Seven Tips to Get Started Homeschooling
Are you interested in homeschooling, but not sure how to begin? Take heart! Almost all of us homeschool “experts” still remember that moment (or let’s be honest, ongoing moments!) when we wondered…
Are you interested in homeschooling, but not sure how to begin? Take heart! Almost all of us homeschool “experts” still remember that moment (or let’s be honest, ongoing moments!) when we wondered how we could really do this.
You may be surprised, then, to learn that homeschool parents don’t need any specific qualification (such as teacher experience, educational standards, etc.) for success. Homeschoolers come from a range of religious backgrounds, political leanings, socioeconomic classes, ethnic cultures, and educational achievements. Some parents don’t even have a high school diploma.
However, homeschooled children consistently outperform their public-school peers across academic, social, and psychological standards. (You can see more at the National Home Education Research Institute.)
Let’s see how you can get started!
Tip 1: Customize your homeschool based on your children.
The first step to start your homeschool is noting the ages and stages of your child (or children). For example, homeschooling a preschooler will look and feel very different to homeschooling a high school senior with just one year of school left!
- In the preschool stage, many homeschoolers choose just to enjoy their kids and involve them in practical, hands-on activities around their home and neighborhoods.
- In the elementary stage, don’t feel worried if you spend only 1-2 hours each day in formal academics. You don’t have to juggle restroom breaks, classroom shuffling, and the attention spans of 15-20 children!
- In middle school, your students should be more independent and self-directed (e.g. setting educational goals, grading their own work, etc.).
- The high school stage can be the most challenging AND rewarding part of your homeschool journey! Sometimes parents can feel overwhelmed at the thought of homeschooling teenagers, especially if they’re only now transitioning to homeschool. However, homeschooling can help your teen build stronger family ties, boost academic and social skills, explore future career opportunities, and much more.
Tip 2: Analyze your role as teacher.
Take note of your own time and schedule constraints. Maybe you work another part-time or full-time job, including night shifts. If you have additional commitments, many families have found help by joining an area co-operative or homeschool enrichment program. (See this list of KC-area programs.)
Finally, make a realistic budget for homeschooling. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has a detailed breakdown of typical costs on its website.
Tip 3: Decide on the homeschool style that best fits your family.
Since COVID-19, the definition of “homeschooling” has generated some confusion – it doesn’t mean just schooling at home! In contrast to virtual or charter programs, true homeschooling does not involve any form of government oversight or funding.
HSLDA has a list of common characteristics to every homeschool:
- Parent directed. This doesn’t mean the parent teaches every subject (although it might!), but the parent is ultimately responsible to oversee their child’s education.
- Customized for family’s needs. Parents have the freedom to integrate academic, social, and family values that fit their goals and schedule. In this sense, education means far more than just “academics.” It can include life skills such as home economics, financial literacy, etc.
- Primarily home based. Although parents may outsource some aspects of their child’s education to tutors and other learning environments, a significant component of home time is involved in learning.
- In compliance with homeschooling laws. Since homeschool laws vary by state, make sure you know what your state requires. Because we’re based in the Kansas City area, we have step-by-step instructions for homeschool families in both Missouri and Kansas.
Homeschooling also gives you the opportunity to explore alternative approaches of education (e.g. Charlotte Mason, classical, unschooling or deschooling, to name a few). Learning more about these different styles can help you narrow down curriculum choices and schedules.
Tip 4: Join your local homeschool state organization.
We’re biased on this, but you have such a wealth of resources, information, and encouragement waiting for you at your local homeschool associations! They’ve played a critical role in securing (and upholding) homeschool freedoms at the regional, state, and federal levels since the 1980s.
Throughout the year, their conferences and conventions, upcoming events, and affiliate partnerships can help you improve your homeschool journey and get group discounts for educational supplies.
In addition, many homeschool associations include discounts for annual membership to HSLDA. It provides legal protection and resources to families throughout their homeschool journey.
Tip 5: Withdraw your child from their current school (if applicable).
A simple letter of school withdrawal should suffice. You should never feel compelled to sign additional documents, submit to testing, explain your decision, attend any meetings, or allow inspections of your curriculum or home.
(We have FREE sample templates of withdrawal letters on our website that families can customize as needed.)
Tip 6: Pace yourself.
Most new homeschoolers have no problem starting… it’s finishing the school year when things get challenging! These principles can help you refocus:
- “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Homeschool parents often express regret that they didn’t take time to enjoy their children more! Schoolwork can usually wait for another day (or week, or month), but you only have a set number of days to build precious, lifelong memories with your family. (See this blog post for common homeschool regrets.)
- “Your homeschool won’t work if your child won’t listen to you.” I heard this advice from a retired homeschool mom, Kathy Roggow. Maybe your relationship with your child is already strained. However, many children report a closer relationship with their parents as they homeschool. One reason could be your time with them as a friend, mentor, and coach.
Tip 7: Enjoy the ride!
Homeschooling’s built-in advantage is one-on-one instruction! Throughout history, people have paid enormous sums of money for the individual attention you naturally give your child all the time.
While you can feel tempted to compare your family with others, every homeschool is unique and proceeds at the student’s own pace. Don’t be afraid if the ride takes some unexpected detours, especially for different students within the same homeschool!
Hopefully this helps you delve deeper into the wonderful world of homeschooling. Because I was homeschooled (thanks, Mom and Dad!), I always wanted to homeschool my own children as I enjoyed my experience so much.
Remember, the only teacher “qualification” you may ever need is the love, attention, and knowledge you’ve already given your child since they were born!