacademic pursuits such as art or music.

13. Children will learn to design their own education and take responsibility for it.

14. Children will realize that learning can take place in a large variety of ways.

15. Children will learn to seek out assistance from many alternative sources, rather than relying on a classroom teacher to provide all the answers.

16. A more relaxed, less hectic lifestyle is possible when families do not feel the necessity to supplement school during after-school and week-end hours.

17. Learning can be more efficient since methods can be used that suit a child’s particular learning style.

18. Children can learn to work for internal satisfaction rather than for external rewards.

19. Children will not be motivated to “take the easy way out” by doing just enough work to satisfy their teacher. They will learn to be their own judge of the quality of their own work.

20. Children will be more willing to take risks and be creative since they do not have to worry about being embarrassed in front of peers.

21. Peer pressure will be reduced.

22. Social interactions will be by choice and based on common interests. Friends can be more varied, not just with the child’s chronological age peer group who happen to go to the same school.

23. Field trips can be taken on a much more frequent basis and can be much more enjoyable and more productive when not done with a large school group.

24. Volunteer service activities can be included in the family’s regular schedule.

25. Scheduling can be flexible, allowing travel during less expensive and less crowded off-peak times.

26. Religious and special family days can be planned and celebrated.

27. Feedback on children’s work will be immediate and appropriate. It can be much more useful than just marking answers incorrect or giving grades.

28. Testing is optional.

29. Grading is unnecessary. Understanding and knowledge are the rewards for studying, rather than grades (or stickers, or teacher’s approval, etc.).

30. Children can be consistently guided in a family’s values and can learn them by seeing and participating in parents’ daily lives.

31. Children will learn to devote their energy and time to activities that THEY think are worthwhile.

32. Children do not have to wait until they are grown to begin to seriously explore their passions; they can start living now.

33. Children’s education can be more complete than what schools offer.

34. Children with special needs will be encouraged to reach their full potential.

35. Children will be safer from gangs, drugs, and guns.

1-2-3…Count the Advantages

1. Socialization Benefits: What? This is the main reason that people say you shouldn’t homeschool! I contend, however, that homeschooling offers socialization benefits that public schools can’t offer. By participating in community life, homeschooled children feel comfortable with a wide variety of people. They are not age-segregated all day and therefore, can interact with people of all ages. Many people who come into contact with homeschooled kids remark on how easy it is to talk with them.

2. Less Stress: Yes, homeschooling can be stressful, but it is a stress that can be managed by what you do at home. Those that homeschool find that the lack of nightly homework stress is a big relief! Add to that the fact that schedules are loosened – no bus departures and arrivals, no specific attendance days, no particular hours – and you definitely find a less stressed atmosphere.

3. Teach to the Child: A homeschooled child can be taught in a manner that is best for the child. They can learn the things that interest them most and develop talents in ways not possible in the confining structure of public school. Homeschooling encourages development of a child’s own individuality.

This is just a sampling of the benefits of homeschooling. There are many, many more. The benefits are as individualistic as the reasons for homeschooling. Why? Because no two homeschooling families are the same!

Can You Homeschool Your Child and Still Work Full Time?

In today society the majority of families are dual income earners. Someone that wants to switch their children from public school or home school may shy away from the idea simply because they currently work at full-time job.

Although it may be a difficult task it is certainly one that can be accomplished with some creative planning. You would first want to consider the amount of time that most children are actually home school during the week. The typical home school schedule is much different from the traditional public school schedule which is generally around eight hours per day Monday through Friday. Most home school programs can be accomplished with just a few hours each day.

Next you will want to consider the individual student. Are they old enough to stay home by themselves while you’re working during the day? Can the student be given a lesson plan for the day and be expected to have this work completed for you to review when you return home? Does your child work well independently? If the answers are yes and then this will be an easy decision for you. If your child is not of an age where they can be left home alone then you will have to be a little more creative.

Since your average student does not follow the traditional 8 AM to 4 PM school schedule, you may find that home schooling early in the morning or late in the evening would work best for your family. You may also consider doubling up your work on your days off or over the weekend. It is not uncommon for students to be homeschooled on Saturdays and Sundays. Remember that you are in charge of the individual schedule and it can be made into anything that best suits your family.

There are many online curriculums that are available for you to choose from that allow you to work at your own pace not following a set schedule. This not only allows your child the educational freedom to work at their level but also provide you with the ability to educate your child at a time that works best for you. Another option would be a library-based curriculum. There are lots of free resources online that can be utilized for this type of curriculum. Although this choice would require a little more planning and effort from you it still would allow you to set your schedule to what works best for you and your student.

The decision to home school is often compared to a giant leap of faith. Trust yourself and your instincts to know what is best for your child’s education. Homeschooling while working a full-time job can be difficult at times but it can definitely be a rewarding accomplishment.