Making the choice to homeschool is the first decision of many that you will need to make during your homeschooling years. Honestly, it can feel a little bit overwhelming to start homeschooling - with all the curriculum choices, books, websites, methods - it’s hard to know where to begin. But, really, it comes down to about five things you need to know and do. They aren’t super easy (but hey, the decision to homeschool isn’t the easiest path either) but following these five steps will set you up for homeschooling success.
Let's get started!
Step #1: Investigate the Laws in your State or Province
The first step for every homeschool family is to find out what the homeschooling laws are in your state or province. (And, yes, it is legal to homeschool in the US and Canada - but the laws vary by state and province). Thankfully, you don’t need to sift through some long list of laws on your state’s website. A-Z's Homeschool Laws lists the regulations and laws for each state in plain language.
Take notes if you need to (download the free checklist to keep yourself on-track - look for the form below to get your free copy) and make a plan for following up with any necessary paperwork.
Step #2: Do Some Homeschooling Research
Once you know the laws in your area, it’s time for some research. Take a quick look at your local library’s website and see if they have any books on homeschooling. Do a Google search for homeschooling and start reading (and taking notes). Look for homeschool blogs to get a look at how other homeschools work. Search iTunes for homeschooling podcasts. There is plenty of information about homeschooling available today - more than enough for you to get a good idea of the many different ways to homeschool.
Here are some resources to help you get started:
- How to Homeschool - answering all the questions and concerns you have about getting started.
- Some of my favorite homeschooling blogs
- A few favorite homeschool books
- Homeschool Realities - some of the hard truths about homeschooling
- Mastering Your Teacher's Manual - you're the boss, homeschool mom!
One of the things you’ll want to spend time learning more about is homeschool methods. You'll need to identify the methods that most resonate with you and your family. This one step will help you narrow down your choices in the next step - choosing curriculum.
Step #3: Choose Your Curriculum
There is so much available to homeschoolers today. We’ve been homeschooling for about ten years and, even within that time, there has been an explosion of wonderful materials available to homeschoolers. Because of that, it can feel overwhelming narrowing down the many available choices. But, thankfully, there is one simple tool you can use to help you - your homeschool method.
Homeschool methods run the gamut from completely hands-off unschooling to a school-at-home approach, with many options in between. When you identify with a certain (or even two or three) methodologies, those ideas can help you narrow down your options (and avoid the homeschool curriculum shopping overwhelm).
If you follow a more relaxed ideology, you don’t want to spend your time and money on the more traditional school-at-home curriculum options. If you follow the classical method, you may want to include Latin or logic.
This one simple tool - your homeschool method - can help you sift through all the choices and find things that will fit your family best.
Once you've identified the methods that resonate with you, use them to narrow down your curriculum options. If you need to know more about the types of curriculum available (and where to shop!) take a look at this How to Homeschool page.
Once you’ve made your choices it’s time to start shopping!
Don't forget to set a budget: Why You Need a Homeschooling Budget
Step #4: Develop a Routine or Schedule
While you’re waiting for those books to arrive, it’s important that you take some time to put systems in place. Homeschooling takes time (every day!) and having the kids home all day makes it difficult to keep up with daily chores and messes. That double-whammy - daily homeschooling & having the kids home all day, can wreak havoc on your home if you don't set a routine.
It’s so important to have a few systems in place so you don’t burn out and end up completely overwhelmed by all the things on your daily to-do list. At the very least, you’ll want to have a housekeeping and meal planning routine in place before you start.
Read this for a few ideas: Tips for Balancing Homeschooling & Housekeeping
And, once those homeschool books start to arrive, you’ll want to organize the materials and work out a homeschooling routine that will help you get everything done.
A look at how we plan our year: How to Plan a Homeschool Year
Step #5: Find a Support Network
The last step is so important. You need to find a support network - local and online. You’ll want to chat with other homeschool families and your kids will want some friends and activities. The encouragement of other homeschool families may not seem necessary, but you really will want to have some homeschool friends (yes, even if you're an introvert!) at some point.
Believe me, it is exciting at first, embarking on this homeschooling journey, but eventually, you will need a friend to share your struggles with - and there are plenty of homeschool moms who can commiserate.
Look for local support groups (Facebook is a great place to search for local homeschool groups), co-ops, and even online homeschool groups where you can chat with other homeschool moms from all over the world.
Getting started with homeschooling
Following these 5 steps at the beginning of your homeschool journey will help you create a happy homeschool experience for you and your children. While homeschooling takes plenty of hard work the rewards are definitely worth the effort!
Have I missed a step in this how to start homeschooling series? If you've been homeschooling awhile, what would you add to the list?
If you're a new homeschooler what questions do you still have about homeschooling? Leave me a comment!