I’m often approached by people who are thinking about starting to homeschool and need some advice. The two biggest questions are 1) Should I try to homeschool? and 2) how do I get started?
I am never going to tell someone they should not homeschool, so there’s your answer for number 1. Of course you should homeschool. Duh.
As for how to get started, each case is individual, but there are a few things you can do to ease yourself into it. You know, so it feels a bit less intimidating. ( Hey, I’ve been a new homeschooler; my head spun just as much as the next mama’s.)
- Check your state laws. The very first thing you should do is check the laws in your state so you know what you’re up against legally. Here in Indiana, the laws are simple. Your child has to attend school 180 days a year, just like a public school. You have to keep attendance so you can prove your child has attended school. Your child has to be up to snuff with the grade level he would attend in public school. That’s it. Easy peasy. But other states have much more strident laws and/or tests that must be passed by the student each year (or each quarter). You have to know what the tests are so you can teach your littles the stuff they need to know to pass them. Also, in some states you have to register your homeschool with the state so they are aware that you are homeschooling. If your child has been in public school previously, you have to inform the school, in writing, that you are withdrawing him to homeschool. The cool thing about starting with this step is that many state education websites also offer advice on homeschooling, so you get what you give. Once you know what your state expects of you, you’re ready to move on.
- Choose your homeschooling style. There are lots of different ways to teach. The public school model, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, unschooling, child-led, unit study… the list is long and extremely interesting. You can Google any of those styles and find a plethora of information about each on the ol’ interweb. Personally, I went eclectic. We pull from all of those styles and more in our homeschool, so you never know what class is going to look like at our house from day to day.
- Get guidance. If you’re not sure where to start, there is a set of books by E.D. Hirsch, jr that starts with What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know and ends with What Your 6th Grader Needs to Know. I own them all. I haven’t cracked them open in a good, long while, but when I was starting out, they saved my ass. I used them as a starting point for most of our lessons for the first 2 years. They have chapters on Language and Literature, History and Geography, Math, and Science, and each one is literally full of what your little should learn for each grade year. If you are just starting out, buy the book that applies to your little and take a breath. You’re armed and ready for action. If you can’t buy the book or can’t find it, seek other homeschoolers–either near home or on the interweb–and find out what they have done. It helps to have people to lean on at first and commiserate with. Believe me, every one of us has been where you are and we have all felt the way you feel. We wouldn’t be human if we hadn’t.
- Choose your curriculum. If you’re like me, you don’t want someone else writing your curriculum for you. But let me warn you, that entails a whole. lot. of work. If you have the time and the inclination, it is also a Whole Lot Of Fun. If, however, you’re happy letting someone else do the work, there are tons of curriculum to choose from. Some of the ones I’ve heard really good things about are A Beka, Waldorf, Time4Learning, and Classical Conversations. You can Google that stuff, too. Do your research. You don’t want to pick the wrong one, or the most expensive one. And don’t be too shocked or disappointed if you end up not liking the one you choose. I know a lot of mamas who have chosen the wrong thing and ended up using it kind of like I use the Hirsch books. And I know quite a few who have simply ordered new curriculum from somewhere else when they realize the current one is not working. The great thing about writing your own is that you can do it practically for free. So if something isn’t working, you just chuck it and find another free thing to replace it. Again. A Lot Of Work.
- Trust yourself. This is, perhaps, the most difficult piece of advice for a new homeschooling mama or dada to take. Every homeschooling parent starting out is Absolutely, 100% Certain he or she is doing it wrong. You will be sure you’re doing it wrong. You will not be. You know your kids better than anybody. You know their interests, how they will best learn, and what it takes to hold their attention. A little math, a little reading, a bit of history and science… that’s all it takes to provide a school day. If your littles are smiling and learning (even if it’s just a little bit at first), the rest is just details. And as you gain experience, the details will start to take care of themselves.
- Keep your sense of humor. You’re gonna need it. In spades. Good thing you have one.
You got this, mama. You got this, Dada. So go ahead and get started. I have faith.
Yeah, yeah, there were affiliate links