How to Homeschool
Everything You Need to Know to Get Started
Are you thinking about homeschooling but aren't quite sure where to start? I've got you covered! You'll find plenty of information on this page that will help. Time to start reading - and learning everything you need to know about how to homeschool!
*Affiliate disclaimer: Some links below are affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. See my disclosure policy for full details.
What is homeschooling?
Homeschooling is the term used to describe parents who choose to educate their children at home instead of other educational systems like public or private schools. You may find it referred to as home learning, school-at-home, and many other terms - but they all mean the same thing.
Is it legal to homeschool in North America?
Yes, you can homeschool in every state and province in North America. There is a wide range of requirements - some places have very easy laws, other places require more documentation. No matter how much information you need to provide, it is a-okay to homeschool here in North America.
What are the homeschooling laws in my area?
The first step in learning how to homeschool is to do a little research. You must find out what the laws regarding homeschooling in your country, state, or province and comply with those laws. Each place has its own set of guidelines and it is your responsibility to find out what those laws are.
The easiest place to start is A-Z's Homeschool Laws page - which lists each state and province (and some information for those in other countries).
After learning about the laws in your state or province, there are four more steps to take to get started: How to Start Homeschooling
What are the advantages of homeschooling?
I don't want to lie to you - homeschooling is hard work. It requires a serious commitment to educate your children. I can honestly say that the hard work is worth the effort - homeschooling does have some great advantages:
- Personalized instruction for each child - tailored to their needs
- Wide variety of curriculum choices
- Close family relationships
- Not tied to a school calendar
- More time for interest-led pursuits and activities
Along with its many advantages, homeschooling does have some drawbacks:
- Little time off - you are the parent and the teacher
- Family and friends may criticize your educational choice
- Less income (unless you find a way to work and homeschool)
- More expensive than public school
Where can I find homeschool curriculum?
Once you know the laws in your area (and you have a small idea of what you're getting yourself into!) it's time to start looking for the curriculum and resources you want to use. There are many choices available to homeschoolers today - from 'box' curriculum (that includes every subject) to choosing materials for each subject individually - it's your choice.
Here are some of my favorite places to purchase homeschool books and resources:
What kinds of homeschool curriculum are available?
Homeschool curriculum can be divided into four basic types:
1. Textbooks & Workbooks
Standard textbooks and workbooks might use either a spiral, incremental, or mastery-based approach.
- A spiral approach introduces concepts at an appropriate age/grade level and repeatedly covers these concepts in future levels, at a deeper level of difficulty.
- The incremental approach takes a skill and breaks it down into pieces, drilling each of those pieces individually for a long period of time.
- The mastery-based approach focuses on one concept at a time before moving on to another.
These types of programs could use physical books or be computer- or DVD-based (or a combination of both).
The teacher’s manuals can provide anything from a basic overview to a complete script for you to follow (this can be a good or bad thing depending on your confidence with the subject).
Student workbooks can be colorful, black-and-white, cluttered, clean and simple -- you’ll have to determine which type works best for your children. It may take some time to find the right fit.
A close relative to textbooks and workbooks are worktexts. Instead of two separate books (a textbook and companion workbook) the text and written assignments are combined in one book. It may or may not include a teacher’s manual but usually does at least provide an answer key.
Like the textbooks and workbooks, the format from one program to another may be quite different.
3. Literature-based Programs
The literature-based program uses books (novels, classic literature, or historical fiction) as a “spine” for learning, with additional activities, worksheets, or projects included to create a well-rounded program.
These types of programs work well for many families -- especially those who wish to have all or most of their children working together.
4. Hands-on Programs
Some programs and methods use games and educational activities as the basis for learning (which is great for wiggly kids!). Skill subjects can be practiced with educational games, and history or science easily lend themselves to the hands-on approach.
How much does it cost to homeschool?
It varies from family to family. One family may choose to buy a full, pre-packaged curriculum for each child (which are generally the most expensive homeschooling products). Another family may purchase just basic textbooks for a few subjects and use free resources (like the local library or online resources) to fill out their schedule.
A few things to consider when deciding what's right for your family:
- Your budget
- Your time (it takes time to research free options)
- Your teaching ability (if you are very confident about teaching a certain subject you may choose to use free resources; if you are not confident about teaching a subject you may opt for a full program)
Read more: Why You Need a Homeschooling Budget
How much time does it take to homeschool?
The daily time requirements for homeschooling vary based on the number of children you are homeschooling and the ages of the children.
Here are some general guidelines:
- Preschool & Kindergarten: 30 minutes - 1 hour
- Elementary: 1 hour - 3 hours
- Middle School: 3 hours - 5 hours
- High School: 4 hours - 6 hours
These are just rough guidelines, but they can give you an idea of how much you can expect from your children at different ages.
Your time requirements will also change as children get older. When they are small you will need to sit with them and teach directly. As they get older and more independent, you will slowly transition to more independence in middle school. By high school, you are more of a facilitator and will just need to check in with your children to make sure work is being completed (depending on the curriculum you are using, of course).
What homeschooling records do I need to keep?
The records you need to keep will vary. When you research the laws in your area it may include a list of necessary documents. If your area does not require any documentation, I still recommend that you keep a yearly portfolio of completed work (for the elementary years).
Read more: Creating a Year-End Portfolio
For high school you'll need to keep transcripts which should include, at a minimum, a record of each subject studied and the grade the student achieved for each subject. Students need to complete a minimum number of credits to graduate. Check your state laws or inquire at your local school to find out what the graduation requirements are.
What if I have an only child? Can I still homeschool?
Absolutely, yes! You can homeschool your only child.
Of course, it's going to be a little different than homeschooling multiple children - it has its advantages as well as its disadvantages.
Read more: Homeschooling an Only Child
What about socialization?
You'll hear this question quite often from well-meaning friends and family!
We've found that we have MORE time for social pursuits with homeschooling. Instead of spending every day with only one peer group, homeschooled kids have the opportunity to spend time with people of all ages - which is true socialization.
For more on this topic, take a look at Socialization of Homeschooled Children from The Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents.
Where can I find out more about how to homeschool?
You can find out more about how to homeschool right here! Here are some more posts that will help you get started:
- How to Plan a Homeschool Year
- Our Most Used School Supplies
- 4 Things I've Learned on Our Homeschooling Journey
- 3 Homeschooling Essentials You Can't Buy Online
More helpful websites & articles:
Very helpful list of articles (and a free checklist): Links to Help you Get Started with Homeschooling from Simple Homeschool
Lots of articles about curriculum and getting started: Getting Started in Homeschooling from Life as Mom
If you have a child with dyslexia you can homeschool. You'll find plenty of help at Homeschooling with Dyslexia. Start with this article - How to Get Started Homeschooling a Child with Dyslexia.
What's the next step?
When you are ready to being, I suggest that you begin looking for a local homeschooling group in your area. Search the internet and Facebook groups for organizations in your community. Your state may have a homeschool association that can help you find a local group as well.
You will also want to do a little bit of research into the variety of homeschooling methods.
What's a homeschool method? It's just a basic philosophy of education that can help guide your schedule and curriculum choices. Homeschool families often combine a few different methods - creating a unique homeschool experience.
Once you've read about the basic methods - it's time for some homework! Order library books, look for homeschool podcasts and begin researching your homeschool options. Learn about the different methods and think about how they would fit your family.
More reading for new homeschoolers:
- Learn about the most popular homeschooling methods (and how to choose the right one for your family)
- Take a look at some favorite homeschool books that will encourage and inspire you.
If you're new to homeschooling, there is a period of adjustment - especially if your children have been in a school setting. It's normal and expected! It's okay to relax and take things slowly - I recommend that you do. Take your time and find what works for your family.
ARE YOU READY FOR A HOMESCHOOL RENOVATION?
With Homeschool DIY you'll have everything you need to build a happy homeschool.
Learn the step-by-step process for building your homeschool from the foundation to the roof. Homeschool DIY will teach you how to create a mission statement, set attainable goals, choose curriculum with confidence, and develop a schedule that fits your family.