Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Getting Started in Homeschooling

We interrupt this two year blogging hiatus to bring you an article about getting your homeschool off the ground in the great state of Tennessee. I am asked this question often and decided it would be better to have it in one permanent place than to type it from scratch once or twice a month. This blog post is for Tennessee in general and Tipton County in particular.

So, you are considering home education for your family and are wondering what you need to do to get started. Might I first recommend that you and your spouse are on the same page? Because if hubby isn't behind you in this, it ain't gonna fly. Assuming you are a Christian, you and your spouse should be praying that this is the direction God is leading your family. It's pretty important.

Also, when it comes to state law, don't take my word for it! You should read the actual law for yourself and ask questions if you do not understand. The Home School Legal Defense Association lays it out nice and neat for you at this link:

 HSLDA Home Education Laws for Tennessee

The Tennesse Department of Education also has general information on their website:

Home Schooling in Tennessee 

Now that the fine print is out of the way, let's break this down. To homeschool legally in Tennessee, you need three things. Two are essential, and the third is highly recommended for a successful homeschool.

The first essential is an umbrella school. (Legally, there is an option to register your homeschool with the public school system, but virtually no one does this.) I believe that Gateway Christian School's Total Home-Education program has probably served this area for the longest. They require you to send grades in twice a year, and they do not offer standardized testing (although there are places to have this done if you want it). More information can be found in the link below.

The other two umbrella schools that most people in this area use are Home Life Academy and Faith Heritage Christian Academy. Home Life is all online as it is based in Middle TN. They require two grade reports a year and do not offer testing. Price is comparable to Gateway. Faith Heritage requires quarterly grade reports, is a little bit higher in price, but offers yearly standardized testing (Stanford 10). It is conveniently located in Millington and has a different accreditation than GCS or HLA. I am happy to go into the details about accreditation, but it will need to be in a separate post. Here are links to these three:

Gateway Christian Schools

Home Life Academy

Faith Heritage Christian Academy 

I will add that there are other umbrella schools in this area and online, including Aaron Academy, Lighthouse Christian Academy, etc. The three mentioned above would be considered the mainstream for this area, but you can Google and research other options, as well.

So we have the first thing covered - umbrella school. Second, you need curriculum. Most first-time moms choose an out of the box, traditional textbook approach, like ABeka or Bob Jones. You can always branch out later, but with these you can be secure that your child is learning what they need at their particular grade level. If you are feeling adventurous, purchase the book "102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum" by Cathy Duffy. This book helps you determine your child's learning style, then suggests curriculum for that style, as well as including lengthy reviews on each top pick. Cathy Duffy also has a website with great reviews: Cathy Duffy

And finally, I would highly recommend that you plug into a support group. I belong to Homeschooling Under Grace, which is about 60 families. Our mom's meetings are free and open to all; we welcome prospective homeschoolers to come sit and listen, ask questions, etc. Most of our field trip planning and such takes place online, on our website. If you go to Homeschooling Under Grace and click "Request Membership" at the top, then fill out the form, we will approve you for a one-week trial. You can also ask questions there. You will need to pay the yearly dues of $15 to remain on the site after the free trial, or to participate in any activities other than the monthly mom's meetings. There are other great support groups in this area, as well, including Tipton County Home Educators, Covington Home Education Association (CHEA), and Memphis Home Education Association (MHEA).

I hope this information has been helpful, and wish you the best in your child's education! 

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