So you’re considering homeschooling.
Well, you are not alone. Over 1.6 million students were homeschooled in 2016 according to the US Department of Education, and that number continues to climb each year.
But you may feel alone and nervous when you first decide to start your homeschooling journey.
If you are wondering how to homeschool your children or worried if you can really do it without messing up their education, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s a complete guide to answer your questions, ease your mind, and help you learn everything you need to know about how to start homeschooling.
Homeschooling is a great way to educate your children with many different possible routes. Which makes it feels super intimidating when you are just getting started. So the first thing I want to tell you is…
Don’t worry — you can do this!
Yes, you! And it doesn’t matter if you have a teaching degree. Or if math gives you a migraine. Or if you have a first grader or a high schooler or one of each. Or if your child is gifted or a struggling learner.
You can do this.
I’ve met with families of every size and situation, and there are just two things that make them successful in learning how to homeschool.
Determination and perseverance.
So, again, if you’ve decided to give this homeschooling journey a try and are willing to keep at it when things get tough…
Don’t worry. You really can do this!
Now that we’ve settled that, here’s another piece of homeschooling advice.
Know the Homeschooling Laws
Just like it helps to know the speed limit before you get too far down that new road, you need to know and follow the laws for homeschooling from the start. In the US, each state has different homeschooling laws, which makes homeschooling in Florida quite different than in Alaska.
An easy way to find the homeschool laws for your state is at HSLDA. While you’re there, you can sign up with this trusted homeschool advocacy organization, especially if you are in a state that is not homeschool-friendly.
And once you know the laws, you can…
Figure out your best options
Here’s the thing. Homeschooling is like taking a trip from Tampa to Seattle. You could fly non-stop. Or take a leisurely road trip stopping in each state to learn about landmarks and grab a sweet treat from DQ.
In other words, you’ve got options!
That’s what makes it work for so many different types of students. And also what makes it so confusing to figure out when you are just getting started.
There are some really important questions to answer before you start homeschooling, including why you are choosing to homeschool. You should also know the learning style, struggles, and interests of your child.
It helps to know the different styles of homeschooling, including classical, traditional, Charlotte Mason, and unschooling. That way you can see if one fits well with your family’s goals and lifestyle, and choose those types of resources and activities.
And think about how long you plan on homeschooling. Many times this changes as you go a little further on your journey and grow in your confidence as a homeschool mom or dad.
Now if you know your homeschooling trip is very short-term, you may want a state-recognized program like FLVS flex. Either this option or other complete homeschool programs like Time4Learning, Monarch, or Abeka Academy work for parents who know that they need help with the planning, teaching and grading.
You may consider a community school or a local co-op, which offer weekly classes for homeschoolers and give homework for the days they do not meet.
And you can also start to homeschool as a savage mom, piecing together different curriculum and resources to make this homeschooling journey as unique as your child. You can use explore all kinds of different curriculum and resources based on everything you just figured out from your answers and research. You can look at curriculum reviews by Cathy Duffy or even attend an online or in person homeschool convention.
If you have a high schooler, you will want to use the graduation requirements as a guide. You may want to consider dual enrollment and also apprenticeship opportunities, in addition to curriculum and resources to help you complete that high school transcript.
Just make sure you also do this…
Start off simple
If there’s one thing you don’t want to do when you first start to homeschool, it is over complicate it. Just start off simple and you will save yourself lots of stress when the road gets bumpy.
One easy way to do this is to determine your homeschooling focus and goals for the year. If you have a child struggling in reading or math, it is perfectly fine to focus on that for the school year. Then grab a notebook, write down your goals, and choose curriculum and resources that help you meet those goals.
From my perspective as a former classroom teacher and homeschool veteran, the main subjects to cover at the beginning are reading, writing, and math. And it is ok to start with remedial work in any of these subjects to get your child up to speed over time.
Most of the topics in the other subjects like science and history repeat multiple times, especially during the elementary years. So taking a year off from one or both of these subjects or learning about them only through experiences and field trips is fine.
Again, follow the homeschooling laws for your state about this. But homeschooling is a journey, and usually gives you more freedom to focus on your goals than the traditional classroom. So start off simple, and also remember this…
Don’t replicate the classroom
Homeschool does NOT need to look just like your child’s classroom. I learned this one the hard way when I first started homeschooling my two children. I was fresh out of teaching in a classroom, so I set up my homeschool room complete with desks, a giant whiteboard, a reading corner, and enough work to fill an 8 hour school day.
It seemed perfect!
Then I realized that my kiddos worked better with a portable whiteboard and lots of room to play games or move around. And we could get all of our school work done in just a couple of hours, leaving plenty of time for weekly trips to the library, art activities, and just supervised play.
So don’t force your homeschool to imitate a regular classroom. You are free to create the best learning environment for your child.
If you are homeschooling more than one, you can study subjects like history, science, and art together, using curriculum and resources that combine activities and assessments for different grade levels. You can also go really deep into a subject of interest for the year, such as the Civil War or Botany, incorporating documentaries, projects, and field trips. And along the way, you can listen to audio books about related people and events.
And, if that sounds too overwhelming, just start off simple. Try out your school day in a different location. Have a read in your pj’s day or outdoor exploring day. Just remember that your homeschool can be as completely unique as your family, and that your learning environment can look very different from a traditional classroom.
If your child is coming right out of a classroom into a homeschool setting, you may want to take some time for deschooling. This is where you allow your kiddo to focus on some interest-led learning while you both ease into homeschooling. And it’s the perfect time to explore some curriculum samples, determine everyone’s learning style, and figure out your best options to start homeschooling.
So grab a planner to map out your homeschooling course but also plan for these too.
Be ready for detours and road blocks
The perfect homeschool year happens so often in our dreams, and seldom in real life. Homeschooling in real life sometimes looks more like that one road trip we’ve all taken. You know, the one where the nice road was closed at some point and the detour had potholes and at least one hairpin turn, all the kids threw up, and you ended up at a dirty gas station, wondering what just happened and what to do next.
Homeschool road blocks and detours are anything that halts learning or takes it in a different direction. Sometimes it’s a relative who needs your time for some unforeseen extra care. Or an unexpected learning struggle halfway through the year. Or maybe a curriculum that seemed so perfect at first, but ends up feeling more like torture for you and your kiddo.
No matter how much research and planning you do before starting to homeschool, you need to be ready for those unexpected road blocks and detours.
And this is where the persevering part of homeschooling takes a front seat. Because it’s not always easy to regroup and find a different curriculum that works. Or track down some independent learning activities or extra help for your child.
But that’s another part of what it takes to homeschool.
So, when the learning detours and road blocks appear, take a deep breath and remember…
You can do this!
And whether the journey is currently quite bumpy or you feel like you can put it on cruise control for the moment, you should always to your best to…
Make your homeschooling journey enjoyable
Ok, so there’s one thing that I believe can take your homeschooling year from,
“It was just ok,” to “BEST YEAR EVER!”
And that is simply to make your homeschooling journey enjoyable.
For your children and for yourself.
You don’t have to start out each morning time with a silly joke. (But you could.)
There are all kinds of ways to make learning fun. Trade out a worksheet for a game. Explore science through hands-on experiments and field trips. Add in more art with kits and or work together on a giant mural of that historical event. Sit together, munch on snacks, and read a favorite book for the afternoon.
This doesn’t mean that reading will magically become your struggling reader’s favorite subject. Or every single math problem will fill your kiddo’s heart with glee.
Just make sure that your homeschooling adventure is not turning into Dante’s Inferno.
One way to do this is to focus on progress and stay curious about learning instead of just checking off every single lesson and assignment. Fill the front of the fridge with questions from everyone on sticky notes, and then take a little time each week to search out and discuss a few answers.
And to remember that you have a lot of freedom in homeschooling to tweak and adjust things as you continue down this path. So make it enjoyable!
Not sure what would be fun to learn more about? Ask your kids for a list of ideas or watch what things make them “come alive” with excitement.
And then do this one final thing to make sure your homeschooling is successful.
Find friends and other support
Road trips are usually more fun with a friend. Homeschooling is too!
And this means both friends for your kiddos and some encouraging friends for yourself.
Not sure where to find these friends?
There are homeschooling groups in almost every city that meet for field trips, monthly skating, and park days. Co-op groups are also great places to find friends for you and your child. If you don’t have a local co-op, you can even team up with a few friends and start one, like I did when we first started homeschooling.
These new friends will provide socialization for your kiddos, which is usually no problem at all for homeschoolers. And also some support for you during the good times and during those detours and roadblocks.
You can also find lots of homeschooling encouragement and support online from other homeschool moms. Here are a few to get you started!
- Kara S. Anderson – self-care & encouragement
- Mary Hanna Wilson – book clubs & fun resources
- Cait Curley – gameschooling & gifted ideas
- Pam Barnhill – morning time ideas
- Shawna Wingert – struggling learner ideas
And I would love to support you too! I meet with new homeschooling families just like yours to answer specific questions and suggest helpful curriculum and resources. And I can continue to support you with yearly homeschool evaluations and guidance for the following years. Connect with me to schedule your free Discovery Call.
So, just a quick recap on how to start homeschooling:
- Don’t worry — you can do this!
- Know the homeschooling laws
- Figure out your best options
- Start off simple
- Don’t replicate the classroom
- Be ready for detours and roadblocks
- Make your homeschooling enjoyable
- Find friends and support
Happy homeschooling my friend! You can do this!