Before we even start, let me say how proud I am of you for exploring options for you child's education! You are about to embark on one of the hardest, yet most rewarding and life changing journeys of your life."Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire." ~W.B. Yates. Let's get that fire going!
WHAT DOES THE STATE REQUIRE OF ME?
Currently the only thing you need to do in Arkansas is file what is called a Notice of Intent. It can be done online in a matter of minutes. You have to do this every year by August 15th. Right now, Arkansas does not require assessments, state mandated subjects, or teacher qualifications, so it is a pretty easy state to homeschool in. However, I am not a legal expert, so please seek the help of an attorney or legal advisor if you have any questions. These requirements could also change. Here are some websites to familiarize yourself with and stay up to date with the latest requirements.
Arkansas Department of Education
Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA)
I AM NOT A TEACHER. HOW WILL I TEACH MY CHILDREN?
Ponder these two quotes:
"I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious." ~Albert Einstein
"Teaching is a function, not a profession. Anyone with something to offer can teach." ~John Taylor Gatto
You know your child better than anyone else. You know his or her strengths and weaknesses. You know what motivates your child and what he or she is passionate about. You can do this! Plus, we live in a day and age when there is literally a world of help at your fingertips. You will also be amazed at how much YOU will learn! Some days I wonder what I did in history class at school growing up, because I feel like I am learning much of it for the very first time!
HOW DO I KNOW WHAT CURRICULUM TO USE?
Arkansas has no requirements for what must be taught, so you are literally free to use whatever you want. The downside to that is that there are so many different subjects and curriculums that it can be very overwhelming for a new homeschooler to decide what to use. Here are some questions to ask as you evaluate your different choices:
What is my child interested in learning?
What do I want my child to learn?
What does my child need to learn to go into his/her desired profession?
What are my child's strengths? (If reading is not one of them, do not choose a curriculum that is heavy on reading unless there are audiobook versions)
What are my child's interests? What are they passionate about? How can I use that to help my child learn? (Did you know that there are entire courses designed around Minecraft, legos, and board games?)
What are my child's weaknesses? Will the curriculum help your child overcome weaknesses without exacerbating and frustrating him or her?
Is the curriculum visually appealing? Is the font big enough (but not too big)? Is there enough color or pictures throughout the book (but not so much that is is distracting)?
How hands on or independent do you want to be in your child's education?
What kind of learner (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) is your child?
What is the cost?
Here are a couple of things to remember:
1.If you try something, and it doesn't work for you or your child, you can always change it and try something else. You can see how our homeschool curriculum changed and evolved over the years: (2021-2022), (2020-2021), and (2018-2019).
2. Remember, homeschooling does not have to be public school at home. There is so much more to an education! Ponder this quote: "Do not let schooling interfere with your education." ~Mark Twain
WHAT IF I HAVE A SPECIAL NEEDS CHILD?
Congratulations! I do too! And I can tell you that homeschooling is hands down the best thing I ever did for our children. You not only see their "disabilities", but you also see their abilities. You see how incredible your child is. You know what motivates your child. You know how to get that fire burning in your child. You can move at the pace that your child needs. Homeschooling does not mean that you have to do everything on your own. Over the years we have had an incredible team of speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, Orton-Gillingham tutors (for dyslexia), counselors, and psychologists. As I learned more about my children and how to help them, I took on some of the interventions myself. We also still use some specialists. Over the years I have also learned to redefine "normal". Our children are fearfully and wonderfully made. Yes, I want them to become all that God designed them to be and help them be the best version of them that they can be, but I also understand that they are all individuals, designed by God to be different. Our one son has been very delayed in all areas and has a long list of learning disabilities, but he is absolutely brilliant when it comes to engineering. He sees things in a completely different way than others. His ability to problem solve is mind blowing to me. He would not do very well in a public school system (we actually tried when he was little for about two days because I bought into the lie that he would be best off there). However, here at home he is thriving, learning, growing, and we are finding ways to let him shine with his strengths. As a homeschooler he has the opportunity to attend homeschool programs at the local Construction and Trades academy. I am confident that because of homeschooling he will be far more prepared for adulthood.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST? IS THERE A TAX BREAK?
In Arkansas, there are no tax breaks or state funded programs to help homeschoolers (and that's a good thing because it also means less government oversight). So, how much does it cost to homeschool? Well, that is completely up to you. If you are choosing to do a lot of co-ops, online courses, enrichment classes, field trips, tutoring, music lessons, art lessons, sports, and everything else out there, then it can cost you a whole bunch. Some curriculums cost a whole lot more than others. On a budget? Me too! Here are some helpful tips for homeschool on a budget.
1. Shop used whenever you can! I literally stalk our thrift stores all summer long. Check facebook marketplace. Go to used curriculum sales. I buy as much as I can secondhand.
2. If you buy new, see if you qualify for any discounts (teacher, military, missionary, etc.). You can get a Home Educator Card to use for teacher discounts. See if you can find coupon codes from other homeschool bloggers (Like my $5 off Not Consumed). Not only do these coupons save you money, but they also help out another homeschooling mom. Also, see if there is a rewards program offered through the curriculum. With Masterbooks and Not Consumed I can earn points on my purchases and for things like leaving a review that can be cashed in to save on my next order.
3. What can you get for free? What books would it be ok to borrow from the library? Take advantage of YouTube and other free online programs. Our daughter loves art, but she already is involved in gymnastics and plays several musical instruments. She can find lots of art classes online for free. Someday we may make the decision for her to take art classes, but for now this is an option that is allowing her to continue to learn and advance while keeping us on budget. We also use Treasure Hunt Reading, a free online reading program. There are numerous free resources like this online.
4. Shop around and take advantage of sales. You'll start learning the rhythm of different retailers and when their sales are.
5. Is what you are buying consumable or reusable? Will you be able to either sell the curriculum at the end of the year to help you out with next's years curriculum, or will you be able to save and use it for another child?
6. Be creative! You don't need the latest and greatest and fanciest. One year we chose not to get all the math manipulatives and counters. We used a lot of beans, rocks, sticks, and lego men. Guess what? They probably had more fun and were more engaged (thus learned more) than they would have with the plastic counters. Before I buy anything I always ask myself, "Do I really need this?" You may be surprised at how often the answer to that question is "No."
WHAT ABOUT SOCIALIZATION?
Unless you live way out in the country and never leave your home, there are probably hundreds of opportunities for socialization. Are co-ops and play dates a good thing? They absolutely can be! But so can a trip to the grocery store. Teach your child to hold the door for an elderly person. To show sympathy to the mom there with a small, screaming child. To thank and make small talk with the cashier. To be able to respond to the comments of "wow, you have your hands full" and "shouldn't they be in school right now". To grab a cold fruit punch to share with the homeless man on the corner and share the love of God with him. If you pay attention you will soon realize that socialization is the least of your concerns as a homeschooler, and your child will learn to interact not only with children their own age, but also the young and the old.
IS THERE MORE TO KNOW?
Absolutely! Isn't there always more to learn? Isn't cultivating a love of life-long learning one of the great advantages of homeschooling? Life-long... that's the key. It's ok to not know everything right now. I am 9 years in and still learning more everyday. You know enough to get started. You've got this! August 15th is fast approaching so get that NOI filed today and dive in. You've got this momma! Check out my Homeschooling Tab for more resources, give me on a follow on Instagram, and check in to let me know how your homeschool year is going!