If you’ve recently made the decision to start homeschooling your child or are at least considering the option, you may be wondering exactly how to go about the process. What qualifications do you need to homeschool your child?
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There are definitely some things to research and get in order before your first homeschool day approaches.
You will want to start with the following five to-dos:
- Know and Comply With Your State’s Homeschool Law
- Choose Your Approach
- Choose Homeschooling Curriculum or Teaching Materials
- Plan Your Schedule
- Find Support & Community
I want to encourage you that if you feel called to homeschool your child, you really can do it!
There are so many amazing resources available to help you find success within the homeschooling lifestyle. Remember that you are not alone!
Let’s look closer at each of these five steps to start on your homeschooling journey!
Step 1: Know and Comply With Your State’s Homeschool Law
The first step in beginning to homeschool is knowing and following your state’s current homeschool law.
Homeschool laws vary by state, so you’ll want to be sure to check your state law with the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).
The HSLDA also has a membership option with “experienced legal protection, personalized educational support, and cutting-edge homeschool advocacy.”
The HSLDA will point you toward additional resources for your situation and provide practical guidance for how you can fulfill your state’s requirements.
You will also learn what to do if your child is currently enrolled in public or private school, even if you are going to start homeschooling mid year.
Some state homeschool laws are very lenient; others have more restrictive laws, such as requiring that your curriculum be approved.
Your state may require some or all of the following:
- A notice of intent to homeschool (might be one time or annually)
- Certain educational requirements for the teaching parent
- Hours of instruction (which are the minimum requirements for how many days of the school year you’re required to homeschool and how many average hours per day)
- Which subjects you must cover
- Which records you need to maintain and/or submit
- Testing/assessment requirements
- Portfolio or progress report requirements
- Compulsory attendance (a term for the age range that your child is required to be schooled)
Your state may allow you to enroll in an umbrella or cover school which would act as a middle man between you and your school district for standardized testing and submitting records.
Once you know the legal requirements for your homeschool, you’ll know which records you need to maintain (and others you should maintain regardless) and can organize yourself accordingly.
You will also have a good framework on which to choose your homeschooling approach and curriculum and later build your schedule.
Step 2: Choose Your Approach
Bearing in mind that your homeschool does not have to model a public or private school set up (or even copy other homeschoolers), you have freedom to make your homeschool unique to meet the needs and desires of your family—so start dreaming!
Why did you desire to homeschool in the first place? What is your philosophy of education? Are you homeschooling only short term?
You’ll have to ask yourself, do you want a set curriculum (online or textbooks) with everything planned out for you for all of your child’s subjects?
A setup like this might make the most sense for you depending on your work or health situation, or how simple you want your homeschooling to go on the planning end.
Additionally, this option might be your choice for some of your core subjects or for a particular subject that you don’t feel confident teaching your child yourself.
Instead of textbooks, maybe you see the pendulum swinging the other direction: unschooling, a child-led approach, or learning through life experiences or travel.
Or you might like to get more hands-on, combining subjects into themed unit studies where you can dive in deeply as a family.
Or maybe you resonate with the methodology of a particular educator—like Charlotte Mason, Rudolph Steiner (Waldorf education), or Maria Montessori—or the Classical model of education.
Perhaps you see yourself doing “eclectic homeschooling” with a mix of the above.
You might also ask yourself if faith-based studies are important to your family.
What about your child learning to grow in certain character qualities? What about fine arts study? The study of a second language?
Start by writing down some long-term educational goals for your child and doing some preliminary research into some of the different methods that stand out to you—not necessarily to box yourself into one method, but to find an approach that will best meet your goals and needs.
Some further considerations:
- If your child has special needs, he/she may be helped most within a certain method.
- Consider your child’s learning style as you decide on your approach (this post from the blog, Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers, has a good explanation of the different learning styles.)
Further considerations if you’re beginning homeschooling during the high school years:
- Be sure to fulfill state requirements for graduation
- If college is the direction your student is headed, make sure he/she fulfills admission requirements for potential colleges. There are also ways to earn college credits during the high school years to save money and time later. (See this post from Hip Homeschool Moms.)
- Your high school student may also spend this time learning a trade, starting or preparing to start a business, gaining work experience, learning life skills, or studying subjects they are passionate about.
With all this being said, don’t feel pressured about getting your approach figured out perfectly from the get-go.
You’ll surely be making adjustments as you get going and see how your school days are actually panning out. And you’ll likely be making adjustments as the years go by!
Give yourself time, flexibility, and grace as you find your own rhythm.
Step 3: Choose Homeschooling Curriculum or Teaching Materials
Alright, you’ve done your research and laid the groundwork for your homeschool, so you may be asking, “How do I choose a homeschool curriculum?”
Your state’s homeschool law, your goals, and your chosen approach will help you to narrow in on your options for the curriculum or teaching materials you will need.
Here is a post with a huge list of popular curriculum providers from Homeschool.com.
As you are researching your options, you may find it helpful to read curriculum reviews at Cathy Duffy Reviews.
You could also attend a homeschool conference or convention in your state to see curriculum options in person and ask the vendors any questions you have.
If you can’t look through books in person, you might find it helpful to watch curriculum flip-throughs and reviews on Youtube.
Another idea if you’re on Facebook is to find a Facebook group for your chosen homeschool method or your child’s age range.
Search terms like, “Charlotte Mason Homeschooling,” or “high school homeschool” or “preschool homeschool” and ask parents for curriculum recommendations for your situation or to hear their experiences with certain books or curricula.
There are many ways to keep homeschooling affordable like buying used curriculum or reusing curriculum for multiple children.
Step 4: Create a Schedule
Although your state may have requirements for the number of days and hours you school each year, you have freedom to fulfill those requirements in the way that works best for your family! Following a schedule and a daily routine will help you to keep your days productive and on-track.
Some families choose to stick to a more traditional yearly school calendar with a sizable summer break, but other families school year round taking more frequent small breaks when they need to.
Others homeschool only four days out of the week so they can spend the fifth day at a homeschool co-op where their children can learn in a group setting, go on a field trip, or do other studies or responsibilities.
Some families homeschool on Saturdays or in the evenings around a parent’s work schedule.
I would suggest you to sit down with a calendar to first plan your yearly schedule. Begin by looking at state requirements and the scope and sequence of your curriculum.
Work around holidays and begin plugging in the number of weeks and days per week you need.
Then plan out which subjects you will cover each day of the school week.
Depending on your curriculum choices, you may want to block schedule certain core subjects (like math and reading, for example) every day of the school week, while filling in other subjects like art appreciation or nature study for only certain days of the week.
Or instead of block scheduling these other subjects, you could alternate or loop through these subjects in order as you school in certain intervals of time each day, making sure to hit the most important subjects more frequently.
Looping would allow you to stay organized without having to stick to such a rigid weekly schedule or feeling like you’re getting behind if one school day in the week doesn’t go as planned or you miss a day.
(Here is a helpful video on looping with Pam Barnhill and Sarah Mackenzie.)
When it comes to planning how your routine or schedule will flow on a day-to-day basis, it may be helpful to tackle your highest priorities first each day.
Many families find success implementing a morning time where their children come together at the start of the day to learn as a group, after which they will branch off to work independently later.
For free printable planning pages, visit here.
Step 5: Find Support & Community
I can’t stress enough the value of finding support and community as a homeschooling family.
There will be times when you will need advice for how to help your child with a difficult subject, questions about curriculum or your methodology when something isn’t working well, or times when you might just need some encouragement and fresh perspective.
Not to mention that doing life alongside other homeschoolers means opportunities for collaboration, co-ops, field trips, conferences, and more.
It might take some time to find and become established in healthy community depending on your situation and where you live, but your efforts will pay off!
You can visit the HSLDA site again here to find homeschooling organizations near you. You can also do an internet search for “homeschool groups near me.”
I share more on how to socialize your homeschooled child and grow in community as a homeschool family here.
Now you know your first five steps to start homeschooling your child before your first day of homeschooling approaches!
Once you know your state homeschool law, choose your approach and curriculum, build a schedule, and find resources and support, you’ll be well on your way to finding success with homeschooling.
The journey is not always an easy one, however, if done for the right reasons with dedication and perseverance, is a journey full of reward and good fruit!
Happy homeschooling to you and your family!