When starting home-based education, there are both practical steps to be taken and pedagogical choices to be made.
- Withdraw your child from school. If your child is currently attending school or registered to attend school, you'll need to give the school board written notification of your intent to homeschool instead. Out of courtesy and common sense, so that the school doesn't think the child is just truant, give a copy of your notice to the principal as well (see our page on the letter of intent). You do not need to send a letter of intent if your child has never attended school (see our FAQ about Policy/Program Memorandum No.131).
Please note: If you have plenty of time to make your pedagogical decisions before you withdraw your child from school, then this step could come after steps 2 & 3 instead, but if your child is suffering in some way (anxiety, depression, being bullied), do not hesitate to make withdrawal from school the absolute first step. You can always figure out the rest as you go along, and even have a period of complete rest from anything deliberately educational to de-tox from the school's effects before you ease back into education with a child's renewed interest in actual learning. If you do take withdrawal as the first step and find yourself having to deal with school authorities questioning your reasons, intentions, or ability to homeschool, you can take the optional step 7 right away too: joining the OFTP can give you more legitimacy in their eyes and a little security because they know we can give you guidance and will have your back.
- Choose your teaching style. The first thing to do for the actual homeschooling part of your plan, is to figure out what approach you'd like to take. This may change over time, as you make responsive adjustments, but you have to start somewhere. To explore your options, see our page on teaching methods and learning philosophies and our page on learning styles.
- Choose your learning materials. Then you may want some materials to go with your chosen approach. Some approaches like unschooling don't require anything deliberately educational, just your own daily living supplies and your own responsiveness. Other approaches that are more structured may rely on more conventional educational materials. See our page on curriculum and our list of suppliers of educational materials.
- Start your program. Implement your chosen approach and curriculum according to a schedule that works well for you, your child and the rest of the family.
- Adjust as needed. Once you've started homeschooling, don't forget to adjust as needed as you go along. Remain responsive to how your child responds to the teaching method, materials used, and schedule. If there is any aspect of your program that isn't working well, try something different. It's one of the main benefits of homeschooling that you can tailor everything to your own unique child and your own unique situation instead of being stuck with a rigid norm-based structure as children are in the school system.
- Network and socialize. To keep your child involved with peers, and for opportunities for field trips and other activities, and also for support for yourself, you may want to join a local support group.
- Help protect your rights. To help protect your rights and the rights of all parents to "choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children" (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 26.3), join the Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents.
Some thoughts on "starting" an education
A person's education does not begin at junior kindergarten and end at high school, college or university. Education is a lifelong process. As a parent you have been intimately involved in your child's education from day one. Let's look at some of the principles of home learning:
Principles of home learning
Children are constantly learning--that is the name of the game--from initial body movement, to crawling, to walking, to talking. Children have an inner motivation to learn.
As a parent you provide a learning environment and a model. The environment that you help create is one of safety, challenge and opportunity particularly suited and ever-changing to meet the present abilities and needs of your child.
A child learns when a child is ready. We all learn at different rates. Some walk before their first year, some learn to walk later.....and so on. The important thing is to respect the child's timetable. Faster is not better if the child is not ready. You cannot make a child walk--the child will walk when the child is ready.
With these three general principles it can be seen that you have already been involved intimately in home-based education. As a person grows older, and reaches school age, the same three principles still apply.