How to Homeschool
The decision to begin homeschooling is incredibly personal. Maybe you decided to homeschool for safety reasons. Maybe your children’s needs aren’t being met at the school or maybe you want to impart your own worldview and spiritual beliefs to your children.
I homeschool because it’s so rewarding! I initially typed fun and then I thought better of it because I don’t want to give you the wrong idea. Not that we don’t have fun times — we do!
We laugh and act silly together and I absolutely love being a part of all the moments, but it can also be excruciatingly tough. Let me back up a little.
I began homeschooling because my oldest missed the kindergarten deadline. All of her little friends had earlier birthdays and she cried while watching them (out of our front window) happily board the bus and wave goodbye to their moms.
The only way to console her was to promise her school at home. Little did I know what I was getting into!
I didn’t consider us homeschoolers that year, but we enjoyed our school time so much that year, and my daughter was so far of ahead of her peers at the public school, that there was no going back.
I know exactly how overwhelmed you feel, and how you are secretly afraid you will permanently damage the precious little people entrusted to your care. I know just how badly you want to provide a magical, sparkly childhood and how you are already struggling to put three nutritious meals on the table each day and wondering how you can possibly add another thing, let alone a huge thing like homeschooling.
I know that homeschooling feels like an experiment (although in reality government schools are the experiment) and I know you would feel more confident if you could just see some statistics showing that the majority of homeschoolers score above average on college entrance tests or something, anything.
The questions running through your head are NORMAL! All new homeschoolers experience the same trepidation you are feeling.
I want to help!
Homeschooling is kind of like an elephant in that it’s so huge you have to back up to really see it, there are so many moving parts, and it’s a living, breathing, constantly growing and changing animal. But, like the old adage goes,
you CAN eat an elephant if you take it
ONE BITE AT A TIME.
There is absolutely now way I could cover all of your questions in one post, so I’ve written several posts and linked them below, like an index. If you have a specific question I neglect to answer, I’d love for you to reply on this post. Other moms probably have the same question, so your questions will help them, too!
Real quick before you dive in, there is a downloadable, printable checklist of all of these steps at the end of this post. I find it helpful to take notes when I have a holy ton of information to digest, and I thought you might, too.
Also, between all of the posts you’ll visit, I hope you will have some epiphanies about your own homeschool and your own children. Write those down! If you’re like me, you won’t remember most of the things you thought you would, haha!
So either grab a notebook or a journal, or print out the checklist, your favorite beverage and settle in.
How to Homeschool: A Beginner’s Guide
First, take about two minutes to check the homeschooling laws and requirements for YOUR state or country. I have homeschooled in both Texas and Utah. Texas has pretty much zero requirements. In Utah I had to file an affidavit with the school district where we lived, but I only had to file it once for all of my children. It didn’t need to be filed every year.
Neither state mandated assessments or year-end testing or anything like that. Texas does require math, reading, grammar and citizenship courses, but they don’t check up on you or assess your children or anything, so I don’t know how they verify that.
Once you’ve checked the legal requirements for your state, come right back here and read through the rest of the articles linked below. I’m pretty sure that by the end you will feel a whole lot more confident so you can focus on all of the FUN parts of homeschooling!
1. Figure out your why.
What do I mean by a “why” and why does it matter?
This homeschooling journey on which you are embarking is not going to be all sunshine and sparkles and unicorns. Some days (or months) will be tedious, exhausting drudgery and others will be downright abominable.
Homeschooling will try you to your very depths, much the same as parenting does. You will need your why to remain committed even through those tough times. It will help you remember why you embarked on this educational journey when you want to quit.
Think of your why as both the deep-down-reason-that-compels-you-to-homeschool and your homeschool mission statement all rolled into one. During times of discouragement, knowing your why will help you to persevere as well as giving you a framework from which to reevaluate your methods and ensure that your goals are in line with your overall objectives.
Here are a few questions to get you thinking. What values and beliefs do you want to instill in your child? Do you want to strengthen family relationships, particularly between older and younger children? Do you feel you can give your children an academically superior education? Do you want to inspire a love of learning? Do you want your children to be able to work at their own pace?
What unique purposes are inspiring your family’s decision to homeschool?
Finally, know that you will learn as you go, and your why might change as your children grow and your family dynamic evolves.
I tend to complicate and overthink this, but it can really just be one sentence or even one word. Your why might be that you want to individualize your child’s education to his own unique learning style, interests and abilities. It might be that you want to give your child diverse and interesting experiences.
You may want to impart a lifelong love of learning or instill family values or nurture religious faith. I always felt held back at school — like it was a waste of my time. I am confident that I can give my children a better education than I received.
2. Figure out your homeschool style and your children’s learning styles.
To be honest, I spent WAY too much time on this step, wanting everything to be absolutely perfect. The truth is that nothing is perfect. Ever.
With a holy ton of homeschooling experience under my belt I can tell you that most children do best with multi-sensory, hands-on curriculum as much as possible, no matter what their learning style, and that most homeschoolers evolve to an eclectic homeschooling style, just grabbing the bits and pieces of different homeschooling methods that best suit their family, over time.
Kids grow and change. Family circumstances change, too. It’s helpful to know all about different learning styles and homeschool methods as you choose curriculum, but don’t get too hung up on this.
To give you an idea, I started my children out in the Classical method, but over the years we’ve evolved into a very relaxed, eclectic style with an extra measure of Reggio Emilia because we love to use Unit Studies and learn family style. Your experience will probably be similar in that almost all homeschool parents I’ve asked grow more relaxed over time, but your own path will be exclusively yours.
3. Figure out your homeschool budget.
Most of us homeschool moms are homeschooling on a tight budget because we give up a second income to stay home with the kids. And homeschooling, from printer ink and art supplies to museum passes and math curriculum, can add up!
A homeschool budget can help you to not only stay within a budget, but also to spend what you do have in the most effective and efficient way. In other words, I can tell you how to find the best deals on homeschool curriculum and supplies so you get the most bang for your buck.
4. Create an effective daily routine that includes homeschooling time.
It’s critical that you establish a habit of learning as part of your daily routine. School can’t exist in a vacuum. You will be most successful if you can make learning time feel just as integral and necessary to your days as meal time and play time and sleep time.
That’s why I suggest that instead of merely laying out your daily school schedule, you lay out your entire daily routine and just make sure school time falls within it somewhere, and adhere to that religiously. Because my children are such avid eaters, I use mealtimes as hooks around which we structure our daily routine.
Flexibility is one of the most beautiful benefits of homeschooling, and it will help you to embrace spontaneity and help life and school feel less mundane. So be sure to create your daily routine in such a way that it can be flexible without causing anyone anxiety.
5. Find a homeschool support group or a co-op.
I’m an introvert with a capital I. But still, as a young mom of four tiny kids and brand new homeschooler, I would have gone out my ever loving mind without our fantastic homeschool group.
I don’t even remember how I found them, because the internet was in it’s infancy. But somehow I did and hallelujah!
The moms in our homeschool group were about half fledgling homeschoolers like myself, and the other half were very experienced, so it gave us newbies access to wisdom. It also gave us all a place to feel normal. No matter how we felt about politics, religion or anything else, we had our homeschooling adventures in common.
As critical as our homeschool group was to MY mental health, I think it was even more critical for my children. My children take after me and have always felt comfortable chatting up Grandma or playing with the neighbors babies, but felt sick when faced with playdates with kids their own age.
While nobody can ever convince me that the BEST way for my children to learn social skills is in a seat in a classroom with 25 other children their exact same ages, they do need a bit of that type of socialization and we found it in our homeschool groups, community classes and extracurricular activities.
6. Sprinkle in some experiential learning.
My favorite part of our first homeschool co-op was the Friday field trips. Each mom in our group was responsible for one Friday field trip per year. The organizers handed out a schedule of what had been done in prior years as well as ideas for places in our community.
I can’t even remember all of the places we visited, but I’ll never forget the way it set my children up for a lifelong love of learning. I now think of field trips as question-pullers, and questions are always what initiates learning.
If someone had just told me how valuable field trips were, I’d probably never have believed them. The idea of spending a whole day each week on a field trip was foreign to me as a product of government schools.
And yet our field trips have been infinitely more educational than weeks spent in textbooks. We moved after a couple of years, but have firmly kept the field trip Friday tradition alive.
7. Choose your homeschool curriculum.
This one stymies most new homeschoolers, just so you know. I’m going to give you the advice I wish someone would have given me that first year. Keep it simple!
Start as simply as possible. Your kids don’t need to study all of the subjects, and that will lead to major overwhelm for you and for them.
I had grand visions of exploring Latin, Hebrew, Spanish, Physics, Chemistry, American History and every single other thing with my little people. I let that crazy amount of curriculum give me hives for three years before I finally realized it was ridiculous and that I was destroying my kiddos love of learning.
Now we only study math daily, plus everyone reads constantly and I’m careful to sneak educational (especially historical nonfiction) content into the library bag. Science only happens a couple of times each semester, but when we study science we really study science and we go deep and accomplish a semester’s worth of learning at a time.
We play grammar games occasionally and my kids work on a few things, like coding and foreign languages independently, plus my kiddos each have a couple of instruments they are learning. But all of that is on their own — I don’t oversee it.
The only subject I do oversee and that we study daily around the kitchen table is math. That kind of simple is exactly my language and it works for us.
Keeping things simple will save you a lot of money (because you won’t be wasting it on curriculum you end up not using) and headache. Moving slowly and carefully allows you to experiment a little and learn about your child’s needs before plunking down a wad of cash.
My best advice is to start by choosing a math curriculum and by scheduling a set time each week to visit the library. Don’t worry about any of the other subjects — just make sure you do math every single school day and read a TON. Once those things are a habit, it’s easier to add in another subject and then one more subject.
Most other subjects can be learned by reading, and you can strategically sneak educational books into your children’s learning piles. I believe that math is the one subject that can only be mastered with daily, careful practice.
8. Set up your space.
Will you be homeschooling around the kitchen table or do you have a dedicated homeschool room? Do you have cabinets or shelves to hold supplies? What will your children’s work spaces look like? Do you plan to use technology? Do you need a blackboard or a white board?
Get organized by purchasing storage cabinets and bookshelves for holding textbooks and workbooks. Organizers are useful for keeping loose supplies under control.
9. Plan your homeschool year.
When I began homeschooling, I made the mistake of re-creating a government school at home. Oops! Homeschooling is far more efficient, so you can devote less time and accomplish more!
10. Evaluate your homeschool periodically and don’t compare it to others.
Part of the beauty of homeschooling is that it can be completely individualized to your unique children and your own special family situation. You make your homeschool conform to your family instead of the other way around.
You can create the perfect schedule/routine for your family, whether you are night owls or early birds or a different species altogether. You get to choose curriculum suited to your children’s learning styles and your preferred parenting style.
You can impart the values and character you see as important. You get to customize opportunities to your children’s interests. You get to dive down rabbit holes and take the time to learn in-depth whenever you desire.
Why would you compare your individual homeschool to another unique homeschool created by someone else?
Nobody else has your kids. Nobody has your resources. Nobody else has your talents. Nobody else has your challenges.
Besides that, however perfect someone else’s homeschool might look to you from the outside — it’s not. I can promise you that with certainty. That mom who looks put together and patient, with well-behaved, clean, well-dressed children feels just like you do.
She wonders if she’s doing the right thing and if she’s doing enough.
Get ideas from others, but only for the purpose of ideas. Take those ideas and adapt them to your unique situation or toss them altogether. Above all, remember your unique homeschool ‘why’, your ultimate goals for your homeschool, and use those as a litmus test to determine the direction to take your homeschool.
What if I mess up?
You’re going to mess up: it’s inevitable.
When my kiddos groan over missing lots of problems on a math assignment, I always tell them that missing problems is a fantastic opportunity for learning. Oh boy, you are going to learn!
I’ve probably learned more through homeschooling than my children have, and not all of that learning is academic. I’m a better mom, friend, daughter and human because I homeschool — and I didn’t learn by being perfect.
Not only are mistakes a great way to learn, but they also present an opportunity to model apologizing and doing better to our children. What a great thing to teach our children!
You, your children’s biggest and most altruistic supporter, their undying cheerleader and friend, are the only perfect person for this job! It might be messy, but it will also be beautiful! You can do this!
Pin these ‘How to Homeschool’ tips for later!
The Tips for Homeschool Moms series is happening right now. For 10 days, each blogger will have a new tip, idea, or resource for you to get inspired with new ideas for your homeschool.
Homeschool Planner Printables from Living Life and Learning
Start to Finish: Planning High School from The Homeschool Breakroom
Sensory Activities from Our Crazy Adventures in Autismland
Simple and Effective Literacy Activities from The WOLFe Pack
STEM Activities from Hess UnAcademy
Ocean Animals Printables from Homeschool Helper Online
Outside the Box Learning from Sillygeese Publishing, llc
Summer Skills Activities from Schooling With Grace
Delight-Directed Learning from Heart and Soul Homeschooling
Preparing your homeschooled teen for college from FundaFunda Academy
Month of Fresh Homeschool Ideas for All Ages from The Homeschool Cafe
Homeschooling: you don’t have to stay at HOME! from That Homeschool Family
We want you to have the homeschool resources you need for the upcoming school year so I’ve partnered with an amazing group of bloggers. We’re giving you a $150 eGiftcard to your choice of Amazon or Rainbow Resource Center.
The giveaway ends June 17th at 11:59pm EST. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to email to claim the prize. By entering this giveaway you will be added to the email lists of the participating bloggers. Please be sure to read the Terms & Conditions upon entering the giveaway. By entering the giveaway, you agree and acknowledge your understanding of the terms & conditions.