In parent groups across the internet, I keep seeing a common thread: “Homeschooling has always kinda interested me, but with everything going on right now? I think we’re actually going to go for it. But how do I start homeschooling?! What do I do first?! Help!”
There are almost as many reasons to begin homeschooling as there are homeschool families. But current events are sending many families looking for a new, better solution for their children’s education towards the decision to homeschool. But is it hard to get started homeschooling?
How do I start homeschooling?
Follow these 5 simple steps and mindset shifts:
- Check on your local homeschool laws
- Change your mindset through deschooling
- Craft a big picture plan
- Compile your support team
- Cherish the moments
Check on your local homeschool laws
There is no One Right Way to homeschool. Every family will find the method and approach to education that best fits their own unique family needs and personality. Remember when you ask “how do I start homeschooling” that the only thing you MUST do when homeschooling is to follow the laws of your state (if you live in the USA) or country. That’s it!
When it comes to everything else (No, seriously. I mean everything else), you have freedom and flexibility to do what is best for your children and your family.
Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states of the USA. This includes homeschooling children with special needs and homeschooling high school students. Most of the time, it is actually easier to follow the laws of your state than you may think. We have plenty of options and flexibility as homeschool families!
Most states and many countries will also have at least one regional homeschool association. Often, they are phenomenal resources to get you connected with local opportunities and support groups, but they can also be homeschool advocates in your local legislative body. As a 2nd-generation homeschooler, I’ve practically been a life-long member of NCHE, one of the regional homeschool organizations in my home state of North Carolina.
Find your local homeschool laws here:
Important warning: Make sure to do your own research on your local laws. Many well-meaning people, especially in online discussion groups (or even, dare I say, blogs), can unintentionally pass along inaccurate information when you ask “how do I start homeschooling?”. You don’t have to follow gossip, but you do need to follow the laws of your particular state or country. So always double-check what internet friends and strangers tell you!
Change your mindset through deschooling
For those choosing to withdraw their students from public schools, the biggest challenge of homeschooling may not be what you think. Changing your mindset from standardized, traditional methods of education to a personalized approach can be a huge shift. I have heard parents lament that they tried to recreate school in their homes. This rarely turns out well either for relationships or academics.
Remember: you’re choosing to homeschool for a reason. Home is the important part. Relationship is the important part. Your beautiful, unique children are most important. You don’t have to recreate a classroom at your kitchen table.
Deschooling is the colloquial term used in homeschool circles to describe that process by which the student and the parent adjust from a traditional school mindset to a homeschool mindset. For some families the transition is simple. Others, especially those whose children have faced more difficult challenges at school, find they need to give themselves and their children plenty of time to recover and rediscover a love of learning. It doesn’t happen overnight.
Now, full disclosure, I’ve never attended public school. I’m actually a 2nd-generation homeschooler! So I’ve turned to a few of my friends to share their perspective.
My friend Mary Prather, a public school educator-turned-homeschooler, shared in a recent episode of my Homeschool Conversations interview series that it often takes 1 month at home to adjust for every year a child has spent in a conventional learning environment. So it’s ok if it seems to be taking your 4th grader a few months to adjust to your homeschool routine.
She further commented that “Once I learned … we could do what worked for us, then things got a lot easier.”
My friend Kara Anderson never planned to homeschool. In fact, she pretty much thought homeschoolers were a little weird. Now? She has a passion for letting homeschool moms know they are more than enough for their children. She has some incredibly encouraging words for any parent who suddenly finds themselves homeschooling in this video!
My friend Colleen Kessler (gifted specialist, educational consultant, and unexpected homeschool mom) explains that “Deschooling isn’t a vacation or a free-for-all. It’s not a time to lounge in your pajamas and play video games all day – well, maybe just a little. Deschooling isn’t a break from learning, it’s a break from what you’ve always done as you ease into what you’re about to do.” She shares more great tips for discovering what makes your kid tick in her deschooling post at Raising Life Long Learners.
You don’t have to jump right in to all the subjects all at once. Always remember that your relationship with your child and their own mental/spiritual/emotional health is what is most important.
Craft a big picture plan
So you’ve asked “How do I start homeschooling” and you’ve started googling. Suddenly, it seems like you have to figure out your complete homeschool philosophy and identify yourself immediately. Waldorf! Montessori! Eclectic! Unschool! Classical! Charlotte Mason! And the list could go on.
Stop. Take a breath. I promise you don’t have to figure this all out right now.
Let’s start with a big picture homeschool plan.
First, ask these 4 questions before you start buying curriculum. (You may not even need to buy a textbook at all!)
Then, set Big Picture Goals when planning your homeschool year and day. You don’t have to write down what you’re going to do every hour of every day. In fact, in my experience, that inevitably leads to tears.
It is always better to do a few things well, consistently, and with peace, than it is to try to do some sort of Ideal Plan that never actually gets done.
If you start small and gain confidence? You can always add more things later! But no one successfully goes to the gym and tries to bench press 200 lbs their first time. Set achievable goals, gain confidence, and encourage consistency.
In this post, I set out my step-by-step approach to planning my homeschool each year. This is a simple method you can use with any grade or combination of grades!
Looking for a bit more specific help or a mentor who can lead the way in homeschool planning? Check out my friend Pam’s (affiliate) Plan Your Year Course and Community to equip you in each step of the homeschool planning process. She also has some great (affiliate) free planner pages available to get you started.
Compile your support team
If you have or can find a local network of homeschool friends, that is going to be such a benefit. Knowing I have friends who have been there, done that, and survived is such an encouragement to me!
But if you don’t have a local homeschool group, you can still find a wonderful community online. Some of my dearest friends don’t live nearby, but we keep up via regular Voxer, text, and social media. (Is my extrovert coming through?)
Aside from relationship, you can also find valuable teaching assistants locally and on the internet! (Every teacher needs a substitute every now and then, right?)
Other times you may be looking for supplemental support for things like art, music, science, or nature study. Don’t try to do all the wonderful things you’ll start to see on the internet, of course. You’ll go nuts! But it can be helpful to choose 1 or 2 special classes or activities to give you a break and expand your children’s exposure to wonderful, textbook-free learning.
Cherish the moments
These precious children are entrusted to our care for such a short time. When we homeschool, we have the incredible opportunity to spend the majority of our best hours together, not just the fringe remnants of our day.
Our children have the opportunity to develop multi-age sibling relationships through shared memories and experiences. My oldest and my youngest children, for example, are 10 years apart. Because we homeschool, they have spent astronomically more time together than they would have otherwise. Seeing their sweet friendship grow is one of my greatest joys as a homeschool mom.
This togetherness is not always easy, obviously. We all get grumpy sometimes. Honestly? Sometimes Mom is the one whose attitude is the worst!
How do I start homeschooling? Sometimes the best way is to just jump in and start.
We’ve embarked on a wonderful adventure, and It Is Worth It! So let’s cherish this precious gift of time.
Welcome to homeschooling. You’re going to rock it.