New to homeschooling?
There are two types of people when it comes to starting something new—the kind that jump in feet first, and the kind that research and read and research some more. For the latter, we have our “Get Started Homeschooling Guide” below where you will find the basics with links to extensive information throughout the site, and for the former, those wanting to just jump in, we have the “Quickstart Guide to Homeschooling.”
Although the idea of getting ready to start homeschooling can be overwhelming, know that you can do it. Learning takes place all the time, and just as your child learned to walk and talk with you as their teacher, they can continue to learn at home in a relaxed, loving environment. Homeschooling is not public school at home. As Rebecca Capuano says in her post about the differences between public school and home education, “It is a completely different way of thinking about education, and a completely different way of approaching education. It is teaching tailored specifically to individual children rather than according to a standardized set of guidelines or curriculum for the masses. And because of this individualization, home education is effective by virtue of the fact that it does not have to look like the public school classroom.”
The best way to consider the choice to homeschool and to begin to make choices about curriculum is to look at the big picture first, then funnel down to the smaller topics. Rebecca’s advice to new homeschoolers is a great place to start reading, along with our series about the benefits of homeschooling. If your children are currently in school and you will be bringing them home, deschooling is an important consideration.
When you are ready, each of the 6 steps below links you to more information that will guide you through the homeschooling process.
- Know your state’s legal requirements
Homeschooling is regulated by the state rather than the federal government, which means that you will need to look to the specific regulations in your state to find out what, if anything, you have to do to be legally homeschooling. Some states consider homeschools to be private schools and regulate them as such, some states have specific homeschool statutes, and some have no homeschool regulations at all.
Don’t assume that just because legalities sound confusing that they are hard to comply with. Local and state homeschool groups can give you guidance in understanding the law, but be sure to seek out the actual state code (which is usually online at your state’s official website) for the most up to date and accurate legal information with regard to homeschooling.
- Locate local activities and nearby homeschoolers
One of the most important things you can do to successfully homeschool is to get hooked into a community of homeschoolers. Whether your homeschool community is online where you find encouragement and support in a virtual environment, or in person and allows you to participate in field trips, co-ops, classes, and outings, avoiding isolation is key to homeschool success. Because local homeschoolers are often a helpful resource for understanding homeschool regulations, getting connected early can help reduce anxiety for new homeschoolers.
Our local homeschool database has listings for thousands of groups, co-ops, classes, field trips, and more.
- Explore available homeschooling methods
One of the best things about homeschooling is that you don’t have to recreate school at home; in fact, in most cases you shouldn’t recreate school at home. You have the freedom to allow your children to learn in ways that aren’t possible in an institutional setting, so learn more about what might work best for your family. Consider how your children learn. Home is not school and does not need the same structure. There are many homeschooling methods; take some time to look into how each works.
While you are exploring, take the opportunity for your children and yourself to go through a period of deschooling before you jump into homeschooling, especially if your child was previously in public school. There is an adjustment period that a child (and often the parent) goes through when leaving school and beginning homeschooling.
To fully benefit from homeschooling, a child has to let go of the school culture as the norm. This is deschooling, and it is a crucial part of beginning homeschooling after a period of time spent in a classroom. This period is a great time to explore the homeschooling methods and learning styles if you haven’t already done so.
- Find your learning resources
Often buying homeschool curriculum is done too early in the process and results in buyer’s remorse. After you have thought about your child’s learning style and what your homeschooling will look like, it’s time to think about resources.
Only after working through steps 1-3 should you think about curriculum and research which curriculum fits the style your family is most comfortable with. You may find that you are more comfortable with a lifestyle of learning than a set curriculum. If so, you are not alone. Many families have found this to be the best way to learn. Whether you choose radical unschooling or simply let your child’s interests lead his learning, know that curriculum is not a must-have. When you have several potential selections, read homeschool curriculum reviews from homeschoolers who have used the resources.
When/if you are ready to buy, check out sources for used curriculum to save money.
Parents of preschoolers, Kindergartners, and first graders, please read this post about the best curriculum for these ages.
- Attend homeschool conventions and events
Attending a homeschool convention can be great exposure to both speakers and resources. It’s important to look into the philosophy of the sponsoring organization to be sure that it fits with your family and homeschooling perspective. Both the speakers and resources will be representative of the sponsoring organization’s outlook. Before attending, read our tips for how to survive a homeschool convention – the sheer amount of resources at a homeschooling convention can be overwhelming for even seasoned homeschooling veterans.
- Incorporate your support network
Involving the important people in your life will give you as the homeschool parent a better chance of success, and will also introduce valuable opportunities for your family. Particularly, involving the grandparents can be beneficial once they understand the benefits of homeschooling. Our Grandparents’ Guide to Homeschooling can help your parents understand how to support your decision to homeschool.