One of the best relationships that you can cultivate is with one or more homeschool mentors a mentor is simply someone who has more experience with homeschooling than you do (hopefully quite a bit more), who is willing to share their experience with you. A homeschool mentor is especially important when you are just getting started. While it is my hope that this book and the resources it connects you with provide lots of information you can use to get started with your homeschool, there is no substitute for a real person as a mentor. A mentor can provide specific advice to you and can encourage you with both words and by the results they have achieved with their own children.
Ideally, your homeschool mentor will be someone with whom you already have a close personal relationship. It is possible, though, to develop a mentor relationship with someone whom you don't know well, too.
In addition to advising you, a mentor can also help you in the following ways:
- Help you connect to other homeschoolers.
- Make you aware of activities in your area that might be beneficial for your homeschool.
- Let you observe or participate in their own homeschool to see what they do; this can be especially helpful before you start your own homeschool.
- Help you get the most out of homeschool conventions in your area.
- Help you deal with local school officials if needed (assuming that your mentor deals with the same officials, of course).
First, look for someone who has homeschooled their own children successfully. The best way to assess this is to know the students they have taught. Look for someone whose kids you admire for their personal characteristics, academic achievements, and so on. (If someone who is homeschooling has kids that you don't admire, that person probably is not a good candidate for your mentor!)
Second, consider the person's experience. A mentor should have substantially more experience than you do, preferably they should have taught at least one child who is 3 or more years ahead of your first student. This enables them to draw from more experience when advising you.
Third, make sure the person is willing to take on this role. Being a mentor is a significant undertaking as you will no doubt have many questions and will consume lots of his or her time. I recommend that before you start acting as if someone is your mentor, you have a specific discussion with her to determine if she is interested in having such a relationship.
Fourth, assess whether a prospective mentor is able to offer advice effectively. Just because someone has homeschooled their own kids successfully, don't assume they have the personality and abilities to be a good mentor. For example, some people can teach children very well, but can't do the same with adults.
When you locate a mentor, let me offer you some free (well, it's free because you already paid for this book) advice. Be very considerate of your mentor's time. As you well know, homeschooling requires lots of time and effort. If your mentor is currently homeschooling, they have plenty to keep busy! You need to be mindful of how much time you are consuming. For example, make sure you do your own homework before you ask questions so that you use your mentor's time efficiently. Although a mentor will be willing to help you, you shouldn't rely on that mentor completely. Your homeschool is still your responsibility; benefiting from a mentor should be only one of the sources of help from which you draw.