Interested in homeschooling, but don’t know where to start? You aren’t alone. Take a look at my quick guide on how to start homeschooling. It’s easier to get started than you think.
If you are here, it’s because you are considering homeschooling. First off, let me say I’m proud of you for taking charge of your children’s education. Whether you are dead serious about starting or simply want to find out more about what it takes to educate your children at home, know that you are doing a great thing for your family.
There are lots of reasons families decide to educate at home. Currently, many families are considering homeschooling due to COVID concerns and the instability it might bring to the upcoming school year. Whatever your reasons they are both valid and personal. Today, I am going share with you how to start homeschooling.
How To Start Homeschooling
Review Your State’s Homeschooling Laws
Homeschooling is legal in all fifty states. The very first thing you’ll need to do is review your state’s homeschool regulations. Homeschooling laws are regulated by your state, not the federal government. You can find your state’s homeschooling laws at HSLDA. Some states, like Texas where I live, have few regulations, giving parents lots of freedom and autonomy. However, other states have moderate regulations and a few states (primarily in the North Eastern United States) have far more stringent regulations. These laws will tell you:
- How many school days are required
- Mandatory subjects
- Mandatory number of days (attendance)
- Testing Requirements
- Notifying the local public school/withdrawing children from public school
- Teacher qualifications
- Immunization requirements
Figure Out Who Will Teach
There are a few states that require homeschool teachers to have teaching certificates. Some states only require it if you are teaching additional children that aren’t yours. That’s right! Did you know that many states allow people other than parents to homeschool? It’s true. Homeschool teachers can be parents, neighbors, aunts or uncles, even grandparents. This can be a great solution for working parents who want to homeschool. For example, in Texas, you can teach up to five kids that aren’t yours before the state requires a teaching certificate. So if my brothers wanted me to homeschool their kids alongside mine, we can. You’ll need to figure out who will be facilitating school and make sure it is in accordance with state regulations.
Decide on a Homeschooling Method
There are lots of ways to educate a child and homeschooling provides different methods of teaching. If you are homeschooling temporarily due to COVID, you may want to consider doing Traditional homeschooling. Traditional homeschooling will mirror public schools in structure and method. There are other methods like Charlotte Mason, Classical, Unschooling, and Eclectic. I’ve created a separate post entitled, Homeschooling Methods Explained, where I explain the differences in detail.
Decide on a Schedule
Part of planning your homeschool will involve planning out your school calendar. It is important to note that some states have a required number of days your child must attend school. 180 to 185 days is the average requirement. In some states, like my home state of Texas, there is no attendance requirement. This is great because it means you can finish your school year as quickly as you want or you can stretch out your school year-round with lots of days off during the year. Many families simply follow the same schedule as their public school system. For some it just makes it easier.
Personally, we homeschool year round. First, it ensures your child doesn’t forget things over the summer. Plus it means I don’t have to remotivate them (or myself) at the beginning of the school year. Also, it means we can take lots of vacations or time off anytime we feel we need it during the year. This really helps us from feeling burnt out. It means we don’t have to take our family vacations in summer when everyone else is also vacationing. (Thats right. No lines at Disney World!)
Choose a Curriculum
The idea of choosing a curriculum can be really overwhelming to parents who are homeschooling for the first time. My advice is not to stress too much over it. If you and your child are struggling you can change the curriculum at any time! One of the best resources I ever found is a book entitled, Duffy’s Homeschool Picks. In this book, Duffy writes in-depth curriculum reviews and also helps you assess which curriculum will best meet your needs. Here are some things you need to consider when choosing curriculum.
How to Choose Curriculum
- TEACHER-LED OR STUDENT-LED: Curriculum is designed to either be led by a teacher or by the student. In the early years, students will likely benefit more from having you work directly with them. However, as your child matures, independent learners may benefit more with the autonomy found in student-led curriculum.
- SECULAR OR RELIGIOUS: You will need to decide whether you want religion to play a part in your child’s studies. Some religious families opt for a secular curriculum with separate religious or bible studies. Others prefer religion to be intertwined in subjects. Many secular curricula are religion-friendly, meaning there is unlikely to be anything in direct opposition to religious tenets. This will become especially critical in Science when deciding whether to teach creation or evolution.
- YOUR HOMESCHOOLING METHOD: Curriculum varies widely in their approach to learning. Your curriculum choices may be impacted by the homeschooling method you wish to employ. Be sure to read my post, Homeschooling Methods Explained for an in-depth look at the different homeschooling methods.
- YOUR CHILD’S LEARNING STYLE: Just like us, children have different learning styles. Some children are auditory learners, while others need to visualize concepts. Still, others benefit more from a hands-on (tactile) experience. One advantage to homeschooling is the ability to use a curriculum tailored to your child’s learning style. It is important to note that young children are generally tactile learners and may change learning styles as they mature.
- HOW MUCH TIME YOU WANT TO SPEND: Some curriculum requires prep work on the part of the teacher, while others allow you to dive right in. Some curriculum is relaxed, others are rigorous and of course, there is everything in between. You will need to figure out how much time you are willing to dedicate. This is especially important if you are a single parent, working parent, or are teaching multiple students.
- SPECIAL NEEDS: Consider if your child has any special needs that may influence the curriculum you choose. Not only are there curriculum choices that are special need friendly, but there are also support groups for families.
- YOUR BUDGET: You will decide how much you are willing to spend on the curriculum. It is important to note that there are many free and low-cost options available. In fact, some school districts even offer public school online at home and it’s completely free!
- ONLINE OR TANGIBLE: You will need to decide how much screen time your child has. There are pros and cons to both. Some parents want their kids to be tech-savvy and comfortable with online applications. Whereas other parents feel too much time online can stunt literacy. Many families find a happy medium or encourage technology in later years like high school.
Join Homeschooling Groups
One thing that is wonderful about homeschooling is the community. I have found homeschooling families to be wonderfully accepting and helpful to other families, especially those just getting started. Other families are a valuable resource for both motivation, advice, and socialization, so look into joining homeschool groups. You can find many online, even on Facebook.
Other Common Questions
I hope I have answered some of your basic questions on how to start homeschooling. If you have other questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I will answer as soon as I can. Thanks for reading!