The idea of homeschooling just sounds daunting. Here is a practical step-by-step guide to beginning your homeschool journey.
I Want to Homeschool. Now What?
Before we get started, I wanted to tell you a little bit about my background. In third grade, I told my parents that I wanted to try homeschooling since I was bored in public school. Both of my parents worked full time and we didn’t really know what we were doing. Fast forward a few years later, and my sisters wanted to be homeschooled too because I finished my work most often by noon. 😉
Homeschooling allowed me to graduate both high school and college early and empowered me to start a business at a young age. (Here are 50 reasons why I love homeschooling.) You don’t need a fancy degree in education. You don’t need to know all the answers. (How do you know if you’re doing enough in your homeschool?)
A few things to remember:
1. Crisis schooling is a lot different from homeschooling.
Homeschooling kinda feels like a misnomer – most homeschoolers have the entire world as their school: museums, libraries, parks, co-ops, real-life experience with shadowing, or travel experience around the world. If you find the idea of sudden e-Learning stressful, remember this is NOT what homeschooling looks like. 🙂
2. Each child learns differently and at a different pace.
We wouldn’t expect all kids to wear the same size t-shirt, so why would we expect them all to learn the exact same thing at the exact same time?
3. Homeschooling doesn’t have to imitate a public school setting.
One thing I wish I would’ve known earlier is that homeschooling doesn’t mean imitating a public school classroom perfectly! No homeschooled student spends 8 hours a day sitting and doing school work. Seriously, that’s torture for both mom and student. Because of a much lower student to teacher ratio, traditional schoolwork can be done in a few hours.
As a general guideline:
- 1-2 hours a day for elementary
- 2-4 hours a day for middle school
- 4-6 hours a day for high school
And that time not working from a textbook? Fill it with practical, everyday learning opportunities, such as exploring science outdoors, reading for fun, listening to audiobooks while building, trying science projects, or pursuing a hobby or passion.
4. You can adapt the learning to fit your kiddo.
I learn quickly and I don’t like a lot of hands-on projects. My sister on the other hand? She LOVES drawing and making fun things. Every kiddo is different, and homeschooling allows for those differences. Ahead in math? Buy a more advanced curriculum. A little behind in science? Spend some extra time working on it.
5. It doesn’t have to be perfect!
Homeschooling IS wonderful for customizing education to fit your child, but it can become easy to feel a TON of pressure. Each subject has to be perfect and customized for each kid, right?
Homeschooling is a journey, not a sprint. You will not be a perfect homeschool teacher. AND THAT’S OKAY! If something isn’t working, you can switch it up. You can allow yourself lazy, fun, or relaxed days. If you have several students close in age, subjects like history and science can often be taught together, making it easier.
That’s Great! How Do I Get started?
1. Find out your state’s laws.
First, check out your state’s homeschool laws. Each state is a little bit different. Some states are very relaxed (like Indiana), others require annual testing. HSLDA is a good resource to start.
2. Choose subjects.
For early elementary students, public schools primarily focus on math and language arts, since that is what they’re tested on. At this age, kids should be learning by exploring and through play.
- Reading (library!)
- Science/Social Studies (I barely did any social studies/science in my first four years of public school.)
For late-elementary and middle school students, the subjects look similar but offer more options. For example, students can explore history, geography, foreign languages, or a more specialized area of math/science.
3. Look at curriculum options.
There is no best curriculum. Why? Every child is different. 😉 For example, we used A Beka for most of our homeschool. While we might’ve done things a bit differently if we homeschooled again, A Beka is such a solid curriculum that more than prepares you for college. However, it’s not for everyone and is pretty advanced.
It’s super easy to get overwhelmed with a bajillion choices out there. Here are some things to consider. Buying used on Amazon or eBay can also help you cut costs.
Cathy Duffy has an older site, but this can be a good starting point. Search by subject or grade level and she offers her reviews on the curriculum including which type of student the material would work best for.
4. Create a general schedule.
Creating a schedule can help you plan your day. I really love the Happy Planner’s vertical planners, since they have 3 boxes you can customize as needed. We often did math and language arts daily and alternated with other subjects.
5. Homeschool on! (and focus on what matters)
Looking at my time in school, yes, we used traditional textbooks for most of it. But the stuff I remembered most came from lessons not traditionally taught in the classroom. The history I remember today didn’t come from history textbooks, it came from books and movies. On rough homeschool days, remember that there is more to education than grades and ultimately, LEARNING is more important than standards or perfect grades.
Blogs to Help You On Your Journey
My Little Poppies is written by a school psychologist turned homeschool mom. She writes about homeschooling and has hundreds of resources on teaching through games.
Free Homeschool Deals search by topic on this massive database of free homeschool printables.
Read Aloud Revival is a lovely podcast with excellent book recommendations for all age groups and interests.
Homeschooling Early Elementary:
Sugar, Spice and Glitter has Montessori inspired resources for toddler to age 6.
Natural Beach Living has Montessori ideas for elementary students for all subjects including math, language arts, and science.
Sight and Sound Reading has a wealth of freebies and affordable options for teaching handwriting and reading.
The Measured Mom has hundreds of freebies for pre-k including letters and numbers.
Homeschooling Late Elementary and Middle School
Teach Beside Me has fun hands-on ideas, especially for STEM.
Little Bins for Little Hands has tons of STEM resources and projects to keep your kiddos engaged.
Learn in Color (this site!) has dozens of historical book and movie lists sorted by time period. History should never be boring – bring it to life with these ideas.
Homeschooling High School:
The Home Scholar was my go-to during high school and I’m pretty sure I’ve read all of her eBooks and blog posts until I graduated high school.
7 Sisters Homeschool has guides for electives and more for high school.
How I Graduated College Early and Debt Free was a blog post I wrote after finishing college in 2.5 years. If your kiddo is entering high school and wants a fast-track in college, here are my best tips!
Free STEM Websites for Grades 6-12 – if you’re unsure how to teach upper-level math, check out these resources that were a lifesaver to me in high school.
Homeschooling Gifted Kiddos:
Raising Lifelong Learners is my go-to for all things gifted. She has such a wide array of resources and I’ve found myself getting lost deep in her posts about gifted learners. Check out Colleen’s guide to The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Gifted Children.
Homeschooling Special Needs Kiddos:
Homeschooling with Dyslexia offers resources and support for, well, homeschooling with dyslexia. 🙂
Our Crazy Adventures in Autismland is written by Penny, a homeschooling mama who uses the Charlotte Mason method in homeschooling.
Different By Design Learning is a must if you’re wanting to homeschool your differently-wired kids.
Homeschooling As a Single Parent:
Helpful Facebook Groups
Homeschooling with Netflix (and Disney+, Hulu, etc.)
Homeschooling with Games (Gameschooling Community)
(search Facebook for anything – secular homeschooling, homeschool science, etc. – there’s groups for everyone, these are just my favorites!)