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:
Don’t Buy That Curriculum Just Yet!
15 thoughts on “How to Get Started Homeschooling TODAY!”
Oh, how I wish I would have had the help and encouragement you give here on this website when I was homeschooling, Shelly. I love how you kept this basic and simple. I know this is going to help some new (and wanna be and soon-to-be) homeschool mamas.
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Thank you so much, Beckie. You are so encouraging!
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Shelly, I love your posts! You rock homeschooling. 💖
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Thank you so much, Camie!
Homeschooling is not all a bed of roses, but it is so worth the effort and work. Sure, some days you will cry and think why, but most days you will think it is totally worth it. One of my favorite things about homeschooling is reading aloud to the kiddos.
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That is so true, and read-alouds are one of my favorite activities, too!
I am about to start homeschooling my son who will soon be kindergarten age. I also have a 3yo and 9mo at home, and feeling excited and also overwhelmed. My husband and I are both in the same page and feel God leading us in this direction. My question is, bc my day is already so full/bust taking care of everyone, what “basics” (subject wise) would you suggest to get started? We’ve already been tinkering with homeschooling for a year, and he knows lots of basics, including basic phonetics and so on. Thanks!
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I would really continue focusing on phonics, reading, and math. Kids are great at exploring on their own, so the other subjects are easily covered simply by their sheer curiosity. Take lots of trips to the library, stock up on lots of art supplies, and spend a lot of time outdoors. Homeschooling this age is so much fun, and it’s so simple!
Very simple and straight forward! Thank you!
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Hi,I am a grandmother raising my gdaughter.shes now 12yo and is in 6th grade,which is her 1st yr in middle school.its very frustrating to her bc she’s adhd,bipolar II,OCD w/anxiety but our issue with her is she has anger issues,if she misses her meds before school,that day you’d better watch out bc she’s gonna threaten to kill you,seriously. She’s been in iss several times for that very thing in the last several yrs,with her most recent starting a 2 day stay tmro. But my thing is I suffer with chronic pain,fatigue but alota the issues wuth my pain happens to come from emotional stress of knowing she’s got so much potential but she is so influenced,and her days are lived by”what the kids are doing,wearing,eating,etc.at school”,she wants to be like so much of the kids at her school,that trying to talk and tell her that she’s gotta live for her,choose good options for her,that just bc Sally gets this book from the library doesn’t mean you are going to enjoy it. And just bc Beth takes chorus doesn’t mean your gona like it,etc. I don’t know,I’m at my wits end. Iv home schooled her before but it was in her kindergarten year,and before we found out she was adhd plus.so yea,that didn’t work out good at all. But if you could give me some ideas or your input on maybe how I could do it to make it alil easier on her and I to be able to teach her at home. I read all your story’s and comments to everyone. I pray ill be able to do what I feel she’s so in need of. Thank you so very much for all your kindness,care and concern in the lives of our children.
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I will definitely keep you in my prayers. I have a son with ADHD, and what I’ve found with him is that it is absolutely vital to give them lots of input as to what they will learn about, keep their lessons short, and let them move around as much as possible. That could mean hands-on learning, or it could mean being outside a lot. My son does nature studies with his biology because it allows him to be outside walking around, and learning about things “in the field.” I did write a post about homeschooling ADHD- https://redheadmom8.wordpress.com/2016/11/21/100-reasons-to-homeschool-your-adhd-child/ I don’t know if you’re on Pinterest, but I do have a Homeschooling ADHD board, as well- https://www.pinterest.com/redheadmom8/homeschooling-adhd/ I hope some of these are helpful to you. God bless and keep me posted!