More and more parents are choosing homeschooling as the educational choice for their children. These families are, in fact, growing at rate of 7-12% per year. Some do it to uphold their religious beliefs. Others choose to homeschool for the academic possibilities or to protect their children from potentially harmful atmospheres in public schools, and still others are left little choice because their children have special needs that can’t be addressed in traditional schools. Regardless of the reasons, understanding how to homeschool is a necessary step toward deciding if it is a viable option for you. And while homeschooling is very personal and can be tailored based on needs, learning styles and time constraints, knowing how to homeschool—the basic steps of getting started—is vital. Let’s look at the first steps that every family who wants to know how to homeschool successfully should take.
Step 1 Have a Heart-to-Heart with Yourself (and possibly your child)
Homeschooling is a wonderful opportunity for you, as a parent, to invest in your children, but it is a big responsibility. In addition to the typical responsibilities that come with parenting, you will have the added pressure of educating your children. This requires time and patience. It means that your children will be with you most of the time, leaving you less time to devote to your other obligations or work. And as your child’s primary teacher, you will need to create lesson plans and present material. As rewarding as it is—and yes, it truly is an amazing journey—deciding to homeschool your children should not be made lightly. Accepting that it is a calling, and not merely a vocation, can carry you through many a trying time.
If your child is of a reasonable age, include them in this decision. They have the most to gain from your new relationship as teacher and student. They should be on board with your decision in order to make your homeschooling experience successful.
Step 2 Discover Your Legal Rights
Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, but each state has its own laws. Some states require you to formally withdraw your child from school or register your child as a homeschooler. Others dictate mandatory testing. Become familiar with your state’s requirements to make your transition easier. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) offers a state chart on their website to help you.
Step 3 Educate Yourself
Once you decide to make the leap, begin educating yourself on homeschooling. Read books on homeschooling—its philosophy and how to adjust it to best meet your family’s needs. Cathy Duffy’s book 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum is a good place to start for identifying your homeschooling goals and narrowing down the overwhelming amount of curriculum that’s available.
Of course, books are great, but nothing compares to talking to other homeschool parents. Visit a workshop or contact a homeschooling support group in your area. Many offer mentorships for new families. You’ll not only gain insider’s tips but also encouragement that you really can do teach your children.
Step 4 Choose Your Curriculum
After reading the books, visiting a workshop and talking to veteran homeschoolers, you’ll already be narrowing down your curriculum choices or at least the type of curriculum that interests you. To make your final decision, visit a local homeschool curriculum store or conference. Curriculum publishers are on-hand during conferences to educate you about their products. However, it’s a good idea to have a general idea of which curriculum or curriculum style you like before attending as conferences are often large and overwhelming to newbies.
It’s important to point out that not all homeschoolers use a formal curriculum. Many choose, instead, to use the resources of their local libraries to educate their children. While this approach doesn’t require you to purchase curriculum, you’ll still need to develop your education plan based on your resources, educational goals and children’s age.
Step 5 Make Your Lesson Plans
Now that you have your curriculum, begin planning your school year. Be sure to plan for any holidays, breaks or field trips. Remember to keep your expectations realistic. Again, veteran homeschoolers can help keep you grounded in this area. Once you have your plans, curriculum and materials, you’ll be ready to begin the amazing, family-transforming journey called homeschooling. Happy Educating!