How To Start Homeschooling: A Parent’s Guide

As a parent, you want to give your child the very best the world has to offer: the best nutrition, the best childhood, and of course, the best education. For some, this is where their homeschool journey begins.

Maybe you’ve tried traditional schooling and decided it wasn’t a good fit for your family. Or, maybe you’ve known you wanted to homeschool from the start. Whatever the case may be, know that you are totally capable and equipped for the job!

But, if the whole idea of homeschooling has you feeling a little overwhelmed, believe me, you are not alone. The journey can be intimidating and somewhat stressful at times, but in my opinion, it is so incredibly worth it. So where do you start? Follow along for everything you need to know to start homeschooling — from A to Z.

Before you start homeschooling

Unless you enjoy the idea of total chaos and meltdowns, it’s hard to homeschool without a plan.

Like anything else, the more you prepare, the smoother the experience will be — although, much like parenting, that doesn’t mean it will be easy!

Here are a few steps to take before you start on your homeschooling journey.

1. Consider your goals and objectives

Think about your homeschooling “why”. What brought you to homeschool? Is your child falling behind academically? Or, is your child a quick learner, but struggling to find their place socially? Maybe you want to travel the world and have your child learn through experience. Getting a better picture of your goals and objectives for homeschooling will help direct your homeschooling strategies.

Let’s say your child is gifted and isn’t getting challenged enough in school. You want to push them to perform their best academically — but still in a low-pressure environment where they can creatively thrive. You’ll want to look for a curriculum with rigorous academic objectives that still allows room for creativity and growth.

On the other hand, let’s say your child is doing great in public school, but they’re being bullied. You want them to have a safe environment to continue learning, while providing them with new opportunities for social interaction. You may choose a more flexible curriculum that allows your child time to try out new extracurriculars and social groups.

2. Talk to other parents who have gone through the process

Y’all. It takes a village to raise children, and that especially applies when you are the one educating them! Talking to other parents who have already gone through the process can help you gain valuable perspective and give you a sounding board for your own ideas and concerns.

Hear their experiences, take notes as they offer their advice, and learn from their mistakes. Finding a community you can count on is such a wonderful start, and will really help your sanity on those days when you feel like throwing in the towel!

Just remember, people have different opinions about what works, and not everyone’s advice will apply to your situation. When researching how to start homeschooling, remember that your journey is unique and your family’s needs may be radically different from the neighbor down the street (even if she has been homeschooling for 10 years now).

3. Connect with local homeschooling groups and resources

This is a great era for homeschoolers. Seriously, homeschooling is not at all what it used to be, and that is because of the immense amount of resources that have become available in the past decade or so.

Getting plugged in early on will open up a whole world of opportunities, advice, and support that will help you navigate your day to day as a homeschooler.

One of the biggest concerns I get from people about homeschooling is socialization. But, really, if you get involved with a co-op or other homeschool group in your area, the socialization part is pretty much taken care of.

Plus, you’ll be able to meet other moms who are right there in the trenches with you!

4. Research the legal requirements for homeschooling in your state

Every state has its own laws regarding homeschooling, so you’ll need to do your research before you get started. Check out the Homeschool Legal Defense Association’s website for details about your state’s requirements.

Many states require that you have a certain type of program in place — like a comprehensive curriculum or an education portfolio — and keep detailed records. You may have to homeschool for a certain number of hours each week, or keep track of how many days your child is doing schoolwork.

Understanding the legal requirements will make the process go more smoothly and keep you from getting into trouble.

5. Set aside a dedicated space in your home for learning

One of the first challenges new homeschoolers face is creating a space that welcomes learning.

This doesn’t have to be an elaborate school room, just somewhere your children can focus and be productive. Depending on the child, it may help to choose a space that is away from distractions like television or video games.

At the very least, your school space should be a landing zone for all of the materials you need to achieve your homeschool goals. Think curriculum, notebooks, paper, pens, rulers, glue, and so on.

I always try to remind myself that less is more here, and that I don’t actually need 20 glue sticks, 6 rulers, and a whole crafting bin of pom poms readily accessible every day. It’s totally okay to have a separate storage place for all of those extra supplies you may eventually need, but don’t want cluttering your day to day workspace.

Even if your homeschooling mantra boasts the “world as your classroom”, it’s nice to have a place to work inside on those extra yucky days. Plus, with everything in one area, your students will know exactly where to get materials when it’s time to pack their bags for the next learning adventure.

6. Decide on a curriculum or learning plan that works for your family

Once you know your goals and objectives, it’s time to pick a curriculum or decide on a learning plan that fits your family.

The great (and sometimes dizzying) news is that there are literally hundreds of curricula to choose from!

Homeschoolers looking for a more traditional education might opt for a comprehensive or “box” curriculum, made up of textbooks and workbooks. Families looking for a little more directed learning might go with an online program like Khan Academy or Power Homeschool.

If neither of these sound like your jam, get creative by mixing different curriculum options for an education tailored to your child’s specific interests.

You’ll also want to consider your child’s learning style. Everyone has a different learning style (even adults!) which motivates them and drives how they learn. Taking this into account might change the homeschooling method you go with.

Homeschooling gives you the freedom to not only choose the teaching style, but also to change it up as needed. So don’t be surprised if you get halfway through the school year and decide it’s time for a change! Switching curriculum is pretty common, and almost expected, especially when you are just starting out.

Once you’re ready to begin homeschooling

At this point, you’ve done some research and soul searching, and you’re ready to jump in. If you’re anything like me when I first started out, you’re probably pretty nervous, too. You may not know everything there is to know about how to start homeschooling, but you know quite a bit.

Just remember: life itself is about learning, and it’s impossible to know everything there is to know about homeschooling all in one fell swoop! You’ll continue to learn through the process, and that is okay. That means you’re doing it right. No one has your child’s best interest at heart more than you do, so as long as you are intentional and willing to take on this journey, you have nothing to fear.

1. Start slowly — don’t try to do too much at once

When you are first starting out, begin with just one subject a day. I know, this sounds crazy because you have all of these ideas and aspirations, Pinterest projects to tackle, and other homeschool moms you feel like you have to live up to. But, trust me, starting off with a full load (or even half load!) is asking for trouble.

Starting slow gives you and your child time to get comfortable with the new routine and find your rhythm. After a few days, if you are ready, add in another subject. It might be a month before you even open half of your curriculum, and that’s okay.

A wise homeschool mama once shared this tip with me, to start off slow at the beginning of the school year and after returning from Christmas break. We are on year three of our homeschool journey, and still loving her advice. Starting off slow allows us to build up a healthy momentum without the burnout of curriculum overload.

2. Establish routines that work for both you and your child

Most people, adults and kids alike, operate better when there is some sort of consistency or routine to their day. Once you’ve found a rhythm, establish a schedule for when you will do schoolwork and make sure your child knows what’s expected of them.

Just don’t overdo it. You may find it’s easier to set aside chunks of time for things like core subjects, outdoor play, and extras like art or science, versus trying to pencil in exact times things should be done.

Above all, remember to leave time and flexibility in your schedule for fun! Think field trips, craft kits, playdates with friends, anything that provides a little respite from routine. A healthy balance will keep your child engaged and excited about learning, and happier as a homeschooler.

3. Take advantage of outside activities such as field trips, museums, or group classes

Speaking of field trips! What’s more fun than taking the classroom on the road and adventuring with your kids?

Check out the schedule at your local museum, library, and zoo. You’d be surprised how many places offer educational programs! We even have a gardening center down the street that hosts events for kids and welcomes homeschool class ideas.

Participating in activities outside of the home can provide a much-needed break for your student – BONUS: they may not even realize they are learning!

By utilizing the resources available in your area, you can create a rich learning environment that will help your children enjoy homeschooling that much more.

4. Find ways to make learning fun and engaging with games, experiments, and hands-on activities.

Forgive me if I sound like a broken record but, you really don’t have to be sitting behind a desk to learn. Infact, studies show that the best learning happens when you are having fun!

There are so many educational games, puzzles, experiments, and Pinterest activities out there that the hardest part is choosing which ones to do first.

Studying the Solar System? Try using a 3d printer to make a mini model of the planets as you study them. Talk about bringing your lesson to life!

You can even find educational content through virtual reality gadgets like the Oculous or Merge Cube. We have programs on our Oculous that allow us to tour the streets of Israel, hop aboard the International Space Station, and even climb Mount Everest! It’s sort of like an out-of-body experience, and one your kids will be raving about to their friends.

5. Regularly assess whether your current strategies are working

No matter where you are in your homeschool journey, it’s important to assess whether the methods you’re using are effective.

Take a look at your child’s progress. Are they grasping the skills and information being taught? Or are they just skating by, and getting any amount of school done is like pulling teeth? If you don’t feel like things are working or you’ve hit a roadblock, don’t be afraid to toss your lesson plans aside and go back to the drawing board. You may need to make adjustments to help your child get back on track.

If you notice that your child is struggling, take time to get to the root of the problem. Are they having trouble focusing? How has their sleep been? Could there be any other variables at play? Sometimes the problem is actually more situational than it is academic. If you make the necessary adjustments and still don’t see any improvement, you may consider finding a tutor in your area or switching your homeschool approach and curriculum.

By regularly assessing the effectiveness of your homeschooling strategies, you can ensure that your child is getting the best possible education and achieving their potential.

Outside of homeschooling

So you’re a homeschooler now!

A great thing you’ll notice is that homeschool doesn’t take nearly as long as public school does. So what do you do with all of that extra time?

Here are some tips for managing your kids’ needs inside and outside the classroom.

  • First, set aside time for your kids to have fun. This could be an hour or two each day when they’re allowed to do whatever they want (within reason, of course!). Giving them some unstructured free time can help give them a break from their studies and let them decompress and relax. If your child struggles with this, consider setting up a “bored” jar with ideas to get them started.
  • Second, encourage your children to be curious and explore the world around them. This could include reading, playing outside, exploring nature, or taking up a hobby like music or art. All of these activities will help your kids develop important skills and gain valuable knowledge in addition to what they learn at home.
  • Third, make it clear when school time is and when free time is. Don’t try to mix them — at least not until you get to know your children’s learning styles better.
  • Finally, make sure you are intentional about getting them together with their peers. This could be anything from organized sports and clubs to volunteering or just setting up time to play with friends. Interacting with other children and building relationships is an essential part of a healthy childhood and is just as important as anything they will learn in a textbook.

Conclusion: Your child isn’t the only one who will learn

Remember, this is just a starting point for how to start homeschooling. The key is to start small and build on your successes as you go. With patience, intention, and lots of tweaking along the way, you can create a unique homeschool experience that both you and your children love.

If you’re like me, you’ll probably do more research as a new homeschooler than you’ve ever done in your life. You’ll sit up late at night and sift through blogs and books and Amazon reviews on educational products until you finally slump over on the couch and fall asleep. There is so much to take in and so much to learn. Just remind yourself: Rome wasn’t built in a day. And your homeschool shouldn’t be either.

Learn from those who have walked this path before you, but balance their advice with your own intuition. There are so many ways to homeschool, and what works for one family isn’t necessarily going to work for you. You know your kids best.

Homeschooling isn’t easy, but it’s so worth it. Give yourself grace — and above all, know that you’ve got this.

FAQs on How to Start Homeschooling

How do you homeschool as a beginner?

As a new homeschooler, it’s important to do your research. Make sure you are familiar with the homeschool laws for your state and look into homeschooling methods that align with the requirements. Research curriculum options and homeschool groups in your area so you have the opportunity to get plugged in with other homeschoolers.

What are the laws about homeschooling?

The laws regarding homeschooling vary from state to state. It’s important to research and understand the regulations in your area before starting a homeschooling program. Most states require you to follow certain guidelines such as filing paperwork, submitting an educational plan and taking assessments or tests throughout the year.

What’s the hardest part about homeschooling?

For many, the hardest part about homeschooling is building structure and maintaining motivation. It can be tricky to balance homeschooling with other responsibilities, such as work or running a household. Finding a rhythm is important so you can not only make sure things are getting done, but that you are enjoying the journey.

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