Inside: How to start homeschooling when you don’t know where to start. If you are considering homeschooling or just made the decision to homeschool read this post on the beginner’s guide to homeschooling.
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The Beginner’s Guide to Homeschooling
Deciding to homeschool is such a personal decision. Some might choose to homeschool for religious beliefs, special needs children, safety concerns, or travel/life situation. Whatever the reason you decide homeschooling is the best decision for your family, know that this is just the first of many choices you will need to make throughout your homeschooling endeavor.
It can seem unbelievably overwhelming when you start to think about all the curriculum choices, educational websites, online versus traditional – it is hard to know where to even begin. There are a few things you need to start with before you can dive into homeschooling. These might seem daunting, but I promise you they are necessary steps and you will be glad you started with a great foundation.
It’s OK to Feel overwhelmed
First, let me say I know what it is like to feel so overwhelmed by the thought of homeschooling and not knowing where to start. It was only four years ago I was the one overwhelmed. Sitting there staring at my computer saying to myself, “Am I really going to do this? NOW, WHAT?”
I never thought I would be a homeschooling mom. I guess you could call me an accidental homeschooler. My husband and I both attended public schools, and the thought never crossed our minds to homeschool our kids, that was until the idea did cross minds.
I remember feeling overwhelmed, scared, and excited all at once. But when you watch your children struggling at some point, you have to draw a line in the sand. After four long years of fighting with the school, hiring an advocate, paying for private evaluations, we said enough was enough.
I put in my resignation at the University where I worked as an Instructional Designer, I began ordering curriculum, and we never looked back. I won’t sugar coat it and say every day is sunshine and rainbows but we are all much happier, and more importantly the girls are thriving.
What is Homeschooling?
Homeschooling is a home-based education. Now, this doesn’t mean that the home is the only place where learning takes place. It just means that parents or caregivers have control over the direction in which their children learn, the how, when, and where. Homeschooling allows for a personalized learning environment tailored to a student’s specific needs. Homeschooling is an individualized style of non- public education.
Unlike traditional educational settings where the curriculum is pre-determined and fixed homeschooling allows for adapting the curriculum on an individual level. The beauty of homeschooling is that no two homeschools are alike. Every homeschool family’s experience is unique and distinctive.
Common Misconceptions of Homeschooling
Nope. Homeschooling is legal in every U.S. state. Each state creates its own laws and regulations for homeschooling. Some states have more stringent requirements while other states are laxer.
Homeschoolers are weird and unsocialized
Weird? Possibly, but aren’t we all a little weird? Unsocialized? Not at all. Most homeschoolers I know have their kids in Coops and extracurricular activities. Not to mention homeschoolers, while out and about, meet people of all walks of life and all ages. Homeschoolers gain real-world experience socializing instead of being isolated with those of their same age with little chance to relate to children of other ages or adults.
How to start Homeschooling
1. Learn the homeschooling laws in your state
Since homeschooling is regulated at the state level, you need to research the specific requirements and regulations in your state to find out what steps you need to take and follow to be legally homeschooling. Don’t be frightened by the legalities set forth by your state.
If you are worried about understanding the law find a local or state homeschool group who can offer guidance. Another great resource whether you become a member or not is HSLDA or Home School Legal Defense Association. Here is a link to HSLDA to check what your state laws are.
2. Find support
Find other homeschoolers. The one thing I have learned is you will need the support. Research local homeschooling groups (Co-ops) in your area either on Google or Facebook. Local homeschoolers can often serve as a helpful resource for understanding your state homeschooling regulations helping to reduce any anxiety you might have in your new endeavor.
Some Co-ops offer educational classes, and other Co-ops provide field trips and play opportunities. These groups provide immense support and help avoid isolation. Be sure to shop around and find a group that fits your needs.
3. Explore homeschooling methods and learning styles
One of the beautiful things about homeschooling is you get to determine what approach works best for your family. Homeschooling doesn’t have to be school at home, and in most cases shouldn’t. Consider how your child learns. Do they like workbooks? Or are they a listen and learn kind of kid?
Consider your personalities. Are you structured and organized or are you more chill and laid back? As much as I try to be structured, we end up with more of a relaxed homeschool environment. There are many different methods of homeschooling, and there is no right or wrong method. It’s more important to choose a method that will work for you and your children. And if one approach isn’t working…try something else.
Now, this is an area where I will warn, you can and will find yourself overwhelmed. There is a TON of curriculum out there, and again there is not one better than another despite what others might say. There is online curriculum, there is boxed curriculum (textbooks and lesson plans all in one pretty package), or you can piece together your own curriculum.
Are you someone who needs things planned out for you to ensure you don’t miss anything? Or are you someone who doesn’t like to be boxed in (no pun intended) and want to do your own thing?
I have done both, and both approaches worked out just fine for us. My advice is to take your time! Don’t spend your life’s savings on a curriculum. There is no such thing as the perfect curriculum. It is all trial and error. If you try one approach one year and it doesn’t work you get to try something else next year. Sometimes, sometimes you might even have to change mid-year, and that is ok too.
My go-to place to if I have questions about curriculum or am looking for a particular subject is Cathy Duffy Homeschool Curriculum Reviews. Her website is the “premiere site for homeschool reviews.” She has just about every curriculum and subject you can think of and more.
My favorite places to shop for curriculum:
Homeschool Buyers Coop: They are the world’s largest buyers’ club for homeschoolers. They use the purchasing power of members to secure amazing discounts on a curriculum. We buy a good amount of our curriculum from here.
Rainbow Resource: Sign up for the homeschool catalog. It is amazing. You can thank me later.
Teachers Pay Teachers: Lots of free and inexpensive curriculum tools for your homeschool. You can search by age or subject, tons to choose from.
5. Attend a Homeschool Conference
Plan to buy, not just to browse. I always try and make a list of the curriculum I would like to take a closer look at before attending. In Florida, we have a large convention hosted by the Florida Parent-Educators Association (FPEA). If you are local, I highly suggest you check it out. They have LARGE homeschool convention in Orlando every year in May.
If you aren’t’ in Florida, you can also check out The Great Homeschool Conventions site to find upcoming homeschool conventions. You can also reach out to your local homeschool communities to find local curriculum fairs.
Tips for Success in Homeschooling
If I have learned anything from homeschooling my advice to you is to be flexible. Be flexible with your schedule, your children, and your expectations. Extend yourself grace. As someone who had grandiose ideas of this perfect homeschooling adventure I quickly realized what I envisioned and what my reality were two different things. If you remain so rigid in your homeschooling, never willing to make adjustments along the way, you will wind up feeling very frustrated and quickly want to quit.
Have Fun Together
Play games, watch movies, go on field trips. Remember learning takes place wherever you want it to, whenever you want. Plus, homeschool moms need to have fun too, not just the kids.
Don’t Compare- Not ever
Never, I repeat, never compare your children, yourself, or your homeschool journey to other homeschool moms. You, your children, your reasons, your journey are all unique.
Take a Break
This year we have moved to a year-round schedule to allow for more breaks. We found this worked better for our family. Between our new addition and endless appointments having more flexibility to have days off (not really a day off for mama) helps to minimize our burnout. Take those breaks! You will need them.
Make sure you pin this image so you can find it later!
Common Questions/FAQ About Homeschooling
How Much Does Homeschooling Cost?
Homeschooling can cost as little or as much as you want or can afford to spend. You can homeschool for close to nothing buy using free sites like Khan Academy or Easy Peasy All In One Homeschool. On the other hand, you can spend several hundred to thousands of dollars depending on the number of children you have and the type of curriculum you choose.
In the beginning, I would sign up for as many free trials as I could find to see if online was the way we wanted to go. You can also get a library card and check out books, lots and lots of books. Look for curriculum sales or swaps in your area. Most conventions have special deals on curriculum if you buy it at the expo. And don’t forget to check out Homeschool Buyers Coop for great deals on curriculum!
How Long Should We Do Schoolwork Each Day?
It depends. I know I know not very helpful, but it is the truth. It depends on your state laws and if they require a certain number of hours. Remember how I said learning could take place however and wherever you want? Those hours don’t have to mean a pencil in hand and a nose in a book. Leisurely reading, playing outside (hello P.E.), cooking (science, math, home economics) are just a few examples of learning opportunities that can be tracked for hours.
You also need to consider your learners. I have one child who needs constant redirection, frequent breaks, and lots of encouragement while the other child is little more self-motivated. It might take one 2-3 hours to complete her work and the other child 4-5 hours. Other factors include the level of your child’s studies (i.e., grade level if you use them), your goals for your child, and the curriculum you choose.
Some ballpark numbers for you if you need them might be:
- Kindergarten – 30-45 minutes
- First – 1-1.5 hours
- Second-Fourth- 2 hours
- Fifth & Sixth- 3 hours
- Seventh- Twelfth – 4-6+ hours
How Do I Teach Multiple Children and Different Levels?
If your children are more independent and can complete assigned takes with minimal assistance, it makes it a bit easier to teach more than one child at a time. You can use a planner for them and list their assignments. They can move through them at their own pace. You can also set up a workbox system using binders, a craft cart, or plastic bins. Each child completes the assignments in the box, working at their own pace, and puts them back when finished.
Check out this video from Erica at Confessions of a Homeschooler on how she uses the workbox system for her family.
If your children are less independent (like mine), we do all our subjects together except for math which is split up according to level/grade. For Language Arts, we do copy work, and I adjust the passages according to level and ability. Science, history, geography, and art are all completed in a group setting with the amount of work adjusted to accommodate each child.
Are They Going To Learn Everything They Need To Know?
Probably not. But it isn’t going to be because you didn’t do enough. Not even public-school students graduate knowing everything they need to know. But if you guide them, nurture them, and most importantly teach them how to find the information they need to know you will have done your job.
One of my favorite quotes that I use to guide our homeschool adventure is from the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu.
“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
The Last Thing You Need to Know About Homeschooling
You will question yourself a lot. Probably on a daily basis in the beginning. You will have some really good days, and you will have some really bad days. You will have days where your patience is almost non-existent, where you aren’t meeting the goals you had for your kids. This is completely normal! Just take a deep breath, remember your reasons for choosing to homeschool, trust in yourself and your children, and reach out to your support system.
Think Big Picture
Keep your eyes on the big picture. When it is all said and done, raising caring, responsible, human beings is more important than producing children who get straight A’s. Homeschooling, like parenting, is not a sprint but a marathon. Rest often, give grace every day, don’t place unnecessary expectations on yourself or your children.
Never quit on a bad day!
As long as your children are moving forward, you are headed in the right direction. There will come a day where you will look back and realize you have progressed much farther than you thought. You will gaze at your children and know you did a great job and you have raised some fantastic humans. Be sure to pause and enjoy the moments along the way. You’ve got this, and so much more.
I want to hear from you!
Do you think about homeschooling? Are you a new homeschooler? What questions or concerns do you have? Email me or leave a comment or find me on Facebook!