Getting started homeschooling
If you are interested in getting started homeschooling, below is a brief overview. After reading it, we encourage you to tap into the many resources available on homeschooling to learn more.
What curriculum do I choose?
A curriculum is simply a set of courses in various subjects. The basic or foundational subjects are math and the six areas of language arts: reading/phonics, handwriting, spelling, vocabulary, grammar, and composition.
Curricula or individual subject courses are available from a variety of publishers. There are three basic choices:
- COMPLETE CURRICULUM: This is everything from one company. From textbooks to teaching plans, all subjects are in a coordinated schooling plan. Abeka, Bob Jones, or Calvert are publishers who produce complete curricula.
- CURRICULUM GUIDES: Some publishers produce a curriculum plan and only some of their own course materials while using outside publisher’s courses to complete their plan. Veritas Press, Sonlight, Christian Liberty Press are publishers who produce this type of curriculum.
- INDIVIDUAL SUBJECT COURSES: Many companies specialize in one subject. For example, Saxon Publishers produces primarily math programs. Also, Beautiful Feet Publishers produces literature-based history.
What homeschooling approach or philosophy do I use?
Approaches to homeschooling feature a teaching technique or plan of study. Here are four of the currently popular approaches:
- Textbook/Workbook Method: Most homeschool materials are designed with the textbook or workbook as their main teaching tool. Course materials are in lessons, chapters, or sections and there are tests, quizzes, or some type of independent or practice work for each lesson, chapter, or section. Because curriculum can be more closely tailored to a learning style, this method is widely used.
- The Classical Approach: This approach to education is based on the Trivium, with an emphasis on grammar, rhetoric, and debate. It includes the study of classical literature and Latin or Greek. There are a number of companies that publish classical curriculum guides, among them are Well-Trained Mind, Veritas Press, and Logos.
- The Unit Study Approach: The Unit Study takes one topic or theme as a basis from which to teach a subject. For example, if a student is interested in computers, then math and language arts are taught based on how they are used in computers. There are few complete curricula for this approach; it is mainly available for some individual subjects.
- The Living Books or Literature-Based Approach: This approach emphasizes the use of well written books, usually by authors who have been directly involved in the book’s subject material so that a student gets a more concrete, less abstract education. Charlotte Mason, a British educator during the early 1900s, started the Living Books Approach. Similar to the Unit Study approach, there are not many complete curricula for this approach, but some good individual subject courses.
How do I evaluate a course or curriculum?
HSGP Four Point Checklist:
- Are the instructions adequate?: The instructions show you how the course or curriculum is organized. Knowing the organization will give you the best viewpoint to see if it is a good match or not a good match for you. These instructions are usually found in an introduction or in the teacher’s manuals.
- Is there enough practice or independent work?: Having enough practice work – whether it is math problems or reading assignments – is a necessity. Most of us do not have the time to create practice work for a student in all subjects.
- Are there answers to the independent work?: Answers, like practice work, take time to generate. It is not that you do not know how to do third grade math problems. It is whether you have enough time to solve the problems in addition to all the other necessary work. Some good courses may not offer all of the answers or solutions to their study work.
- Does it fit your child’s learning style and skill levels?: This is the most important question in choosing curriculum. For example, one child may learn math more easily with black and white workbooks while another works with more confidence with manipulatives (counting blocks or teaching music CDs) and fewer workbooks. In addition, if a student struggles with math or grammar, it may be best to start from a lower grade and build up to his or her grade level. This information is found in the instructions and in other introductory materials, sometimes in a special explanation called a “scope and sequence.” One of the great things about homeschooling is being able to match a curriculum, a course, or a supplemental workbook to a student’s skill and interest levels.
What does the State of North Carolina require?
You must file an Intent to Operate a Home School with the North Carolina Department of Non-Public Education (DNPE) before beginning.
After filing, there are three requirements:
- Take a nationally accredited standardized achievement test (the California Achievement Test, the Woodcock Johnson, the Iowa Basic, and others) for each year that you homeschool.
- Keep an attendance report for each year.
- Keep immunization records if you choose to immunize.
Achievement tests are available from several local sources. Most testing is done at year-end. When you stop by, please ask us for the names or brochures of some of these testing services.
You can download the attendance report here. The attendance report is also included in the packet of information that DNPE will mail to you after filing.