As a long-time homeschooling mom, I know it can feel overwhelming when you first get started homeschooling. I began homeschooling back in 1998 – so 20+ years I’ve been doing this. I thought we’d do a quick overview of how to start homeschooling – homeschooling 101 – for those of you who are thinking about it.
All five of my kids homeschooled throughout most of their school careers. I only have one child left in homeschool and she’s 17 years old as of this writing. She’s hoping to graduate at the end of this school year.
So many parents are thinking about homeschooling their kids these days, given the uncertainty we’re living in. But, how do you start homeschooling and what do you need to do?
Here I hope to answer a lot of your questions, welcome to homeschooling 101!
How to Start Homeschooling
Homeschooling is when a child’s education is based at home and directed by their parents. The child is not enrolled in public or private school and the parents decide what the child learns, when, and how.
Children can be homeschooled all the way from kindergarten to college, or be withdrawn from the public school system at any stage to start homeschooling.
Why do people homeschool their kids?
Many parents choose to homeschool so they can have a greater influence on their child’s learning. This can be because the family is religious, and they want their religious beliefs to be the basis of the child’s education.
“O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge.” 1 Timothy 6:20
Others choose not to use the public school system due to issues such as bullying, threat of violence, or bad influences such as drugs and alcohol.
And I know a lot of your are concerned about the health and safety of your children during this time – or maybe your school system has chosen to make virtual learning or distance learning mandatory for this school semester and you’re facing having your child home everyday.
I homeschooled my kids for a variety of reasons listed above. I don’t remember how I first learned about homeschooling. But it was beginning to gain in popularity. However, the resources were not nearly as abundant as they are today!
What are the advantages of homeschooling?
Homeschooling gives parents the chance to provide their child with a well-rounded education based on their own principles and beliefs. They can also accommodate their child’s own interests which keeps kids more engaged and interested in learning.
Flexibility is another big advantage, as parents and kids do not need to follow the timetable or the conventions of the school education system. They can choose their own curriculum and style or method of homeschool, as well as a timetable that works around their family’s lifestyle and beliefs.
This means there is plenty of time for field trips, vacations, and time to explore extra-curricular activities and interests. In our household, homeschooling has given my kids the opportunity to explore and excel in activities they would never have had time for if we had not homeschooled such as figure skating, equestrianism, and the arts.
Is homeschooling legal?
Yes, in all 50 states. Before you begin homeschooling, you need to check your state’s homeschool laws.
You will need to register your child as being homeschooled and may need to present a proposal of learning. Some states also require your curriculum to be approved.
Record keeping is an important part of homeschooling as it may be scrutinized later when your child transfers back into the school system or enters college.
You may be required to maintain a portfolio that keeps a record of your child’s educational progress or your child may need to sit tests each year. Look into all the various methods of record keeping and set up a schedule to update your records regularly.
But remember, every state is different, so you need to be aware of your state’s laws and comply with their regulations.
How do I start homeschooling?
First you need to decide what style of homeschooling you prefer. This will greatly influence every decision you make, so it is worth doing some research to see what style resonates best with your family and values.
Some different styles or philosophies of homeschooling are:
You will then need to create a plan for your child’s homeschooling. Many people buy a pre-packaged curriculum. This has the advantage of all being planned out for you so you can use it right out of the box.
Others choose to create their own scheme of work to teach their child. Both options are legal. It is best to get your child involved and to select a curriculum or custom make a curriculum that best suits their individual educational needs and interests.
And, if you are on a tight budget, you can certainly homeschool for free or almost free. There are so many resources available to homeschoolers these days! And there’s no reason why you can’t give your child an excellent education using the public library and/ or the internet.
How can I find other homeschoolers?
Your next step should be to look for a local homeschool support group or a co-op. This is invaluable in offering support and people to talk to about your decisions and worries, as well as giving your child some new friends to have fun with.
Many groups work together to share skills and resources, as well as organize fun and interesting events like visits to a local museum, or a tour of a local factory etc.
You may also want to join homeschooling facebook groups to connect with other homeschooling parents to share questions and ideas.
What does a typical homeschool day look like?
The reality is that most homeschoolers spend only a minimal amount of time at home. Learning takes place outdoors, attending homeschool groups or co-ops, taking extra-curricular lessons, or going on field trips. Flexibility and fun are the basis of a successful homeschool.
Even at home, your homeschool day does not need to be a long drawn out day. You will need to allow time for language arts, reading and math most days, but these and other subjects can be taught most effectively through themed unit studies.
How Long Should Your Homeschool Day Last?
When you homeschool, your child should not sit at a table or desk for 8 hours like he would in a traditional school setting.
- Preschool: 15 – 30 minutes
- Kindergarten: 30 minutes to 1 hour
- 1st to 2nd Grade: 45 minutes to 1.5 hours
- 3rd to 4th Grade: 1.5 to 3 hours
- 5th to 6th Grade: 2.5 to 3.5 hours
- 7th to 8th Grade: 3 to 4.5 hours
- High School: 3.5 to 6 hours
Are homeschooled kids successful?
Many homeschooled children make great advances in learning and show more enthusiasm than they would in the public school system. This is perhaps because they have greater ownership of their learning than children in school.
Homeschool kids also turn out to be well-informed self-starters who can posit questions and research answers more effectively than many kids who went through the public school system. Many colleges are very keen to attract homeschooled kids.
Just like those in a traditional school setting, each homeschooled child will have their own rate of success and their own challenges to overcome. The great thing about homeschooling is that as your child’s parent and teacher, you can direct their learning creating a custom education that fits your child’s learning style and personality.
Years ago, on a summer afternoon, as I sat planning out our homeschooling year, I felt God speak to my heart. I wasn’t sure what direction to take and He told me to focus my energy on each child’s unique gifts, talents, and interests. So, while we did all the required subjects, we focused the bulk of our learning on each child’s passions.
As you embark on your own homeschooling journey, remember that your child is unique. There is no one right way to “do” homeschool. And that’s the beauty of it. You can choose to do school at home whichever way works best for your family.
Action Steps to Take Today
If you’ve decided homeschooling is right for your family, here are the steps you need to take to start homeschooling your child.
- Pray and ask God to direct your decisions regarding homeschooling.
- Read about the homeschool laws in your state.
- Decide on which method of homeschooling best fits your lifestyle and philosophy.
- Choose a curriculum that fits your homeschooling method.
- Print out a homeschooling planner and make a plan (or just use a notebook).
- Get started and give yourself grace!
If you have any questions about how to start homeschooling or just homeschooling questions in general, I would love to help. Just leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to help you get started!