Are You Ready to Start Homeschooling?
Hello! I’m Jamie and I’m here to welcome, inspire, and help you on your life-changing homeschool journey! If you’re wondering where in the world to start… you’ve come to the right place.
Let’s start together…
Maybe you’re on the fence, or maybe you’ve had to jump in, and now you’re trying to make sense of it all. Maybe you’re ready to dig deeper and really prepare to start homeschooling. Whatever your reason, I’m here to be your personal guide to a great start!
I guess you could call me a homeschool veteran, it feels odd calling myself that but, believe it or not, I’m a mom of six who has homeschooled for 15 years. I remember those first days of homeschooling like it was yesterday. And, I remember wondering if I could ever make sense of it all. Sound familiar? But, I’m here to tell you, if I can do it… you can do it! In fact, let’s do this together!
First, you probably started by getting your feet wet with our 4 Things Beginners Should Know article, but we really need to dive a little deeper to help you create a solid foundation for your future. As we work through these steps, I’ll throw in a few of my “veteran tips”, you know, those things I had to learn the hard way! Are you ready? Great, let’s go!
Step 1: State Homeschooling Laws
One of the first things every new homeschooling parent needs to do is to understand and fulfill their state’s homeschool laws. These homeschooling regulations are often a few simple tasks that you complete at the outset of your homeschool experience. The team at Homeschool.com has created a quick and handy reference of all 50 state Department of Education pages that discuss state homeschooling regulations. If a state did not have its own DOE website then we have linked to the National guidelines listing state homeschool regulations.
We would suggest, however, to avoid contacting your local school district beyond what is necessary. As to be expected, their job is to keep students in public schools, and they may not provide the information you need for homeschooling. Finally, your state may require homeschooling parents to have a high school diploma or college degree, so make sure to be familiar with all of your state homeschooling regulations.
Veteran Tip: Some local districts may request more information from homeschooling families than their state requires. Being aware of your rights and your state homeschooling laws can keep you from extra effort.
Find Your State’s Homeschool Laws
Step 2: Discover Your “HOW”
Ok, but first you need to know your “why!” One of the first things that I do each year is to write out “why” I am planning to homeschool that year. I know… it sounds a little crazy, but hang on.
Veteran Tip: I write out my “WHY” with all the passion and determination that I have at the beginning, so that later in the year when the bad day(s) come I can pull that “golden nugget” out and let my own words refresh and restore my vision.
Once I have my “why” nailed down I move on to “how” I will accomplish that. Your “how” is how you will teach your children in your homeschool. Homeschoolers often call this your “homeschool method” or a “homeschool style.” Although every homeschool is unique, certain homeschooling styles and approaches have become very popular. Most homeschoolers do not follow one style or method exactly since there are so many different types of homeschooling styles. Instead, they select the ideas and suggestions that fit their family and their lifestyle and eventually end up with a method all their own as they start homeschooling. It may take some time to develop your own routine and you may discover that you start out more structured in the beginning and become more flexible and relaxed as time goes on. Every family is unique, so find the type of homeschooling that works best for you and your children. Not sure how to find out your unique homeschooling method? Take this easy homeschool style quiz to get an idea of what homeschool method works for you. Remember, if you take the types of homeschooling quiz a few times and get different answers, you may be an eclectic homeschooler!
Make Accommodations for Working While Homeschooling
If you are a single working parent, or both parents work full-time, your homeschool method may need to be custom-tailored to your family dynamic. However, it is possible, so don’t feel discouraged. Homeschooling while working takes creativity and juggling, but you can still homeschool your children if you feel it’s right for your family.
Make Accommodations for Homeschooling a Child With Special Needs
If you have a child with special needs, “how” you homeschool is going to look different for your family. However, homeschooling is an excellent option for children with special needs. Certain states extend special needs help to homeschooling families, so be sure to check with your state’s Department of Education parameters when looking into how to homeschool. Without state help, though, there are other great resources for special needs families. I encourage you to connect with local homeschool support groups, related Facebook groups, and your local library for resources. Read more about homeschooling a special needs child here.
Discovering your “HOW” should include:
- Consider your priorities. Academic, athletic, special needs, spiritual, etc.
- Think about your current routine. What works? What doesn’t? or establish your new routine.
- Take the homeschool style quiz. Maybe even take it a few times to see if you are an eclectic homeschooler.
- Remember, you can always try a different method or even combine multiple styles!
- For full-time working parents, you can homeschool at night or on the weekends. It IS possible!
- For special needs children, inquire into your state assistance and connect with local homeschool support groups for homeschool help.
Step 3: Know Your Child
Your child is absolutely unique and amazing, and finding out how your child learns and what motivates them is key to choosing a curriculum that your family will enjoy this year! Taking both your homeschool teaching method and your child’s learning preferences into account is an important part of creating a solid homeschool foundation.
Veteran Tip: When I choose my curriculum I keep in mind my child’s learning preferences. I don’t always cater to them completely, but I do try to incorporate the ways of learning that they enjoy!
You’ll also want to figure out what motivates your student. Discover everything you can about how they learn. Some children enjoy a more hands-on approach to learning while others really love to watch and listen. Take the learning preferences quiz to help you figure out where your child’s learning preferences lie!
Step 4: Finding a Homeschool Curriculum
Finding a homeschool curriculum that fits your family and lifestyle is so important! One of the best ways to get insight on homeschooling and homeschool curriculum is to find a mentor or veteran homeschooler to share insight, inspiration, and advice. If you can’t find a mentor near you, I’d love to help!
Veteran Tip: Get information from other homeschoolers, conventions, and aligning your curriculum to your teaching style and your student’s learning preferences. You’ll find curriculum that matches your personlity and life style is often the best curriculum for your unique needs.
Finding a Homeschool Support Group
Connecting with a local homeschool group can provide invaluable homeschool help through suggestions, information, and resources. These homeschool families already know how to navigate the state requirements and homeschool curriculum and can easily share what works! But most importantly fellow homeschoolers can give you insight on homeschool curriculum and programs with which they’ve had first-hand experience. Support groups are so helpful in finding your best-fit curriculum.
Attending Homeschool Conventions
In our current pandemic “new normal,” attending a homeschool convention is not an option. However, there are many virtual homeschool conventions that are great options for homeschool information, resources, and inspiration. Below you’ll find two virtual conventions that I’ve had the privilege to be a part:
- Great Homeschool Convention (Jamie shares 2 sessions)
- Mega Homeschool Vendor Hall – find Homeschool.com and grab the free download!
I anticipate that one day in the near future, we’ll be attending homeschool conventions again. If you get a chance to attend, I would encourage you to take it. I have personally found amazing inspiration and encouragement from the speaking sessions and the camaraderie of hundreds of “our own people.” When you get the chance to participate in a homeschool convention, take a look at our suggestions for preparing.
Attending a homeschool convention offers the opportunity to…
- Listen to speaker sessions from homeschooling experts and teachers
- Hear from homeschooling parents just like you, new and experienced alike
- Get word-of-mouth recommendations from people who’ve actually used the products
- Find homeschool support groups
- Feel connected to people in your new tribe
- Browse curriculum and programs in person
- Enjoy convention discounts on bundles and curriculum purchases!
Settle on Your Curriculum!
Finding local support and attending a homeschool virtual convention are great first steps in finding your best-fit homeschool curriculum, but at the end of the day… you have to make that decision. This is one of the most difficult steps in getting started, but you’ve come this far you can do it. For more tips join me for our podcast on selecting a homeschool curriculum.
In summary, here are the main steps to selecting a homeschool curriculum:
- Consider your purpose and mission for homeschooling.
- Which method best fits your reason(s) for homeschooling?
- Determine your child’s learning style with this quiz.
- Use our Curriculum Finder Resource Guide to filter and narrow down your ideal curriculum options.
- Try out curricula with either a free sample, free trial, or free return period.
- Remember, you can always switch the curriculum, even mid-year!
Step 5: Plan Your Homeschool Year
This is essential! I’ve gone from overplanning to under planning and can tell you that a simple solid homeschool plan is a necessity. But, a plan that includes goals is vital for creating an amazing homeschool year that accomplishes what you set out to achieve. In fact, I don’t plan an entire year at once because I don’t have an eraser big enough to fix what would happen!
Veteran Tip: To plan my homeschool, I create a simple framework at the beginning of the year, and then build on it as the year progresses.
- Create a year-long calendar. I do this by choosing what days we will “school” and what days we will have off. I do try to include 180 days of instruction since that is one of the regulations of my state.
- Create quarterly goals with the curriculum “scope and sequence.” I divide the content for each subject into four quarters and then align those quarters with the calendar I just created. Trying to make sure each quarter has about the same number of homeschool days and weeks in each, approximately 9 weeks in each quarter.
- Create weekly goals. I will usually have about 4 or 5 big goals for the week, and then I create my daily plans from those goals. But, I use the “KISS” method. Keep it Simple, Sweetheart!
- Create SIMPLE daily plans. I don’t create too many daily plans in advance. I find that if I plan a month in advance I spend more time erasing! Sometimes my daily plans will simply list a book for our read aloud, list page numbers for the Language Arts workbook, a book name for their personal silent reading, a lesson number for the online class, and an episode name for the YouTube history channel we are using. Simple works to keep me stress-free.
- Establish a simple daily routine or schedule. Yes, my friend, the daily routine is also part of your homeschool plan. Establishing what you do and a process for creating daily habits is part of establishing a good foundation for homeschooling. I am not one for time constraints on our schedule. In fact, in the early years I did that and every time I couldn’t meet our scheduled times, I felt like a failure. Now, we simply set down a routine or order of business for each day, and we get to it as diligently as we can. (Veteran tip!)
I use our Free Homeschool Sanity Saver Planner to plan my year. I get it printed (because the colors are beautiful) and I put it in a three-ring binder so that I can easily change the order or add a bulk amount of certain pages. I often use several of the pages during the week, so I print numerous copies of those and the binder makes organization a breeze.
Step 6: Keep Good Homeschool Records
Keeping comprehensive homeschool records is one of the areas that so many parents worry about. It may seem like a daunting task, but if you take small steps consistently you’ll build good homeschool records over time. Here are some of the things I suggest using in your homeschool record keeping.
- Keep a grade book. This can be as simple as a notebook, a spreadsheet, or even a printable paper grade book. You’ll find a free one below!
- Create report cards. These come in handy to help your children see their progress. They also can be used for discounts and rewards at restaurants and even theme parks.
- Create transcripts for your high schoolers. Definitely don’t wait till the last minute to create a transcript. Also, be sure to include course descriptions on your transcript since most colleges will want to know.
Still Have Questions? Find Answers Here.
Questions And Solutions For Getting Started Homeschooling
You’ve come through the essential steps for getting started on your homeschool journey, but you probably have dozens of questions that need answers. I’ve taken the time to answer these questions in several Q and A video sessions and I’ve summarized those “getting started questions” in a Q&A About Homeschooling Your Child Article. In this article, I address simple things like:
- What are the benefits of homeschooling?
- What homeschool supplies do I need?
- What is my child’s learning style?
- How do I find homeschooling support?
- How do I homeschool and work?
- Is socialization an issue for homeschooled students?
- What to do if a homeschool subject is difficult?
- What if I mess up?
- How many hours a day do I need to homeschool?
- What do I need to teach my homeschooled child?
- How do I grade my child’s work? How do I create transcripts?
- What do I need for testing and evaluation?
- How do I homeschool a high schooler?
- How do I homeschool a student with special needs?
- How do I teach homeschool lessons?
Find Solutions to your Getting Started Questions.
General FAQs About Homeschooling
Well, here we are. Congratulations, we’ve covered the big stuff about how to homeschool. However, I know it’s a lot to take in and even more to process and put into action. I have been there myself! This is why I’ve created a Frequently Asked Questions page that addresses everything that I could think of that homeschoolers might want to know about how to homeschool! Whether you are just looking for more information or you need comprehensive answers, our Frequently Asked Questions about Homeschooling offers answers to the nitty-gritty questions we’ve received over the years. Give it a read-through and if you still have concerns, feel free to send us a message on our Facebook page!
In our Frequently Asked Questions, we will cover topics like:
- Is homeschooling legal?
- Do homeschool parents need to be certified teachers?
- How much does homeschooling cost?
- What are the pros and cons of homeschooling?
- What about socialization?
- How does homeschooling affect college admissions?
- Do homeschooled children succeed in the “real world”?
- …and more!
Find Answers to your General Homeschool Questions.