When you first contemplate homeschooling, you might feel overwhelmed at the prospect of doing it all yourself. The short answer to this dilemma is that you don’t have to do it all yourself. Families choose a variety of methods to supplement and expand on what is offered at home, whether to teach the “hard subjects” or for enrichment activities your child may already enjoy. The truth is that many a homeschooling family complains they spend too little time at home!
Classes are one opportunity to use resources outside your home. You can find classes in a variety of subject areas through your local parks and recreation department or a resource like the YMCA. Foreign language classes, martial arts, music classes, and others are offered in many communities. Some businesses offer reduced rates for homeschoolers that take classes during the normally “slow” hours of weekday mornings and early afternoons, especially if a group of homeschoolers organizes themselves into a class.
Many homeschool groups form a cooperative (co-op) that meets regularly to provide instruction in one or more subjects. Typically, co-ops meet 1-2 times per week for an hour or two to a full day. The number of subjects offered depends on what parents are willing to teach or their interest in hiring an instructor for a specialized subject. Some co-ops are free, requiring nothing more than a willingness to pitch-in and help. Other co-ops charge a fee. The quality of instruction can vary widely, with some co-ops simply focusing on the chance to have fun activities in a group setting to others with a rigorous academic focus.
Tutor or Online Classes
If your child needs more work in a particular subject that you can provide, look for a tutor or online class that can help. You may be able to barter some of your own skills in return for the skills your child needs—one mom may provide excellent math instruction, but could use some help with writing composition or fixing a leak under the kitchen sink.
Sometimes an enrichment activity, like music, dance, or scouting, may become the center of your curriculum for a season or a few years. Your days might revolve around lessons, practices, and performances or outdoor events that require planning and preparation. Math, language arts, history, science, and other subjects can be interwoven with the tasks required to accomplish your goals. Working alongside an instructor, troop leader, or other mentor to plan tasks, perfect skills, document accomplishments, and teach them to others requires reading, writing, analysis, critical thinking, and interpersonal skills that are sometimes best learned in real-world activities.
Volunteer Work and Community Service
Volunteer work and community service can be an important asset to your child’s education, and homeschooling provides so many opportunities for a child to volunteer. Young children can work alongside mom or dad in a variety of settings; older children and teens can begin to branch out and do work on their own. Libraries frequently appreciate the efforts of homeschooled children to shelve books, read stories, and do other tasks. Retirement homes appreciate children who sing, play instruments, or read aloud to residents. Pre-teens and teens can become history interpreters or museum docents. Animal shelters need visiting children to help socialize the animals and accustom them to kids. Volunteering helps our children to be a part of their communities, to learn new skills, to feel at home in the adult world, and to make a contribution larger than themselves.
Consider the wisdom in the phrase, “if you build it, they will come.” If you’re looking for a particular class, club, activity, field trip, or other resource, chances are other families would appreciate it, too. Start organizing and building what you want and publicize your efforts. It’s likely that you’ll find more families to join you and share the costs and organizational efforts, too. In our community, homeschoolers have created clubs for a variety of activities from jump-roping to magic tricks to circus skills. Field trips can be to your local fire station, a museum or aquarium, or another continent. The only limit is your imagination and the time and energy you have to invest!
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The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers is a volunteer-run, non-profit organization dedicated solely to homeschooling issues. Created in 1993, VaHomeschoolers is a state-wide, inclusive organization that provides information on homeschooling and protects and promotes homeschooling freedoms at the state and local level.
We provide a comprehensive website on homeschooling in Virginia, answer questions through our toll-free homeschool help line and email homeschool help desk, publish the bi-monthly journal Voice, as well as several electronic bulletins, and offer conferences and seminars on homeschooling throughout the year. We represent homeschooling interests in the state legislature and across the state, and help parents and school divisions resolve homeschooling issues.
Our organization has no political or religious affiliations; we focus exclusively on issues related to homeschooling. Our website does cover the specific legal aspects of homeschooling in Virginia but it is also filled with information and resources on homeschooling that apply universally. It is a great place to gather further details and support on all the topics discussed in this series
If you have found the Guide to Homeschooling Your Child helpful, please consider supporting our efforts on behalf of homeschoolers.
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Leslie Nathaniel has been a member of VaHomeschoolers since she began homeschooling and is now a member of the Board of Directors. Her children began learning at home as soon as they were born, but they became official homeschoolers when her eldest reached kindergarten age in 2002. Prior to children, Leslie worked in information technology consulting. She is a homeschooling mother of two. As a volunteer for VaHomeschoolers, she answers telephone and email requests for information; writes articles for the VaHomeschoolers Voice homeschool journal; speaks at conferences and seminars on a variety of topics; and organizes homeschooling seminars around the state of Virginia.
Celeste Land is a member of the Board of Directors for VaHomeschoolers and the director of our Government Affairs department. Her two children began homeschooling in 1996, and are continuing to learn at home right through the teen years. Her daughter has recently graduated from homeschooling high school and will be attending college full time this fall. Celeste has lobbied on behalf of homeschooling interests here in Virginia and Washington, DC, for 10 years. Her articles on homeschooling have been published in the VaHomeschoolers Voice and the VaHomeschoolers website, as well as several homeschooling magazines in the USA and Canada. She also has been a speaker at many homeschool seminars and conferences.
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