I have been homeschooling 16 years…It’s not something I ever imagined doing–but now I can’t imagine my life without it. If you’re at the beginning of the journey, I just want to come along beside you and give you a huge hug. You can do this! (Currently, some of you find yourselves schooling-at-home temporarily because of the unprecedented times we’re living in…I know you never imagined this either!) No matter how you found yourself on this path–I want to encourage you today and share how you can start homeschooling!
(For those of you starting mid-year or doing short-term homeschooling–you may find this post: Emergency Homeschooling helpful.)
How to Start Homeschooling…The Ultimate Guide:
Local Homeschool Laws
In the United States–homeschooling is legal everywhere! Yay! In fact, it’s legal in most of the world. There are just a few countries where it’s not legal. (Germany–I’m looking at you…)
Each state in the U.S. has their own set of homeschool laws and requirements–the best place to find out what your state requires is the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) website.
Explore Homeschool Styles
There is no one right way to homeschool–in fact, there are about a million different ways to do it! You will find your own style and rhythm that fits you and your kids! (And your style will probably change a lot over time! Mine certainly has!)
Before you buy any curriculum or set up your “classroom,”–I think it’s a great idea to just take a step back and dream about what you want this homeschool experience to be for your family. I have found inspiration & helpful resources from these books and authors…
The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise (I’ve been rereading this book every year for probably nearly 15 years! A treasure trove of resource lists & practical how-to’s)
The Call of the Wild and Free by Ainsley Arment (I’m currently reading this one…I think it’s especially helpful for new or “would-be” homeschoolers. But I’ve become more and more interested in the Wild + Free Homeschool Community & I’m enjoying the book’s encouragement & insights!)
Explore Curriculum…So Many Choices!
There are so so many amazing homeschool curriculum choices available…It’s easy to get overwhelmed! Remember there is NOT one right choice! (And none of them are perfect!)
I have a post with lots of details about some of my favorites–Top 12 Favorite Homeschool Curriculums
But I’d also like to add a few more here…
- All About Reading (Wow. Just wow. I switched my 2nd grader who was struggling with reading over to this curriculum and I am so impressed with the results! It’s a new favorite!)
- Sonlight (I actually don’t know why this isn’t on my original Top 12 Favorite curriculum post!?! I have used it on & off over many years…Definitely worth checking out!!)
- Notgrass History (This was not the most exciting history curriculum we’ve ever used–but it was simple & very organized — good for a high school history credit.)
- Gentle Classical Preschool (My friend, Erin, is dedicated to creating excellent preschool curriculum and resources.)
You Don’t Have to Buy it All
Like I said, there is a lot of amazing homeschool curriculum available. You might want all the things!
But you don’t NEED all the things…
Depending on your season of homeschooling and life…Simple might be best. If you have multiple children–it might be best to all study the same time period of history, the same area of science, or use the same writing curriculum. (Here’s my post with more details about homeschooling multiple ages.)
It’s also important to prioritize your budget…In the elementary years, I focus on the foundational subjects first (math, reading, writing). That’s where I’m willing to spend more money. (Here’s how I homeschooled history without a curriculum this year!)
Don’t Let the Curriculum Get in the Way
Once your shiny new curriculum arrives, it’s tempting to follow it verbatim. And at the very beginning, following it perfectly might be the most comfortable–almost like a security blanket…
But after time (probably not long), these thoughts might enter your brain:
Do we have to do all of this? (NO!)
I’d rather do a different activity…(Go for it!)
I think I could explain it better like this...(Yes–explain it your way!!)
Can I cut some of this out? (100% YES!)
Do they need to answer every question? (100% NO!)
Is this test necessary? (Nope!)
Can I skip around? (Yep! Yep!)
Can I count it complete, even if we don’t get through the entire book? (YES…A traditional school counts a subject complete if they get through about 90% of the curriculum.)
My point in all this is to reassure you–you can hop, jump, and skip around in your curriculum! Make it work for you! And with no guilt!
The curriculum is meant to be a tool and a guide–not a point of stress.
And along the same lines…If you decide to do a different activity (let’s say you played a math game or got out math manipulatives instead of doing the worksheet)–you don’t need to go back and also do the worksheet.
OR if you DO something different for your school day–say go on a nature hike, visit the art museum, or hang out with your homeschool co-op friends…That doesn’t mean you’re now behind and also need to do all the other things you would normally do in a day…
Julie Bogart explains it beautifully in her book The Brave Learner…Basically she says something like this (but far more eloquently): We don’t go out to lunch at a restaurant and then come home and also stuff ourselves with the regularly scheduled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! You are not behind!
How to Plan:
I enjoy homeschool planning, but currently, I don’t do a lot of super-detailed weekly planning. My Math and Reading Curriculums are very “open-and-go.” I spend some time monthly ordering books from the library and planning out any themes. And before school starts each year, I plan out what we’re going to be studying–the bird’s-eye view!
Recently I’ve been doing more “reflective,” planning…writing about what we did and reflecting on it…
My high school daughter uses curriculum that is already well-planned out. My weekly planning for her is to be sure she has all the books she needs…Most of my planning for high school is poured into the time I spend choosing her subjects and curriculum before the school year starts.
I created a calendar & planner to help with all stages and levels of planning–you can learn more about it here!
(My subscribers also have access to 2 FREE Planners in my free resource library–you can subscribe here!)
How to Set-Up Your Homeschool:
Mine will not be one of them.
I actually don’t have a special room set aside for homeschooling. I have before…(Though I did ruin some walls with all my taping…My husband was not a happy camper!) But I don’t have one right now–and that’s okay!
If you have the space and want to set up a special room–go for it! But please know the kitchen table works just fine!
I do use several areas of my home to store supplies and curriculum:
- Extra Cabinets: Years ago, my husband purchased unfinished cabinets at Home Depot or Lowes. We finished them, and he installed them in our laundry room. They store curriculum and supplies we’re currently using. Basically, my laundry room is also the teacher workroom!
- Extra Drawers: We use the top drawer in our kitchen side-table/buffet to keep workbooks, journals, and supplies we use frequently.
- Old Armoire: I’ve been married for nearly 23 years…Back in the day, TVs all had a home in the armoire! Now that huge piece of furniture is my daughter’s high school locker and desk!
- Morning Basket: You might have heard the term “morning basket,” floating around the homeschool community…Mine is more of an “all day basket.” It stores history, science, poetry, bible, and read-aloud books–anything we are currently reading through together. It’s nice because they’re all in one place and super handy!
Regardless of how you set up your homeschool, remember that you do not need to recreate school at home. The more I’ve broken free from my past ideas about what school looks like, the more I’ve enjoyed the journey!
How Much Time Will it Take?
As we just touched on–homeschooling is not the same as recreating school at home…
One area where school and home are in stark contrast–time.
Time with your individual children…When I taught 2nd grade, I desperately tried to spend individual time with my 20+ students. As you can imagine, this is nearly impossible. You are going to provide so much more individual time and attention to your kids, it’s just not even a fair comparison.
Time wasted…The pure logistics of a school and classroom mean that in traditional schools–a lot of time is wasted.
So what is the time commitment that you can expect homeschooling?
In my experience, here’s a general guide to the time you can expect to spend on homeschool lessons:
- Preschool (3-5 year olds): 20-45 minutes (If at all…many homeschool families and early childhood experts do not advocate formal-structured learning before the age of 6.)
- Pre-K Kindergarten (4-6 year olds): 40 minutes-1 & 1/2 hour
- Grades 1-3: 1 & 1/2 hours-3 hours
- Grades 4-5: 3-5 hours
- Middle School/Grades 6-8: 4-5 hours
- High School/Grades 9-12: 4-6 hours
These are just general guides–your child’s needs and curriculum requirements will vary! The great news is that your time commitment will become significantly less as your child gets older!
I spend almost the entire formal learning time sitting with my 2nd grader–he is learning how to focus and how to do the work. These are skills kids have to learn, so don’t be discouraged that you have to continually keep your younger students on track!
BUT…I hardly do any formal teaching with my high school daughter! My role has moved from teacher to facilitator.
It’s important to connect with like-minded families in your community! Search the web for your local homeschool organization–they will be a wealth of information about opportunities available to homeschoolers in your area!
In addition, your local library or parks department probably has special events just for homeschool families–check with them!
Another great place to find other homeschool families–Facebook! Search for homeschool groups in your area! (Often these are also great places to buy and sell used curriculum–some are designed specifically for that purpose!) You might also search for Wild+Free groups in your area–these are popping up all over the country!
Go to a Homeschool Conference or Convention!
Besides big regional conferences, there are many online conference opportunities–which I LOVE because it takes all the stress of schedules and logistics out of the way! Plus they are super affordable!
Conferences are a great opportunity to connect with other homeschool moms, find encouragement, renew your sense of purpose, get great tips, and explore new curriculum choices with vendors!
Here’s one I have worked with for the last 3 years: The 2020 Homeschool Mom Conference–it starts Monday, April 6! Specially Priced Early Registration (just $12) is Open NOW!
Other Helpful Homeschool Websites & Resources:
Ambleside Online (Lots of great information (& free resources) about the Charlotte Mason Style of Homeschooling.)
Cathy Duffy Reviews (THE place to get homeschool curriculum reviews!)
Hubbard’s Cupboard (I have such a special place in my heart for this website…It was one of the only homeschool resources available when I first started…It has so many free resources available–especially for those of you with littles.)
How to Homeschool High School (Lee Binz, The Homescholar, has been my go-to resource for homeschooling through high school for years! She has lots of free resources & workshops–I’ve learned so much from her!)
Rainbow Resource Center (Hands Down–my favorite place to shop for homeschool curriculum & supplies. 9 times out 10, they have the best price and shipping is free on orders over $50. Plus–they have lots of helpful customer reviews!!)
My Amazon Shop (Filled with my favorite homeschool resources!)
My Homeschool Page (All my homeschool posts, organized by category–perfect to bookmark, pin, or share!)
Enjoy the Time…It is a Gift!
Above all, I want you to really enjoy this gift of time with your kids! The relationships and memories you’re building with your kids are priceless…
Please let me know if you have any questions or if I can help in any way! Know that I’m cheering you on and praying for you!