Whether you’re just dabbling with the idea of homeschooling or you’ve decided it’s for you and you’re ready to take the first steps, you’re probably asking yourself, ‘How do I homeschool?’
Below we’ll be covering several steps that will help you get started with home education. In addition, we’ll take a look at useful resources so you can start homeschooling your child tomorrow.
Below we’ll consider the basics of how to homeschool by:
- Finding your state’s homeschooling laws
- Looking into a homeschooling method that suits you
- Picking a suitable curriculum
- Deciding if you need a schedule
- Finding homeschooling groups in your area
- Setting up a homeschooling room
- Being patient and ready to adapt
These topics will answer your most basic questions about how to homeschool; but, if you want to give your children a great education, it’s useful to inform yourself by reading home education blogs and attending homeschooling conventions to keep improving your educational approach.
Don’t forget that parents will probably be doing as much learning as their children in their first year of homeschooling!
But, let’s get started and jump in to look at relevant laws for your homeschool.
Finding your state’s homeschooling laws
Home education isn’t regulated by the federal government, but by individual states. It’s important to track down your state’s homeschooling laws as this could have a significant impact on the type of curriculum and homeschooling method you’ll choose.
Some states like Texas and Missouri are very relaxed with their laws and don’t require parents to register. Other states like New York and Pennsylvania are strict and require registration, adherence to a syllabus, and regular testing to check up on the curriculum you’re teaching.
You can find these home education laws by visiting your state’s Department of Education website or by checking homeschooling laws with the HSLDA. The latter option provides parents with an easy-to-read overview and gives you a quick-view map that shows the level of regulation in your state by green, orange and red indications.
Unfortunately, these statutes can sometimes change frequently so parents need to keep checking they’re complying with their laws.
It’s also important to find out if you need to formally withdraw your child from the school district in your area. This is important as you may accidentally be investigated for educational neglect by a truancy officer if you forget.
Sound dishearteningly difficult? It’s not as difficult as it might sound and getting a homeschooling mentor from an experienced homeschooling parent in the social group you join will reduce anxiety and assist you in figuring out the legalities more. (More on social groups further down the page.)
Deschooling is a process whereby children and parents are deinstitutionalized from the institutionalized mindset that comes from school.
The process involves giving children and parents a good time period with no schoolwork where they can adjust to the fact that they’re no longer involved with a school institution.
This gives parents time to consider:
- what educational method they’d like (instead of having to accept the one the school uses),
- the way their child learns best,
- the things that motivate their child best,
- any learning needs that can be catered for in a home situation, and more.
Best of all, it gives the family time to relax together and make friends before they begin their educational journey. Deschooling effectively involves having a good time together, for example, by going to the beach or cooking at home.
The purpose of deschooling is that you’re all relaxed and focused on your new learning pathway and you now have an idea of how to homeschool. This can be a good time to set overarching goals for your family’s educational journey.
Watch the video below to learn about deschooling, a vital element to consider when you’re starting homeschooling.
Looking into a homeschooling method that suits your family
Before choosing a curriculum, take time to consider what educational style (that is, the approach or way of homeschooling) you prefer. By taking time to do this, you can avoid a method that doesn’t suit your family (you can do this while you’re deschooling).
But how do you decide on a method that will suit your family? It’s good to take time to observe your children and how they learn. Consider their interests and learning preferences and note down their strengths and weaknesses (you can do this by seeing how they learn with library books for a while).
Many parents start with a traditional approach (which is akin to the school-at-home method) and then decide on something that better suits the home environment after they’re settled into their routine a little more.
The common homeschooling methods employed today include the:
- Charlotte Mason method
- Classical method
- Montessori approach
- Unschooling style
- Traditional method
- Unit Studies
- and Eclectic Approach
You can investigate these by following the above links.
Don’t be afraid to alter your method if it’s no longer working for you or your family. Many people find that what worked in the past is now no longer working for them. By changing your method, you might discover something that you love, and your kids are passionate about!
Picking a Curriculum (from the conclusions in step 2)
Although there are a plethora of curricula out there to choose from if you’ve decided on a homeschooling method, choosing a homeschooling curriculum will be a simpler choice.
For example, if you’ve chosen the:
- Charlotte Mason method, you can look at some CM curricula here.
- Classical method, you can look at some classical curricula here.
Also, if you’re a Christian like me, picking a good Christian curriculum with great bible teaching is important. Because many of the program creators come from Christian backgrounds, we’re blessed that a lot of the curricula are Bible-based. However, it’s important to investigate this aspect thoroughly as there are a few curricula that dubiously claim to be Christian.
Don’t forget curriculum providers often give parents an option to trial a curriculum for free for a short period so you can decide if it is right for you. If you can’t see this option on their website, email them, or ask them and sometimes they’re willing to give you a discount or set you up with a free trial just because you asked.
Beware about jumping in too soon and buying an expensive curriculum that doesn’t suit your family. This is a common story among new home educators with many feeling buyer’s remorse after discovering it doesn’t work for their family.
Deciding if you need a schedule
Although some home learners (like unschoolers) don’t have a schedule they follow, most parents who follow a curriculum need one and find a schedule helps them order their day and define their goals.
Once you’ve decided on your curriculum, you can start writing a schedule and planning your routine. Include time slots for sports, meal times, free periods, field trips, library visits, and other outings.
Some curricula come with a schedule attached to it (like a lot of the CM or classical curricula mentioned above), so you just have to think about your daily routine (a routine includes the schedule as well as your daily activities such as sport or regular social events).
There are many free printable homeschooling planners available online so you can start yours today.
Of course, the beauty of home education is that you’re not tied to a schedule or routine like school families. You can be flexible with your days, and you can make up homeschooling hours when it suits you. Your schedule can change to suit your family – what a quaint idea!
Finding homeschooling groups in your area
Once you’ve got the homeschooling laws, educational method, and curriculum sorted, it’s time to work out what you’re going to do about socialization.
Although many home educators realize the importance of this subject, some don’t consider social interactions necessary for their children. This lack of understanding can lead to significant problems in their homeschool and bitterness towards parents when children grow up.
Homeschooling groups not only provide a social outlet for children, but they also offer new homeschooling parents an opportunity to be mentored by older, more experienced home educators.
Happily, there are many ways homeschoolers can make friends. Some of the most common places children find friends are in church, homeschool co-ops, and friendly meet-ups between home educating families for this purpose.
A good place to start if you’re new to the area is to check out local homeschooling groups on Facebook (if you have an account) or other websites that list homeschooling groups. Check out these links for:
Don’t forget to include your immediate family in your child’s socialization. Get grandparents to take children on educational outings or to sports lessons. Let them attend grandma’s weekly art classes with her. Your child will delight the room with their energy and youthful innocence.
Setting up a homeschooling room
Although most people think about curriculum first when they’re deciding how to homeschool, some consider their physical surroundings more and question whether they can fit a homeschooling room into their house or apartment.
If they can, what should go into it?
The answer to this question depends on the educational method you’ve chosen. If you’ve chosen the Montessori method, for example, the type of room you setup will be vitally important as it’s a big part of that method’s educational philosophy. (You can see an example of a Montessori house setup here).
Some great basic ideas include getting some storage cabinets or modular bookshelves to fit books or sliding boxes for homeschooling supplies. Baskets and hooks also keep different items organized neatly around the home.
Most families can get away with a fairly simple setup and don’t need an extraordinary amount of extras. However, if you love home decorating, you can really go to town and set up some cute rooms. Check out this link here for some extensive homeschooling room ideas.
Be ready to change things and be patient
Learning the ins and outs of how to homeschool is not a process that’s completed overnight. Sometimes it takes a long time to fine-tune. It’s important to keep in mind that patience is an advantage when you’re trialling homeschooling methods, curricula, and even social groups!
But, if you commit for a good time period, things will get easier as you figure out what works best for your family. It may take as long as a year to get sorted, but eventually, you should have a great learning lifestyle organized for your whole family!
Remember it’s normal to question yourself repeatedly when you begin home educating. Almost nobody starts homeschooling by hitting the ground running.
To assuage your anxiety on this account, find a friend who is also new to homeschooling and support each other on this journey. Also, find an experienced home educator who can mentor and help you through the tough times.
Don’t be discouraged if your kids don’t seem to have learned much that day. They probably understood more than you knew. In any case, tomorrow is a fresh start!
Learning how to homeschool can take a while, so be patient and relax for the journey of a lifetime! When things seem overwhelming, think about the great times you’re about to have with your children and the reasons you began this journey in the first place. Above all, remember that home education is a proven way of training your children and, as a parent, you’re intrinsically qualified to give them a good and loving education!