How to Start Homeschooling
Since most everyone is experiencing some kind of uncertainty concerning their plans for fall, I thought this would be a good time to help anyone who might be ready to take the leap into homeschooling! Here are a few tips for getting started:
First, get the legal stuff straight.
This is an important place to start because it gives you a good idea of the baseline requirements you need to be aware of to get started. Once you have a handle on this, everything else will be about customizing your experience. HSLDA.org has all of the legal requirements listed for each state on their site. Many states are actually modifying their requirements this year to make it easier for families to take advantage of homeschooling, and you can find all of these modifications explained on the website.
We Oklahomans have some of the least restrictive homeschool guidelines in the country, making it fairly easy for families to transition to homeschooling. There are basically no reporting or testing requirements to contend with; however, there are a few suggestions on things to be aware of to make sure your family is protected. I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with the laws regarding homeschooling where you live before you get started.
Examine your family’s needs and schedule.
This is important because it can save you quite a bit of frustration during your first year. Take stock of how you spend your time without homeschooling. Are your kids in school? What do you do during that time? What are you willing to adjust or sacrifice to make homeschooling work, and what are your family’s non-negotiables that need to be accounted for within your decision to bring school home?
Make sure to include your partner in this discussion and eventually your children as well. Just acknowledging as a family that you are about to make a big change can go a long way in reminding everyone to have grace with each other as you adjust to your new way of doing things.
Do your research.
This can be tons of fun! It can also be overwhelming if you’re not careful. Although the beautifully edited photos on social media can be inspirational, the reality of homeschool is messy, human and personal. If you really want to get the scoop, make sure you talk to actual people! There is no replacement for hearing honest accounts of the fun and challenges that come from taking on such a direct and personal role in leading your children’s education.
That being said, research away! It is amazing how much access to information is available compared with past generations of homeschoolers. Without much effort, we can gather information from diverse sources to put together a unique homeschool that works for our families. I have a neighbor whose family was an early adopter of homeschooling, and the only option her parents had was to call local schools to figure out how to order curriculum! What a great time to be alive and creating your specific homeschool vision.
Choose a Curriculum (or don’t if you are unschooling!)
When you first begin homeschooling, its common to feel pressure to ensure success by picking the perfect curriculum for your pupils. But guess what? There is no perfect curriculum! All of them have their good points and bad, and different ones are better fits for different children and families. You can do all the research you want, but when it comes to curriculum, most of the time the only way to really figure out what works is to try it.
It can also be tempting to purchase an entire package that will provide you with everything you will need for an extended time. This can be helpful if you are confident in what you are buying, but my advice is to start by purchasing just what you need to get started. Then you will have a better idea of what works before you make a major purchase, and you will feel less guilty if you need to switch gears mid-year when something isn’t working. I can’t tell you how many first-time homeschool moms have said to me, “I can’t believe how much I spent on curriculum!” So, take my advice and pace yourself when you are getting started.
Go for it!
The time has come to put all of your dreaming and research into action! Even though we keep some of our subjects running year-round, I still find it helpful to put together some sort of ceremonial back-to-school celebration in the fall. It helps us recognize we are starting something together, and it’s time to get to work!
Expect your first year of homeschooling to be filled with trial and error. It’s a new relationship that takes time to learn, so don’t lose heart if a few months in it doesn’t look exactly like you thought it would. Count small victories! Make big goals, but don’t be afraid to put those to the side to keep patience and peace in the top spot in your home.