For the parents of more than 600 students who will find themselves without a school or curriculum when school begins on August 4 if they are denied entrance to the Tennessee Virtual Academy, the thought of the new school year fills them with a sense of dread and uncertainty. What if they have to design a homeschooling curriculum on the fly? Can they do it? Will their child learn as well through traditional homeschooling as they would if they were under the care of competent teachers and a state-mandated curriculum?
The good news is, it can be done—and there’s no need to design an entire curriculum in a few days. For those parents for whom returning to public school is not an option, it is possible to begin homeschooling—even with little to no time to prepare.
First, take a look at the state standards list. This can be found here: http://www.tn.gov/education/. Each grade level and subject area will have a different set of standards that must be met. A glance at the list as a whole is overwhelming, but it gives you a starting point! Now, choose the first two standards from each subject area, and start there. Those standards don’t necessarily have to be taught in order, but it might be easier to work down the list in a fairly logical manner. This will also give you a starting place—an idea of what your child is supposed to be working on. Obviously, you may need to backtrack a little (if your child is behind) or leap ahead (if they’re advanced), but looking over the state standards will let you know where you need to start.
Next, see what lessons are already available online. Many online resources are divided by grade level and/or subject matter, but not all of them will be organized according to state standards, which is why you should look those over first. Online resources are free, which is a definite advantage when you haven’t had a chance to decide what exactly you’re looking for yet. Khan Academy (https://www.khanacademy.org/) has a number of free resources available for math and science for older students. Montessori Print Shop (http://www.montessoriprintshop.com/Free_Montessori_Downloads.html) has a number of free resources available for parents of younger students—and even more resources available that can be purchased relatively inexpensively. See what activities you can find on Pinterest. See what worksheets are available for free download on Teachers Pay Teachers (http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/). There are plenty of free resources out there; it just takes some time to hunt them all down. Remember, you’re not trying to design an entire year right off the bat. Right now, you’re trying to have something for your child to start on when school starts.
Take advantage of the free resources that are offered to you, and let your imagination fly. Try out a few activities with your child. See which ones work and which ones are “boring” and don’t accomplish anything. This will give you a basis for what you want to do for the rest of the year.
Connect with your local homeschooling groups. The BHEA (Blount Homeschooling Association; http://www.bhea.net/) has a variety of programs available, as well as plenty of resources to help new homeschooling families. Many of them have been in similar situations at one point in time or another: floundering, feeling like they’re never going to figure out what they’re doing, and just hoping that they can manage to get through the first few weeks. They’ll let you ask your questions and give you honest, thoughtful answers.
Get through the first day. Take a few activities and try them out. See how much time each one takes, and let that first day be the basis for your schedule for a while. Learn how much time your child needs to wake up in the morning, how much time he is able to spend working, when she is most likely to get distracted. You’ll be able to build from there.
Breathe. Take it one day at a time for a little while. Let your child’s interest and capabilities lead you—not only to the things that they are most interested in and most capable of doing, but to the areas where they most need a little bit of help. Before you know it, you’ll be good at this, and you’ll be the competent, veteran homeschooling mom giving advice to someone else new.