After lots more reading, talking and prayer, we came up with a list of what we wanted our kids (and our family) to "look" like when they were done with high school, a list of goals. We decided what was most important! The list contained things like godly character, self-directive learners, good communication skills, logical thinking and such. After we'd come up with the list, we started looking around for a philosophy of education and materials that would help make these things a reality.
Don't get all nervous about the philosophy of education stuff - every school has one. A school's philosophy of education asks and answers what is worthwhile and necessary to teach and what are the best ways to teach those things. These seem like huge thoughts and they are, but don't let them be overwhelming to you. Working through these things at the start of homeschooling (or anything for that matter) will reap you great benefits in the end.
Stephen Covey has a great story in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that I think of often. The gist of the story is this: A man was giving a speech to a group of people. He had a large jar on a table along with buckets of big rocks, pebbles and sand and a pitcher of water. First he asked the audience how many rocks they thought he could fit in the jar. He filled the jar to the rim with these rocks and asked the group if it was full. They all answered, "yes." He then poured the pebbles into the jar, shook it a bit and poured in some more. Now was it full? Nope. He poured sand in, shook the jar and poured in a bit more. Full now? Not yet! He poured in water from the pitcher.
What's the point? If the demonstrator hadn't put the big rocks in first, he never would have gotten them in.
Deciding what we wanted our kid's education to produce in them and our family were the big rocks. We needed to know what was most important to us or we would have been led off on all sorts of tangents as we tried to teach our children. Have you ever googled homeschooling and seen the thousands of great books, games, projects and computer games out there? It is amazing!
If we hadn't put the big rocks in first, we would have filled their jars with sand and pebbles which aren't necessarily bad things. But they aren't our big rocks! The kids may have ended up with lots of good skills, but not the ones we deemed excellent when we starting thinking about homeschooling.
When you are considering homeschooling or anything else - your relationship with your spouse, how you will organize your day, your family budget, your family - take some time to think about the big rocks. Get them in your jar first before the sand creeps in!