It’s currently July, 2020, and estimated that at least 40% of families in the United States will begin the 2020/21 school year at home. For some of you that means using distance learning provided by the public or private school your children have been attending. But, for many of you, it means you are considering transitioning to homeschooling because really, if you’re going to basically be in charge of the education of your children right now, you may as well enjoy the freedom that homeschooling affords. I also realize that being thrust unplanned into this decision can be overwhelming. Most homeschool families spend a lot of time thinking, praying, and planning far advance to begin homeschooling. I hope this quick start guide to beginning homeschooling will help ease your mind.
I also understand that you may be one of those parents who has been thinking, praying, and planning for beginning homeschooling this year, and your decision has nothing to do with the current state of our country. Whether you’ve been thinking about homeschooling for years, and are now taking the leap, or you just made the decision in the past week, beginning homeschooling for the first time ever can be equally as nerve-wracking. Regardless of where you fall on that scale, I think you’ll find this quick start guide will help you get started with grace and ease.
Here are my top 5 tips that will help ease any concerns you may have while giving you the confidence you need to get starting homeschooling.
Quick Start Guide to Beginning Homeschooling
1 – Identify why you want to homeschool.
Before filing any piece of paper or trying to nail down a schedule, first determine why you want to homeschool. Use this time to consider how many children you’ll be homeschooling and any unique learning needs they have. Also think about how homeschooling will benefit your family. And how it may challenge it.
If you are weighing the options of homeschooling vs. public school distance learning, how many children do you have that will be sharing one computer? Is it feasible that all of your children will be able to complete their school work in a reasonable amount of time? This might be the tipping point for your to choose homeschooling. No one wants to spend from sun up to sun down trying to get through school because they have one computer and 5 kids who all need to use it. But on the flipside, if you’re hoping to send your children back to school as soon as you’re able, then you may want to stick with the school’s regimen.
For those you are not affected by the issues with public school right now, why do you want to homeschool? Is it for freedom to teach from a biblical worldview? Because your rowdy boy has ADHD? Because you’re a military family? Or may because you just want your kids home with you? Those are all valid reasons (and there are many, many more). Just be sure you have established in your own heart why you want to homeschool. This will serve you well on the harder days.
As you think on these things, go ahead and establish a few goals. Not everyone is on this journey with homeschooling through high school in mind, and that’s okay. But if you are, you may want to consider that as you make decisions early on. It’s also worth noting that goals can and often do change as you go on. So you can (later) tailor your child’s home education experience to those changes. Flexibility is always key with homeschooling!
Your why and your goals will become the foundation of your homeschool, and as I hinted to already, you can return to them for motivation to keep going. There are days when you’ll look longingly for the big yellow bus, trust me. But knowing your why and seeing the progress of your children (and you!) will help you close the door on any ideas of marching your kids to the nearest elementary school.
2 – Check the legalities.
Every state, providence, and country has laws for home education. You’ll find that some places are more lenient than others. In the United States, for example, about half of the states have low to no regulation for homeschooling. And while we’re on this topic – if you are going to be homeschooling just for a time, while public schools are in crisis, please, please don’t try to make long term changes to homeschool policies.
Many of us who are in it for life have worked hard to maintain the minimal regulations from our states and for most of us (not all, but most) that includes no funding of any kind from the government. Yes it is frustrating to pay taxes and get nothing from it. It is frustrating to know that others are getting an education for virtually free and you have to scrimp and save and make personal cuts to buy curriculum. But it is worth the cost for the freedom you have if you decide to homeschool long term.
Back to homeschool regulations.
What this simply means is that in most states, little needs to be done to start home educating your children. At most, there is typically paperwork to be filled out and filed with your local Board of Education. In some states, you may be required to enroll under an umbrella school.
Do be sure to check the legalities where you live to ensure you are compliant with the homeschooling laws. If you need to do a quick search and/or have legal questions, HSLDA is a trusted organization who has a wealth of information and support. They include the homeschool laws for each state on their website. If you’ll be homeschooling longterm, I also recommending joining them. They are one of the main organizations that fight to keep homeschooling legal and to give parents the rights they deserve to do so with minimal governmental oversite.
3 – Locate and secure a support system.
Most advice givers would tell you to jump into planning and finding curriculum next. However, speaking from experience, having a support system early on works wonders. I highly recommend, if at all possible, that you find a homeschool mentor to help guide you, answer questions, and support you though the beginning stages of getting started homeschooling. Next, you’ll want to find some kind of local support group.
Most towns and cities with a reasonable number of homeschoolers have some form of a homeschool group established, while others have groups and co-ops geared toward offering extracurricular learning experiences, debate clubs, sports activities, field trips, and more.
If your town does not have a physical group, thanks to our technologically advanced society, finding a homeschool group online is easier than ever. There are hundreds of local Facebook groups that you can join to connect with other homeschoolers in your area. There are also tons of homeschool (Facebook) groups for free resources, curriculum companies, and other like-minded ideas.
I’d also like to invite you to join my active Facebook group nearing 10,000 homeschool parents, bloggers, and curriculum developers – Christian Homeschool Connect. In addition to the Connect group, I also have a Facebook group where bloggers and curriculum companies share their sales, freebies, and giveaways. You are welcome to join it as well – Homeschool Families Freebies and Giveaways.
Although there are no group options on Instagram, it can still be a good place for inspiration and encouragement for your homeschooling journey. Following hashtags such as #homeschool #homeschoolmoms and #homeschoolfamilies is a good starting point.
4 – Establish a schedule.
Again, before you go on the hunt for the best curriculum and resources, it’s better to establish your homeschool schedule. Pull out a calendar and determine when you’d like your first day of homeschool to be. Mark out any important dates (birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc.), and decide when you’d like to take breaks. As a homeschool family, you have the freedom to homeschool when you want, as long as you meet your state’s requirement for the number of days (if there is one). Take advantage of this to perhaps homeschool in the heat of the summer, and vacation in the off-season. Or homeschool 4 days a week, instead of 5, evenings instead of mornings, Saturdays instead of Mondays. Whatever works best for your family!
Some homeschoolers who also have kids in public school may find it easier to stick with the traditional schedule of schooling August – May and align breaks with the public/private school system. There is also another common schedule that many homeschool parents lean toward called year-round homeschooling. With the year-round method, you would typically homeschool for four to six weeks and then take one to two weeks off. This schedule also has one big break in the summer, usually up to four weeks.
If you are a planner type of person, I have some suggestions for solid homeschool planners here.
Regardless of what you choose, you can always make any changes later. Yes, there’s that flexibility thing again!
5 – Find curriculum and resources.
This is often seen as the most stressful and overwhelming part to beginning homeschooling, but it doesn’t have to be. Below are a few practical tips to consider as you begin to search for curriculum and resources:
- Write down the grade levels of each of your children. Keep in mind that you can match any of their specific learning needs. So, if your child is 5th grade level in math but 4th grade level in English, you can accommodate that.
- Consider any development concerns or known issues, such as: dyslexia, autism, sensory processing disorder (SPD), etc.
- Note any special subjects or concepts that you would like to teach.
- Utilize any groups you’ve joined and ask for suggestions and/or reviews for “best curriculum for-”.
- Opt-in for free samples to try before you buy. You can also find a host of free homeschool resources to help you supplement your curriculum.
I’ve also written a more comprehensive article on how to choose curriculum, with a printable guide, to help. You might find looking at that helpful. If you care to know what homeschool companies are our favorites after homeschooling Preschool through High School, I share those here. as well as my top options for high school, if you happen to need that.
Two resources that I always recommend to every homeschool family, because they are helpful no matter how many children you have, what grades they are in, or what curriculum you use are SchoolhouseTeachers.com and Productive Homeschooling. And if you are on a tight budget, you can actually homeschool all of your kids very reasonably with these two memberships and have the need to purchase little else.
With these tips in mind, you can create a system to help you locate the perfect curriculum and resources for your children. As always, don’t hesitate to make changes where necessary.
A Word of Encouragement
Having homeschooled for many years, I’ll be the first to tell you that homeschooling is not a one-size fits all kind of thing. In fact, you will learn more about yourself and your children as you progress in the journey. Some of what you learn will delight you, others will mortify you.
The bad days are not to cause you to question whether you should be doing this or not, rather, they are to help you see how things could be done differently (or better). Not to mention, bad days do not get the final say. And truthfully, neither do the kids. I mention that because it’s almost a guarantee that at some point, your kids are going to beg to go to school. They all do. Take the time to find out why. For us, a simple trip on the city bus fixed my son’s desire to go to school, because what he really wanted to do was ride on the bus. Your situation could be more serious that that. But children shouldn’t be the decision-makers where education is the topic. In most cases, they simply don’t have the foresight to understand what is best for them educationally, and most of the time what they are really asking for can be remedied without taking them back to school.
The joy of homeschooling is wrapped in the fact that you are in control of your child’s education. You can help cultivate a love for learning that will go far beyond any textbook or workbook they’ve completed. And you will have the freedom to instill the worldview you wish your children to have. You love your children more than any (loving) teacher ever will. No one wants your children to succeed more than you. That will be your motivation to this, and do it well.
A couple of books that I can highly recommend to help keep you focused and encouraged include Teaching from Rest by Sarah MacKenzie, Homeschool Bravely by Jamie Erickson, and The Restful Homeschool Resolution by Aimee Smith.
As you begin your homeschooling journey, keep in mind that your homeschool will be just as unique as your family. Please don’t ever compare your worst day to someone else’s best day. Comparison truly is the death of contentment. You can do it. And I’m here to help. Feel free to reach out any time.