Homeschooling has become an increasingly popular option for modern families, and in my opinion, it’s easy to understand why! We have a loooonnnnngggg list of reasons why we homeschool, and the growing trend suggests we aren’t alone. Whether you want more flexibility, or a more personalized approach to your children’s education, homeschooling can be an excellent way to achieve the life you want.
On the flip side, if you’re new to homeschooling, then getting started can seem totally overwhelming and confusing.
But fear not! I am here to help you simplify the process of getting started in your homeschool journey. All you have to do is follow the seven easy steps I’ve outlined below. If you have any questions, then feel free to reach out to me via email, or on Instagram or Facebook!
Step 1: Check Homeschooling Laws in Your State/Country
Before you start homeschooling, the very first thing you need to do is read your state’s homeschooling laws. Homeschooling laws can vary drastically state-by-state. What you don’t want to do is deep dive into homeschooling and then realize that you’re not legally compliant. Knowing your state’s laws upfront saves yourself a heap of time and stress!
Homeschooling laws include things like:
- how many hours you need to complete each school year,
- how you need to track those hours,
- if and how you need to provide any documentation to your state,
- if there are any state-mandated subjects or assessment requirements,
- if you have to notify the state that you will be homeschooling your children and how to do that,
- if there are any immunization requirements, and
- what ages of children are required to follow these official regulations.
If you live in the United States, then use this link to find your state’s legal requirements for homeschooling. If you live in a different county, simply Google: “[Your country/state/province’s name] Homeschooling Laws” to find the regulations you must follow.
Step 2: Choose a Homeschooling Approach
Homeschooling isn’t a “one size fits all” journey. There are numerous styles of homeschooling, and you’re free to cherry-pick what works best for your family. Research each homeschooling method and start with the one that best aligns with your family’s lifestyle. Here are some of the most popular homeschooling methods to start with:
Traditional homeschooling involves parents choosing the curriculum and– most often– being their children’s sole teacher. Parents have complete control over what their children learn and how they learn it. This method can be highly personalized and flexible, but it can also be time-consuming and require a lot of effort from the parent. Most often, traditional homeschooling replicates traditional schooling by teaching certain curriculum at certain ages or “grades.”
Classical homeschooling is based on the classical education model, which emphasizes the study of the liberal arts and humanities. This method is organized into three stages: the grammar stage, which focuses on memorization and basic skills; the logic stage, which emphasizes critical thinking and analysis; and the rhetoric stage, which emphasizes communication and persuasive argumentation. Classical homeschooling is best for children who enjoy rigorous academic work and are interested in pursuing advanced studies.
Montessori homeschooling is based on the teachings of Maria Montessori. This approach emphasizes hands-on learning, self-direction, and collaboration. Children have the freedom to choose their own activities and work at their own pace. Parents act as guides, helping children navigate the different materials and providing feedback and support. Montessori homeschooling can be great for children who thrive in a structured, yet flexible environment.
Unschooling is an approach to homeschooling in which the child leads the learning. Instead of following a set curriculum, unschooling allows children to explore their interests and learn in a more organic way. For instance, if a child is highly interested in reading– but not at all in math– then the child is allowed to spend all of his/her/their time reading. When the child becomes interested in learning math, then math practice ensues at that time. In the unschooling approach, parents act as facilitators, providing resources and support as needed. This method can be highly effective for children who are self-motivated and curious. On the flip side, it can be challenging for parents who prefer more structure and control.
Eclectic homeschooling is a flexible and personalized approach that combines elements of the various homeschooling methods. In my opinion, eclectic homeschooling is the sweet spot and is how my family homeschools. With this approach, parents choose the elements that work best for their child’s unique learning style and interests, and adapt as needed. This method works well for families who want a personalized learning environment for their children. However, it does require more planning and preparation for the parent.
Once you identify an approach that you think will work best for you, then start to try it out. You can also attend local homeschooling group meet-ups or conferences to get a more hands-on feel for the various styles. If you try one particular style and find that it doesn’t jive with you, then don’t be afraid to nix it and try something else!
Step 3: Choose a Curriculum
Depending on which homeschool style you choose, you’ll likely need to find some curriculum to assist your child’s learning. You can use a curriculum that is as robust and traditional– or as a la carte– as you’d like. Either way, homeschooling does not have to cost a lot of money, and can often be totally free. This is especially true in our modern society with all of the resources and tools that are available online. What you spend in your homeschooling journey is entirely up to you!
Families for Home Education put together an excellent PDF guide that outlines the top resources for free or very cheap curriculum. The resources are organized by homeschooling approach, by grade range, and are marked as being religious or secular. This list is certainly not all-inclusive, but it’s a great place to start your research. I use this guide myself!
Step 4: Create a Schedule
Creating a homeschooling schedule can help you stay organized and ensure that your child receives the necessary amount of instruction. It also helps you minimize information overload and decision fatigue. Life is much simpler and more efficient when you don’t have to figure out a new plan every single day.
That said, tailor your schedule to your lifestyle, and don’t feel like you have to fit into typical societal norms. If you are not “morning people,” then there’s no real reason to start your day at 6 a.m. You also do not have to replicate a traditional school schedule unless you want to. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with learning in the evening hours if that’s when your child is most focused and receptive.
Also keep in mind that you can practice flexibility in your daily schedule. If your kids usually practices writing at 9 a.m., but are suddenly eager to explore science, then go with it. Don’t feel like you’re only allowed to write from 9-10 a.m. That can end up creating unnecessary battles and deterring your children from learning.
The beauty of homeschooling is that your child has the freedom and flexibility to learn in the way that works best for him/her/them. Run with that advantage, and do whatever works best for your family!
When creating your schedule, be realistic about how much learning one’s brain can handle before it becomes fatigued. Learn in short spurts, emphasis hands-on practice, and include lots of movement and breaks. Remember to set dedicated time aside for meals, extracurricular activities, clean up time, and resetting for the next day.
Step 5: Gather Your Needed Materials
Once you have your curriculum and schedule in place, gather any supplies you’ll need to facilitate your child’s learning. This process will look different for everyone based off of your child’s individual extracurricular activities and academic level. Your supplies may include textbooks, workbooks, tracing boards, art supplies, science kits, athletic gear, musical instruments, or more.
I highly recommend purchasing used materials or borrowing from other homeschooling families, especially for extracurriculars that your child may grow bored of.
Step 6: Set Up a Dedicated Learning Space
Creating a designated homeschooling space can help your child focus and stay organized. Choose an area in your home that’s quiet, well-lit, comfortable, and free of distractions. If you have a guest room, an office, or a finished basement, then those may be great options. However, your learning space doesn’t need to be large or fancy. You can simply use a corner of the living room, or even your dining room table. Just focus on creating a dedicated learning space, however that may look.
It’s also helpful to store your schooling supplies in this space so that you remain organized. Searching around the house for your resources creates unnecessary stress and wastes time. Even one hour wasted can throw off your entire day.
That said, having a dedicated space doesn’t mean that’s the only place your child can learn. Again, remember the freedom and flexibility that homeschooling gives your family. Your child may practice handwriting in his/her/their homeschooling space, but then read books outside. In fact, research shows that children learn better and are more focused when they’re in nature.
Personally, we have a dedicated learning space in our home office, but we also learn anywhere and everywhere! Experiment with different learning environments and see what works best for your kids.
Step 7: Start Homeschooling!
With everything in place, it’s time to start homeschooling! Remember to be flexible and adjust your schedule or curriculum as needed. I can guarantee you that your very first plan of attack will not look like your last. There is a learning curve in homeschooling, especially since each child has his/her/their own individual needs and interests.
If you thought something would work well and it doesn’t, then don’t force it. There’s nothing wrong in throwing your original plan out of the window and starting over. You simply won’t know what homeschooling approach, schedule, or curriculum works best for your family until you start. You will learn as you go, and you will get better through experience.
Homeschooling can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. By following these step-by-step instructions, you can start your homeschooling journey with simplicity and confidence. Remember to know your local homeschooling laws, and seek support from other homeschooling families or organizations. The rewards homeschooling brings outweighs the initial challenges. Enjoy the journey, and good luck!