How To Get Started Homeschooling
If you are considering homeschooling your children, you are probably overwhelmed with the amount of information out there. Getting started will seem overwhelming. This guide is going to cover everything you need to know for beginners who are just beginning their homeschool journey. If you have already done lots of research on ‘how to get started’ you may want to skip over a few of the early sections. The first main section will help you figure out if homeschooling is the right choice. The second section will help you get started today. Jump to Get Started.
Everything you need to know to get started in homeschooling
- 1 Everything you need to know to get started in homeschooling
- 2 Is homeschooling the right choice?
- 3 What are the benefits of homeschooling my child?
- 3.1 Homeschooling is life changing
- 3.2 Homeschool students outperform their public school peers
- 3.3 Homeschooling is a safer environment
- 3.4 Homeschooling eliminates bullying
- 3.5 Homeschooling is flexible
- 3.6 Homeschooling best prepares students for the real world
- 3.7 Parents can incorporate religion into education
- 4 Am I qualified to be a homeschool teacher?
- 5 How expensive is homeschooling?
- 6 Is homeschooling the right choice for my children?
- 7 Homeschooling is a lifestyle
- 8 Educating yourself on homeschooling
- 8.1 Start reading books about homeschooling
- 8.2 Start following homeschooling blogs
- 8.3 Legally establish your homeschool
- 8.4 Standardized tests
- 8.5 Get involved with local groups
- 8.6 Decide on a homeschooling method
- 8.7 Discover your child’s learning style
- 8.8 Pick out homeschooling curriculum
- 8.9 Plan your curriculum
- 8.10 ‘Back to school’ shopping
- 8.11 Handling the community’s response to your decision
- 8.12 Frequently Asked Questions
- 9 Conclusion
The first question you should ask yourself before you start homeschooling is this – Why are you homeschooling? Do you want to homeschool for values? Flexibility? Religious reasons? Freedom? Nutrition? Control over curriculum? Happiness?
Your motivation and reasons for homeschooling are the biggest factor for making sure homeschooling is the right choice.
Is homeschooling the right choice?
This is the most important question to answer before you decide to change the course of your child’s education. There are many reasons why homeschooling can be the right choice, but all parents must do this analysis for themselves. Before doing any research, many parents have already identified a few strong reasons for why they don’t want to enroll their children in public education. But no decision of this magnitude should be decided without thoroughly analyzing if the consequences as a whole are worth it.
What are the benefits of homeschooling my child?
Many of you have probably already identified several benefits of homeschooling as your primary interests. However, many of the joys of homeschooling are realized after the parent has become the teacher. There are many benefits to homeschooling that most newbies do not yet realize. Make sure to check out this full list of the benefits (and the cons).
So, what are some of these benefits?
Homeschooling is life changing
Homeschooling is a life changing decision for both the parent and the child. Parents are given a second chance to re-discover a passion for learning and the opportunity to watch their children grow and develop. The household is transformed.
Homeschool students outperform their public school peers
Research shows that the average homeschooler out performs the average public school and private school students. Here is a link to the Home School Legal Defense Association’s research PDF. They found that homeschoolers outperformed their public school peers in every single subject. Not only did they outperform, they outperformed by 30-37% points in every single subject. The PDF also has some brief information about minorities in homeschooling, government regulations, gender gaps, and socialization.
Homeschooling is a safer environment
Public schools have legitimate safety concerns. There is no doubt that your child is safer at home. You will never need to worry about your child’s classmates bringing weapons into the classroom. And you won’t need to worry about bullying or negative peer-pressure. Another safety benefit is that homeschooled children have far less exposure to alcohol and drugs. Sometimes it seems that public schools are in a state of denial about their drug problems. Plenty of studies and polls have been done, but around 17% of public school students drink, smoke, and use drugs during the school day. The more reputable DrugAbuse.gov has statistics that are even more frightening. 23.6% of students in 12th grade reported they use an illegal drug.
Homeschooling eliminates bullying
Bullying is a legitimate safety concern, but it also carries emotional concerns. Smart and unique children are often the targets of bullying, and the emotional damage that accompanies bullying can be worse than the physical concerns. Bullying is not a one-time ordeal. If your child is targeted by bullies he or she will receive a steady flow of detrimental emotional input. This reason alone can be a powerful deciding factor.
Homeschooling is flexible
Homeschooling allows for a flexible learning environment and creative freedom! Homeschooling allows you to cater the environment, structure, and curriculum to your child’s specific needs. Many parents of children with ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, or another condition that can make the public school system difficult are able to provide a much better education for their child. Homeschooling done right can foster a true love of learning.
Homeschooling best prepares students for the real world
There are many real-world benefits. Our public school systems appear to be ‘normal’ learning environments, while in reality they are quite artificial. Just because this is the educational standard of our country does not mean it is the best one. Once a student graduates and becomes part of the ‘real world’ they will rarely experience an environment like public school. Nowhere else will you spend a full day with people that are the exact same age as you doing work and activities that do not produce any type of valuable product. Colleges resemble a similar structure, but they are very different. Classes do not consist of a single grade, ‘school’ does not last the entire day, there is freedom and flexibility, the student is required to be self-disciplined, classes are often based on discussion, and students are rarely spoon-fed information they need to ‘pass.’
Homeschooling teaches self-discipline which is crucial to exceling in college. It also allows parents to provide meaningful learning assignments and activities. Co-ops can allow students to work on group projects without the need for public schools. Any parent who is concerned about preparing their children for the real world can modify their curriculum to include activities they find most meaningful. For children with entrepreneurial spirits, homeschooling gives them additional free time to pursue their own business interests.
Parents can incorporate religion into education
Families with strong religious affiliations know that one of their biggest driving factors is the religious component. Public schools do not provide an environment that is conducive to spiritual growth and training. Families with religious beliefs are able to choose curriculum that incorporates religion and include additional religious elements into their children’s education. If the parent chooses to, homeschooling can also shield the student from certain subjects and activities that do not align with the family’s religious beliefs.
Am I qualified to be a homeschool teacher?
The quick answer is “almost always.” Usually there is no need to worry, most parents are perfectly qualified. You don’t need lots of money or a degree from a graduate school and you don’t need previous employment with teaching experience.
Questions a parent should ask before homeschooling
These are the most important questions that a parent should ask.
Are you willing to be a fully committed and involved parent?
This is the most important question to answer “YES.” To be a good teacher and ensure that teaching your child a beneficial form of education you will need to be 100% committed.
Do you have a normal intelligence?
You do not have to be brilliant to homeschool your child. In fact, being involved and committed can be far more important than having an above normal IQ. There are many teachers in the public education systems that have a ‘normal’ (or even less than ‘normal’) intelligence level. There is no IQ requirement for a parent to homeschool. And there is no way of measuring ‘normal’ intelligence. There are very few parents who should avoid homeschooling because of their intelligence, but this is still a question that every parent should ask herself or himself. After all, the goal is to keep your child’s best interests in mind.
Do you have a history of mental illness?
Parents that have histories of mental illness should seek professional medical advice and counseling to help them decide if homeschooling is the right option. When a parent is in charge of their child’s education and daily structure/routine, it is important that the parent is a relatively stable individual.
How expensive is homeschooling?
Some parents spend only a few hundred dollars while other spend in the thousands. Many parents discover that ‘activities’ are the most expensive part of homeschooling. Many parents want their children to take music lessons, visit museums, attend lectures, and more. The costs of homeschooling can be very minimal. However, the cost of one parent no longer working will be the biggest financial set-back.
Is homeschooling the right choice for my children?
A lot of the answer to this question rests on you, the parent. As you saw in the previous section, there are some basic qualities that parents should have. But, is it the right choice for your children? Ultimately, you are the parent and you make the decisions. Nevertheless, homeschooling works best when both the parent(s) and the child/children are on board as well.
Parents either begin their child’s education by homeschooling them, or they pull their child out of a public or private school. Children who have never been to public school and were taught from a young age by their parent are often more trusting and accepting. The biggest concern for lifetime homeschool children about it being the ‘right’ choice is rooted in their ignorance of the other options. If you are homeschooling for reasons that do not require that your child stays out of the public education system, it may be a good idea to give your child the option to attend public school as they get older.
If you are considering pulling your child out of a public school, there is a very good chance that your child is experiencing difficulties of some type. This means that your child might not be hesitant to leave their school, but might have concerns about being taught his or her parent.
The child’s concerns are somewhat flip-flopped depending on their introduction to homeschooling.
What should I do if my child doesn’t want to homeschool?
Ultimately, it is always the parent’s executive decision. The parent must decide if the homeschool benefits trump the disadvantages. Learn more about the disadvantages of homeschooling.
Homeschooling is a lifestyle
Homeschooling is a decision and commitment that you and your spouse need to agree upon, together. It is so much more than just teaching your child at home. The philosophy behind why you are choosing to homeschool is important and it is a vision that both you and your spouse need to see. One of the most common ways that homeschooling fails is when a family doesn’t have the same ideological approach.
Where do I start?
Now that you have established your reasons for homeschooling there are several initial hurtles you will need to clear to get started.
Educating yourself on homeschooling
There are many aspects of homeschooling that you should be familiar with before you cant 'start.'
Start reading books about homeschooling
There are literally hundreds of ‘how to homeschool’ books on Amazon. It’s important that you know as much as possible about the ins and outs of homeschooling. Before buying a book, make sure that you have verified the authenticity of the author. The best books are usually written by a parent who had personal experience. The best people to learn from are the ones who have done it. You can’t homeschool for a few months and write a book. Nevertheless, this hasn’t stopped some people and publishing companies.
Start following homeschooling blogs
This is a fun and engaging way to learn more about homeschooling by reading about other homeschool parent’s day to day activities. It may be time consuming but you will glean many insights from their experiences.
Legally establish your homeschool
Yes, homeschooling is legal in every state. While it may be legal nationwide, there are different laws depending on the state. The easiest way to spend as little time as possible researching your local laws (and make the fewest mistakes) is to just contact a local homeschool support group in your area.
The best place to start is at HSLDA. They have lots of information about homeschool law and resources to help beginners. As you will see after visiting HSLDA, New England states generally have the strictest homeschooling requirements. Generally speaking, the southeast has moderate regulation and many central states have almost no regulations.
You need to understand your local homeschool laws. So, make sure that you understand your local laws correctly and ask local groups to help direct you to the most accurate information. Regulations and legal requirements can even very within certain districts.
Before you give the state the required notice, make sure you have also created a list of requirements and deadlines.
No child left behind boosted the role of tests in modern schooling. There are different standardized tests available, but your child will be required to take one each year. While standardized testing is required to help benchmark a child’s education, it should not be a primary concern. With a little preparation, most homeschoolers excel on these tests and may even find them enjoyable. You can read more here.
Get involved with local groups
It is a great idea to get involved with local groups before you begin homeschooling. This way you can ask them questions about curriculum, your state’s legal requirements, the local homeschool events and co-ops, and much more. Experienced homeschool parents are often more than willing to mentor wide-eyed and busy tailed new parents. Getting involved with groups before you start will make the transition go much more smoothly.
There are many ways to discover the local groups near you.
Decide on a homeschooling method
There are so many philosophies and approaches to homeschooling. Home education styles vary so greatly that it can take quite some time before you have explored and dabbled in the most popular methods. The best way to get started is by visiting our page that is fully dedicated to homeschooling methods. These methods include Traditional, Classical, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, and Eclectic methods along with Unschooling. Naming these methods just scratches the surface.
Discover your child’s learning style
Everyone has unique learning styles. Lucky for you, it’s your child so you know and understand his or her style better than anyone else. The basics for understanding and figuring out your child’s learning style include taking note of his/her personality, strengths, weaknesses, and general learning style – such as auditory, visual, etc. Many children learn best by doing. Others learn best by listening.
Pick out homeschooling curriculum
Once you have decided on your method, or at least have a strong understanding of the general approach you will take, it is smart to begin researching curriculum. There are lots and lots and lots of options. You can buy online or attend curriculum fairs and conventions. If you decide to visit a convention in-person you should ideally be ready to purchase.
What are some of your options? There are complete curriculums where everything is done for you. You can also buy individual textbooks and compile something of your own. Your creative side might want to construct activities and projects that are incorporated into a custom curriculum. Even if you choose a complete curriculum, there will be numerous ways to supplement learning. For instance, iPads and computers can be used to learn technology. Fun computer games can teach young children how to type efficiently. And high school age students could greatly benefit from a science co-op.
Plan your curriculum
Once you understand your approach to homeschooling and have browsed through the available curriculum it is time to plan your curriculum. There are many books available that can help you piece everything together. And, there are many online resources too. So many, in fact, that it can be too overwhelming. Even if you decided on a complete pre-made curriculum you should plan out the schedule and additional supplemental activities you might want to include. For parents who do not use a pre-made curriculum, it is definitely important to include sciences, English, math, history, and some of the ‘arts.’
‘Back to school’ shopping
You are well on your way to being a homeschool teacher! Don’t forget that you need supplies! Even if you went to a convention and bought curriculum and text books your child will still need other school supplies. Your teaching method will greatly impact what types of supplies you need. There are general textbooks, workbooks, video series, online learning options, and much more. You can also find many used books and supplies at libraries, curriculum exchanges, thrift stores, and more. Lots of co-ops share materials. If you make connections with other homeschoolers you will find that many of them are looking to sell their books from previous years. Most educational materials do not get outdated, so don’t worry about buying used books!
You will also need to visit the ‘actual’ back to school sales and get supplies like pens, pencils, notebooks, paper, folders, and so on. But, most parents are used to this already.
Handling the community’s response to your decision
Besides the potentially high costs of affording homeschooling, this is one of the biggest concerns of homeschool-curious parents. Certain areas of the United States are more accepting of homeschoolers. With the ‘recent’ popularity of homeschooling, this concern is diminishing daily. Nevertheless, sometimes homeschooling is associated with a stereotype. These stereotypes often assume that homeschoolers are either religious extremists or hippies. Every new homeschool parent should be ready to respond to criticism. It’s also important to teach students to understand this.
Frequently Asked Questions
We moved our frequently asked questions about homeschooling. That page has the most updated list of frequently asked questions. If you can't find the answer to your question on that page (or by searching our site), please contact us!
Hopefully it is clear that there are plenty of easy resources for you to take advantage of. In fact, it might be overwhelming. But, getting started in homeschooling is not as difficult as it sounds. Your time will primarily be spent on figuring out what teaching style is best for you and your child and then planning your curriculum. The legal hoops might be annoying, but with some help from your local homeschooling community you should be able to handle this aspect quite easily. If you love your child and are excited to spend time learning and growing with him or her, then you’re already qualified to be a home educator.
Last modified: March 20, 2017