Parenting
How to Start Homeschooling: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide
01Jul 2018
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Are you dreaming about homeschooling your child, but not sure where to begin?

You may be wondering: How do I take my child out of school? What will I teach? How will I balance my time/energy between schooling, homemaking, working, etc? What about curriculum? What about falling behind? What about friends? What will homeschool really look like for me?

Yikes!

It can be overwhelming thinking of all the details that go into beginning the homeschool journey.

But rest assured…

There are millions of families all over the world who are successfully and joyfully homeschooling, and you can do it too!

Here are 11 of the most important things you should know:

  1. Clarify your purpose / vision
  2. Learn the legalities
  3. Practice de-schooling
  4. Set your homeschool goals
  5. Explore homeschooling methods
  6. Observe your child’s learning style
  7. Tap into your local homeschool community
  8. Curate your homeschool inspiration
  9. Get really, really comfortable with adjusting course
  10. Remember you are enough
  11. Don’t overthink it, just dive in!

Let’s take a deeper look…

1. Clarify Your Purpose & Vision

There are so many reasons to homeschool — every homeschool family is unique and has their own reasons. Getting clear on your purpose for homeschooling is the first and most important step, which will serve as the foundation for the rest of your homeschool journey.

So ask yourself… Do you want to homeschool to:

Honor your values, which may not align with the current system
Align your personal and family values with your day-to-day lifestyle
Redefine your family’s paradigm of “success”
Provide a real-life education which takes ALL areas of life into account
Provide your child with more focused, one-on-one attention
Create more flexibility, freedom, adventure and opportunity
Slow down and enjoy life more

These are just some examples of reasons you may be inspired to homeschool. What are yours?

Once you get clear on your purpose, take some time to write down your homeschool vision. Don’t overthink this, just close your eyes and describe how you see your homeschool in your mind. Do you picture learning in a designated homeschool “classroom” or sprawled out across the living room floor? Do you imagine homeschool field trips? Rainy day read-alouds? Games? Workbooks or printouts? Online classes? Community classes? Exploring nature? Will you learn together as a family, or independently? Will you travel? Will you have regularly scheduled weekly outings? Where will you keep the countless homeschool supplies so they are accessible to your curious and learning children?

As with your life vision, your homeschool vision will inevitably change over time. But clarifying it in the beginning can really help capture the essence of what you are trying to accomplish, and guide your way as you get started.

Getting clear on your purpose and vision can help you navigate the unavoidable ebbs and flows of your homeschool journey with a little more grace, confidence and commitment.

2. Learn the Legalities

Just as public school curriculum varies from state to state, so too do the rules/laws about homeschooling. Though all states allow parents to educate their children at home, some states (like California) require parents to register as private schools, while others (like Pennsylvania) mandate that homeschooled children take standardized tests as they reach the third, fifth and eighth grades.

If you live in the United States, HSLDA is the best place to learn about your state’s laws and requirements.

Regardless of the requirements, if your child is currently in school you may want to submit a withdrawal letter, to notify them of your intent to homeschool and withdraw your child. You can find sample letters / materials on the website listed above for any of the resources you may need.

3. Practice De-Schooling

Before you dive right into your own structured education model, you may want to allow your family to take some time to adjust and recalibrate. Remember, homeschool allows for the freedom of taking time off, and even unstructured free time can be highly educational (some studies show it’s the most educational environment of all!). Taking a break may provide a refreshing reset for your child, and a tangible transition from one chapter into another.

This also provides a great opportunity for you to become more familiar with your family’s natural rhythms, which is extremely helpful when you’re ready to start planning your weekly and daily homeschool schedule. For instance, if you notice that Mondays tend to be full of energy and excitement for the week, but by Friday everyone is burned out and ready for the weekend, you can build your schooling around a 4 day week. Or perhaps you notice that your family takes longer to get in a groove in the early morning, so you can allow for a more relaxed, connected breakfast time, followed by late morning or early afternoon schooling.

If you’re worried about your child “falling behind” or not getting their academic needs met, just remember that research shows that children are extremely good at (and therefore do not need to be taught) the main behaviors they will need as adults, such as creativity, imagination, alertness, curiosity, thoughtfulness, responsibility and judgment. What children lack is experience, which homeschool can provide in leaps and bounds.

4. Set Your Homeschool Goals

As a homeschool parent, you get to decide what and how your children will learn, and the sky is the limit! In the next step we’ll explore more detailed examples of methods and curriculums, but before you go diving into that, you should create your very own personal list of things you would like to teach your child (or as is often the case, learn with your child!).

For general subjects, your list will probably include Math, Science, History, Language Arts, Art and Geography. But beyond these, be sure to include any special or elective subjects / classes that might interest you and your children, such as sports, language, music, drama, computer programming, nature studies, etc.

Even more important than choosing the subjects themselves is setting the goals for your child, and your homeschool experience. What are you ultimately seeking to achieve with homeschool (academically or otherwise)? How will you define a “good” homeschool day? What is the end game?

5. Explore Homeschooling Methods

With each parent comes a different parenting style, and the same is true for homeschooling. There are countless philosophies, methods and approaches to home education. Here’s a brief overview of some of the most common methods (compliments of sheknows.com):

Traditional method — Your homeschool would be set up just like a public school with a complete curriculum and traditional grading system. It’s just like a traditional school, but at home.

Classical education method — The basis of this Christian homeschooling method is based on author Dorothy Sayers’ well-known essay, The Lost Tools of Learning. The Well-Trained Mind is a great resource for exploring this method.

Charlotte Mason method — British educator Charlotte Mason developed a three-pronged education approach centered around atmosphere (home environment), discipline (good habits) and life (teaching living thoughts and ideas). This is one of the more popular homeschooling methods.

Montessori method — You’ve probably heard about Montessori preschool, and the same concepts from Dr. Maria Montessori translate into homeschooling, too. The Montessori method is based on the idea that learning is a natural, self-directed process.

Eclectic method — An eclectic homeschooling family takes bits and pieces from a variety of different methods to form their own homeschooling philosophy.

Unschooling — In recent years, unschooling (child-led learning) has become a more common approach to homeschooling.

These home-educational styles are only the tip of the iceberg. You can also take a look at other homeschooling methods, including the Unit Studies Approach, Waldorf Education method and The Principle Approach.

Once you find a method that resonates with you, you can research the countless curriculum options for that method (or curate your own as with the eclectic approach, or throw caution to the wind and go academically “naked” as with the unschooling approach).

6. Observe Your Child’s Learning Style

One of the most beautiful things about homeschooling your children is that you know them better than anyone, and are better equipped to meet their needs. As you embark on your homeschool journey, get to know your child’s personality, strengths and weaknesses, and their dominant learning style. Some children are visual processors, learning best by seeing, while others are auditory processors who learn by listening. Other children do best by doing/touching/feeling. Notice what styles of learning work best for you and your family, and tailor more of your future lessons to those methods of learning.

7. Tap Into Your Local Homeschool Community

“It takes a village to raise a child.” Never has this saying been more necessary or more true than in the life of a homeschool family. As with anything else, homeschooling can get lonely without outside support and community. The good news is, the internet is rapidly changing common misconceptions about homeschool socialization, and creating more connections amongst homeschool communities than ever before.

Search online for homeschool groups in your local area. Facebook and Meetup.com can be wonderful community platforms, as well as local homeschooling co-ops, 4-H groups, girl/boy scouts, park district activities, and countless “homeschool-specific” programs through local zoos, theaters, dance academies, rollerskating rinks, state parks, and countless other venues.

As you’re starting out, homeschool groups can be extremely helpful in offering guidance and support. Once you’re more established, they can provide a beautiful sense of community, connection and delight.

8. Curate Your Homescool Inspiration

As Zig Ziglar famously said, “”People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”

A motivated, inspired parent is the key ingredient to successful homeschooling, and with the internet at your fingertips, homeschooling inspiration is literally endless!

Take some time to get EXCITED and motivate yourself with ideas from other homeschool families around the world. Curate your own homeschool inspiration collection by using apps such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook. You can create brand new accounts to keep all your homeschool items in an organized, easy-to-find place.

Start out by searching topics you’re interested in, such as how to design your homeschool room, ideas for specific studies/projects, science experiments, book list recommendations, games and activities, and so much more! A robust homeschool inspiration collection can really come in handy when you’re planning your schooling for the week and are looking for some exciting ideas.

9. Get Really, Really Comfortable With Adjusting Course

One of the greatest keys to successful homeschooling is FLEXIBILITY / ADAPTABILITY. Of course homeschool parents would love for every day to go smoothly, exactly according to plan — but the truth is, this just isn’t realistic (in fact, it probably happens a lot LESS than you might think!). The beauty of homeschool is that you can continually observe your family’s needs and adjust your plan accordingly. This process of “adjusting” becomes one of the most important roles of a homeschool parent, and it can prove to be both liberating and frustrating.

We have to remember that our homeschool life and goals are living, breathing, moving targets. It may take months or even years to feel like you’ve found your “groove” with homeschooling, and just when you think you’ve got it, it can change at the drop of a hat as you and your family continue to learn, grow, change and evolve.

If you’re like the majority of homeschool parents, how you feel about homeschooling is going to change dramatically from one week to another. You will likely question your decision to homeschool and re-evaluate your options constantly. You’ll experience feelings of doubt, insecurity, uncertainty and defeat. But in the end, none of these things will compare to the profound, life changing rewards that homeschool offers your family each and every day. Remember it’s a constant journey, not a destination, and how well you navigate the path (and how willing you are to adjust your course) will make all the difference.

10. Don’t Overthink It, Just Dive In!

When it comes to making the decision to start homeschooling, it really comes down to listening to your heart. The conditions to begin will almost never be perfect, and you will be guaranteed to meet many difficulties and challenges along the way. Still, if homeschooling is something you’re truly passionate about exploring, the rewards will always outnumber the obstacles, and the journey will be well worth the effort.

11. Remember You Are Enough

As this month’s parenting affirmations remind us, your children don’t want “perfect,” they just want you. Just by being their parent, you are their best and most perfect teacher — with or without all the fancy curriculums, gadgets, and best-laid plans. Trust yourself, even when you feel uncertain. Believe in yourself, even when you feel doubtful. Be gentle and patient, even when you might be feeling overwhelmed and afraid. And always remember, you are good enough exactly as you are (and so are your children)!

Homeschooling will provide you the opportunity to enjoy, honor and cherish the time you are given, and help your children understand that each day, they are not only building their education… they are building their LIVES.

So what do you think? Are you ready to dive in and start your homeschooling journey?

Leave your comments, questions, hopes and dreams for us in the comments below!

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