What do you do if you want to officially homeschool next year? What can you do if you have NO idea what homeschooling really looks like? How do you find a curriculum? Do you even NEED a curriculum? What does a typical day look like?
How to Start Homeschooling (When Have NO Idea What You’re Doing)
- Find Your State Homeschool Laws
- Take Time to Deschool
- Dip Your Toes Into Homeschooling
- Free Curriculum Guides and Resources
- Grab the free PDF Quick-Start Guide below to help you through the beginning phases of homeschooling
First of all, you’re in good company here. I never saw myself as a homeschooler and had no clue how to do it either. I have two education degrees and spent ten years in the classroom, so I had a lot of preconceived notions about what homeschooling was or wasn’t.
But the more I started digging into different homeschooling “gurus” out there by listening to their podcasts, reading their books, and attending conferences, the more I started to really think about my own philosophies on teaching and learning. As a result, our homeschool experience has taken a certain form.
We are very relaxed homeschoolers. If anything, I’d say we’re “eclectic” because I’m not attached to any one label. We’re a little bit Classical. A little bit Charlotte Mason. A little bit “unschooly”. Very much delight and interest-driven. I’ve had many years to think about it though, and that gift of time is not lost on me.
So my first piece of advice to all you new homeschool parents is this:
1. Start with the basic laws for your state.
Every state is going to have different rules you’ll need to follow. The best course of action is to:
- Visit HSLDA.org and find the requirements for your state.
- Contact your local school district and ask directly.
- Check your state’s Department of Education website to see if they have an information packet specifically for homeschoolers.
Then work on taking care of meeting those initial requirements. That’s the easy part! Next you get to:
2. “Deschool” your family.
Basically, you need time to remove yourself and your children from the rigid constructs of what you think school is or isn’t. If you’re like me, you might have gone to school for K-12. Private or public, doesn’t matter. We’ve had this notion of what learning looks like ingrained in us through that experience.
For us schooled kids, learning looked like sitting at a desk. Like spending 7-8 hours a day in a school building away from family. It looked like having to follow the rules and not having the freedom to be yourself. Of being forced to do things you weren’t interested in. Of being forced to wake up before your body was ready to go learn something that didn’t interest you so that you could check it off on a box for your transcript.
Is that what learning should look like?
Deschooling is the time when you have the freedom to figure that out for yourself. It’s a time when you, as the parent, can think about your personal philosophies on teaching and learning. And it’s the time when your children are free to explore their own interests and passions without forced learning activities or arbitrary schedules.
This process will take some time, and the longer your kids were in school, the longer it will probably take you to reach a comfy point in your homeschool experience.
So again, breathe and give yourself grace.
Of course, as a beginning homeschooler you’re probably thinking, “Gee, all this relaxing looks great, but at some point we have to get into “real” learning right?”
3. Dip your toes in the homeschooling waters.
Homeschooling looks different for every family. Some kids, like mine, do really well with a relaxed approach. Other kids may crave a more predictable structure, especially at first.
Most parents just starting out are looking for the security of a curriculum. If you don’t feel confident in your ability to teach your children or to know what they “should” be learning from year to year, a curriculum is a good place to start.
Luckily, you don’t have to spend any money on this. In fact, I would highly discourage you from spending a ton of money on any curriculums until you know how you and your kids actually learn and work together.
FREE ONLINE CURRICULUMS TO TRY
Easy Peasy All In One Homeschool – “A complete, free, online homeschool curriculum”; K-12, a great starting place when you don’t know what to choose or need general guidelines for what skills and topics to cover. The general curriculum can be used in a secular way, though Christian religious resources are available. You are free to pick and choose what materials you use and how.
Ambleside Online – A complete Charlotte Mason curriculum, including easy-to-read yearly overviews, book lists, activity ideas, and more. Charlotte Mason advocated that the child is a whole person, not simply a vessel to be filled. Studies in the CM tradition are rooted in “living books”, nature studies, handicrafts, and a rich connection to culture and history.
Mater Amabilis – PreK-12th, a Catholic Charlotte Mason program similar to Ambleside Online.
Khan Academy – Online video-based courses for K-12. They include a HUGE variety of courses, including Advanced Placement classes. Courses are high-quality and very engaging!
4. Take some time to learn about the beautiful world of homeschooling.
I have probably put more effort into refining my own philosophy of teaching and learning in the last three years of homeschooling than I ever did when I was in the classroom. There is something about being in the thick of it with your own children daily that forces you to really confront what true learning IS.
There’s also something about going against the grain that makes you have to really think about it. No one questions your decision to send your children to school. In most cases, it’s just what you DO. But when you take the audacious step to homeschool, everyone questions it.
If you’re homeschooling this coming year because you don’t want to subject your children to whatever the “new normal” might be in the schools, I think you’re about to discover something beautiful about your family. Or at least, you will if you allow yourself to.
Take some time to read some good books or blogs and listen to some podcasts. There are dozens upon dozens of resources out there, but when you’re starting out it’s good to keep it simple. Here are my favorites to start with:
FAVORITE HOMESCHOOL PODCASTS
FAVORITE RELAXED HOMESCHOOL BOOKS
5. Start finding out what works (and doesn’t work) for your family.
You may choose to start with a free curriculum and find that you love having a plan of attack for each day. Or you might find curriculums to be too restrictive and against the flow of natural learning for your kids. And even still, you may find yourself in the messy middle where you don’t want a full-blown curriculum but choose individual subject curricula or online programs when it makes sense or fits your child’s interests.
But you won’t really know until you try.
You may find that your family thrives on having a cozy Morning Time ritual with prayer, memorizing verses from scripture or prose, and read-alouds. Maybe you like having predictable blocks of time dedicated to certain activities.
Or maybe you’re like our family and you seize learning opportunities all day every day, 24/7/365. We don’t have a strict time to “do school” because we view learning as something that happens all the time in many forms. For us, “doing school” sucks the joy out of it. Learning doesn’t only happen Monday through Friday from 8:00-3:00.
It took me a LONG time to really figure that out though. I struggled at first because I tried to make my super active child sit and do worksheets from approved subjects. It went over like a lead balloon.
You can do this.
If you’re putting enough thought into this homeschooling business to be reading blogs like this, you’re well-equipped to be a homeschool parent. Why? Because it shows that you yourself are curious and willing to learn something new. Isn’t that what we also want for our kids?
If they can get a vibrant education through their homeschool experience, wonderful! If they get it by going back to school, also good! And if their education features a mix of both homeschooling and traditional schooling, they’ll still be fine. Love and support them through it all. Partner with them in the educational process. You’ll be amazed at how far they can go.
Ready to learn more? Click here to learn all about getting started with homeschooling. Be sure to follow along for more homeschooling goodness on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. And be sure to subscribe below for homeschool encouragement plus access to our resource library. I look forward to seeing you there!
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