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When I first started homeschooling my Emma, I was lucky enough to have good friends to help along the way. God love them, they endured hours of questions, my constant curriculum switching at first and more. Frankly, learning how to start homeschooling your kids can be a frighting and tedious process that can make you question whether you are making the correct decision, whether you’re able to do what you’re setting out to do and more. Having friends, or a blog post such as this one, to help you mark off those tasks that you need to do can be an immense help.
The simple fact is that while it would be nice to simply pull your kids from public school (if they’re enrolled) and start teaching them, learning how to start homeschooling will require more work than that. There are a lot of things that you’ll want to do in order to make sure that your kids learn the things you want them to and understand what they need to.
How to Start Homeschooling Your Kids
Homeschooling is all about freedom, but you will need to realize a couple of things before you begin; learning how to homeschool your kids will be different for everyone. The steps to take before homeschooling that I’m listing below should be used as a general guide. For some, they will all apply. For others, only a handful will. Take what you need and skip over the rest while you’re on your journey of learning how to homeschool your kids.
Before you start homeschooling, figure out your state homeschooling laws –
The first step in your journey to learn how to start homeschooling is to figure out what your state homeschool laws are. Each state is different so just because your friend who homeschools in Texas does it one way, doesn’t mean you can do it the same way in Ohio. In some states, you’ll be required to keep strict attendance and curriculum records. In other states, you won’t even have to bother with it. Some states also have specific school district requirements or allow you to only use an approved homeschool curriculum. If you don’t take the time to earn these laws front and back, you risk your child being marked as truant, not being allowed to homeschool or worse depending on where you live.
If you’re looking for a reliable place to find the info you need, HSLDA is a great place to start. Not only do they provide info on homeschool laws, but they also keep that info up to date and provide other relevant info you may need. If you get into trouble for not following your state laws or have other issues, they also may be able to help you with legal defenses too. You can join the HSLDA- Home School Legal Defense Association for $120 per year.
Also be sure to check for any state associations as well. Here in Texas, we have the THSC that we can join as well for only $10.00 a month. Aside from the legal help if we need it, they keep us up to date on homeschool laws and potential laws in Texas. We also receive discounts to their homeschool conventions and several other benefits as well. The $10.00/mo that we spend is well worth the money we spend.
There are also other organizations such as the National Home School Association that you may want to consider joining. They don’t provide legal help, but the benefits of joining the NHSA are well worth the $39.99 cost per year. You can check out the National Home School Association HERE.
Determine what style of homeschool you want to have –
The second thing you’ll need to do when you’re learning how to start homeschooling your kids is to determine what type of homeschool you want to have. Some families will choose to unschool. This is where you essentially allow your children to learn whatever they please without a whole lot of structured curriculum involved. Another option is to use a structured approach to your homeschool. This is where your kids have a set schedule, use a boxed curriculum and so on. We personally went with a more eclectic style. We school on most days, but if we need to take off for family or field trips, we do. We don’t use a single curriculum approach and instead, use what works best for her.
The only thing that really matters when choosing what type of homeschool you will have is whether your homeschool will be within the homeschooling laws of your state and whether it will work for your child or children. If the answer to either is no; you’ll want to find some other style.
Choose which curriculum you will use –
Once you have learned what is required by your state and have decided what type of homeschool you will have, you can begin to research curriculum. The world of homeschool curriculum is huge and it can be quite easy to get lost. You can choose to piece together your curriculum subject by subject. You can use an online curriculum such as what Monarch offers or K-12. You could buy printable homeschool worksheets from a site such as Educents. You could use a boxed curriculum that has everything planned for you such as Switched on Schoolhouse or you could use something that someone else put together such as the free homeschool curriculum Easy Peasy All in One Homeschool.
No matter which curriculum you decide to work with, keep one thing in mind; it is absolutely okay to switch curriculum if what you’re currently using is not working. Here are a few curriculum resources to get you started in your research for learning how to homeschool your kids.
- ThriftBooks– great prices on books for reading classes – Usually they have 4/$12 sales going on
- Switched on Schoolhouse
- Educents offers various homeschool printables and several different subject specific curriculum options
- ABC Mouse
- ACE (Accelerated Christian Education)
- Connections Academy
- Story of the World
- BJU Press
- Saxon Math
- Christian Liberty Press
Also, when you’re buying your homeschool curriculum, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can only purchase from the manufacturer. It can be quite a bit cheaper to look around for places to buy homeschool curriculum that won’t break your bank. If you’re looking for cheaper places, we have a list of 45 places to buy homeschool curriculum cheap right HERE.
Once you have your curriculum planned, it can be helpful to sit down and complete a lesson plan even if you’re using a boxed curriculum that plans it all for you. The easiest way to do this is to pick up a lesson plan book to plan our what you’re doing each day of the school week. Doing it this way allows you to see quickly, at a glance, what your kids are supposed to be working on each day.
Side Note: If you are purchasing your curriculum online, be sure to sign up for an Ebates account before you shop. Ebates is a cash back shopping site that will pay you cash back on qualified purchases. Plus, Ebates will give new customers $10.00 in FREE cash back when you create an Ebates account and make your first qualified purchase of $25.00 or more. You can check them out HERE.
Unsure how Ebates works? Be sure to read my Ebates 101 post right HERE.
Plan your homeschool budget when you’re learning to homeschool your kids –
Like anything else in your life, you should start with a budget in place and when you’re first learning how to start homeschooling, it will be extremely important to have one. If you skip having learning how to homeschool on a budget, you will very likely find yourself running out and buying anything and everything you may want which could learn to your family having a financial crisis in your personal budget. Make sure that you allow enough money for not only curriculum, but for supplements, school supplies, reading books, art supplies and more. Homeschooling can get pretty expensive if you allow it to be, but it can also be done incredibly cheap if you put some effort into it. With enough work, you can even learn how to homeschool your kids for free!
If your homeschool budget is really super tight or if you’re just looking to save a little bit of money, we have a HUGE list of homeschool freebies right HERE. I try to keep it updated often, but if you happen to find one that is no longer valid, please let me know.
Determine where homeschool takes place –
While having a dedicated homeschool room is nice, it isn’t necessary as long as you have some sort of plan as to where you will be doing school each day. In our case, we originally split my office in half like shown in the photo. It allowed me to work while she was working, but allowed us a separate space for her to work in where I was close by if she needed help. These days, she tends to do her work on the couch or at the kitchen table. Whatever works best for your family is fine so don’t get weighed down by the idea that you must have a separate space.
When you plan the space for your homeschool, make certain you have enough room to store your curriculum and other goodies. If you are short on space you can store your items in a storage box that slides under the bed, inside of a hutch, a bookcase or inside a storage style coffee table.
Side note: Want to document your homeschool journey on a blog like this one? Head over HERE and learn how to start a blog in just 15 minutes. Your new homeschooling blog could help other moms like you!
Determine your homeschool schedule –
Unless you’re unschooling your kids, you will most likely want to keep them on some sort of schedule each day. Otherwise, you can end up with a mess if your kids aren’t willing or able to work on any schedule. It doesn’t matter when your kids do their school work, as long as its done. For instance, in our house, Emma usually tends to do her schoolwork later in the evening. It may sound strange, but she has more ability to focus in the evenings than she does in the mornings. Since doing her work later at night gives her the ability to do better in school, we allow her to do it later at night. When you’re planning your own homeschool schedule and are trying to figure out how to start homeschooling your kids in a way that is best for them, make sure to account for any quirks such as what Emma has. Kids that really don’t function well early in the mornings, kids that don’t function late at night or other quirks may result in you needing to alter their schedule to take those quirks into account.
You’ll also want to decide whether you will be having school five days a week or less. We typically tend to do four days a week with Friday’s off. This gives her the break that she needs since she is doing a lot of work in a very short time right now, but also gives her that extra day to complete extra work if she chooses. Just keep in mind that some states do have attendance requirements, so be sure that your school year – as a whole – complies with those attendance laws. You should have learned about those laws when you researched them when you were first learning how to start homeschooling your kids.
Plan a few field trips –
Another thing you’ll want to take the time to do when you’re learning how to start homeschooling is to schedule a few field trips. Every kid needs a break once in a while and field trips are a great way to do that. They can be fun, educational or somewhere in between and the chances are good that your kids will still love them.
If your budget is super tight, look for homeschool field trip ideas that are free such as the library or ideas that are super cheap. You should also check places such as Groupon for deals on homeschool field trips. You can save quite a bit off regular admission prices with a coupon or a Groupon voucher to help.
Buy any extra supplies you’ll need –
It can be a pretty common mistake when someone is first learning how to start homeschooling to think that their kids really won’t need any extra school supplies since they will be learning at home or using a boxed curriculum. This is not only a mistake that can cost your child educational time, but one that can also do serious damage to your personal budget. Your children will need school supplies and they will need art/craft/music supplies. Instead of risking that you won’t be able to afford them when you need them, work them into your homeschool budget now. If you don’t spend the money you’ve set aside in your budget for supplies right away, that’s okay. Roll it over each month and put it into a savings account specifically set aside for homeschooling. Doing so will ensure that you can always afford what you need.
Research Homeschool Co-Ops –
Homeschool co-ops can be a great addition to your homeschool plans, but they can also be a pain in the rear. This means that when you’re first learning how to start homeschooling, you should take some time to research whether you want to get involved with one or not. In our case, we tried it but quickly found that we didn’t like being tied to a specific schedule like what the co-op required.
If your kids are not going to be doing a co-op, try to at least find a homeschooling group or two so they can participate in social activities and make friends. It will help them not only be more focused at their school work, but also to develop the social skills most people worry about with homeschooling.
In addition to educational co-ops, there are also bulk buy co-ops that can help you save money on homeschooling curriculum and supplies. My favorite is the Homeschool Buyers Co-Op. They do bulk buys for curriculum and supplies and when you get in on one of those buys, you typically save 40% or more. They also offer a free homeschool ID card which can be helpful to allow you to receive homeschool teacher discounts and for your kids to get into events using the student pricing.
Set Educational Goals for Your Kids –
The last piece of educationally related things you should do when you’re learning how to start homeschooling your kids is to set educational goals for each one of them. Goals are super important because without them, how can you measure whether your child is truly learning or if they are missing the mark. You won’t need to make their goals excessive, but you should at least set a benchmark or three for each child to reach by the end of the year. The only hpomeschooling philosophy this doesn’t apply to is unschooling since unschooled kids learn when and what they want to learn on their own.
Understand that each child learns differently –
Finally – and this is probably the most important thing you need to realize when you’re learning how to start homeschooling – each child learns differently than the next and your kids will be no different. Understand that what works for one of your kids very likely won’t work int he exact same way for the others. This can mean you may need to use a different curriculum for each child. It might mean each child learns better on a different schedule. It could mean a number of things, but if you don’t realize this early on, you run the risk of your kids having a hard time and the risk of feeling like a failure yourself.
Learning how to start homeschooling isn’t really hard. Parents tend to give themselves a much harder time than is needed and a large portion of the time, it’s because they’re trying to teach multiple children the same way. You removed your children from public school (or never sent them to start in public school) because you didn’t want them taught the same, mechanical way. Don’t try to do that at home and you and your kids will all be just fine.
*Originally published 6/2016 – Updated 6/2018