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Homeschooling for Beginners

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Published : March 22nd, 2020
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There are a lot of children home from school now, and many parents who have essentially begun homeschooling. Here is a brief guide for how to do it.

Homeschoolers rarely mimic regular school. Since it is late in the school year, all you really have to do is: complete the math curriculum for your grade, and do some good reading.

In general, small children do not need very much instruction. Mostly, just leave them alone. Let them play. For ages 0-7, the basic guide is: You read to them, stories that are not too difficult. They read at a level that is appropriate for them. In the homeschooling model that I follow (tjed.org), the basic guide is: no academic topics at this age at all. The “curriculum” for what is known as “Core Phase” is: Good and Bad, Right and Wrong, True and False.

For ages 8-11 or so, this is the “Love of Learning” phase. The main focus is for them to get excited about learning things, from high quality materials, on their own. Mostly, this means reading high quality books they like. Also, you can read to them. The guideline is 2-3 hours a day, mostly consisting of them reading things they like, on their own. Children of this age generally cannot concentrate for much longer than that. However, I find that you can go over this if they are excited about the subject. Also, there are a lot of high-quality documentaries these days, on a wide variety of topics.

For Scholar Phase students (ages 12-17), a more intensive program is appropriate. Children of this age are capable of a LOT of study. However, if the student is not used to this (many are not), start them with a Love of Learning load of about 2-3 hours a day, and move up from there. You can finish up Math and Science curriculums that they are in the middle of. Also, they should spend 2-3 hours at least, and extending to 6 hours or more, reading high-quality classic books.

A lot of students are rather burned out, so commonly a homeschooling family will “detox” for a time after quitting regular school. This “detox” time commonly takes about one month for every year of compulsory schooling. During this time, you don’t have to do anything, but Love of Learning-type reading of classic books, mostly for fun and curiosity, is encouraged. But, it must be voluntary.

As for what books to read, I recommend three resources:

Amblesideonline.org (Charlotte Mason method): Superlative classic curriculum materials.

Tjed.org list of Classics.

The Harvard Classics. For older students.

“You, not Them” is one of the Seven Keys of Great Teaching from TJed.org. If you want your child to learn well, the best thing to do is to Work On You, not Them. Basically, this means: you learn about homeschooling, and also, you read Classic books — the kind of books that you want your children to read. Here are some core books for parents to learn about homeschooling:

A Thomas Jefferson Education: intro to one of the most ambitious homeschooling methods.

The Phases of Learning: How-To guide in the TJed method.

Dumbing Us Down, by John Gatto

The Leipzig Connection, by Paolo Lionni. Why school is the way it is.

Obviously, I am a TJed fan, but feel free to read books by John Holt, Charlotte Mason, Maria Montessori and others. These four books will at least get you started.

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Nathan Lewis was formerly the chief international economist of a firm that provided investment research for institutions. He now works for an asset management company based in New York. Lewis has written for the Financial Times, Asian Wall Street Journal, Japan Times, Pravda, and other publications. He has appeared on financial television in the United States, Japan, and the Middle East.
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