Deciding to homeschool can be daunting. Whether you are planning with a toddler or taking your student out of High School, the choice can seem overwhelming. Take a deep breath and know you, and only you, can make the best decisions for your child. To be successful you don't need to (and some would argue should not) school your child with the curriculum and/or structure of a typical school. It takes time to figure out how your student learns best, their academic strengths and weaknesses. Georgia Law requires an intent to homeschool, and specifies how many days you should teach and some minimal testing requirements. Attendance forms no longer need to be submitted.
With the number of resources out there, how do you decide which curriculum is right for your student? Many new homeschoolers try an all encompassing boxed or set curriculum. The majority move away from it quickly, realizing its not a good fit, while some find it suits their needs to a "T." Your student might be better in Math than English or have an interest in History, but the curriculum isn't interesting to them.
Education is about creating passion, and boredom will not incite excitement. What excites you, a sibling or fellow students may not create an interest in your student. One student might love to memorize the multiplication tables and proudly recite the 12 x tables with gusto, while another might have difficulty learning them. Believe it or not, both of these students can excel in math. It may even be the case that a student not good at recitation/memorization might be better at higher math than their precocious counterpart. Likewise a student might have difficulty reading, but have a propensity for literature. Similarly there are quite a few excellent writers who had/have problems with handwriting. Homeschooling gives parents the latitude for students to find their passion.
Some decide to unschool or deschool before embarking onto more traditional schooling path. Some start a path and change course. The beauty of homeschooling is that you are free from normal educational conventions, and get to plot your own family's course of learning .
How do you individualize curriculum? Talk to friends, search the internet (starting with LEAD's resources of course ;-)). Some families choose to hire a consultant to help sift through their options. Once you've settled on courses of action, you may want to ask within your group if someone has the books you've settled on so you can take a look. Sometimes you can tell by just looking that a curriculum is not going to work. If at all possible, borrow or check out a curriculum for a week or so. Also know that gently used curricula can be sold to other homeschoolers to recoup costs.
Helpful Resources when Starting Out:
Homeschool Consultants (if you need a little extra help):
The Homeschool Compass - local company, owned and operated by a few LEAD moms
Meeting the State's Testing Requirements:
LAW - Ga. Code Ann. 20-2-690(c)(7) "Students in home study programs shall be subject to an appropriate nationally standardized testing program administered in consultation with a person trained in the administration and interpretation of norm reference tests to evaluate their educational progress at least every three years beginning at the end of the third grade and records of such tests and scores shall be retained but shall not be required to be submitted to public educational authorities."
HEIR information on testing.
Standardized Test Options for homeschool:
Any "nationally normed" achievement test will fulfill the requirements. Homeschoolers do NOT take the CRCT. The Iowa Test of Basic Skills and the Stanford Achievement Test are two commonly used options. An older edition of the California Achievement Test is also available to home schoolers, though the current edition is not. Hewitt's "Pass" test now seems to qualify in Georgia as an acceptable test.
LEAD has given the ITBS in the spring for several years, for those who wish to participate. The cost is slightly higher than ordering directly as rent, postage, and nominal supplies are figured into total cost. Testing dates will be announced in November. tests will be mailed out to a national scoring center where they will be scored by computer. Results will be returned within approximately 6-8 weeks. There are other organizations in the area that arrange to give the ITBS or Stanford for homeschoolers as well, It's also possible to administer the ITBS at home (if you have a BA or BS degree or higher), or the abbreviated CAT test is available for home use for anyone.
ITBS - Must have a degree to administer.
CAT - May be adminstered by a parent, but the edition available to homeschoolers is from 1992. Terra Nova may be normed to 2005 but more expensive than standard CAT.
Stanford Acheivement Test - online testing option; While a parent may administer the test, they must also test two non-relatives from a different household at the same time.
Seton Testing - offers ITBS and CAT to be administered at home; They are reasonably priced and serves students K-12.
HSLDA information on testing options
Styles of Homeschooling:
Most homeschoolers develop their own style, but here are some theories of homeschool education, and links to help you find more information:
Ambleside Online - a free homeschooling curriculum designed to be the modern equivalent to the curriculum that Charlotte Mason used in her own PNEU schools
Penny Gardner - resources and information on the Charlotte Mason method, by Penny Gardner, the author of the Charlotte Mason Study Guide
Simply Charlotte Mason - features a curriculum guide, living books, narration and dictation ideas, copywork, and online planner
The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer, http://www.welltrainedmind.com
The Classical Scholar - teaching resources for classical educators
Pandia Press - features secular classical history and science curricula, History Odyssey and R.E.A.L. Science
Classical Education Resources
Moving Beyond the Page - comprehensive, research-based curriculum designed for gifted and creative children
The L.A.M.B. Company Curriculum - curriculum that is custom designed around the needs of each student
American Montessori Consulting
Thomas Jefferson Education
TJ Leadership Education
Waldorf (Rudolf Steiner's theory of education)
Lifestyle of Learning - learning academic skills is indistinguishable from learning to be part of a family, geographical community
Unit Study - learning focused on a particular topic; every subject area covered within activities
Worldview -specific worldview is the main focus, taught in curriculum, activities, materials, and overall approach