Learn how to start homeschooling for a successful first year and beyond.
When my husband and I were discerning whether to homeschool, I remember feeling so overwhelmed by all the information out there. We didn’t know anyone who homeschooled, so Google was where I went. But there is so much out there that I didn’t know where to start.
This guide will help you get started in your homeschooling journey, and help answer your questions along the way. It’s overwhelming enough when you start homeschooling. Learning all you can about beginning to homeschool will help you start homeschooling with confidence.
What is Homeschooling?
Homeschooling is a teaching method in which children are educated at home by their parents instead of in a traditional public or private school. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 2 million children homeschooled in the United States. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, though the requirements of homeschooling families differ among states.
How to Start Homeschooling
So you have decided to homeschool your kids, but you aren’t sure where to start. First, know that you have made a very good start already by making the decision to homeschool! You and your kids are going to have wonderful adventures together. There will be tough days, but usually anything worth doing isn’t easy.
The very first thing I suggest you do is write down your WHY. Why are you making this decision to homeschool? What do you hope to achieve? Having your “why” written down will make it easier to get through the hard days that you will have from time to time.
5 Steps for How to Start Homeschooling
- Know the homeschooling laws for your state (country).
- Choose a homeschool teaching method.
- Find curriculum based on the method you choose.
- Get involved in your homeschool community.
- Plan your homeschool year.
1. Know the homeschooling laws for your state or country.
How to get started homeschooling really depends on the ages of your kids. If your kids have never been in the school system, then your first step will look different than someone who has children in elementary or even high school.
So you’re probably wondering how you even find the homeschooling laws for your state. I have found a great resource for homeschooling legal questions to be HSLDA, or Homeschool Legal Defense Association. This link will take you to their page on homeschool laws by state. Click on your state and they will let you know the homeschool requirements for your state.
If you live outside of the United States, I did find a page on the HSLDA site that mentioned homeschooling status for many countries, so that might be a good place to start. You could probably also Google “homeschool laws for your country.”
2. Choose a homeschool teaching method.
There are many different ways you can teach your children at home. I describe eight of them in this post: The Beginner’s Guide to Homeschool Teaching Methods. You can read that post for a more in-depth look at the methods, but I will give a short summary of them here as well.
8 Popular Homeschool Teaching Methods
- Traditional, or School-at-Home
- This method is most like public school. It uses a ready to go curriculum that includes textbooks and usually tests and teacher lesson plans. It is an easy method to use when transitioning out of public school and is chosen by many new homeschoolers.
- Classical Education Model
- This method is a time-tested method used by the Greeks which teaches children to think for themselves. It is strong in literature and critical thinking. The history is chronologically based.
- Charlotte Mason
- This method incorporates a feast of topics to sample. It uses short lessons with a large focus on spending hours outside daily. The method is strong in quality literature and in the arts.
- Unit Studies
- This method incorporates all subjects under one main topic. It allows for the whole family to learn together at each child’s level. The interest-led learning includes hands-on activities.
- More a lifestyle than a method, unschooling focuses on child-led learning. Critical thinking and problem solving is encouraged. No curriculum or schedule is used.
- This method looks at the child as a whole person. The child uses real tools in a prepared environment, which allows for child-led learning.
- This method has an emphasis on the arts and natural world. It includes three developmental stages of play, academics, and critical thinking. The method encourages creativity and free-thinking.
- This final method is a mixture of two or more methods mentioned above. This allows families to choose the methods that follow the strengths of each child.
3. Find curriculum based on the method you choose.
Once you have an idea of how you’d like to teach your kids, the next step is to choose homeschool curriculum that will help you do that. Just remember that curriculum is just a guide to help you teach. Focus on your kids, not the books! Don’t stick with something that’s not working just because you feel that you need to finish the book. Use a variety of materials to help you teach.
There are many places you can find homeschool curriculum. If you have the opportunity in your area, a curriculum fair is a great place to be able to look through different curriculum. Many of these fairs take place in the spring and early summer.
My local area also has a used curriculum sale each June. It’s also a great place to be able to look through curriculum and ask each seller how it worked for their family. Moreover, these are used books, which helps the homeschool budget.
If you don’t have access to a curriculum fair in your area, or want to have access to a wide range of curriculum, I have found the Cathy Duffy curriculum review site to be a great resource. I also share homeschool curriculum reviews of books that we’ve used in our homeschooling.
It’s a good idea to try to look for resources that have materials you need for the teaching method(s) you’ll be using. Here are some of the sites I’ve used for some of our favorite curriculum.
Seton Home Study School: This curriculum follows the traditional method. It is a Catholic curriculum and the first curriculum I used when we started homeschooling.
Christian Book: This site has a lot of different curriculum you can choose from and they’ll send a catalog as well. Their prices are usually pretty competitive and they occasionally offer shipping discounts.
Memoria Press: This curriculum follows the Classical Education method. We’ve especially enjoyed using their geography books.
Simply Charlotte Mason: We used the Picture Study Portfolios from this site, as well as the Learning About Birds Book. This site follows the Charlotte Mason method.
Thriftbooks: This is a used book site that I order most of our literature from. I use this site for free reading and for curriculum reading. You can also find many books for the homeschool parent on different methods and how to homeschool at this site.
4. Get involved in your homeschool community.
Getting involved in your homeschool community is a great way to make other homeschool friends, especially if are like me and didn’t know any homeschoolers prior to homeschooling. You can join co-ops and other homeschool groups, and your kids can even play sports on homeschool teams.
Facebook is a good starting point for local homeschool groups. Do a search and join any local groups you find. You can also ask anyone you know who already homeschools. Chances are they may belong to a fun co-op or know about popular activities or park days where you can meet other homeschoolers.
5. Plan your homeschool year.
Finally, you have followed all of the above steps and now you are ready to plan your school year. Personally, I find a homeschool lesson planner an essential tool. At the very least, you’ll want a calendar and your state requirements in hand to start planning.
Make sure to remember to schedule in breaks throughout the year. November and February are notorious for homeschool burnout, so you may want to add in some field trips or breaks to those months. Take your time to plan so you can make sure you give yourself room to cover what you want or need to. The planning is always my favorite part!
Tips for Success Your First Year
•My biggest tip for success your first year of homeschooling is to be flexible! Lessons will take longer than you plan, or you may realize a book you chose does not work for your family. Don’t worry about finishing “on time” or falling behind. Your homeschool will not look like anyone else’s homeschool. Homeschooling is a journey, not a destination.
•Which leads me to my second point. Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. Your first year homeschooling is a lot of trial and error. Even 3 or 4 years down the road, homeschooling will look much different for your family than it does that first year. Don’t get down on yourself thinking that someone else with more homeschool experience has it all together. You’ll figure it out!
When you join the Homeschooling in Progress community, you’ll learn ways to simplify your homeschool day so you can feel more confident and enjoy teaching your kids, PLUS receive 5 Easy Steps to Create a Simple Routine for Productive Homeschool Days guide.
FAQs about Homeschooling
- What about socialization?
- This question is so cliché, it’s almost funny. Anytime we go out anywhere, people comment on how friendly and talkative my kids are. I’ve found that homeschoolers are very good at talking to people of all age ranges. Besides, I remember my teachers telling us not to talk in school anyway! 😉
- How much does it cost?
- Homeschooling can fit any budget. There are full curriculums that can be quite expensive, but there is also much to be found online for homeschooling that is free or low cost. Both options can provide a wonderful education, so figure out your homeschool budget and go from there. Don’t forget to look for used curriculum sales or on discount book websites.
- How long does a typical homeschool day take?
- A lot less time than you think! As a former elementary teacher, I know a lot of school time is waiting time. Waiting for everyone to get settled, waiting for everyone to have a bathroom break, waiting for everyone to line up. When you only have 3 or 4 students instead of 30, you can get through the work much more quickly. Most days we are done in a few hours, which is average for the middle grades.
- What does a daily homeschool schedule look like?
- Every family is going to have a different look to their day. Also, I would not go by a schedule, but more a routine. Make anchors in your day and work around those. After breakfast, we will cover these subjects. Before lunch, we will do this. Anchor around what you do everyday, like meals, and you and your kids will know what to expect each day.
- Do you have to be a certified teacher?
- I’m not aware of any state that requires homeschool parents to be certified teachers. There are some states that require a high school diploma or GED, so again, check your state laws. But honestly, I don’t know if my teacher education prepared me much for homeschooling. If anything, it made it harder for me to think outside the curriculum box when we started.
- How do you homeschool multiple kids?
- Homeschooling multiple ages can be a challenge. You can read this post I wrote about homeschooling multiple ages with ease for ideas on teaching all of your kids without losing your mind–or patience!
- How do you homeschool with younger kids at home?
- Now, babies and toddlers are quite a challenge anyway. Adding homeschooling your older children into the mix and you may question your sanity on a daily basis! Here are some tips I wrote on homeschooling with a toddler.
- How do you balance homeschooling with other responsibilities?
- When you begin homeschooling, you may think you can easily add it in along with the homemaking you are already doing. But it does take some organization and planning ahead to balance it all. One way we found some balance is with meal planning.
- How do you keep organized with the kids home all day?
- Your house will most likely not be as organized as someone whose kids attend public school. You and your kids are at home all day, living in it, working in it. Again, planning ahead helps, but let go of the need for a perfect home. It’s just going to cause unnecessary stress. Keep it clean, but it still may be cluttered. Having a place for the homeschool materials can help keep your home organized. Another organization tool you can use in your home is to color code your children’s materials.
- How do you have the patience to homeschool?
- I always laugh when people tell me they could never have the patience to homeschool. I pray for guidance to be patient on a daily basis! No, I don’t think homeschooling is for everyone. But I would not let worry about not being patient enough deter you. None of us are patient enough! But we get to try again each new day. I try to remember that God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.
Still Have Concerns?
I hope I have answered all of your questions on how to start homeschooling, and that I’ve given you the encouragement you need to get started.
Remember that flexibility is a big component to less stress in your homeschool day. Planning ahead can keep you organized and free your time so you can focus on teaching.
Don’t compare yourself to others. No one’s journey will look the same. When you have hard days, and you will, remember WHY you want to homeschool. Nothing worth doing is easy.
Lastly, enjoy this season of life! It’s a privilege to be able to spend everyday with your children. Not everyone has that opportunity. Remember what a blessing it is to be able to build such a wonderful relationship with your children and watch them grow in so many ways.