How to Start Homeschooling
So, you’ve decided to homeschool. Questions will come to mind after you have decided to start homeschooling. There are a number of things to consider and places to get answers, but first, remember you are not alone! Homeschooling has become a viable and an accepted alternative means of education. Chances are there are a number of active homeschool communities and groups near you for support and interaction.
5 Things to Consider When You Decide to Start Homeschooling
Check Your State Laws
You will want to check your state on the laws for homeschooling. If you are withdrawing any children from school, you will also want to check out what documentation is required and the procedure to withdraw them and start a homeschool in your state. When starting a homeschool, you will want to make sure you are submitting the required forms and meet any requirements to be able to homeschool your children (these vary from state to state). Also, you want to be aware of any records you need to complete, submit, and keep to start the year, during the year, and complete the year. There are websites available to consult about local state laws and updates to those laws. State departments usually have a homeschooling department for information and required documents. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) provides you with local state laws, updates and upcoming legislation, contact information for questions, documents, and reporting, local groups, and general homeschool information and guidance.
Research Learning and Homeschooling Styles
After you are familiar with your legal requirements, the fun begins. Homeschooling gives you the freedom to choose how and what you will use to learn in your homeschool. First, you will want to determine your and your child’s learning styles. You will want to be aware of your own preferences and how that might work with your child’s preferences. These learning styles vary from visual, auditory, and kinesthetic to a preference for learning and processing concepts and skills in an organized and structured format or learning concepts in a random or more spontaneous fashion. These learning styles will influence the materials and curriculum you purchase.
Here is a Learning Style Quiz to take to see what preferences you and your child may have in your learning styles.
Next, you will want to determine your Homeschooling Style or Philosophy. These range from a Traditional or Classical Approach to Charlotte Mason or Montessori Methods to Project Based units or Unit Studies. Again, you may have one approach that you would enjoy teaching and spending your day doing and your child may have another. So, it’s important to get an idea of where everyone is coming from.
Here is a Homeschooling Philosophy Quiz to give you an idea of everyone’s preferences.
After you have your results, you can read summaries of these philosophies at HSLDA.
There are other homeschooling styles you can look into as well like Hybrid Homeschooling academies where your child attends a school for only specific days during the week and then completes the assigned school work at home for the rest of the week. There also online schools for one, some, or all of your classes.
Choosing your Curriculum
Now, is the really fun part! It’s like Christmas shopping from a catalogue. Based on the results of what kind of learning and homeschooling styles you and your children prefer, you will make choices about curriculum and materials you want to use. There are some curriculum resources specifically geared toward certain styles and others that can be used interchangeably.
A lot of homeschoolers refer to themselves as “Eclectic Homeschoolers”, meaning they use a combination of materials and teaching and learning styles that meet their needs. As you homeschool more children at one time or your children become middle and high schoolers, you may want to consider using online classes to free up your time in planning and leaving you available to work one on one with other children.
Homeschool conventions are a great place to evaluate lots of curriculum at once. Check out Teach Them Diligently and Great Homeschool Conventions, or look for your state homeschooling organization’s convention. Conventions are also a great way to get encouraged and to feel like you are part of a MOVEMENT, so plan to attend one this year. There is nothing quite like being in one place with hundreds or thousands of like-minded people.
Look for Groups, Activities, and Classes to Join
You can look into support groups for moms or your children to find out what is available to homeschoolers in your area, such as classes, activities, field trips, and other resources. You can look to your church for activities, as well as Christian groups and coops in your area to find a homeschooling community of faith. Some school systems also allow homeschooled children to participate in elective classes and extracurricular activities, while others allow no participation.
You will want to decide if you want to commit yourself to something that meets regularly or allow yourself the flexibility to join in on specific activities as they arise. You also want to keep in mind that all groups have different personalities and one group may not be a fit for you and your family, while another might be just right.
Look into opportunities that are open to all students if you do not find ones you are interested in that are tailored specifically to homeschoolers. Businesses and museums often cater to homeschoolers with classes and field trip days.
Decide what Kind of Schedule you Want to Follow
You will want to decide if you wish to follow a more traditional school schedule that matches your local school or a year round schedule to allow for vacation time or extra time off each week or during the school year. As long as you meet your state’s required number of days of school, the scheduling is up to you. From there, you can decide what kind of daily school schedule you wish to follow. The sky’s the limit!
You might want to cover a subject each day for a short designated amount of time or do more of a block schedule where you take more time on specific days of the week to only cover specific subjects. We did a combination of short daily lessons for certain things like math, reading, spelling, where I felt we needed the daily review, and spent more time only a couple of times per week on science or social studies. We saved Fridays for field trips, projects, experiments, or special classes. With time, you will find your personal rhythm and routine that suits you and your family.
As they say, “The days may feel long, but the years are short.” So, even though the above list is important in building a successful homeschool foundation, the most important thing is to build your family in your faith in Christ and enjoy your time together and your homeschool journey!