Where to Start Homeschooling in Tuscaloosa
By Nannette Cain and Caroline Crownover
Every child is unique; every family is different. Homeschooling offers flexibility to benefit each person involved …but where to begin?
Prayer would be the first step that many seasoned homeschool moms and dads recommend. In fact, seeking guidance from above is a good idea every step of the way! And when it comes to the nitty gritty, here are some legal, financial, curriculum, and personal aspects of homeschooling to consider.
The Legal Part
Good news! These days Alabama really does afford Alabamians complete freedom to homeschool how we choose, per ACT NUMBER 2014 - 245. There are no requirements regarding curriculum, testing, paperwork, teacher certification, or numbers of school days. Of course, with great freedom comes great responsibility, as Uncle Ben told Peter Parker (and as Voltaire wrote long before that). So I am solely held accountable for the education of my child. Some of us handle this well within the household, others need just a little help along the way, and yet others may need mentors to hold their hand and lay out a path step by step. Be encouraged -- what you need is out there!
Organizations to look in to:
Cover schools can provide a support system for many aspects of homeschooling, including record keeping, testing, and graduation. Many, like UCCA, Victory Christian, and Zoe, are affiliated with a local church but welcome other members from our community.
THE, Tuscaloosa Home Educators, provides an umbrella to start or be involved in academic teams or clubs, sports, and social events. They offer a monthly newsletter to share your news and learn of local happenings, plus a formal, a used book sale, a pool party, and a graduation ceremony each year. Members can currently join Robotics Club, Honors Society, and baseball, basketball, cross country, softball, tennis, and volleyball teams for grades 6-12.
Groups like King’s Co-Op, Classical Conversations, and even daytime kids’ fitness classes at places like PARA can link us up with fellow homeschool parents.
HSLDA, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, provides legal guidance and defense as needed, a national magazine full of timely articles, plus a Teacher ID membership card.
The Financial Part
You CAN homeschool on a dime. Paper, pencils, colors, a kitchen, outdoor space, a library card, and a Bible are all you really need. You can build a one-of-a-kind curriculum from the Friends of the Library book store, book sales, and online marketplaces like eBay or ThriftBooks. You can also wear yourself out being too frugal or eclectic, so don’t be afraid to try things, AND don’t be afraid to walk away from what isn’t working. Remember, even brick and mortar schools don’t finish every textbook. More on curriculum below!
Our city offers more enriching activities than any one family could ever do. The University of Alabama is right here with its Community Music School and the Museum of Natural History at Smith Hall, to mention just two major resources. We have a vibrant performing arts scene with Tuscaloosa Children’s Theatre, The Actor’s Charitable Theatre, Calico Street, Alabama Choir School, and so many excellent dance studios. Before signing up for all the fun activities Tuscaloosa is blessed to offer, decide how much time and money your family can afford to spend. Look on Facebook for groups for homeschool play dates, nature walks, and field trips, or start your own.
The Curriculum Part
Which books to use? Look into different curriculums – boxed curricula like Abeka or Bob Jones, literature based, classical, Charlotte Mason, unit studies – and talk with like-minded parents who have had experience with them. Borrowing books to consider buying or sitting in on some lessons at a friend’s house before purchasing, can save both time and money.
Remember P.E.! Provide time for physical activities. Kids need to explore, run, play, get dirty, and use their hands to create. And remember to never let the curriculum you choose come before being a parent. Lessons in wisdom and character will take our kids even further than lessons in knowledge.
The Personal Part
Stay connected yourself and to other moms and dads, but don’t compare yourself or your children to them. The internet and Christmas cards usually just show the highlight reel of other people’s lives. We need to keep it real with someone face-to-face. Isolation is a lonely road for us all, especially children. Engage with your children. Talk with them. Fellowship together. Y’all all need it! Make friends. Volunteer as a family. But guard enough time to be still.
Write out your goals regarding learning and building family relationships. Identify your strengths and weaknesses as a parent and teacher, and each child’s interests, gifts, weaknesses, and strengths. Look into learning styles and differences, but don’t get stuck in them.
The gift, but sometimes curse, of homeschooling in Alabama is a lot of freedom. You are the parent. You are the one accountable. You are the one making the decisions about how you will spend your child’s education years and your family’s dollars. You will make mistakes. You will have victories. Pray, and know you’re not alone!