7 ways to start homeschool preparations over spring, summer

As the homeschool movement continues to grow after the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents are preparing to withdraw from public schools or teach their preschool- or kindergarten-age children this fall….

As the homeschool movement continues to grow after the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents are preparing to withdraw from public schools or teach their preschool- or kindergarten-age children this fall. But it may feel intimidating, especially if the concept is new to your family.

Here are some tips to begin your homeschooling journey this spring and summer, which can make the 2024-2025 school year easier for both parents and children!

Step 1: Tailor your homeschool research to your family’s needs. 

A mom preparing to teach her kindergarten-age child will have different questions to the mom pulling her high-school junior the year before graduation. In both cases, however, your student can thrive in a homeschool environment. 

For those beginning with young children, online resources such as the World Book’s listing can guide parents choosing preschool or kindergarten materials. It also outlines age-appropriate goals by subject. For example, by kindergarten a child should be able to “compose and decompose numbers from 11 to 19.” 

If parents are looking into homeschool for later grades, including high school, they may be able to skip much of this foundational work. 

However, if their child hasn’t gained proficiency in certain subjects, they may need to revisit earlier subjects. In Kansas, for example, 39% of 10th-graders in public school tested below their grade level in 2022, and only 25% were considered proficient. 

One of homeschooling’s advantages lies in its freedom to meet each student at their current level. If your child isn’t meeting grade-level guidelines, take advantage of the spring and summer months to address learning gaps before the next school year begins. 

Step 2: Explore local resources. 

The Home School Legal Defense Association has a list of regional and state homeschool groups on its website. Families can search by keyword and zip code to find the group closest to their location for encouragement, support and advice. 

Another quick way to find support is to search for nearby homeschool conferences and conventions. 

In the Kansas City area, for example, the Midwest Parent Educators (MPE) April 5-6 homeschool conference and curriculum fair offers an extensive vendor hall and workshops for first-time homeschoolers, unique learners with special needs, and high-school students. 

Other events over the summer include a Used Curriculum Sale at 6-8 p.m. June 11 at Kansas City First Church of the Nazarene. These sales feature not only curriculum, but also educational supplies such as games, math manipulatives, and other learning tools from local homeschool families. 

Step 3: Build a support network. 

Modern-day homeschooling features extensive support networks with homeschool co-operatives, enrichment programs and other groups. These meet regularly and help parents with academic and social needs. 

To jumpstart your research, look up homeschool organizations in your area as they often track available opportunities and groups. 

If some programs or co-ops come with fees too high for your family, consider lower-cost or free alternatives such as arranging weekly meetups at the park, planning a field trip opportunity, or watching for “Homeschool Days” and other events especially for homeschool families. 

For example, the Kansas City Zoo is offering two Homeschool Days this year on April 15 and Oct. 14. 

Step 4: Consider a time of “deschooling.” 

Some parents may feel tempted to push academics too far and too fast, especially if their child has placed below average in state standards or tests. However, many veteran homeschoolers will tell you education is a marathon, not a sprint. 

Even if your child isn’t meeting grade-level guidelines, deschooling can still help both parents and children adjust and recover from a public-school mentality. It involves a break or departure away from traditional classroom methods, homework and formal academics. 

However, it doesn’t mean a break from learning in general. Your child can still learn by exploring nature as going outdoors becomes easier in spring and summer. Take time to organize hands-on activities matching your child’s age and interests. Cultivate a habit of trying something new regularly, such as a fun craft or family project.  

Deschooling can also strengthen the relationship between parents and children, especially if public school has increased your student’s stress and anxiety levels in the past. Giving your child space to rest and recover from those demands can establish a better foundation for the next school year. 

Step 5: Study your student. 

Think of homeschooling as the ultimate private tutoring experience! It provides time for you to get to know your child. This investment in time will pay huge dividends later when you make choices concerning curriculum and teaching strategies. 

For example, perhaps your child learns primarily through auditory means. Audiobooks, read-aloud sessions, and chanting rhymes or educational songs will appeal to them over visual aids or handcrafts. If you already know this about your child, you have an advantage in choosing the best course or academic program to continue their progress. 

If you have multiple children, take time to consider each one’s motivations and interests. One child may enjoy a quick walk outside after finishing schoolwork, while another may prefer to rest on the couch with a good book. Offering different incentives can help motivate each student in cultivating effective habits for later success. 

Step 6: Choose a teaching style or overall approach. 

As you spend more time in the homeschool world, you may start hearing words or phrases describing different teaching styles. Check out this list of popular approaches to jumpstart your research: 

  • Classical education. This style of homeschooling emphasizes literature and language over three stages called the Trivium: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. It borrows from educational approaches during the Greek and Roman civilizations to train students over time. If done correctly, students learn not only facts and knowledge, but also reasoning skills to form their own judgments and conclusions. 
  • Unschooling, or child-led learning. Popular especially in elementary years, unschooling gives children the freedom to explore learning at their own pace. It is curriculum-free and encourages parents to use life experiences to direct their student’s learning. Children can study for future careers through travel, hands-on crafts, household skills, and apprenticeships or guided tours. 
  • Charlotte Mason’s methods. This approach gets its name from a nineteenth-century British educator who defined education as “an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.” She emphasized the relational dimension of learning and wrote, “A child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books.” 
  • Unit studies. This goes by different names such as integrated studies or thematic units, but all imply the same method: covering multiple scholastic subjects by studying one topic. As an example, let’s say the topic for the school year involves ancient Greece. Children then learn mathematics, language arts, history, and geography by studying the Pythagorean theorem, Plato’s Republic, and maps of different Greek islands. Students using this approach retain 45% more information than students using traditional methods, research shows. 

Homeschool laws also vary by state, so make sure you know what your state requires before you begin. 

Step 7: Give yourself adequate time to adjust. 

Longtime homeschoolers often say the first 1-3 years of homeschooling are the hardest. While this may sound intimidating at first, it can also encourage you in setting a realistic timeframe to get comfortable with a new approach to learning. 

Finally, have fun along the way! Don’t feel discouraged by unexpected disruptions or changing academic needs. The spring and summer are only a short window of time in your child’s life.  

See this time as an opportunity not only to prepare for the next school year, but also to improve relationships and build lifelong memories with your child.