You’ve done tons of research. Maybe you’ve asked around and chatted with homeschooling families you know. You’ve probably made a Pinterest board and saved alllll the things. Most likely you’ve gone back and forth but you’ve finally made the decision to start homeschooling and now it’s time to make it “official”. I know, it’s a really big deal and a decision that
can will affect every part of your life so it’s not one to be taken lightly. To help you navigate this exciting time I want to share my tips and suggestions on how you can get started homeschooling in 7 easy steps.
When we decided to start homeschooling we were a bit pressed for time and didn’t have the luxury of starting a fresh year. We literally made the decision within about 48 hours and bam…. we were officially homeschoolers! While that is probably not your situation, you’ll most likely follow the same path that we did when we decided to start homeschooling so I hope you find these steps helpful!
Here are 7 easy steps so you can start homeschooling:
1. Know Your State’s Homeschooling Requirements and Laws
You’ll want to ensure that you’re following your state’s laws and guidelines regarding homeschooling. While it’s legal to homeschool in all 50 states, the rules and laws surrounding homeschooling are enforced by each individual state. Each state has their own requirements so be sure to check directly with your state government. Many states also have a statewide homeschool or home education organization that supports homeschool families in your state. You can also visit Home School Legal Defense Association to quickly locate your state’s requirements and interpretation of the laws. We signed up for a membership with HSLDA the day that we turned in our homeschool notice of intent. They provide lots of resources and support to ensure your rights as a homeschooler are protected and honored.
Be sure that you are filing or submitting only the information required by your state and it’s received by the deadline. It’s a good idea to send any correspondence by certified, return receipt mail so you have record of your submissions.
2. Understand Your Child’s Learning Style
Individuals learn in different ways – which is why a classroom setting with 25+ children can sometimes prove difficult for some children. One child may learn in a different way than the majority of their peers and this causes them to fall behind by no fault of their own. On the flip side of that – you are now your child’s “teacher” and you have the ability to adjust your teaching to fit your child’s learning style. This is one of the biggest advantages of homeschooling in my opinion.
There are 4 learning styles in the VARK model:
The visual learner needs information in the form of photos, graphs, charts and illustrations. They need to visually see the information or data to retain it. Memorization is an important tool for the visual learner.
An auditory learner excels when they are able to listen or hear information. They may not fully comprehend written information but if the information is read to them they understand much better. Reading out loud and group discussions are helpful for the auditory learner.
These learners enjoy reading and writing their lessons and information. Note taking, writing, reading are all key elements of their learning method. They work best when they can take data or information and write it out.
Kinaesthetic learners love hands-on activities. They learn best when they are able to touch and feel objects as they learn. They thrive when they are able to engage physically with the lesson and don’t like to sit still for long. These learners need lots of interactive, hands on manipulatives and need to break their lessons down into shorts sessions.
Understanding learning styles can take some time and observation. You can also use a quiz like this one from lovetoknow.com. It may also be helpful to understand your own learning style as it could possibly be different than your child’s learning style. This quiz from vark-learn.com is a little more in depth and is suited more for an adult or high school aged learner.
3. Decide on Curriculum
This might be the most time consuming step when you start homeschooling. For some it may be the most stressful but for others this step is the most fun. Deciding on your curriculum is something that you should really spend some time and research on. There are several different types or styles of homeschooling and curriculum that follows each respectively. First, it’s important to understand which methodology of homeschool you plan to follow. Don’t worry, you may start with one style and realize it’s not a fit for your family.
This form of schooling is basically the same as “school at home”. Traditional schooling is using a similar schedule, curriculum and setup as you would see in a public or private school. You may even use a pre-packaged or out of the box curriculum that’s directly from your school district.
A classical homeschool education uses principals based on an ancient Greek process called “The Trivium”. Learning is broken into 3 states – the early stage called the “grammar stage”, the middle stage called the “logic stage” and the last stage called the “rhetoric stage”. This method is heavily language based and includes a lot of reading, classical history, and western philosophy.
The opposite of schooling is unschooling. This approach to homeschooling allows children the freedom to choose topics based on their interests which makes it a very individualistic method There is usually little or not schedule as it’s a very relaxed and casual approach to education.
This method is based on using “real books” or “living books” in place of textbooks. Education is broken into 3 areas – atmosphere, discipline and life. There is heavy emphasis on nature, music, and art. Most instruction is done through reading aloud and short lessons.
This methodology focuses on teaching the child in body, mind and soul. There is heavy focus on creativity, story-telling, and hands on learning.
This method was created by Dr. Maria Montessori and provides hands on, activity based learning that’s child directed. This method is mostly used for younger aged children. Montessori encourages children to use unstructured time to explore, play, and engage with children of other age groups. There is little teacher instruction in this method.
This type of homeschool is just what it states – straight from the box! Buying a boxed curriculum is great for beginners or those who want to have a very specific path to follow. Many companies offer complete boxed curriculum based on grade level and even provide lesson plans for every subject.
Eclectic learning is a very popular method as it allows the family to incorporate theories or parts from other methods to fit their needs. This “hybrid” format gives you the freedom to switch between methods for different subject or even for different children in the family. Another benefit of choosing to homeschool is having the choice of how your children learn and eclectic or “mixed homeschooling” is just that!
Once you’ve decided which style of instruction you want to follow, you can start to research publishers and curriculum. A great resource for reviews and information on finding the right curriculum for your family is CathyDuffyReviews.com. You can also check with homeschooling groups on facebook to get feedback on specific books or programs.
It’s important to know that you will most likely stop in the middle of a book or program and realize it’s not a good fit for your child or family. It’s ok to switch gears and make changes as you go. That’s one of the advantages of homeschooling!
4. Set a Schedule or Routine
Schedules can be both a saving grace but also a burden when it comes to homeschooling. It’s important to have some type of schedule or routine in place to ensure you are meeting any requirements or goals that you have set for your children. However, the freedom that homeschool provides also encourages rabbit trailing sometimes and that can lead to broken schedules. I know first hand that being off schedule can be extremely frustrating and even discouraging to someone who is just starting homeschooling. So when you are creating your schedule or planning your routine, ensure you leave room for “exploration” or “rabbit trailing”. I suggest only planning out a week or two at a time so you can adjust as needed when things come up.
Having a family homeschool calendar or individual planners is a great way for everyone to be aware of any schedules or goals that are set. You can use a digital homeschool planner, like Homeschool Planet or use a physical paper planner for your lesson plans. Keeping a schedule or planner is also beneficial when it comes time to submit records or create portfolios.
5. Create Your Space
When you start homeschooling it’s important to create a homeschool space. It’s also important to know this will look entirely different for each family so don’t get hung up on all the Pinterest worthy photos you see. Many families have a specific room that’s completely dedicated to schooling while others use a dining room table or common area to complete schoolwork. Some don’t use a dedicated space but have a “traveling” system that they keep in a rolling cart, book bag or other storage unit. Regardless of the amount of space or area that you plan to homeschool in, it’s important to have some type of boundaries for your homeschool books and supplies. Decide on your space and system and make sure that everyone knows where to find what they need. This will be a huge help once you get started homeschooling.
6. Prepare Your Record Keeping
Next, you’ll want to decide on how you will keep records of your homeschool. It’s important to refer back to the first step and know what records you are required to keep by your state or school district. Some of the most common records include attendance, schooling hours or days, curriculum, and field trips or projects. You may even be required to keep or create a portfolio of your child’s progress. Even if you aren’t required by your state to keep specific records it’s nice to keep track of some things so you can look back to check progress or help plan the coming year.
You can keep physical records on paper or there are many ways to keep your records digitally. Lots of homeschoolers use planners to keep their homeschool records as well as their lesson plans and daily schedules. You can learn more about paper and digital homeschool planners.
7. Dive In and Have Fun!
Finally, you’re ready to start homeschooling! The beauty of homeschooling is that it’s fluid, flexible and a lot of fun. Your school day probably won’t (and shouldn’t) look like that of a public school day. Remember to be patient, take your time and really enjoy learning alongside your kids. Don’t stress if you get off schedule or something doesn’t go the way you had planned. Keep an open mind, be present and enjoy this amazing opportunity with your children!
I’d love to hear about your journey to start homeschooling. If you are just getting started or thinking about homeschooling, let me know what questions you might have that I haven’t covered in this post. Drop a comment below and start the conversation!