How do I get started homeschooling? What are the benefits of homeschooling? How does homeschooling work?
Homeschooling can be accomplished in many ways through online courses, textbooks, and even co-op classes, but ultimately the parents/guardians are responsible for a child’s education. Each state in the U.S. recognizes homeschooling as a legal form of education, and parents can decide at any time to begin homeschooling.
Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we hear.
How Do I Get Started Homeschooling?
Homeschooling is legal in all fifty states. In fact, you could conceivably start homeschooling today. Just check with your state laws. Homeschooling is an easy process and one that over two million have gone ahead and prepared the way for you! However, as it is with any important endeavor you’ll need to take some time to make sure you get started on the right foot.
We’ve been here helping the homeschooling community for over 20 years now, and we’ll be here to help you as you take each step. To get the ball rolling, there are a few tried and true steps to getting started with homeschooling. You’ll want to follow these whether you plan on homeschooling for the long haul or just temporarily homeschooling.
Visit our How to Start Homeschooling page for your first steps in starting to homeschool!
- Research your state’s homeschooling laws and fulfill their requirements
- Understand your student’s learning styles and what motivates them. Take this Homeschool Styles Quiz and this Learning Styles Quiz to get you started!
- Research curriculum that supports your homeschool goals and your student’s learning styles. Take this quick curriculum quiz to narrow down your choices. After you’ve discovered your homeschool method and child learning styles, this quiz will help find a curriculum to align with both! The quiz results will direct you to ideal curricula in our Resource Guide for convenient reference. On another note, if your goal is temporary homeschooling, use a homeschool curriculum that is easy to start. Time4Learning offers a free Welcome to Homeschool guide for families just getting started.
- Organize your homeschooling location, your curriculum, your plan for daily homeschooling, and your daily schedule. Click here for examples of daily schedules for a variety of homeschooling types.
- Take a deep breath, and get started!
- Contact us if you need any help!
Listen in to our podcast Episode 34: Answers to Your Homeschool Questions! – recording from a recent Q&A session!
What Are the Benefits of Homeschooling?
There are many ways to homeschool, in fact, homeschooling looks different for every family. However, most often the parent takes time to determine how they would like their child to learn and what methods of homeschooling might entail. Does your child enjoy reading and completing worksheets? Then using a homeschooling curriculum that takes that approach may be best for your family. If your child enjoys technology then using an online homeschooling curriculum might be a great fit.
The homeschooling experience is unique to each family, which also means the benefits are dependent on the individual. However, there are a few benefits enjoyed by the majority of homeschooling families.
For example, the freedom of homeschooling allows parents to tailor the education plan to their child’s needs. As a result, your homeschooler could be ahead in reading but behind in math, and with homeschooling, the parents can provide ample instruction for every level without the constraints of a grade level.
As another example, the freedom of homeschooling allows for sick days, health issues, travel, and more. School doesn’t continue without the student; instead, it works with your life. This reality can provide a huge relief for single parents, working parents, or families with multiple children and health issues.
Quite possibly, the most popular merit of homeschooling is that it meets your children where they are. Homeschooling celebrates their individual strengths and gently supports their weaknesses without the fear of failure.
- Assess your child’s individual needs
- Take control of your child’s education to provide the help they need
- Homeschooling offers one-on-one instruction
- Provide a truly personalized education plan
- Learning is self-paced
- Reduce the fear of failure
- Eliminate classroom teasing
- Create a distraction-free learning environment.
- Build academic confidence by strengthening weak areas and celebrating strengths.
- The flexibility of homeschooling allows for studying wherever, whenever, and however needed.
- Parents can even homeschool for free if they have a limited budget.
How Does Homeschooling Work?
Homeschooling is not necessarily “school at home,” but it is learning at home instead of in a traditional school setting. As we’ve already mentioned, there are many different methods available for homeschooling, ranging from parents creating lesson plans and teaching all subjects to everything being taught online and parents having to do practically nothing…with every variation in between.
There is no required curriculum or timeline. School can be done whenever and wherever suits your needs. You simply choose the best option for your family. Parents have many reasons for choosing to homeschool (see the Benefits section above), and there is no “right” way to do it. Finding a rhythm and schedule that works for you and your family is what matters.
What Homeschool Supplies Do I Need?
Back-to-school is exciting for most parents regardless of if they homeschool their children. The anticipation of a fresh year, unspoiled and organized neatly is fun for everyone. As a bonus, the school supplies sales are a great chance for homeschool families to stock up! Whether you have a large family or only one child, it’s a good idea to fill your basket with supplies. Sooner or later, you will use these boxes of pencils and empty notebooks–so you might as well take advantage of the sales!
However, when you’re starting out, you may be uncertain about what supplies you’ll need for homeschooling. After all, for traditional schools, teachers distribute supplies lists for class size, in expectation of large group projects and long-term, multiple-student use.
Even if it feels odd to use one of these lists for teaching one child at home, it’s actually a great template shopping list for new homeschoolers. It is always helpful to have extra supplies on hand for when inspiration sparks!
Some homeschooling families have a “school-at-home” approach where their homeschool looks very similar to traditional education, while others may have a more natural approach to homeschooling and use exploration and discovery to ignite their curiosity for learning.
However, if you are planning to homeschool temporarily then you might want to consider the most straightforward and easiest to implement homeschooling methods. For example, there are many online homeschooling curricula out there that enable you to subscribe monthly and get started within a few days.
In any case, stocking up on a few basic supplies for your homeschool is a good idea. Start with this list and see where it takes you!
- Notebooks and/or notebook paper
- Printer paper and toner/ink
- Graph paper
- Index cards
- Pencil sharpeners
- Graphing calculator
- Elmer’s glue
- Glue sticks
- Glitter glue
- Hot glue gun
- Construction paper
- Colored pencils and/or crayons
- Watercolor paints + paintbrushes
- 1-hole punch and 3-hole punch
- Pencil cases
- 3-ring binders
- Pocket folders
- Dry erase markers
- Corkboard + pushpins
- Stapler + staples
- Rubber bands
- Pencil clips
- Safety pins
- Binder clips
- Page protectors
What is My Child’s Learning Preference or Motivator?
Children are constantly learning through play and life in general. It’s a completely natural process that occurs without intense effort. Yet, as a homeschool parent, taking it to the next level and making those natural experiences an intentional learning effort all become a daily part of the homeschooling adventure. In fact, most homeschooling families realize that homeschooling is a life-long learning process!
One of our first suggestions for new homeschoolers is to research your child’s learning preferences. Not every teaching method works for all children, which means that knowing your child’s learning style is key to their success! When you adjust how you teach to their learning styles, homeschooling becomes much more efficient. Aligning your homeschool program or resources with your child’s learning style can make a massive difference–perhaps even change consistent C’s to straight A’s. These children may seem to struggle with the lessons when in reality, they are struggling with the teaching style.
To find your child’s learning style, have them take our free quiz. You can find out their learning style in only a minute or two. Take it a couple of times to be certain, if you want. You as the homeschool parent can even take the quiz to gain insight about yourself and how you may be naturally inclined to teach.
There are several different learners. Here are the main learning styles:
How Do I Find Homeschooling Support?
It’s so important to get plugged in! Finding support and encouragement is vital for the homeschooling parent. Homeschoolers need each other! There will be days that everything feels questionable. There will be moments when quitting looks like the best option. Yet, having a support group that is there to encourage, give advice, and offer a shoulder to cry on is what often makes all the difference! It’s great to know that we’re there for each other!
Thankfully, there are hundreds of homeschool local support groups and co-ops around the country. With the growth of homeschooling families, parents have banded together to provide help and encouragement to each other. Further, support groups may offer the chance for group discounts on field trips and parents can even swap teaching skills.
An added benefit of homeschool support groups is that they’re great for the kids! Homeschool groups give your children the chance to meet other homeschooled students, make new friends, learn cooperatively, and share their experiences with homeschooling. Further, getting to know other homeschooled students can help with the transition to homeschooling itself. It’s a big change for every aspect of a child’s daily life, so knowing other homeschooled kids can help them feel anchored again.
In the end, connecting with other homeschooling parents can help you through the difficult days and remind you why you started in the first place. To get started:
- Search for local homeschool groups here.
- Browse Facebook for groups to connect remotely.
- Research co-op opportunities for homeschooled students to take classes together. These are sometimes known as micro-schools.
How Does Homeschooling Work if I Work?
You CAN work and homeschool! There are ways to homeschool inexpensively or even for free, and there are some amazingly creative ways to bring your work and homeschool together! Your family can experience a new level of learning even if you are a single parent or both parents work.
Here at Homeschool.com, our team is full of working homeschool parents. We’ve been in your shoes and we’re happy to say it’s still possible! But, your question wasn’t IF you can juggle homeschooling and work, it’s HOW, and we have several answers for you.
First, though, we have to be real with you: it’s not easy. No one homeschools because it’s easy–we homeschool because it’s the best educational choice for our children. If you have to work, learning can happen at night, on the weekends, or independently/with your help when you’re available. When you have to work while homeschooling, it’s all about organization and boundaries. Again, it’s not easy, but it’s absolutely possible and a common reality with homeschooling families.
Here’s how to homeschool:
Is Socialization an Issue for Homeschooled Students?
Homeschoolers are often asked about socialization. Truthfully, it’s probably the most common question we hear. However, as most experienced homeschoolers can attest, the difficulty with homeschooling is actually finding time to stay home! Homeschool families typically find themselves involved in co-ops, support groups, extracurricular activities, music lessons, library visits, and more that keep them socializing with a wide variety of ages and demographics. Homeschool socialization is not an issue as long as you get connected!
The stereotype that homeschooled students are socially awkward is archaic and simply unrealistic. These days, there are innumerable options for homeschoolers to connect with other students, both homeschooled and public-schooled. Many local public schools offer homeschooled students the option of participating in sports, music, or art, and local support groups can fill in the rest.
For people who are genuinely concerned about your children’s socialization opportunities, you can offer examples from your homeschool schedule. In time, those same individuals questioning you will no doubt see what lovely members of society your children have become!
- Socialization is not an issue for homeschooled students.
- Homeschoolers can often participate in local public school sports and music
- Local support groups usually provide co-ops for weekly classes and teamwork
- Homeschoolers can always enroll in classes available to the public for their age group, for example, dance, music, gymnastics, basketball, and more!
What Do I Do If a Homeschool Subject is Too Difficult?
Naturally, certain courses are more advanced and challenging than others. However, you don’t have to be proficient in each topic for your homeschooler to succeed. There are high-quality homeschool resources to help for every course at every grade level. From online homeschooling curricula to homeschool co-ops, the homeschool parent can easily outsource the courses that they don’t feel confident teaching. Explore our site for help with alternative homeschooling options, dual enrollment, and even finding a homeschool curriculum.
We understand it’s intimidating to homeschool a subject that’s personally challenging for you. Thankfully, homeschool curricula come equipped with teacher’s guides, instruction manuals, and answer keys so you don’t have to know all the answers. Further, there are plenty of homeschooling programs, especially online homeschool curricula, that offer teaching support. Finally, homeschoolers can join a co-op class to learn from another parent, and high school students could enroll in courses at a community college.
In summary, if you feel intimidated by a challenging course…
- Rely on the pre-made teacher’s guides, answer keys, and the abundance of videos on YouTube and Khan Academy.
- Sign up your child for a co-op class to learn from a skilled parent.
- Take an online course with teacher support.
- Enroll your high schooler in a class at a community college.
What If I Mess Up?
You will make mistakes. Every homeschooling parent does, but the key is to learn from the mistakes and become better because of them. When you make mistakes, we’re always here to help you find a solution. Listen in to the Homeschooling & Loving It Podcast for loads of homeschool encouragement! As you’ll see, learning doesn’t take place only for the student; homeschooling ignites a learning lifestyle for the entire family!
When you realize you’ve made a mistake, whether with over- or under-planning, choosing an unfit curriculum, too advanced courses, falling “behind,” or anything else, the best thing to do is to pause. Take a moment to recenter yourself with your breath. Remind yourself of why you began homeschooling in the first place. Refocus on your homeschooling goals. Only then should you venture into finding a solution.
The thing is, in the end, it’s honestly not a big deal. You can always change a curriculum, even mid-year, or throw out a program, drop out of a class, and so on. There may be some money lost in the process, but that’s better than pushing forward with an inefficient resource/schedule/routine, etc. The beauty of homeschooling is that your children can always catch up, leap forward, or take breaks as needed. Homeschooling is meant to work with your life.
So, if you realize you’ve made a mistake, here are a few steps to resolve the situation.
- Breathe. Remember your homeschooling inspiration and original goals.
- Connect with a support group. Ask if those parents experienced the same and what they did about it.
- Make the change. Even if it’s in the middle of the year, even if the return period is expired, even if you’ve only used a few lessons of the textbook and it feels like a waste. The change will be worthwhile, in the end.
- Move forward. Avoid dwelling on the mistake. You can’t undo it or change that it happened, but you have full control over what you do next.
How Many Hours a Day Do I Need to Homeschool?
New homeschoolers oftentimes want to know how long they should spend homeschooling per day. Homeschooling will look different for each homeschooling family, so there really isn’t an exact answer. The best practice is to make learning goals and then find creative ways to achieve those goals in your homeschool. The time it takes each day to achieve those goals may be different from day to day and week to week. So, your homeschool schedule will be unique to your family! As long as there is progress made and learning is taking place, the time constraints are irrelevant!
As a general rule, though, elementary students are often able to wrap up homeschooling in 4 to 5 hours, while high schoolers may take longer. High school coursework is more intensive and therefore requires more time. (Expert tip: avoid over-scheduling your high schooler’s day or week. The lessons will take longer than anticipated!)
If your homeschool days are feeling like a struggle, perhaps you just need to change up your schedule. It’s better to make a change than to stick with an inefficient process. Here is an excellent resource for how to plan a daily homeschool schedule! When you are planning out your homeschool year, these five tips for organization can help. If you’re new to homeschooling, you may not know that some families choose to homeschool year-round. Year-round homeschooling doesn’t mean your children study nonstop, in fact, it often allows for more breaks and less memory loss between those breaks. Here’s how to plan for a year-round homeschool schedule.
If your state has strict regulations, you may need to keep attendance with a minimum number of school-day hours. However, if your state has more flexible options, you could even unschool or gameschool if that feels right for your family!
- Elementary students can often wrap up homeschooling in half a day.
- High school courses take longer, so plan for fewer assignments per day than in earlier grades.
- There isn’t one “right” way for homeschooling. Just aim to meet your state regulations and learning goals!
What Do I Need to Teach My Homeschooled Child?
The answer to this question is mostly dependent on your state regulations. Certain states require specific subjects with proof of progress at the end of the year. Other states, however, don’t even require families to register for homeschooling. To be safe, your first step should be checking your state laws.
State regulations usually call for a minimum of the core subjects: Math, Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies. However, these requirements often specify certain courses; for example, social studies may need to include the state’s history, the U.S. Constitution, economics, and so on. Local homeschool support groups can help you understand your state’s laws and how they translate to a homeschooling curriculum plan.
However, once those state requirements are satisfied, you can add anything else to your plan for the year! Music, dance, or sports are popular choices for electives. For example, Language Arts could include a unit study about Jane Austen, or science could involve weekly nature journaling. All that to say, you can add anything once the minimum requirements are fulfilled. It may also help to look for learning milestones per grade. Personally, when adding electives, activities, or unit studies to our schedule, one of our favorite approaches is following our children’s interests with delight-directed learning!
Beyond answering “What does my homeschooler need to learn,” this question can also be translated to mean, “What teaching supplies do I need for homeschooling?” To that extent, it depends on your selected homeschooling curriculum, program, and resources. However, generally, you’ll need a computer, good internet, a printer, a homeschool planner, a whiteboard, teacher guides/instruction manuals, a library card, and organized materials for each child.
There are numerous topic variations for core subjects and electives. Generally, your homeschooled child will need to learn:
- Language Arts (reading, writing, spelling, grammar)
- Social Studies (history, geography, economics, government)
- Foreign Language (Spanish or American Sign Language are preferred at universities)
- Fine Arts (drawing/sketching, painting, pottery, music, dance, creative writing, woodwork, or home economics)
- Health (including physical education)
- Computer Literacy (typing and basic computer skills)
How Do I Grade & Create Homeschool Transcripts?
The anticipation of grading your children’s work can be intimidating for new homeschooling parents. You may even feel inadequate. After all, you might wonder, if you’re not a certified teacher, how can you know what to do? Thankfully, it’s a simple solution! These days, homeschool curriculum either comes with a teacher’s guide/answer key, or it’s a computer program with automatic grading.
If you’re homeschooling from a textbook, consult the supplied answer key to grade your child’s work. You don’t have to know the answers off the top of your head. Online homeschooling programs with automatic grading are especially helpful because they complete that step itself. Sometimes, though, answers aren’t “cut-and-dry” or absolute, so you may need to adjust grades occasionally. Thankfully, most homeschool programs accommodate parental override.
Beyond grading, record-keeping is probably one of the most dreaded aspects of homeschooling, while also being one of the more ambiguous necessities. What does record-keeping mean? What kind of records do you need to keep? How do you create state-required portfolios for your children?
The most popular documents include:
- a transcript
- an annotated reading list
- a curriculum plan
- a portfolio (which contains samples of the work and grades)
- a report card
- testing results
- attendance charts (days and hours spent homeschooling).
Even if your state doesn’t require these records, they are often helpful for an easy overview of your child’s academic experience. For creating transcripts, it is especially helpful to start early and add to each year as you go instead of going back through your records to fill it in later on.
Here are solid resources for homeschool planning, grading, and record-keeping.
Planning and Grading:
- Homeschool Help Printable Pack
- Sanity Saver Homeschool Planner
- Looking for a Simple Way to Plan Your Homeschool?
- Resource Guide for All Types of Homeschool Testing
- Know Your Homeschool Terminology!
- 3 Easy Ways to Plan Your Homeschool Year
How Does Homeschooling Work with Testing and Evaluation?
Several states require annual, end-of-year testing for registered homeschoolers. Testing helps the state ensure students are progressing academically. For certain states, testing may be required every few years rather than annually. Additionally, most states that don’t require testing typically permit homeschoolers to partake in standardized testing, if desired.
To fulfill your state requirements for testing, look at the homeschooling requirements on your Department of Education page for details. They will provide the information needed for where and how to complete testing. Further, it is helpful to connect with a local homeschooling support group. These experienced homeschooling families can help explain the state laws and your options as a homeschool parent.
Parents may voluntarily have their children participate in testing for various reasons, the most common being to simply evaluate their learning progress from a national standard. Testing identifies the student’s weak areas, which gives homeschool parents the chance to work with their children to strengthen these trouble areas. Further, testing regularly can help high schoolers feel more comfortable with testing and better prepared for the SAT/ACT. As a result, it’s very possible these students could score higher on college preparation tests. Consider the pros and cons of testing if you think it may be a good option for your child.
Other than standardized testing, parents may feel inclined to have their homeschooled children tested in other ways, for example, to determine special needs or gifted learning. Examples of common tests for homeschoolers include placement tests (which are especially helpful for new homeschooled students!), student IQ, and learning disabilities. We have a resource guide for all types of homeschooling testing to help you get started.
About Portfolios: For end-of-year evaluations other than standardized testing, portfolio assessments are becoming increasingly popular. In fact, many states require homeschool parents to keep a portfolio of each child’s progress through the year regardless of testing. You can learn more about portfolio assessments here and find free portfolio resources here!
To research and prepare for testing, it will be helpful for homeschooling parents to…
- Check if your state requires standardized testing.
- Connect with a local homeschool support group for information and ideas.
- Consider other areas of testing for your student’s best learning experience.
How Does Homeschooling Work with a High Schooler?
The high school grades are arguably the most intimidating for homeschooling parents. In fact, a large percentage of families homeschool up to high school and then enroll their teens in traditional school. This choice is often made because parents want to ensure their student’s chances for college are unhindered. Further, parents may feel more confident with traditional schools offering advanced classes or lab opportunities, for example, chemistry, physics, college composition, and more. However, with the right resources, homeschooling parents can provide an equally thorough high school education for their teens.
There are a few ways to make the homeschooled high school experience feel complete and high-quality. First, connecting with a local homeschool support group is one of the best options for high school because it offers the chance for families to collaborate on co-op classes. With the help of fellow parents, you can sign up your teen for an advanced class taught by a skilled homeschool teacher or enjoy group rates for lab supplies. Finally, the camaraderie of a homeschool class can help students feel more motivated to complete their coursework as well as power through difficult sections.
Second, dual enrollment is an excellent option for high school students. Check with your local community college to see if homeschooled teens are permitted to enroll in classes. Most community colleges offer prerequisite classes, which can be fantastic options for a high school class. For example, if you either aren’t members of a homeschool group or your group doesn’t have co-ops for certain classes, like biology, your teen could take biology in person at a community college.
Additionally, dual enrollment is a wonderful option for your teen to earn high school credit and college credit simultaneously. Your teen could possibly graduate high school early and fast-track their associate’s degree. Further, community college classes work well for fulfilling state requirements, and these credits nicely round out a high school transcript for future universities.
Third, choosing an online homeschool program can take the burden off homeschooling parents. These programs usually come ready to go so you can start homeschooling without the need for extra planning. Further, these multi-subject programs are complete grade levels to avoid concerns about learning gaps. Some homeschool courses even offer the choice to add teacher support.
To give your high schooler a thorough homeschool experience, consider these three options — or a mixture!
- Participate in a homeschool co-op class.
- Dual enrollment at the local community college.
- Use an online homeschool program.
How Do I Homeschool a Student with Special Needs?
Special needs homeschooling is a different level entirely, but homeschooling can be a wonderful solution for many special needs students. There are several merits of homeschooling a special needs student, for example, the customized schedule, environment, and flexible learning plans. Here at Homeschool.com, we are not medical professionals but we’ve spoken at length on this topic with several homeschooling parents of special needs children. Additionally, a few mothers on this team are special needs parents themselves. While every special needs situation is unique, we can relate and understand it in our own way.
One of the most important first steps of homeschooling your special needs student is to fulfill legal requirements. Each state has different regulations for special needs homeschooling as well as possible support programs. Research your state options. Next, find a special needs homeschool group. It can be endlessly helpful to connect with other homeschooling parents in similar situations. If there isn’t a local group near you, search Facebook groups to join an online community.
Finally, the curriculum for your special needs student is important. Depending on your child’s learning style, some homeschool programs may help your student reach incredible new levels while other programs may simply not work. There are innumerable styles of homeschooling curriculum (online, textbook, hands-on, project-based, etc.), so it may take time to find the right fit for your child. However, on the flip side, the varied styles of curriculum also mean there are plenty of possibilities for your child!
Here are a few helpful resources for homeschooling a special needs child:
- 50 Reasons Special Needs Homeschooling Works!
- Curriculum Resources for Special Needs
- Frequently Asked Questions About Children with Special Needs
- How to Homeschool Special Needs
An All-In-One Guide for How to Homeschool
Whether you need information on homeschooling methods, learning styles, or how to teach various subjects, we have the answers! Here is our archive of how-to posts.
- Start Homeschooling
- Choose a Homeschool Method
- Start Planning Your Homeschool By Subject
- Choose a Homeschool Curriculum
How To Teach:
- Social Studies
- Language Arts
- Music in Your Homeschool
- Art in Your Homeschool
- Foreign Language in Your Homeschool