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When I was a classroom teacher, we needed to complete 100 hours of professional development over the course of five years. So on average, about 20 hours a year. During that time, I took courses on differentiating instruction, teaching writing, guided reading, developmental spelling, and Everyday Math. I spent hours upon hours writing a literature-based Social Studies curriculum. I attended faculty meetings, teaching conventions, and workshops offered throughout the region. I read books and articles on best practices. Ultimately, I spoke at conferences and was even a mentor teacher. Those 100 hours added up quickly.
After a few years as a stay-at-home mom, I started homeschooling. I asked a lot of questions, and read things online. I went with my gut instincts more often than not, relying on my years of experience as a classroom teacher. But homeschooling is nothing like teaching in a classroom. And for homeschoolers, there is no professional development required for becoming a better teacher.
And while it’s not required, it is something we should consider doing as homeschoolers.
5 Reasons Homeschoolers need Professional Development
- To learn about the homeschool laws in your state and how they change or may change in the coming years.
- To develop an understanding of why children do or don’t do things on a particular timetable.
- To discover new resources for homeschoolers in your community.
- To explore content areas that are of interest to you and your children and model what being a lifelong learner looks like.
- To network with other homeschoolers and create a sense of community.
Types of Professional Development
As a classroom teacher, we got credit towards our 100 hours for attending faculty meetings that were either building or district-wide. These meetings were an opportunity for us to network with one another and talk about what worked or didn’t work in our classrooms. As a homeschooler, find an online group (Facebook is great for this) to network and meet with other homeschoolers. I belong to several groups for Pennsylvania Homeschoolers where we stay up to date on the laws in our state. I then belong to a group for homeschoolers in my county that gets together in person for field trips and events, and the adults get together monthly to chat. There are also groups for every homeschooling style under the sun. Look for them. Connect with others. Ask questions.
Each year that I taught in public school, I attended the NJEA convention. While there, I attended workshops, networked with colleagues, and met with vendors and publishers. Did you know the same thing exists for homeschoolers? Homeschool conventions take place in just about every state on an annual basis. The CHAP Conference is held in southeastern Pennsylvania each June. There are also homeschool conferences for secular homeschoolers, Catholic homeschoolers, and LDS homeschoolers to name a few.
Attend used book sales targeted at homeschoolers. I have learned so much during these book sales just by chatting with other homeschoolers. It’s nice to talk to someone who has used a curriculum that you are considering and hear what worked for them. This is how I’ve found out about some amazing field trip locations, parks that are off the beaten trail, and even got some free materials to use in our homeschool.
And no matter what type of professional development I’ve been involved with, reading and learning on my own has always been how I learn best. Utilize your library for resources on homeschooling or specific content areas. For your favorite titles, ones that you want to refer back to often, purchase a copy for your personal collection. And if after reading a book you decide you don’t want to keep it, there are bound to be other homeschoolers that do! Resell it and use the funds to purchase a different book that you want to keep in your collection.
9 Books for Homeschool Professional Development
Here are 9 books that I’ve read (or am reading) for homeschool professional development. While we are secular homeschoolers, I do find most materials targeted to homeschoolers are written from a Christian perspective. I’m ok with that when it comes to inspiration and motivation for homeschooling, and have included those books on this list as well.