How to Get Started in Homeschooling: The Essential Guide
Inside: Thinking of homeschooling? Maybe you have decided to homeschool and now you need to know what to do next to get started. Here is the ultimate guidebook to get started in homeschooling.
When I first decided that I wanted to get started in homeschooling for my girls, I had no idea where to start. All of a sudden, it seemed like homeschool people were everywhere. Maybe I just didn’t notice it before because homeschooling wasn’t on my radar. But, now I know, we are all over the place and we love to talk about homeschooling!
So, maybe you are in the same boat – thinking of homeschooling, but not sure how to get started. Well, never fear, let me be one of those ladies who was everywhere for me.
Let’s talk about the first things you should do to get started in homeschooling.
First up: the boring legal side of things.
What Are the Homeschool Laws Where I Live?
The good news: homeschooling is legal in every state in the US.
The bad news: homeschooling laws are different in every state in the US!
When I was starting out on our homeschool journey, I was so worried that I would mess up the paperwork side somehow and ruin my children’s educational careers. Thanks to the internet, that didn’t happen and I was able to easily figure out what I needed to do for our state.
The Home School Legal Defense Association(HSLDA) is a fantastic resource for homeschoolers. Their website makes it so easy to find out what the homeschool laws are for each state and how to meet the requirements for your state. State requirements for homeschooling vary a lot from state to state. For example, Texas only requires that you teach a few core subjects and use a written curriculum. In New York, on the other hand, you have to provide a “written narrative evaluation” of your child or take a standardized test every year. And you have to file quarterly reports. So, it just depends on where you live. Your best bet is to get the official requirements from HSLDA or your state’s department of education website.
HSLD also provides legal help for members, should the need ever arise, and the membership is very reasonable. I highly recommend it.
Aside from offering legal help when needed, HSLDA provides an enormous amount of information on their website. Everything from state requirements, articles about choosing curriculum, what to do if you get called for jury duty, tips of homeschooling high school, and so much more. It’s really a treasure chest of info for homeschooling. You can check it out here.
Now that we have the legal matter all sorted…on to the fun stuff!
The Fun Kind of Research
I’m guessing that if you are considering homeschooling your child(ren), then you are pretty hands-on and interested in their education. So, the next step in getting started in homeschooling is to do some research into just how the heck you do this homeschool thing anyway.
Maybe that’s how you landed here. If so, great! You’ll find lots of resources here to get you started.
You might find some books to read on homeschooling, listen to some podcasts, or join a Facebook group. Whatever you do, this is a time to jump in and learn about homeschooling. Here are some resources to get you started:
How does your child learn?
Once you’ve decided on the subjects and topics you are going to cover, you need to understand how best your child learns. There are two main reasons to do this:
First, If your child is a kinesthetic learner and you choose a curriculum that requires her to sit and do worksheets, she will hate it. And you will hate it. And there will be lots of arguing.
I’m not saying you will never do worksheets in your homeschool, but you need to look at how your child is comfortable learning. Do you have a super active boy who can’t sit still for long? Then, you might want to look for a curriculum that is very hands-on.
Second, you want your child to have a positive experience in school. Especially if they are young, these are the years when they are forming their opinions about learning and education. You want to give them positive building blocks for a strong learning foundation later on.
Here are some great posts about the different learning styles to get you started:
What homeschool materials do I use to teach?
Warning! Warning! Black hole approaching!!
This is one of my favorite things to do and also something I dread. I LOVE looking at homeschool curriculum because there is so much to choose from and I get so excited for all the cool things my kids and I can learn together.
I dread it because there is so much to choose from and I get so excited for all the cools things that I just want to buy them all!
When you are just getting started in homeschooling, I suggest browsing through a few curricula and then just choose one. Or, if you are doing a mixed approach, which is what I usually do, then just pick whatever you are going to use for each subject. Nothing is going to be perfect! There are so many great programs to choose from and you can always add or change later.
One warning. When it comes to reading/phonics and math, I would try to find a program early and stick with it at least until later elementary school. Each sequence is a little different, so if you change in 3rd grade, you might miss something that your new homeschool curriculum covered in 2nd grade, but your old one hadn’t covered yet. It’s not a super huge deal, but something to be aware of.
Here are some homeschool curriculum websites and blog posts to get you started:
Timberdoodle (great for hands-on or supplementing)
Abeka (Christian-based complete curriculum)
Alpha Omega Publishing (There are a few different options. We use Horizons for math.)
MasterBooks (a very gentle, Charlotte Mason based Christian curriculum)
Sonlight (Christian-based complete curriculum)
Evan-Moor (fantastic workbooks for complete curriculum or add-ons. We use and love these for a few subjects.)
Bookshark (secular complete curriculum)
Moving Beyond the Page (Awesome secular curriculum, I’m am actually looking into using this.)
Here is a great list of secular homeschool options from Brenda at Schooling a Monkey.
Homeschool schedule vs. routine
As you are doing your research on how to get started in homeschooling, I’m going to bet that you come across “homeschool schedules” more than once. Or, maybe you find yourself wondering “how do I fit all this learning into each day?”. There are generally two schools of thought: homeschool schedules and homeschool routines.
What’s the difference?
A homeschool schedule is a schedule for the day broken down into windows of time. For example, you might eat breakfast and do chores from 8:00 to 9:00, then morning basket and “everyone” subjects on the couch from 9:00 to 9:45, and so on.
A homeschool routine is a sequence of events without those time windows attached. This is what we follow in our house. I do not pre-determine how long we will spend on any one subject. It’s one of the reasons we homeschool in the first place. I want to be able to spend as little or as much time on a subject as we need to.
Even if your schedule is “flexible”, there is something that happens subconsciously when you get out of sync with your homeschool schedule’s time windows. Somehow I feel like my day wasn’t as productive or it feels more chaotic.
With a homeschool routine, there are no time windows, so we can just mosey along at our won pace.
If you want to check out some examples of homeschool routines, here are a couple of resources:
Homeschool families are better together
One of the most important things you can do as a new homeschooling family is to find other homeschooling families!
My kids like to be around other kids, so I create opportunities for them to experience that. I realize that a lot of school time is spent quietly sitting and listening, but my kids do miss out on recess and field trips. I do my best to provide those types of opportunities frequently in our homeschool.
We belong to a homeschool co-op that meets nine times in the Fall and eight times in the Spring. The girls get to wear backpacks, walk to class, and sit with their friends. They love it! If your schedule allows and there is one in your area, I highly recommend joining a homeschool coop.
Our homeschool co-op also organizes a ton of field trips during the year. We have gone to plays and the ballet, a pumpkin patch, the aquarium, children’s museum, and lots more. Finding a local homeschooling group is a great resource that I can’t say enough about.
I also love it because it has given me the opportunity to meet other homeschool moms in my area. We regularly get together with our homeschool friends. And, they can have play dates during the school day, too!
I am willing to bet that there are more homeschooling people in your area than you realize. We really are everywhere.
Should I Worry about Homeschool Socialization?
This is probably the most frequently asked question when it comes to getting started in homeschooling. A lot of people who don’t homeschool assume your child needs daily interaction in school to grow up “normal”.
Well, no worries because that is so not the case! If you are homeschooling properly (which, you obviously will be since you are doing so much awesome research!), then your kiddos will get plenty of socialization.
I would even venture to say they’ll get better socialization by homeschooling.
You don’t have to worry about bullying as much.
There isn’t as much exposure to the sexuality of pop culture and promiscuous role models. I’m certainly not an advocate of keeping your kids in a bubble, but I do think it’s OK to shelter them from certain things until their minds are developed enough to handle it properly.
There are tons of opportunities to get out and talk to other people and kids when you homeschool. Some ideas are a homeschool co-op, playdates, sports teams, and music lessons. But, really, the list is endless.
And another benefit of homeschooling socialization is your kids will interact with a variety of age groups on a regular basis. In traditional schooling, kids mostly interact with kids their same age. That’s not always to the benefit of the kids.
Homeschooling is a lot like the “good ol’ days” of the one-room schoolhouse. And you don’t hear people saying that was bad!