How to Start Homeschooling
“I want to homeschool, but where do I start?”
I’ve heard this question so many times since we started homeschooling a couple of years ago.
I’ve read this question in many of the homeschooling Facebook groups I belong to.
I’ve even answered this question in my DMs.
When I began homeschooling, I was completely overwhelmed by the plethora of information that exists.
Researching and making lists are basically my two favorite hobbies. I’m also a blast at parties in case you were wondering.
Looking back, I could’ve used a very basic guide to steer my research and keep me from falling into various rabbit holes because a sister has NO time for any of that.
And neither do you.
I hope this very basic guide is helpful to you as you learn more about homeschooling and determine whether it’s the next best step for your family.
THINKING ABOUT HOMESCHOOLING?
Learn the basics so you can get your homeschool up and running in no time!
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Learn your state’s homeschooling laws and regulations. Check out the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). You will want to make sure you know what is expected in order to remain in compliance. Find out if your state/county education department has a homeschooling office and file any applicable forms. We have to file a form to notify the state each year we intend to keep homeschooling.
Once you are aware of the legal ramifications, you can begin your research.
A great place to start is by observing your child and determining his/her learning style.
There are three main learning styles:
- Auditory–learns by hearing information
- Visual–learns by seeing information
- Tactical/Kinesthetic–learns by engaging hands-on
- Combined (a mixture of two or more learning styles)
If you want your child to enjoy homeschool and stay engaged in learning, figuring out how they learn best will help you determine what method to use.
Next, you will need to research homeschool methods (because there are quite a few) to determine which will best suit your child(ren)’s needs and personality.
If you’re homeschooling multiple children, understand that what works for one child won’t necessarily work for another.
Here are several of the most popular homeschooling methods, though this list is not exhaustive:
- Traditional method – This is a “school at home” method where parents employ boxed curriculum and workbooks to educate at home. It’s straightforward and helps when you just need to figure out where to start. The traditional method works very well for many families.
- Charlotte Mason – a holistic, literature-based model where children learn primarily through reading, exploring nature, journaling, copy work, and art/music appreciation.
- Classical – this language-based model utilizes grammar and repetition, logic, and rhetoric to teach children to think for themselves.
- Unit studies – time-limited overviews of a specific topic or theme that incorporates multiple subjects; for example, if your child is interested in sharks, you might use books, videos, and other resources to relate all of their academic activities to sharks across all subjects (math, reading, etc).
- Unschooling – interest-led learning in which the child takes charge of their own education; parents provide resources and opportunities for nurturing their natural curiosity about a topic; parents partner with their children in setting educational goals and take on the role of a facilitator.
- Eclectic – this method pulls from a variety of approaches rather than sticking with one homeschooling style.
One thing I’ve learned is that homeschooling is best done in community with others. With time and intentionality, you will likely find your homeschooling people to set up playdates with, coffee dates or moms night out with, and to go on field trips with.
You will need support on your homeschooling journey–both from mentors and other new homeschoolers to walk alongside.
Reach out to homeschooling Facebook, Yahoo, and Meetup groups in your local area for more information and social gatherings.
Here are other popular avenues for finding community, classes, and activities:
- Umbrella programs – A homeschool umbrella is a group (typically a private school or religious entity) that oversees homeschooling families, ensuring that they meet state homeschooling laws and requirements.
- Local co-ops – Homeschool co-ops are groups of families that meet regularly for educational enrichment and activities.
- Tutors/tutorials – You can hire tutors to teach your children specific subjects, or you can join a tutorial. Homeschool tutorials offer a selection of weekly or bi-weekly paid classes taught by individual teachers or parents.
- Public schools – Do some research and find out what resources your local school system offers to homeschool students.
- Libraries – As homeschoolers, the library is one of our favorite local haunts. Libraries are a great resource for groups, after-school activities, and workshops.
- Parks and Rec – Your local parks and recreation association likely offers a community magazine full of activities, classes, and resources for all ages. There are often classes available specifically for homeschoolers. There are swim classes, chess, art classes, camps, and a host of other activities waiting to be discovered by you.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure here.
SET UP SHOP
Once you have taken some time to research, set some goals, and gathered support, it’s time to set up shop. Many families gather to learn in a particular spot–such as the dining room table. But you could “conduct school” anywhere.
Some families have a designated school room space. If you lack the space for a school room, there are ways to incorporate storage for supplies into your décor.
My children choose to use our dining room space, so I bought a large IKEA Kallax bookcase to store our curriculum and other supplies.
You can customize the unit with doors, baskets, or dividers to maintain a clean, cohesive look–which sounds ideal, right? Or you can stack stuff on top and shove things in drawers like I’m prone to. (Real talk.)
When you’re getting started on your homeschool endeavor, you don’t need anything fancy. A place to sit and work and a place to store your books and school supplies is more than enough.
During our first year, I set up a bulletin board with weather charts, memory verses, and all sorts of educational things. I used it maybe once or twice before it began to gather dust.
This year, I’m using a simple whiteboard to work out math problems, a command center to hold schedules and handouts, and a chalkboard wall where I write inspiring quotes and Bible verses. I display the kids’ artwork on the walls and have a few pieces of foam board on the wall with our history timeline on it.
I fully expect this space to evolve, as I would like to add a world map and some other things. Let your imagination run wild, and get your kids involved in decorating your classroom space.
Stock up on school supplies during late July/early August, or whenever back-to-school sales begin. This is my favorite time of year… ahh, I love the smell of school supplies. Anyone else or am I just weird?
You can use lots of things to store supplies. Bookcases, crates, plastic bins and boxes. These can get expensive, so maybe determine whether you can repurpose something you already have before purchasing more storage containers.
Before you freak out, I want you to know that it’s totally normal to start out using something completely different from what you wind up finishing the school year with. This is why it is important to figure out your child’s learning style and decide on a homeschooling method before purchasing curriculum.
There are a few different ways to choose a curriculum:
- Boxed curriculum – an all-in-one package of textbooks, tests, worksheets, manipulatives, and teacher manuals. Great for first-time homeschoolers, or families who need a simplified and effective approach. Read detailed reviews on Cathy Duffy Reviews.
- Online programs – Students may take paid and free virtual classes on websites such as K12 and Outschool.
- Hodge-Podge – mixing and matching resources from textbooks and websites to put together a customized curriculum. Resources include homeschool blogs and Pinterest.
MAKE YOUR PLANS
The planning portion is my absolute favorite part of the homeschool year. I typically take a week or two to do my initial goal setting and planning. I write “lesson plans” in my homeschool planner for 3-4 weeks.
Some people plan annually. Some plan weekly. Some decide what they will do on a daily basis. Whatever method you choose–you should at least track what you do every day. This will not only keep you accountable, but you will have a record to refer to if you need to make any adjustments.
Your homeschool plans may include:
- Scope and Sequence – Most textbook publishers include a scope and sequence, which is basically a course outline for the year. You can break it down into manageable chunks based on the length of your homeschool year. Having a scope and sequence will help you set benchmarks to keep you focused.
- Goals and learning objectives – you can find learning objectives by grade level here to give you a general idea of what your child would be learning in school.
- Yearly Calendar – an annual school year calendar is a handy resource to refer to, especially when planning trips.
- Weekly Routine – include your intended daily schedule and any co-op, tutorial, or extracurriculars you regularly attend (download a FREE weekly schedule template here)
- Daily Routine – outline your “ideal homeschool day” and your overall daily schedule
- Field Trips – list all the field trips your children will want to take and include any educational activities that you think everyone might enjoy. You can count a lot of activities as field trips as long as they are remotely educational. We have done field trips on weekends and in the evenings. Team up with friends to make this even more fun.
One of my favorite things about homeschooling our children is that my husband and I have a chance to instill values that matter to our family, in them. We figure in their interests, strengths, challenges, as well as annual educational requirements by our state education system when setting goals and benchmarks.
When setting goals, you may want to start out by answering such questions as:
- What are your children’s interests?
- What do you want them to accomplish?
- What are their strengths?
- What are their challenges?
- How long do you want the homeschool day to last?
- Are you going with a traditional 180-day school calendar or will you educate year-round?
Design Your Day
You can really lean into your family’s rhythm when crafting your perfect homeschool day. We are a family of night owls; my husband gets up early for a long commute, and I get up early for my own sanity before caring for our four children. If you already have extracurricular commitments, you can factor those in.
We include chores (hello, life skills class) into our daily routine as well.
Need More Resources?
There’s so much more I could tell you about getting started that wouldn’t fit in one blog post. So I wrote a handy little 16-page printable guide with everything you need to get your homeschool up and running in no time.
THINKING ABOUT HOMESCHOOLING?
Learn the basics so you can get your homeschool up and running in no time!