Whether you've made the decision to homeschool or you're still considering the option, here are resources to offer help and guidance.

By Jamie Martin
Tara Donne

According to Brian Ray, Ph.D., president of the National Home Education Research Institute, homeschooling is currently "the fastest-growing form of education." The popularity of this educational choice has resulted in more resources than ever before, making it easy to get started, but the vast number of resources can also be overwhelming to those who are new to home education. To help parents get started and figure out whether to pursue homeschooling, and to utilize the best resources on the Web, check out our list of recommended online tools.

Understanding Educational Philosophies

Many new homeschoolers are surprised to discover a wide variety of educational methods and philosophies. It's exciting to have the freedom and opportunity to mix and blend these styles, so find what works best for your own children.

Charlotte Mason (simplycharlottemason.com) - Mason was a 19th century British educational reformer whose philosophy emphasized high-quality literature, nature study, and narration -- or students' repeating learned information in their own words. Learn more at amblesideonline.org.

Waldorf (whywaldorfworks.org) - Rudolf Steiner developed this philosophy in 1919. It places a strong emphasis on child development and educating the student as a whole person: head, heart, and hands.

Classical (welltrainedmind.com) - Childhood learning is divided into three different stages: grammar (the foundation years), logic (the middle school years), and rhetoric (the high school years). This three-part model is called the trivium.

Leadership Education (tjed.org) - This leadership model, also known as Thomas Jefferson Education, or TJEd, focuses on teaching students how to think as opposed to what to think. It emphasizes reading classics and discussing them with a mentor (a parent or other adult).

Interest-Led Learning (holtgws.com) - This method is sometimes referred to as unschooling, a term coined by educational pioneer John Holt. Homeschoolers who follow this style allow their children's interests to form the basis for their studies; they believe that children are by nature curious and have an innate desire to learn.

Montessori (livingmontessorinow.com) - Maria Montessori, an Italian physician, developed this philosophy in the early 1900s. It focuses on hands-on experience, movement, choice, and order in the learning environment.

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Best Websites to Answer Your Legal Questions

If you're nervous about how to comply with the laws, don't be. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states and in many (though not all) foreign countries. Use the following list to find the information you need to homeschool confidently.

Home School Legal Defense Association (hslda.org) - A group of lawyers began this nonprofit organization in 1983. They provide representation for homeschoolers having legal challenges as well as information on current laws in the U.S. and abroad. If you want to research the legal status of homeschooling in another country, visit the international section (hslda.org/hs/international) for an overview on the current policies around the globe.

Home School Legal (homeschoollegal.com) - Search for information by state, find summaries of laws, and download e-books with the forms and checklists you need.

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Best Online Curriculums

Once you've made the decision to homeschool, one of your major decisions is which curriculum to use. Use this list as a springboard to find the resources that best fit your child. The last two websites on the list have Christian-themed content geared toward families interested in religious education.

Oak Meadow (Oakmeadow.com) - Oak Meadow's approach focuses on delivering academics for preschool through high school using imaginative, child-centered methods with a strong emphasis on the creative arts: drawing, painting, music, and handwork.

Moving Beyond the Page (movingbeyondthepage.com) - This curriculum offers packages with a focus on critical thinking and comprehension for ages 5 through 12. It takes into account the student's strengths and learning style, and delivers project-based instruction that meets or exceeds state and national standards.

k12 (k12.com) - For those who want to know that their kids are meeting state standards while still enjoying an individualized approach, this site offers a complete, integrated curriculum as well as online support and assessment tools.

Homeschool Reviews (homeschoolreviews.com) - Before spending money on a curriculum, it's helpful to hear from those who have used it. Sites like this one and cathyduffyreviews.com have extensive, unbiased information on hundreds of curriculum options.

Sonlight (sonlight.com) - These Christian publishers have created literature-based academic programs, building grade-level packages around a variety of historical themes, such as World or American History. They offer Instructor Guides for parent-teachers to accompany the book readings.

Classical Conversations (classicalconversations.com) - The curriculum on this site, started by a Christian community, is based on the Classical method of education, with the added benefit of group learning. Families using the materials meet together each week for study, enrichment, and socialization

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Best Websites for Online Learning

The Internet has transformed educational possibilities. Homeschoolers now have access to many online tools to aid their learning experience. Below are a few of the most popular websites.

Khan Academy (Khanacademy.org) - Free online learning is available in a variety of subjects, including math, biology, chemistry, physics, finance, and history. There are short video clips on each subject as well as interactive exercises that allow students to practice their new skills.

Starfall (Starfall.com) - On this site, started as a free interactive way to teach young children to read using phonics, kids can play games, watch short videos on letters and sounds, and flip through "books" of stories.

Clickschooling (Clickschooling.com) - Free, Web-based curriculum ideas can be emailed directly to you six days a week. Children can also take free virtual field trips to tour places such as the Museum of London and a Kentucky farm where monks make fruitcakes.

Time4Learning (time4learning.com) - If your kids enjoy computer games, this is a good resource. For a fee ($19.99/month for the first child), children can access learning games to improve reading, math, science, and social studies skills.

Reading Eggs (readingeggs.com) - Looking for a way to teach your young children to read? On this site, kids progress through a series of fun lessons on their road to reading and accumulate online rewards along the way.

Academic Earth (academicearth.org) - This site, chosen by Time magazine as one of the 50 top websites of 2009, provides advanced-level lectures in dozens of subjects at no cost.

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Best Homeschooling Blogs

One of the best ways to learn about homeschooling is to peek into the living rooms of parents already doing so. These blogs provide comprehensive snapshots of the homeschooling lifestyle.

Simple Homeschool (simplehomeschool.net) - Nine contributing writers (including the author of this article) teach a variety of age groups at home, from preschoolers to high school seniors preparing for graduation. The blog provides direction and encouragement for those beginning to consider homeschooling and offers practical advice and curriculum reviews.

Special Needs Homeschooling (specialneedshomeschooling.com) - Parents who have a child with disabilities sometimes turn to homeschooling to meet the child's unique needs. Heather Laurie, a mother of five children with special needs, writes about her experiences and suggests other special needs resources where parents might find support.

The Happy Housewife (thehappyhousewife.com) - Toni Anderson, a mother of seven children, is the author of this popular blog. She writes on diverse topics, including recipes, budgeting, curricula, and school projects.

Confessions of a Homeschooler (confessionsofahomeschooler.com) - Erica chronicles her educational (and religious) journey in teaching four young children. This blog offers many free printables as well as crafts throughout the year.

The Homeschool Classroom (hsclassroom.net) - This collaborative blog features more than 15 separate contributors and publishes posts that highlight parenting ideas, child development, organization, planning, and other homeschooling areas of interest.

The Magic Onions (themagiconions.blogspot.com) - This particular blog features posts in line with the Waldorf philosophy of education. Mom blogger Donni shares her experience homeschooling two children.

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Best Twitter Feeds and Facebook Communities

The explosion of social media has rapidly increased the ability for homeschoolers to find support through online communities. Listed below are some helpful homeschoolers and hashtags to follow on Twitter and find on Facebook.

twitter.com/hiphmschoolmoms - Homeschool moms can connect to have fun with Twitter parties and free giveaways. Visit facebook.com/hiphomeschoolmoms to interact with more followers.

twitter.com/simpleschool - The Simple Homeschool mom blogger tweets about the simple ways to homeschool. An active, popular Facebook page can also be found at facebook.com/simplehomeschool.

twitter.com/Homeschoolounge - Exclusively for homeschooling moms who find support and encouragement through live chats. Find their page at facebook.com/TheHomeschoolLounge.

twitter.com/TOSMag - The Old Schoolhouse magazine, one of the most popular homeschooling magazines, shares inspiring stories.

twitter.com/hsbapost - A group of more than 20 authors writing for the homeschooling community also hosts an annual Homeschool Blog Awards competition. Visit facebook.com/homeschoolpost to read more.

Twitter Hashtag: #homeschool - Search this hashtag to find all the tweets that have mentioned homeschooling on Twitter at any given moment.

Twitter Hashtag: #hsblogger - Use this hashtag to discover new homeschool bloggers.

Jamie Martin homeschools her three children in the New England countryside and blogs at SteadyMom.com and SimpleHomeschool.net. She is the author of Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood.

Copyright © 2012 Meredith Corporation.

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