Beginning to homeschool can seem like a daunting task. Not only is it a heavy responsibility for parents to take their children’s education into their own hands, but there are also so many things to think about that many don’t start for lack of guidance as to where to begin. However, by breaking down how to start homeschooling into a step by step process it becomes an entirely manageable undertaking. If you wish to start upon your homeschooling journey, take yourself through these twelve steps and learn how to homeschool in a way that fits with your values.
Step 1: Research homeschool laws for your state.
Before you even begin, it is important that you research what legal homeschooling requirements and restrictions you will have to comply with. Since homeschooling is a state rather than a federal matter, the laws can easily vary from place to place. Therefore, Virginia homeschool laws are different than Florida homeschool laws or any other state.
It is wisest to go straight to the original source for your information by looking up the laws on the Department of Education website for your state. Another option is to use the State Contacts page on the United States Department of Education website to find out whom you can talk to. For example, the California Department of Education web page specific to Homeschooling can easily be found after just a few clicks.
Step 2: Explore different homeschooling methods.
There are eight different types of homeschooling methods, and before you start homeschooling, it is helpful to familiarize yourself with the gamut of homeschooling options. This knowledge will inform your future decisions, especially those regarding curriculum. The eight are as follows:
Eclectic Homeschooling and Relaxed Homeschooling
Eclectic homeschooling (also called “relaxed homeschooling”) is a very popular method. The name admirably describes the method, as families who use it seldom have any very formal approach to schooling. They use whatever materials suit each child and often rely on experiences and primary sources rather than textbooks.
School-at-Home relies on a highly structured curriculum, frequently from a provider. It involves lesson plans, textbooks, tests, papers, and grades, and it may require sending in assignments to the provider for assessment. Although this system can seem somewhat confining, it can also have the advantage of allowing enrollment in an accredited program.
Unschooling is the most unstructured method of them all. Although different people define it in different ways, perhaps the best explanation of it is that it is schooling based on the child’s interests.
There are no formal assignments or tests, and the child is free to pursue those things which interest him. It is true that this allows the development of expertise, but it can also be easy to fail to meet grade-level standards.
Classical homeschooling is a very old method of education that has as its goal the acquisition of the skills necessary to learn independently throughout life. It proceeds through the stage of reading, writing, and arithmetic to a focus on compositions, finally ending in the dialectic stage, which is where the weightiest study occurs.
Charlotte Mason Homeschooling
The Charlotte Mason homeschooling method is not so much focused on the acquisition of knowledge as on the enjoyment of learning. It relies on field trips and books that vivify and bring home that which the child is to learn. There is also a strong focus on the outdoors and on a love of nature.
The Waldorf method does not use textbooks but rather encourages children to develop in body, mind, and spirit. Therefore, crafts, free play, music, and nature are important, as is self-instruction.
Montessori Method At Home
Popular for young children, the Montessori method at home centers around child-led learning. There is no push to attain knowledge by a specific time, and learning is done in a hands-on way. The day is as unscheduled as possible so that children develop an understanding of time management, and toys rather than books help children to learn.
The multiple intelligences method focuses on each individual child’s learning style and uses it to full advantage. For example, those who love to read learn through books, while those who are more attuned to aural learning, use audio lessons.
Step 3: Determine whether you want a secular homeschooling or faith-based curriculum.
Whatever method you use, it is important that you determine what shall be the basis of your child’s education. While a number of people take a secular homeschooling approach to learning, others prefer to build their children’s curricula on instruction in and practice of their religious beliefs and values. The latter is typically referred to as a “faith-based homeschool curriculum.”
Step 4: Research homeschool resources, both online and textbook.
Take some time to see what homeschooling information is available. If you haven’t already decided on a homeschooling method, look at curricula with a variety of different styles. If you know other homeschoolers, talk to them about the programs and methods they use. Research homeschool resources by exploring websites, reading books, and talking to homeschooling counselors.
Spend plenty of time on this step so you can make as informed a decision as possible. However, remember that you don’t need to make any decisions at this point. Right now you are just gathering information on how to homeschool.
Step 5: Consider each child’s homeschool learning style, including abilities, needs, and temperament.
You may have found different methods or curricula that appeal to you, but now it is time to consider your children. Ask yourself how each one learns, what interests him or her, and what he or she is capable of.
Some points to think about are whether your child is self-motivated or needs strong guidance, whether your child learns best through something tangible or if he or she works well through the more abstract medium of a computer, and whether or not your child derives energy from interacting with other people. Are you homeschooling an only child? Are you homeschooling a gifted child? Are you homeschooling a child with ADHD or Tourette’s?
These and similar questions will help you determine your child’s homeschool learning style and direct your search for the ideal method and program.
Step 6: Decide whether to use an online or textbook-based homeschooling curriculum.
Having found out what is available and having considered the traits of your individual child, you are in a position to make a decision as to the medium of your homeschooling curriculum. Your own needs, abilities, and desires come into play here, as well.
Textbook-based curricula often require more parental involvement than online programs, so you need to consider how much work you wish to take upon yourself. Some parents want a more hands-off approach, in which case an online curriculum might suit them better, while others desire varying degrees of involvement.
Step 7: Choose the best homeschooling curriculum for your family.
The moment of commitment has arrived, and it is time to decide which program you are going to use. All of the information gathered in the previous steps should help you to narrow down your options considerably, and if you are still undecided, contact the curriculum providers to discuss the curricula more thoroughly.
It is not a bad idea to let older children give their input at this point, as they should be fairly well attuned to what method and means of learning most appeal to them. Keep in mind that you are choosing the best homeschooling curriculum for your own family and unique situation.
Step 8: Consider whether you will join a homeschool co-op.
As part of your curriculum, you may wish to join a homeschool co-op. A homeschool co-op is usually an organization of a few homeschooling families who gather together for classes. These can be very helpful when a child needs specialized, expert attention in a subject, or if your child’s personality and temperament lead him or her to learn better in a community or classroom environment.
If you do opt for a homeschooling coop, however, be sure to investigate both the teachers and the lessons to be certain that they agree with and meet your standards of education.
Step 9: Set up your own homeschool schedule.
Children thrive on schedules, and homeschooling cannot exist without a homeschool schedule. At this point, you want to come up with a daily as well as a yearly schedule. These can be as detailed or as free as you wish them to be, but it is best to have some outline which you can follow to keep your homeschooling flowing smoothly.
With a homeschool daily schedule, you can set times for each class and activity during the day, or you can establish merely a loose routine. You can schedule and mark off all the holidays you will take throughout the year, or you can simply note some important ones and leave the rest undetermined.
Whatever you do, remember the all-important homeschooling tip to be flexible. If you find as your school year goes on that the plan you have drawn up does not work, adapt it. It may take your entire first year to come up with a homeschooling schedule that works well, and even then you may still need to tweak it here and there.
The important thing, however, is to make sure you have some guidelines to keep your school year on track.
Step 10: Look into and decide whether to use a homeschool lesson planner and other tools.
There are a large number of tools and resources available to lighten the burden of planning and organization for homeschoolers. It might be worth your time to examine what is on the market to see if it can help you. A homeschool lesson planner and a homeschool student planner, for example, may ease the strain of coming up with a schedule and may help you to give each child’s school year the attention it needs.
Step 11: Think about joining a homeschool support group.
It is easy to feel alone and isolated when you are homeschooling. To prevent this, you might consider joining a homeschool support group. Not only will this give you the comfort of the company of others who are taking the same journey you are, but it will also help you to benefit from others’ expertise.
Homeschool support groups are not just for parents, however. Frequently, these groups meet to give the children an opportunity to socialize with each other, to engage in group activities such as drama, or to go on field trips.
Step 12: Join the Home School Legal Defense Association.
Although it is to be hoped that you will not need the protection, it is a good idea to safeguard yourself. This association of lawyers, called the Home School Legal Defense Association, helps to uphold and protect the parent’s right to homeschool, and should there be any unfortunate clashing with state authorities, the HSLDA will take up your case and defend you.
How to Start Homeschooling – Conclusion
Homeschooling is a serious undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. If you break the initial process into steps, it becomes quite manageable. Many people have done it before, and many people will do it again. Putting one foot in front of the other, you too can begin your homeschooling journey.