Congratulations! You have decided to homeschool. Making such a decision is huge and you may be wondering where to start. This article will cover the basics while guiding you to multiple resources to help you plan successfully.
- Find out if homeschooling is legal in your area. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states of the US, but it is not legal in every country. Research state requirements in the area in which you live. Some states require that you sign up with the local superintendent of education while others require you to join an umbrella or covering school. If you live outside of the US, there are also international homeschooling laws in each country.
- Choose an approach. Take a look at the many different approaches to homeschooling. You may be surprised at the many choices of how to homeschool from unschooling, relaxed, structured, online, co-op, classical, Charlotte Mason, Wild and Free, unit study style, roadschooling and many more. One of the beauties of homeschooling is that you can either choose an approach used by others or create an entirely new approach that fits your family better than anything else. Another beauty of homeschooling is that you are free to switch gears anytime you want in order to improve the experience.
- Find local opportunities. Take a look at the many opportunities on-line and in your area. You might be pleasantly surprised at the activities available in your area from co-ops, to library programs, hybrid opportunities, and more. One of the best ways to get the inside scoop on your area is to ask local friends who have been homeschooling for a while. Most states, and many cities, have homeschool associations that you can join. Using Google as a search for local opportunities works well too! Each state has a directory of homeschool organizations, and many of the state organizations have representatives in the major cities of that state. Most libraries, as well as associations such as 4-H, offer programs that are either free, or very affordable. Oftentimes, local homeschool organizations have organized sports teams, theater groups, bands, speech and debate clubs, and more. Joining local Facebook groups is another way to connect with homeschooling families in your area. In addition to local groups, there are a few rather large Facebook groups with members from all over that you may consider joining, depending on which approach to homeschooling you choose. Two of the larger Facebook groups are Hip Homeschool Moms Community, and It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool Highschool. Take a look at those, as well as at The Ultimate List of Homeschool Facebook Groups, to find groups that might fit your specific homeschooling interests. Many private schools, as well as certain public schools, offer opportunities for homeschooled students. The options offered may include the chance to participate with athletic and fine arts activities, take tests, attend classes, and more.
- Research learning styles. Talk to your children about how they best learn. This is an important step to take before you buy any materials or sign up for particular programs. There are more than a few books available on this topic and many can be checked out from your local library. Cythnia Tobias is an expert. Attending one of her workshops years ago helped me understand my children and how they learn. It also helped me understand how I learn! Check out her 25-minute talk about learning styles and prepare to have your eyes opened!
- Develop a philosophy of education. Write down what you plan to achieve so that you will know how to set goals as well as how to measure success. After a few years of tweaking and changing my philosophy of education this is the end result: Encourage my children’s inquisitiveness so that they will develop a love of learning. Teach them to ask questions and question answers. Help them learn how to find information from reliable sources. Help them discover their gifts and talents so that they can make a plan for life after high school. Create independent learners so that they can achieve anything they want or need to achieve. It was also important to my husband and I that we, as Christians, raise our children to know and love God, so that they would understand a develop a biblical worldview of life.
- Make a plan. After deciding what approach you want to take, make lists of materials needed for the approach you have chosen, and set goals. Will you homeschool for 9 months out of the year, or will you homeschool year around? Will you dedicate a certain part of each day to study or will the daily schedule be flexible? Join the groups you find helpful and register your students for any opportunities you’ve discovered that will be beneficial for your family.
- Be prepared. Acquire the materials you plan to use, whether purchasing or borrowing (either from a library or from friends). There are many opportunities to purchase materials used at low prices, both online and at used book sales that usually take place late spring or early summer. If the materials you plan to use are expensive, I would suggest that you borrow them from a friend before purchasing in order to be sure they will work for your family before making a pricey investment. If you keep your curriculum in good condition, you can make some money reselling it at the end of each school year.
- Be flexible. Realize that if your students have been in school, it may take time to find what works best for your family, so be prepared to be flexible and make changes accordingly. Some say that it will take the same number of months equal to the number of years your student has been in traditional school for them to adapt to homeschooling. Whether that is true, or not, know that there will be a period of adjustment for everyone involved. Don’t be afraid to talk about what is working and what isn’t working and find a solution to the problem whether that means adjusting an attitude or switching approaches and/or curriculum.
- Think outside the box. The reason that schools have a scope and key is because they have to have a level of continuity across the board. Having twenty plus students of the same age in one room does not allow room for accommodating to each child’s learning style much less any learning disabilities. As a homeschooling family with children of multiple ages, you do have that privilege — so make the most of it and don’t be afraid to be different. For one of my daughters-in-law, Megan, thinking outside the box means doing a lot of school outside, or laying down on a blanket instead of sitting at the table, or letting her son pick the order of what he wants to work on first so that he can take ownership. For me, I allowed the children to play with Legos quietly during read aloud time. I was not committed to a daily schedule that required our schoolwork to get done during particular hours. My daughter, Kelley, uses her family’s time in the car to listen to audiobooks together or to work on memorization projects. Discover what works best in your situation!
- Have fun. Keep joy in the journey. You do not want your decision to homeschool ruin your familial relationships. If life becomes miserable, something needs to change. Granted, every day won’t be stress-free and fun, but that should be the goal. I homeschooled for more than 32 years and, although I would make a few changes, I would do it all over in a heartbeat.
This is a broad overview for those of you new to homeschooling. I am writing another blog that will address academic goals for students of all ages. What you plan for elementary students will look much different than what you plan for high school students. And, if you have children of all ages, then you may need some guidance there as well. When I began homeschooling I was blessed to have a mentor guide me towards which books to read, philosophies to consider, and curriculum to use. Hopefully I can do the same for you! Stay tuned!