How to Homeschool: Practical Tips and Advice to Launch

So, you think you want to homeschool, and you’re wondering how to homeschool; you’re looking for practical tips and advice to launch. You’re asking yourself some of the following questions:

These are the types of questions parents who are considering homeschooling ask. 

In this overview, we’ll cover all those questions and more. Soon you’ll be on your way to educating your kids at home with the know-how, excitement, and confidence you’ll need to create the homeschool of your dreams. 

A Quick History of Homeschooling

You’ve likely read that many of our Founding Fathers and other famous people, like Booker T. Washington, Thomas Edison, and even Beatrix Potter, were homeschooled. Those are handy when discussing homeschooling and socialization or other polarizing issues, but the modern homeschooling movement began much later. 

Most parents of homeschooled children were privately or publicly educated. So, the history of homeschooling begins with public school and an educator named John Holt. His concern with the, in his view, oppressive nature of institutionalized learning gave birth to a method of education that is much like what homeschoolers call unschooling. 

He, in turn, inspired a more recognizable name in modern homeschooling circles, Raymond Moore. Moore, an educational philosopher and theorist. They taught that early learning is injurious to young children and that most kids should be taught at home until age eight or nine. Moore’s view of delayed academics would expand Holt’s early views of “unschooling,” and he would become known to many as the Father of Homeschooling. 

The Growth of Homeschooling

As homeschooling became more widely accepted, it became influenced by Christians. As these Christians stepped into the legal fight for homeschooling acceptance, Homeschool Legal Defense (HSLDA) was born. 

Today, homeschooling is legal in all fifty states and growing at more than 8% per year. 

Getting started with homeschooling has never been easier, and the statistics on the success of schooling at home prove it to be an excellent option for any family who chooses to homeschool. 

How to Get Started Homeschooling

As with most things, the hardest part of homeschooling is getting started. Why is that? In a nutshell, it’s pretty overwhelming to take on the responsibility of your children’s education. 

While ninety percent of kids are getting on a bus to go to school, homeschooling parents are headed to the kitchen table to start their school day. This is bound to create self-doubt, economic concerns, and overwhelm. The best way to combat those feelings is to create a homeschooling plan and start!

Create a Homeschool Plan

Before launching any major life change or undertaking, developing a plan is wise. Any good plan begins with a strong foundation. So, ask yourself, “why am I homeschooling?”

Your Homeschool “Why?” 

 Think through the possible reasons you’ve chosen to homeschool. Start with a clean piece of paper and write those down. Some possible reasons to homeschool include:

  • Religious conviction. These parents desire to pass on their faith culture to their children and believe they are called to homeschool. Their end goal is passing on their faith. Their method is discipleship. 
  • Academic rigor. Families who choose to homeschool to provide greater academic rigor to their children look for educational partners, such as online academies, cottage schools, or classical schools and co-ops, to expose their kids to a more demanding educational model. Their end goal is academic achievement. Their method is academic rigor.
    • Bullying. Harassment and bullying can be emotionally taxing on anyone, but kids suffer a greater impact. Families escaping abuse may be drawn to homeschooling to protect their children. Their end goal is safety. Their method is bringing education home. 
  • Cost of private school. Private schooling is expensive, and homeschooling can provide the same faith-based experience or academic rigor without the price tag. The end goal of these parents is affordability. Their method is schooling at home while embracing those tools that will bring about academic achievement. 
  • Poor public school. Like any form of education, not all things are equal. This applies to public schools. A family may live in a district with poor public schools and want something different for their children. Their end goal is the desire for something better than the public school has to offer. Their method is to take on the responsibility of homeschooling for themselves. 
  • Freedom. Families who want to homeschool to embrace a freedom lifestyle might include reasons such as; missionary responsibilities, travel opportunities, or personal conviction about the role of parents, homes, school, and state. Their end goal is autonomy and freedom. Their method is accepting responsibility and defending their right to homeschool their children. 

Reasons Lead to Decisions

As you look over some reasons an individual might choose to homeschool their children, you’re likely to see yourself in more than one category. That’s the beauty of homeschooling! Each homeschool is as unique as the family homeschooling. Embrace it! 

Use your homeschool “why?” to create a simple mission statement. A mission statement is a short, action-oriented statement that embodies your values. For example, a homeschooling parent’s mission statement might be: The Smith Family Homeschool- disciplining our children to make an impact for Christ in the world. 

Go ahead, give it a try! 

Create Your Homeschool Vision

Once you understand the foundational reason you’ve chosen to homeschool and have your mission statement, you can begin to develop a vision for your homeschool. 

When figuring out how to start homeschooling, a vision will help clear away the clutter of overthinking and provide direction for your homeschool journey. A vision statement for your homeschool incorporates a time element and supports the mission statement you’ve created. 

For the example above, The Smith Family Homeschool, a vision statement might look like this: The Smith Family Homeschool: Pointing our kids towards Christ and the Gospel through the use of the Bible, Christian curriculum, discipleship, and a family-centered lifestyle so that they are equipped to handle life and the rigor of college. 

Developing the vision statement can guide us to our curriculum choices. If we look at the Smith Family, we know: they’ll be discerning when it comes to the worldview of the curriculum author, the curriculum should lend itself to the discipleship model of teaching, and it needs to be academically rigorous. 

Your turn. What are your non-negotiables when it comes to homeschooling? Use those alongside your mission statement to craft your homeschool vision statement. 

Know the Homeschool Laws

Okay, you’ve equipped yourself with the why of homeschooling. Let’s move on to the how of homeschooling. And that begins with knowing the homeschool laws. 

Most new homeschoolers (and even veteran homeschooling families) have questions about what constitutes a legal homeschool. When looking for answers to legal questions, consult a reputable source, such as HSLDA, and think of your questions in advance. Some common questions are:

  • Do I have to register my homeschool?
  • Do I have to notify anyone that we are homeschooling? 
  • How many hours per day do I have to homeschool?
  • Do I have to use the curriculum the school uses?
  • How do I graduate as a homeschooler?
  • Do I have to keep attendance?
  • What about a transcript?

Find good homeschool groups online and in your area, consult with HSLDA, and search your state’s Department of Education website. Understand what’s required to homeschool in your state, and begin. 

Set Up Your Homeschool Space

If you spend ten minutes on Pinterest, you’ll quickly discover a million ways to set up your homeschool space. This is a highly personal thing, so be creative! Have fun!

Having a few things in place is great, but the result belongs to you. Some common things you’ll find in a homeschool space include:

  • Bookshelves
  • A printer 
  • Craft Supplies 
  • A laptop or PC 
  • Maps
  • Timelines
  • 3 Ring notebooks

A central place to homeschool is helpful, but you can school at your kitchen table or on the family room floor. Helpful doesn’t equal essential, and the important thing to remember is to figure out what works for your family. 

Does clutter bother you, and you’ll need to put everything away daily? Can you have kids share a room to create a homeschool space? What type of budget do you have to put towards your homeschool space? Think through the logistics of what you need to do, when you need to do it, and where you’ll do it. Giving this some attention before school starts can help you feel better prepared. 

Begin Your Curriculum Search

One of the favorite parts of homeschooling for most homeschoolers is picking out the curriculum. Keep your mission and vision in mind, and get ready to have fun. 

To keep the search from becoming overwhelming, start with the grade level you’re teaching (Preschool, Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle School, High School, Special Needs)  and then begin with your core subjects. 

As you search through the curriculum, you’ll uncover different homeschooling methods, too. Methods such as Charlotte Mason, Classical, Unit Study, and others. Give yourself some space to learn about these styles of homeschooling. They can aid you in your curriculum search. 

Homeschool Curriculum Core Subjects

The core subjects in homeschooling are generally considered to be English (Language Arts), Literature, Math, History, Science, and for many homeschoolers, Bible. Your state requirements may demand additional core subjects, such as Government

There are so many options for curriculum in the core subjects alone that it’s easy to feel like you’ve been thrown into the deep end of the pool and you’ve forgotten how to swim. 

To avoid panicking about making a choice, review your vision, and consult trusted sources for recommendations. 

What to Look for in the Homeschool Curriculum Core Subjects

When looking through the available curriculum, is it available to know what you’re looking at? This can help you make fair comparisons and choose what’s most likely to work for your family. 

Here are some general guidelines to help you when comparing curriculum by subject:

  • English: Does it teach grammar as a stand-alone subject? Is it a consumable product? Does it incorporate Literature? Will I need a teacher’s guide? Does it teach writing mechanics?
  • Math: Are the principles taught sequentially, or does it use an incremental spiral approach? Are there workbooks? Do I feel confident teaching this, or are there DVDs or online access? 
  • Literature: Do the reading selections align with my family’s mission and vision? Can I obtain the recommendations from the library or read them on Kindle?
  • History: Is it taught in cycles? Does it cover American history fairly? 
  • Science: What does it teach about creation? Are there required labs? 
  • Bible: Does it incorporate memory work? 

And for all core subjects, beyond considering the contact itself, does it excite your student? Will they look forward to the subject in general? Can it be passed down to other kids in your family? Is it in my budget? What’s the return policy? Do you love it? 

Don’t be afraid to try a homeschool curriculum for a year and pivot for the second year. Do the best you can to gather information before you purchase, but know that it’s normal to make a curriculum change at the end of the year or even in January! 

Choosing Homeschool Curriculum Electives

Moving past the core subjects, homeschool electives can truly be where all the fun is at. This is where you can see the individuality of your kids shine. They can be free to try things and experience personal and academic growth! 

Examples of some electives include:

Enjoy observing your children’s choices for electives and seeing them embrace learning!

Where to Shop for Curriculum

Once you have an idea of the subjects you want to cover in your homeschool, you will want to see the curriculum

Many homeschool curriculum providers offer free samples you can download online or a free trial of their software. And, that’s great! 

Nothing beats a homeschool convention for homeschooling parents who want to see the curriculum in person! 

More than just shopping, it’s a time to equip yourself for the important role of educating your kids. You’ll be able to listen to workshops from veteran homeschoolers, motivational speakers, and curriculum providers. Not to mention, you’ll be surrounded by other homeschoolers! 

Attending a  Homeschool Convention

When planning your trip to a homeschool convention, be sure to have a list of the curriculum you need, vendors you want to visit, and your budget. 

How much homeschooling costs largely depend on your own homeschool goals and how much of your financial resources you can dedicate to homeschool purchases. Knowing this in advance will keep you on track during the convention and prevent buyer’s remorse after. 

The average family spends between $700 – $1800 per student per year. Even if you have a small budget, attending a homeschool convention can give you confidence and help you see the possibilities for your school. 

And a bonus: if the convention has a children’s program, it can even become a family vacation!

It’s Time to Get Started Homeschooling

Schedule Your Homeschool Day 

Now that you’ve thought through why you’re homeschooling, set up your space, and begun searching for and choosing a homeschool curriculum, it’s time to start. 

You’ll need a schedule that works for your family. Sometimes the curriculum you choose will help you with that by offering daily instruction for the teacher on a four or five-day schedule. But, it’s really up to you! 

Popular homeschooling scheduling tactics include loop scheduling, block scheduling, and traditional scheduling. 

Loop scheduling is assigning subjects to certain days. For example, Math on Monday, Literature on Tuesday, History on Wednesday, Science on Thursday (alternating with Grammar), and Electives on Friday. This type of scheduling is helpful if you’re concerned you won’t get things done. After all, you’ll loop back around to that subject again and pick up where you left off. 

Block scheduling sets aside blocks of teaching each day for different subjects. So, while you’ll cover more than one subject in a day, you won’t cover all the subjects daily. 

Traditional scheduling covers all subjects for small amounts of time every day. Math is always daily from 8 a to 8:30 a. 

When considering which one to pick, look at your current family life. Think about how your kids learn best. What are the ages of your kids? Don’t be afraid to experiment with scheduling. A good rule of thumb is to give the scheduling style you choose a solid month before you make a change. Give your family grace during the learning period and time to acclimate. 

The Last Word On Getting Started Homeschooling

The Homeschool Teacher Mom

We’ve discussed the when, where, why, and how of homeschooling. Now I’d like to talk about the teacher – YOU! 

Homeschooling isn’t always easy, but it is rewarding. Please keep that in mind as you move forward. There will be days you’re tired and overwhelmed. The laundry will get behind, and supper may be on the table later than you’d hoped. Your kids will be grumpy. And so will you. Your husband may not be supportive, and your family may not understand. It’s okay. 

That’s why we spent so much time on your mission and vision. You’ll need those to hold on to. 

Oh, and prayer. You’re going to need that. 

So take the rest you need along the way in your homeschooling journey. It’s not a race. 

Your kids need the best version of you you can give them, rooted and grounded in Christ. 

When you’ve done your best, and that’s all you can do, “Give it to God; he’ll do the rest.” 

Additional Resources

Credits and Transcripts

Develop Your Student’s Standout Factor

 

Easy Start Guide to Homeschooling – MBFLP 137

MBFLP - Quick Start Plan for Homeschooling
Labor Day is approaching and the decision to start homeschooling, that decision that was so exciting and sparkly back in May, suddenly looms like a late summer thundercloud. Relax! This episode, we talk about some key things we learned about starting homeschooling – whether you’re beginning with a 5-year-old who’s never seen a schoolroom, or bringing home an eight-grader from the local public school. The first year offers some great opportunities – and some great challenges – that will make the difference in your home education experience. And even if you’re already a veteran homeschooler, you might find a principle or two that you haven’t considered before!

 

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MBFLP - Easy Start to Homeschooling