So here you are, asking yourself how to start homeshooling. Perhaps you’ve already done some research but you still feel stuck on how to homeschool. You’ve read a thousand and one homeschooling 101 articles but you still feel so lost with how to get started homeschooling. Where do you begin?
Homeschooling 101: How to Get Started Homeschooling
I remember when we first started looking into homeschooling before my first child was even born. My husband and I had already come to the conclusion that this was the right move for our family but we didn’t know where to start. It was overwhelming to think about how to even begin. I didn’t go to college to be a teacher. What if I forget to teach him something? What if I miss something? What if I’m not good enough to teach him? How do I know which curriculum to choose? What if I choose the wrong one?
Now, that we’ve been homeschooling for a little while I’m more at ease because here’s a little well-known secret: kids area ALWAYS learning and you really can’t screw it up.
I can tell you without a doubt that homeschooling is a lifestyle. But it doesn’t have to be complicated either. It can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. And there is no right or wrong way to go about it. Every teacher, every family, and every child is different. And the beauty of homeschooling is tailoring your child’s education to fit you, your family, and most importantly your child.
But while your journey along the way might look different than mine, getting started requires some of the same basic steps no matter who you are. And so I’m here to share with you a simple and straightforward list on the very basics on how to start homeschooling.
I’m a Jesus follower and believer in following the leading of Almighty God. I’m not perfect at it, but with such a huge step as this it’s important to enter into it prayerfully.
So take some time to pray. Talk to God about what’s been laid on your heart in regards to homeschooling, and be patient for the answer. If your child is young then you still have time to pray and consider your route. And if your child is still in the middle of their school year (or you’re in the middle of summer break) then take this time to pray and seek God’s wisdom about the school year to come.
If you’re in a situation where circumstances have forced you to start homeschooling, then give yourself the liberty to take a little time to get your bearings. Don’t worry about having everything figured out by tomorrow. Just allow your child to have some time off while you pray and research homeschooling more. They will be okay without any formal schooling for a few weeks, and they might just need a little break too.
2. Get Inspired and Motivated
Depending on your situation, this might have been what prompted your question on how to homeschool. It was probably where you journey began with. But if you’re just starting to look into homeschooling, then I would strongly suggest finding inspiration and motivation as you begin your homeschool journey.
Take some time to dream about what your ideal homeschool life with your children would look like. Browse around Pinterest for fun homeschool ideas and tips, bookmark some good homeschool blogs that you can come back to later.
One of the things that really inspired and motivated me when I was just starting out was looking at other homeschool family’s routines and schedules. This helped me to see the reality of a daily life as a homeschooling family. It also helped me to realize that everyone is different. Because for every homeschool routine out there, there will be a hundred different ones. Every family is different and what works for one might not for another. It’s all trial and error and we are all continuing to learn along the way. The sooner you accept that, the more at peace you will be with exactly where you’re at in your homeschool journey.
So find some motivation. Whatever that may look like for you, get excited about homeschooling your child!
3. Learn About The Legal Requirements in Your State
Homeschooling looks different in every state. Some states require that you notify the school district that you’ll be homeschooling your child. Some will require that you turn in samples of your child’s work on a regular basis and take state testing each year. While other states don’t require you to do anything when you start homeschooling. There are states on all ends of the spectrum.
So it’s important to look into exactly what’s required of you from your state in order to start homeschooling. I recommend looking into your state’s homeschool requirements directly on your state’s website. However there are a few great resources that help to break it down a little more simply for you. In particular I think the Time4Learning website has a great overview of state requirements for each state. I also love how the HSLDA has laid out the requirements for each state here.
Once you’ve nailed down exactly what your state requires, you can move on to the fun part — the planning! 🙂
4. Get Educated on Educating
Now that you have a list of requirements based on your state, you might have a little bit more of a direction on what to do next in your homeschool planning. But no matter how strict or loose your state’s guidelines are, it’s good to know what your child should be learning each school year. What are the general guidelines and recommendations?
As you’re homeschooling your child you want to makes sure they’re getting a full and well-rounded education. While that process will look differently for everyone, knowing what they should be learning is a good guideline and framework that you can follow as you select curriculum and activities to do in your homeschooling.
There are a ton of great books and websites where you can learn what your child should learn for each grade. But the three that stand out as being the most helpful are Home Learning Year by Year by Rebecca Rupp, What Your Child Needs to Know When by Robin Sampson (Christian Perspective), and The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. I wouldn’t say you should get all of your information from just these several books alone. But they are great starting points.
The What Your Child Needs to Know series also includes a book for each grade that gets into more specific details which is helpful. I’ve linked to a few of them below for you to check out.
5. Find Your Homeschool Style
I’m going to preface this section by saying that it’s important for you to realize that your homeschool style can (and most likely will) change over the years (and even months or weeks), and from child to child. Plus, as you go through this journey you will better come to understand what you like and don’t like and what works for you, your family, and each of your children. But it’s good to have a starting out point.
So as you learn how to start homeschooling you’ll want to think about what kind of homeschool environment you want to create for your family. Do you want to model a traditional school room? If so, you might just favor a Traditional homeschool method. Or would you like to place a bigger emphasis on literature and learning through reading books? If so, you might want to look into the Charlotte Mason homeschool method. Or, you might like a combination of all (or most) of the various homeschool methods, which would be called Eclectic (or Relaxed) homeschooling.
Now, you might get to this step and feel stuck. What’s your homeschool style? What’s your preferred method? You might not know until you try something. And that’s okay. But it’s a good idea to look at an overview of what each method entails so you can determine what you think would work best for your family from the get go. Then you can steer towards curriculum and activities that will fall in line with your style and avoid the things that just won’t work for you.
Here’s a real life example. My five year old son is SO SMART. He picks up on things and learns so easily. But you know Tigger from Winnie the Pooh? Yeah, that’s him. He is just bouncing off the walls. All. the. time. He would absolutely detest if I sat him down in a desk for 3-6 hours a day. He would not learn anything. But he does splendidly with hands on activities and he even loves to sit down and be still for books despite his bouncy demeanor — who woulda’ thunk it! But I have to be careful with what I expect of him. Even though a nice neat little curriculum filled with worksheets might sound nice (and work for some kids), it will not work for him.
And while this is the kind of thing that you grow to understand more as you get deeper into your homeschool journey, for now think about your child’s personality and your personality and try to find a method that you think will work for both of you. If it doesn’t seem to be working out then don’t be afraid to change it — even if it’s midway into the school year. Don’t spend the whole year on a curriculum or style you or your child hates. Find the joy in homeschooling and don’t be afraid to change things up if needed.
All of that being said, let’s get an idea for what the various homeschool methods are so that you can research them a little more. If more than one stand out to you then by all means mix-and-match (that’s my favorite thing to do).
Here is a list of the seven core homeschooling methods at the moment:
- Traditional Homeschooling
- Classical Homeschooling
- Charlotte Mason Homeschooling
- Montessori Homeschooling
- Homeschooling with Unit Studies
- Eclectic Homeschooling
There are also a few other lesser-known methods such as Waldorf, Roadschooling, and Worldschooling. There are lots of great articles about the different homeschooling methods. TheBestSchools.org has a great overview of each one here. And I like how Time4Learning gets more in depth with each of the methods here.
I can’t stress enough that there is no right or wrong choice here. And you don’t even have to fit yourself into one of these neat little boxes. That’s why I love being an Eclectic Homeschooler!
Because I absolutely love reading living books with my children to learn about all kinds of things (Charlotte Mason). But I will typically pick our living books based on the Unit Studies I put together for various different topics that we want to get more in depth with (Homeschooling with Unit Studies). I will even put together Unit Studies based on my child’s interests (Unschooling). And I love incorporating Montessori-inspired trays into our Unit Studies as well as to help teach them valuable life skills (Montessori). But when it comes to math and phonics, guided primers and worksheets seem to work out the best for us (Traditional Homeschooling). So as you can see, in our day-to-day homeschool we incorporate no less than five different homeschool methods into our education as a family. And that’s okay. It’s a tailor-made style to fit us.
So take some time to consider what style might fit best with you, your family, and your child. But don’t get stuck here. It’s just a guideline so you can better understand what curriculum and activities you should steer towards as you plan out your homeschool.
6. Talk to Your Child
Before we get to the planning stage it’s a good idea to take some time to talk to your child about what’s happening. If they are old enough, share with them why you’re considering homeschooling them. Address their thoughts and concerns. And now would be a great time to gauge how they think they could make school better. Let them in on the planning process and take notes of what they’d love to see in their school, what they don’t like, and so on. Really listen to these concerns if they’re willing to share them because you can shape your plan around what they like best and make it easier and more enjoyable for everyone!
If your child is young and they’ve never gone to regular school then this step will be easier. Just tell them that you’ll be starting homeschool soon, build it up, and get them excited for starting soon and getting so big!
7. Make a Plan
Finally for the fun part! Well, it can honestly be quite overwhelming when you’re just getting started. But it doesn’t have to be. Once you have a list of the subjects and concepts your child needs to learn you can start researching curriculum and/or put together your own plan for the school year.
As with choosing a homeschool style, don’t think that once you make a decision it’s set-in-stone. Plans can change, curriculum can be switched out, etc. How your homeschool looks today is not how it’s going to look next year, or even next month. As you get started a lot of changing and adjusting will happen until you get into the right groove for you.
Plus your homeschool will look different in different seasons of your life. Like when there’s a new baby in the house, or when your children get older and can help out with younger children more, etc.
So there’s no right or wrong answer here. But I would like to make a few recommendations.
Brainstorm Your Requirements
Before you get into choosing curriculum, books, and activities, consider your requirements for homeschooling. Take into consideration the laws for your state, but also consider your own morals, values, and beliefs as you move forward. You want to be teaching material that you believe in and since this is your school room, you can decide what makes the cut and what doesn’t.
So take some time to think about your wishlist for the “perfect” curriculum. You might not be able to check all the boxes, but as long as the important ones are checked you can adjust the curriculum to fit your other requirements if needed.
Consider a Boxed Curriculum to Start
Unless you have a background in teaching and are the queen of planning, starting off homeschooling with (basically) creating your own curriculum can get overwhelming very quickly. And while it’s something that’s really fun once you get into your homeschool groove, it’s not something you have to start off doing; and it might just be a stumbling block for you to continue.
So instead consider using a pre-built curriculum at least for a framework. You don’t have to stick to it line-by-line (unless that works for you). But it’s good to have a structure with which to build the rest of your school around and expand upon with additional activities.
Whether you use an all-in-one curriculum or pick a curriculum for each subject separately is up to you and depends on the age of your child as well. For preschool there are a lot of great all-in-one curriculum options. But if your child is older then a standalone math and phonics curriculum might be a smart idea.
Either way, it’s my belief that when you’re just starting to homeschool, figuring out what to teach shouldn’t hold you back. Instead find a framework that you believe in and can stand behind that can guide you along the way.
I’m not going to go over your choices for curriculum here. There are too many to list in this post. Perhaps in another post I will get more in depth on that. But for now, Pinterest and Google are your best friends! Start searching for reviews and lists of curriculum based on your requirements.
Write Down Your Plan for Each Subject
Now take some time to make a list of your plan for teaching each subject. Write down which curriculum you plan to use or if you plan to teach that subject through living books, etc. The idea here is to get an overview for what you plan to do. Then you can go in later and get more detailed as you go.
8. Think Outside “The Plan”
Now even though you have a “plan” don’t think that you have to stick with it to the letter. Remember that children are always learning — even when they’re playing! Start looking for opportunities to make everyday moments into teaching moments. Think about how you can teach potentially boring subjects in a more fun way. And give yourself the liberty to step outside of the box when it comes to learning. Kids learn best when they’re having fun so take advantage of that.
Here are some great examples of extra fun ways to teach in your homeschool:
- Have a field trip each week related to what you’re learning about that week
- Learn letter sounds and phonics through games like Alphabet Island and the series of POP games for letters, blends, word families, and sight words.
- Re-enforce money values by bringing cash to the store to pay for your food and have your child pay the cashier.
- Teach geography with games like The Scrambled States of America or the Augmented Reality Interactive Globe for Kids.
- Take a nature walk and identify trees by their leaves with this fun Fandex Family Field Guide for Trees.
- Watch a documentary about a topic you’re learning about.
- And so on…
The more you do this whole homeschool thing, the more you’ll search for and find learning opportunities all around you. Make it fun for you and your children by giving yourself (and them) the freedom to learn from more than just a textbook. By doing this you will create lifelong learners who love to learn and grow in the knowledge of the world around them.
9. Gather Your Supplies
Now here’s a little warning about homeschooling — it can take over your entire house! But think about it this way. You are not just a home, but a school; and a school building has all sorts of learning tools at their disposal. So when school stuff starts sneaking out of the homeschool room, don’t get discouraged, just realize that having materials for your homeschool is just plain a necessity. It’s going to happen.
Having said that, I’m not saying that you have to spend of fortune in order to start homeschooling. You most certainly could spend a fortune. But you don’t have to.
Have a look at your specific curriculum choices to see if there’s any particular supplies that you need for them. There are also a few things that I would consider essential supplies that will help you to homeschool more than anything else.
Library Card or Other Means to Acquire Books
As I’m writing this we are in the midst of COVID-19 and we don’t have access to our library. And boy is our bank account missing it! Because we’ve been buying all of the books we need for our unit studies and it hasn’t been cheap, even though I typically will only buy used books from eBay, Thrift Books, or Amazon.
And while it’s nice to be building up our homeschool library a bit, it’s also nice to have a free local library at your disposal. And if you have a good library, especially if it’s a library in a network of other libraries, then you have a wealth of resources at your fingertips. Take advantage of it.
And the best part? It’s free!
If you don’t have access to a library then you’ll need to find other means to acquire books. Whether that’s from local thrift stores or from friends, that would be great. But if you have to buy books I highly recommend searching on eBay or Thrift Books first. If they don’t have what you need then Amazon is usually the best in price when it comes to new books.
Printer and Paper
The next essential is a printer and paper. There is quite literally a plethora of fun activities at your fingertips for you to print out. My favorite places to find activities are either through Pinterest (lots of free activities on there) or on Teachers Pay Teachers.
So get yourself a good printer and some paper. I decided to go ahead and invest in a nicer printer (this one to be exact) and learned how to refill the ink cartridges on my own. And boy has it saved me a ton of money. Yes, it was a more expensive printer, but now that I have it, it makes printing out activities extremely cheap when you break it down (and I have). Ink costs next to nothing since I fill it on my own (like I literally spend about $23/year on ink, that’s it).
As for paper I have a variety of papers on hand from standard printer paper, to slightly nicer paper that prints double-sided better, and then of course some cardstock for flashcards and things I want to be more durable.
This will easily pay for itself in the amount of amazing activities you’ll be able to set up for your child for free or cheap. It’s worth it, trust me.
Laminator and Laminating Pockets
While I suppose you don’t need a laminator, I’m going to argue that it is essential. And here’s why. Laminating the things you print out makes them more durable and last longer, it allows you to re-use worksheets by using them with dry-erase markers instead, and it gives you the ability to create pages and binders that utilize velcro which makes the activities more engaging and interesting to kids.
I have been using the same $20 laminator for almost six years and it’s held up well to weekly, if not daily, use. It’s worth it.
For laminating pockets I recommend sticking with Scotch brand. I’ve tried off brands and the problem with them is that if you cut them after they’ve been laminated then they will often peel. Even though Scotch is more money, they are good quality and will hold up to cutting and long time use.
Writing and Coloring Utensils
There are mountains of different craft supplies you could buy and lots of things I still think are great to have on hand. But if we’re talking about just the bare minimum to get started, just make sure you have some regular pencils and pens, colored pencils, crayons, washable markers, and dry-erase markers. This way you can utilize all of those great things you’ll be printing out.
Other Supplies As Needed
There will never be a shortage of homeschool supplies you could buy and there are other things that are very nice to have on hand, possibly even essential. But if you’re looking to get started on the bare minimum then those are my recommendations. Other good things to have if you have the funds are:
- Various office supplies
- Organization supplies (bins, labels, etc.)
- Craft supplies
- Math and color manipulatives (homemade or purchased)
- Alphabet manipulatives (purchased or diy)
While having these things on hand are great, you can get creative with what you use from around the house, and you can print a lot of things out that will fall into these categories if needed. So instead of spending thousands of dollars out of the gate, I’d recommend thinking about what you need on a week-to-week basis and build up your supplies gradually instead.
10. Just Get Started
And the final step to get started homeschooling is to just start!
While you could spend eons of time planning and planning for starting homeschool, what it comes down to is that you just need to start somewhere. It doesn’t have to look perfect at the very beginning. I once heard a great saying that really helps me when I’m starting something new: “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle”. Or in other words, don’t get caught up in comparing yourself to other homeschool families who look “perfect” because they’ve been doing it longer. I assure you their homeschool is not perfect. They probably have good days and bad days just like the rest of us, but they’ve also been doing it for longer. And there’s no benefit in comparing where you’re at now to where they’re at several years into their own journey.
So even though planning is a good thing, don’t let it get in the way of actually starting. And if you’re nervous about starting, then why not have a dry run of it? Pick out a free curriculum or even several activities that look interesting and spend one week trying out homeschool. Don’t nail yourself down for the long haul if that scares you. Instead just take it one step at a time. Trust me, in no time you’ll be addicted to it. 😉
But that first step to getting started homeschooling will always be to just get started.