Have you found yourself thrust into the world of homeschooling, but have no idea where to begin? Here is an easy 5 step breakdown on how to start homeschooling your children.
Homeschooling may seem daunting at first, however, there are a few simple steps to get you started on your home education journey. Regardless if you are temporarily educating your children at home, or just filling in the gaps to your school’s distance learning program, following these simple steps can help you get off to a good start!
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#1 Homeschool Support & State Laws
When I began my home education journey with my first child over 23 years ago, homeschooling was not a very popular choice for many families. Not only was there a certain taboo associated with homeschooling (such as well-meaning family members sharing their opinions on how you will ruin your child’s education) but very few families at that time were homeschooling their children. I remember seeking out those homeschool moms at my church that were already “in the trenches” and grilling them with a plethora of questions. I saw them as the wise women on the mountain hoping to glean some advice and encouragement with this uncertain journey I was about to embark.
Thankfully, over the past several years, homeschooling has become more mainstream which means there is now a huge support network now available for new families making this lifestyle choice. Homeschooling communities and groups are available in most cities across the U.S. offering a huge network of resources. These groups can be a great resource to find out your specific state and local homeschool laws and regulations. Many times, members of these support groups can provide contacts for registering your children as homeschoolers with your local school district as well as any other requirements or mandates. www.homeschoolacademy.com has a good resource to get started understanding the homeschooling laws for your specific state.
A great way to connect with other homeschool moms is to join an event at a homeschool group. It can be a great time of visiting while the children are engaged in an activity or sport. Through the years I have found that most veteran homeschool moms are more than happy to answer questions and offer advice to new homeschool moms.
3 Support Options for New Homeschoolers
- Visit a local homeschool group and connect with other homeschool moms.
- Join homeschool message boards and Facebook groups. www.hopeinthechaos.com has put together a great list of Facebook groups for homeschoolers.
- Ask a veteran or current homeschool mom if you can meet for lunch or coffee in order to ask questions and advice.
#2 Determine Your Homeschool Goals
The decision to homeschool is different for each family. Whether you are “Homeschooling Lite” during the Covid-Crisis, or choosing to go “all in”, your homeschooling goals will be different depending upon your individual family’s needs. For those families temporarily homeschooling during the pandemic, your objective may be to just keep the core subjects (such as: reading, writing and math) going during the school closures. If you are jumping into homeschooling as a more permanent choice, the educational goals for your children will be more long term based.
Examples of goals for families temporarily homeschooling due to school closures:
- Get your children caught up with subjects they are behind in such as: multiplication, division, etc.
- Improve penmanship skills or teach them cursive writing.
- Learn a new skill such as knitting, cooking, or building something.
Examples of goals for families that are planning to permanently homeschool:
- Start an early college program by the time your child is 15 years old where they can earn dual high school and college credits.
- Have 100 hours of volunteer work logged by a determined age.
- Each child takes at least a year of music lessons.
#3 Have a Family Discussion about your Homeschooling Choice
Many children realize that homeschooling is the only option of continuing their education during the temporary school closures. While they may not be too excited about it, most children are very resilient and will adjust to this new routine. Having a family discussion about what homeschooling will look like in your day-to-day life is a great way to get everyone on board and working together.
You can discuss with each child what you expect from them in regard to what time they start their schoolwork, when assignments are due, etc. If you are a parent that works from home, you might want to lay out the rules for your interaction with them when you are on the phone or in a meeting. Most children will probably have some concerns or fears about not being able to socialize with their school friends. Allowing your children to come up with some solutions for “filling in the socialization gaps” caused by a homeschooling lifestyle gives them a feeling of empowerment in the situation that otherwise feels out of their control. Looking at homeschooling from the perspective of a fun, family endeavor will make memories that will last a lifetime.
Here are some discussion topics for the new homeschool family:
- What time do we start school?
- What time does school end?
- What is expected when mom or dad is working from home?
- When it is time to play outside or with friends?
- What are the consequences for not getting assignments done?
- How does everyone feel about this decision to homeschool?
- What are you most excited about as we begin homeschooling?
#4 Choose a Curriculum
Choosing a curriculum that fits for your family should be determined upon your individual reasons for homeschooling. If you are “Homeschooling Lite” due to school closures, you may want to concentrate on specific subjects that you know your children were behind in when they were in the public school. This is a great opportunity to give them individual help they were not able to get in a large classroom setting. Workbooks are great as an inexpensive, supplemental learning resource. As a veteran homeschool mom, my advice is to not worry about covering all the subjects if you are only temporarily homeschooling. Keep the core subjects going (reading, writing and math) while using this time as an opportunity to focus on helping your child with those subjects they are behind in.
Online schooling is another choice available for homeschool families. Most states offer online schooling with a teacher assigned to oversee the student’s educational progress and offer suggestions to help the student stay on track. This homeschooling option is great for parents that don’t feel comfortable teaching their children and for the higher-grade levels. Some homeschool families choose to use a private online schooling for the core subjects (reading, writing and math) and then supplement other subjects (history, geography, science, etc.) with curriculum books or computer programs.
Here are some examples of curriculum choices for homeschoolers:
- Workbooks for math, language arts, reading, etc.
- Computer program for subjects such as math and science.
- Online school through your state.
- Online private school.
#5 Create an Academic Plan
Scheduling is a good start for your homeschool academic plan. Things to consider when making a schedule is what subjects do you expect your child to complete each week. For example, will they work on new spelling words Monday through Thursday and then have a spelling test on Friday? How many math assignments need to be completed for each day? When I was homeschooling my elementary age children, I created a checkoff sheet each week for all the subjects that I required to be completed by Friday. My kids loved this system as it gave them flexibility, choice, and time management skills with their schoolwork. For example, my checkoff sheet required five Saxon Math assignments per week. This system gave them the choice to only concentrate on math for the first few days of school. One of my sons was a particular “go-getter” and had a goal to get a whole week’s worth of schoolwork done by Thursday giving him a three-day weekend.
Another way to keep your child on track with an academic plan is to create long and short term benchmarks of completion or mastery of each subject. For example, a short-term benchmark could be to have all of the times tables mastered by Christmas break. An example of a long-term bench mark is to complete a math curriculum book by the end of the school year. Having these bench marks is a great way to keeping your child on track and giving them goals to advance forward.
State testing is another important part of having a homeschool academic plan. Most states require some sort of testing at specific grade levels for homeschoolers. Knowing that your child is periodically required to be tested is a great motivator for most moms to stay on track with their child’s education. There are many Test-Prep workbooks available by various publishers. Taking a break from your normal homeschool routine and having them work through these booklets for a few weeks is a great way to discover areas of improvement that are needed. Your local homeschool support group or school district will be able to provide testing requirements, registration, dates, and possibly sample tests.
Three things to consider when creating an academic plan:
- State Testing
Homeschooling How To: Final Thoughts
Homeschooling can be tailor made to fit your specific family’s needs and current situation. Whether you are a just dipping your toe into the water of homeschooling or in it for the long haul, parents can successfully educate their children at home given all the resources that are available today.