You don’t need to have a formal classroom to homeschool, and many families find that their learning takes place in nearly every room in the house. Other families find that having a space set-aside for learning helps them to focus and allows them ready access to on-going projects.
When you first begin thinking about homeschooling, it can be helpful to remember that most homes with children already have many resources for learning. Books and maps, puzzles and videos, measuring cups and dice, art supplies, magnifying glasses and nature field guides, paper, pencils and pens—these are just some of the resources that form a foundation for homeschooling. Access to a kitchen and running water make simple science experiments fun and clean-up easy. A computer and internet access, whether at home or at the library, brings the resources of the world right to your screen. Many resources are available free on the internet or at your local library, making homeschooling affordable for nearly every family.
Location, Location, Location
Think about where your child will be most comfortable when you work at different tasks—and don’t be limited by the school model of sitting still at a desk. Reading lessons can happen curled up on the couch, or on the grass outside. It might be more comfortable to work with math sprawled on the living room floor, or to practice fractions with measuring cups while you bake cookies in the kitchen. Math manipulatives can be store-bought specialty resources or a mix of pebbles, acorns, marbles, and coins.
Some families create a reading nook in a comfortable corner, stocked with pillows and a basket or two of books. An area with simple art supplies your child can reach makes it easy for your child to illustrate a story or work on writing skills. A bag or basket with binoculars, magnifying glass, and field guides can makes it easy to head out on a nature walk, whether around your neighborhood, at a stream or river, or in a nearby park. Maps on the walls and a globe nearby help children locate current events and the settings of their favorite stories.
Homeschool Materials and Resources
Curriculum materials can be simple or elaborate. In a later segment, we’ll talk more about choosing resources that work well for your child. Some families worry about the cost of homeschooling and how it will fit into the family budget, especially if they expect to buy a lot of equipment and books. Your child does not need a special desk or chair to homeschool; you do not need to buy a lot of books. It is possible to combine home education with life in recreational vehicles or boats, as some families have a mobile homeschooling lifestyle—proving that homeschooling doesn’t necessarily take a lot of space and gear.
If your home has enough space for a separate learning room, it can be a handy way to contain your books and resources. A separate learning space can also eliminate the dilemma you’ll face at dinner time if you build a model of Egypt on the dining room table. If you do not have that kind of space available, short-term projects can go on a folding table that stores out of sight when not needed. You can take photographs of extra special efforts, then say goodbye to the real-life version that takes up more space than you have. You can mail artwork to doting grandparents and friends to appreciate. If you do a lot of schoolwork on the go, perhaps in the library or a local coffee shop, or while waiting for siblings in lessons and practices, it can be helpful to stow regularly used resources in a backpack or tote bag so you can transport them easily. A shelf, hook, or bin can stow your gear when you return home.
The most important part of turning your home into a learning environment is the atmosphere you establish. A parent’s sense of adventure and delight, combined with curiosity, can set the stage for all kinds of successful learning. Add a few good resources and you will be on your way.
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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