As difficult as it may be to make the decision to homeschool, knowing how to get started can seem even more impossible. Although homeschooling is more mainstream now than it’s ever been, with approximately 2.5 million homeschooled children in the U.S. alone, finding information about it that is accurate isn’t always a simple thing.
Since I’ve recently had so many people comment that they’re interested in homeschooling but don’t know where to start, I’ve decided to write a basic plan for how to do just that. Right now I have a book in the works that is a more comprehensive guide to this subject (still in the early stages of planning), but since I don’t have all night to write, and you probably don’t have all day to read, I’m going to keep this as bare-bones as possible, giving you only the essentials to at least help you get your homeschool happening. 🙂
How to Get Started Homeschooling
– Find out what your state homeschool laws require.
Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, but, truth be told, some states are easier to homeschool in than others. Don’t let that scare you. PA is considered one of the harder states in which to home educate, but it’s honestly been a piece of cake for us. The HSLDA website has a page listing homeschool regulations state by state.
If you have questions regarding your state laws, you can either ask a homeschooler you may know, join a state Facebook group, or even Google it. One word of caution:
Do not ask your school district about homeschool laws. They aren’t trained in it and often know even less than you do. They may try to answer your questions, but you are not likely to get completely correct information.
– Fill out the appropriate paperwork and submit it. (If you live in a state that requires notification of intent to homeschool.)
Since the homeschool laws vary from state to state, some states require a notarized affidavit with written objectives, while others require no notification at all. This is why it’s important to take that first step of discovering what you, as the parent, need to do.
– Observe your kids.
You thought I was going to say to buy curriculum, didn’t you?
Nope! Not yet.
Although this is an especially important step for those transitioning from school, taking the time to mindfully watch how your children learn, what they like to do, how they approach things, and what they’re interested in can be beneficial for everyone. This period can be for as little as a week or two to a few months and is often known as deschooling. It may seem scary to allow your kids to go this length of time without formal instruction, but children are natural learners. Trust me. They’ve got it covered.
Schools use textbooks because they’re a cost-efficient way to educate the masses. They certainly aren’t the only way to approach learning, nor are they even the best way. Depending on the child, they can be a terrible choice for some families.
That’s why it’s crucial that you don’t skip this step of observation. During this time, spend some time researching learning styles and homeschooling methods. Come up with some ideas that will not only fit your child but will fit you, too. Keep in mind that, as the facilitator, you need to be comfortable with the approach, too.
– Create a stimulating learning environment.
While you’re in the observational stage, it can be a great time to transition your home into a stimulating learning environment. This doesn’t have to be anything major and certainly doesn’t have to be expensive. Kids are usually able to use the most minor tools to their advantage. Some ideas are:
- hands-on toys (the best toys are those that don’t require batteries)
- art supplies
Remember that the things that you do with your kids are just as much a part of the environment as what you buy. Take your kids to the library often. Read to them. Let them accompany you on errands. Cook with them, and teach them how to take care of the house. These seemingly mundane activities are the foundation of a successful homeschool.
– Choose your curriculum.
Before I delve too deeply into this, I want to point out that the word curriculum does not have to refer to textbooks. Curriculum is how you will go about educating your kids. Textbooks are but one way to accomplish that.
When looking for curriculum, ask other homeschoolers for advice. Read reviews on homeschool blogs. Scour websites like Amazon, Rainbow Resources, and Educents. As with learning your state’s homeschool laws, do not ask the school district for advice about curriculum, either. They are trained in public education, not homeschooling. They are two completely different things. Believe me.
A word of warning: If you decide to go with any type of textbooks or even a unit study curriculum, do not feel obligated to follow it exactly as they suggest. I know it can seem handy to have a pre-written schedule with your curriculum, but it gets old fast. These curriculum companies often do not take life interruptions into consideration when writing these schedules and will often plan for a vigorous 36 weeks with no leeway.
The beauty of homeschooling is flexibility.
Curriculum is a tool. You are the one who will be using it, so you need to decide what to do and when. If you find that it just isn’t the right fit, don’t give up. Toss it and find another approach. There’s no such thing as the curriculum police. 😉
– Get started and have fun!
If there’s one thing I want you to remember the most out of this, it’s to keep in mind that homeschooling does not have to look like school. In fact, I highly recommend that it looks as little like school as you can bear. Let go of the arbitrary timelines schools follow and let your children develop at their own pace.
Another important thing to remember is that homeschooling doesn’t normally take 6 hours a day, so, if that’s been intimidating you, don’t let it. On average, I’d say most families spend about 2-4 hours per day homeschooling, and this may include time spent outdoors, working on crafts and art projects, field trips, etc.
It’s so much more manageable than people think it is.
I hope this helps those of you who have been curious about how to get started. If you have any questions or if there’s anything else you’d like me to cover, leave a comment, and I’ll be happy to address it for you, as well.
For more thoughts on getting started, follow my “How to Get Started Homeschooling” video series:
Choosing Your Curriculum
…And You’re Off!