Starting to Homeschool
Copyright © 1999 Kay Brooks
this page if you've never homeschooled. Read our
of the rules if you just need info on how to do this in Tennessee. You
might also want to check our
FAQ page for
frequently asked questions.
"Oh, my, where to start?
There is so much to cover." That's me talking not you. Though I'm sure
you've thought exactly the same thing. It can be overwhelming to try and
take it all in at once so I suggest you start with small bites.
are you considering homeschooling?
Parents have lots of reasons for homeschooling such as concerns about
safety at public schools; your child's performance; world views;
inadequate services for your special needs child; actually
liking your kids and wanting them around...
My suggestion to
you is to sit down and write out what you want to accomplish by
educating your child at home and why you are doing this. It will serve
to help you clarify your thinking and act as a reminder, when you're in
the thick of actually homeschooling, of why you started this in the
first place. It will also help you when answering the questions of
well-meaning relatives who think you've gone off the deep end and are
very "concerned" about your children. You might consider reviewing your
document every year and amending it as you refine your homeschooling
to do this in a vacuum.
Get to know other homeschoolers. Ask them questions. No question is too
dumb--and you're not really dumb--just uninformed. So get informed.
You'll also find hundreds of other e-lists at places like
Yahoo, Topica or
Google where folks with similar educational philosophies,
curriculum, and worldviews get together and support one another.
Subscribe to the TnHomeEd
. The TnHomeEd Support
Page also lists most of the e-lists specific to Tennessee. You can
subscribe and just 'listen' until you get your courage up to ask a
question. This is a great way to find local folks, get recommendations
from all sorts of homeschoolers and stay connected in regard to
Join a local support group. TnHomeEd has the most
comprehensive list of
Tennessee support groups. Staying connected to what is happening in
your neck of the woods in regard to local events and learning opportunities
is important. There are lots of wonderful homeschoolers that are very
willing to help you get connected locally. It may take a bit of perseverance
to find a group that fits your family's needs but when you find a group that
fits it's great and tremendously encouraging.
and read as much as you can on the subject. Go through the TnHomeEd site and
check it all out. There's a pretty good
here --use it. This site's purpose is to help you be informed and connected.
But remember take small bites so you don't wear yourself out before you've
Know the Law.
One of the first things you need to read and have a good
understanding of is the law regarding homeschooling. Knowing what your
responsibilities are is vital. It's not uncommon for a local district to
try and get more out of homeschoolers than the law requires. Check our
page for the homeschool law and various other pertinent regulations
regarding immunizations, driver's licenses, church-related schools etc.
Print it out, highlight it, make notes and be thoroughly versed in what
your rights are in this endeavor.
Yes, I know it
may be confusing. So here's my version of what all that means.
(Please remember that I'm not a lawyer and this is not legal
Just my best understanding of what's being allowed.)
To "homeschool" in Tennessee you have (currently) four
options--well five if you add in civil disobedience and don't register
Check the Blue pages of the phone book for the local
school district your child is zoned for and ask for a registration
Registering with the LEA is free. The LEA cannot dictate curriculum, can't require you to have them
approve it, doesn't provide curriculum, can't inspect your home or your
child's schoolwork, and probably won't give you much help in
homeschooling at all. Your child will be required to be
tested in 5th,
7th & 9th grades (See our Testing page
for details on that. )You are allowed to be in the room when the 5th grader
is being tested. Your child will not receive a diploma from the LEA.
Check here for the
and they will act as a cover or umbrella for you in regard
to compulsory attendance. The CRS usually does the reporting of
students to the LEA (Local Education Agency, school district). Some of
these CRS's will require various things from parents such as requiring you
to actually come on campus on a regular basis to test, take enrichment
classes, meet with the headmaster, may require a statement of faith to be
signed, may require specific curriculum. All have at least a small
registration fee. Check
CRS Comparison Chart
for what services they give, what's expected of you and how much this all
costs. Check here for more
The State Board of Education
has categories of schools and specific rules for each
category. Category III schools are those that are accredited
by SACS and it's affiliated
AdvancEd organization. Many
homeschoolers are already familiar with
Omega. With a recent rule change the Tn State BOE is now recognizing
enrollment with those schools as complying with compulsory
attendance laws. Please keep in mind that utilizing their
curriculum apart from actually being enrolled in their
distance learning program is insufficient to comply with
Tennessee's compulsory education law.
So to educate your child at home you have the option of:
Register with LEA, a CRS or a Category III program.
After you've read the law you'll need to decide which option fits
your family best.
Church Related Schools Comparison
is a good place to see which of those might fit you best if you need to go
that route. Write or call each one you're interested in and ask for a
registration packet and read it thoroughly. Consider what services you need
and what you don't. Consider what the school will require of you.
While some people don't mind registering with the State others
think this is none of the State's business.
Some people would rather not have their child tested or don't
have a college degree so register with a CRS.
Some can't sign a Statement of Faith and can't afford a CRS so
are forced to sign up with the LEA.
Just asking for a registration packet doesn't commit you to
using a LEA or CRS. You're just browsing at this point.
A word of caution: Some LEA's have been known to insist on your name and
address before handing the packet over. Stick to your guns, don't show any fear
and tell 'em "No" if you're uncomfortable telling them that personal
information. Some have insisted that you must come down and personally pick the
packet up up. Such isn't the case. Some have said you must pick from their list
of church-related schools. Not so. Recently, the Tennessee Department of
Education has provided these
forms online so you
may not have to even speak with the LEA.
The sad truth is homeschoolers must understand the laws very
thoroughly because many school personnel haven't even read the laws and are only
repeating what they've been told.
So what are you going to teach, when and how?
Homeschool styles range from "school at home" to "unschooling". The
first is generally considered very structured and usually is very text oriented,
very much like the public school experience. Unchooling is generally very child
directed. Most of us fall somewhere in between. Many of us start with a more
structured curriculum and then loosen up as we get more confident. And believe
me when I tell you that there really is curriculum for every conceivable subject
you might want to teach. Take advantage of those as well
as the abundance of free resources available on the Internet, your local
libraries, colleges, community museums etc.
Here are four
varied sources of what to teach when. There are a lot of "scope and
sequence" lists of which these are only a sample.
Free from World
Book is their Typical Course of Study
which tells you what knowledge and skills a child normally would have at
what grade level.
has edited a series of books one for each of the elementary grades. Each
volume is about $12.00. Also there is
"What Your Child Needs to Know When"
which covers academics as well as Christian topics written by a
homeschooling mom. And finally here is the State of Tennessee's
Standards--what they think should be the minimum content for a course in
And here from
Carlene Archer of
is an article entitled "
Choosing a Curriculum Amidst the Marketing Madness
" which you may find helpful.
doesn't have to be expensive.
A common saying is that all you really need is curiosity and a
library card. Expensive curriculum does not equal excellent results.
You're free to spend as much as you can on curriculum but around here
we're doing it for a couple of hundred a year and still getting
compliments about how bright, articulate and pleasant the children are.
yard sales, thrift stores and bargain bins to build our family library.
Our chalkboard came from an abandoned school. Someone blessed us with
used computer paper for drawing on. I stock up on crayons and markers
when they are on sale in August. I made our flannel board and thanks to
Grandma's fabric stash have an almost embarrassing amount of felt for
making manipulative for math, shapes and colors for early learners and
dress up dolls for imaginative play. Gift giving time frequently means
something "educational" as well as fun such a family membership to the
zoo or a subscription to Highlights magazine. Local libraries have
vastly improved their offerings to the homeschool community as have
local YMCA's, and other community organizations. The Internet is a gold
mine of resources.
local public television station and see if they show instructional
programming for schools during the day. Get the schedule and plan on
watching or taping. Frequently these programs have a teacher's manual
available for a small fee which you can utilize. Teachers are regularly
uploading great educational videos to the Internet. Use your favorite
search engine to discover the ever expanding and improving resources
chances, make mistakes and get messy"
as Ms. Frizzle of Magic School Bus fame says. The beauty of
homeschooling is that you are allowed to tailor your family's homeschool
journey to fit your family's situation now, and then alter it to fit it
again when circumstances change, and yet again if necessary. Don't be
afraid or ashamed to abandon a path that just isn't working.
I frequently tell new homeschoolers. Especially in the elementary
grades. Don't believe the lies from the "professionals" that say you
must have a degree in teaching and childhood development. They tell you
that because many of them will be out of jobs as soon as we figure out
we can do this. When I do come to a subject that I don't know about the
children and I learn together or I find someone that knows more than I
I can also highly recommend a book by
Tennessee homeschooling mom and tutorial teacher Mimi Davis called "So--WHY
Do You Homeschool?". At some point other people who care about
your children are likely to question your decision. You might want to
have this book on hand for those moments.
Well, that's a
start anyway. If you've got a question you might want to check the
page or check the
feature and query the parents on our
--but if the answer isn't there feel free to