Getting Started in Homeschooling

Homeschooling can seem overwhelming, especially for those of us who grew up in a traditional school setting whether it was public or private school.  If you are venturing out into the unknown world of homeschooling then this post should be helpful to you! Let’s take a look at what you need to do to get started in homeschooling.

A step-by-step guide to getting started in homeschooling.

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Know Why You Are Homeschooling

Take some time to write out why your family is choosing to homeschool so that you can easily remind yourself of the vision and motivation that got you started in the first place. This list will become an encouragement to you when you face challenges while homeschooling.

Don’t worry if you aren’t really sure why you are stepping out to do this crazy homeschooling thing. Sometimes the best reason for homeschooling is  just being obedient and stepping out in faith to what the Lord is calling your family to do even if you don’t understand the why or how.

Be aware that your reasons for homeschooling year after year will probably change. God used academics to get our family to take the plunge into homeschooling but now we have a totally different vision and motivation for homeschooling our family. (You can read about why we homeschool here.)

Commit to Two Years of Homeschooling

The first year of homeschooling is usually a rough one and many people quit before they really have a chance to succeed at it. Your kids need time to adjust to you being the teacher especially if you are pulling them out of a traditional school setting. You will need lots of time to break down the “school mentality” you are familiar with and learn what school at home can look like for your family.

When the first year is over, take some time to re-evaluate your year and prayerfully make changes for the next year. Don’t forget to attend a homeschool convention for encouragement and practical help in planning your second year of school at home.

Find Out How to Legally Homeschool in Your State

Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states in the United States but homeschool laws vary drastically from state to state. For help in determining your states laws visit HSLDA. For those of you in California, you can visit my Homeschooling in California page.

Find a Support System for You

While you probably have some amazing friends already, it’s important to find some fellow homeschooling moms to walk with you through the joys and struggles of homeschooling.  If your friends don’t homeschool their own kids then they probably won’t be very encouraging when you’re at your breaking point and wondering if you can go on in your homeschooling journey.

Is there a homeschool group in your area that has events for moms to get together to talk and pray? Can you search out one or two moms in your homeschool group or church that would be open to emailing, calling, texting or getting together when one of you is discouraged? And if all else fails, are there blogs you can visit, books you can read or online homeschool groups you can join to help encourage you?

Find a Homeschool Group for Your Kids

Consider what kind of group you want to be a part of  and what groups are in your area. Are  you looking for friends for your children? Or a group that offers classes? Perhaps you want a group to take field trips with or do other extra-curricular activities with? Do you just want some families to meet up with at a park once a month or once a week? Do you want a group that dads can participate in with their families?

Consider what you really need and desire as a family and then see what groups in your area match what you are looking for. Make sure you don’t get wrapped up in too many activities that you neglect getting school work done or growing together as a family. Think about what you really desire in a group and stick to what is best for your family.

Figure Out Your Goals

When you start a new project you always have a goal or end result in mind. It’s important to have some goals in mind with homeschooling as well. What do you believe is the purpose of education? Is education a means to obtaining a job with a good salary? Or maybe you believe that the ultimate goal of education is to use one’s knowledge for the glory of God.

Are your goals merely academic based or is shaping the heart of your child and filling his or her mind with the truth of God’s Word important to you? Is building family unity a priority? How about community service?

Take time to prayerfully consider what you are working towards as you homeschool your child. Use these goals as a marker for determining what curriculum to buy, what activities to participate in and what groups to join. Ask yourself, “Does this curriculum, activity or group help or hinder us from reaching our goals?”

Determine Your Educational Philosophy

An educational philosophy is just a fancy word for what method of learning you want to use in educating your children. The most popular methods include the traditional textbook/workbook model, Charlotte Mason, Classical education, the Unit Study method and unschooling. There is also the eclectic method of homeschooling which is a little bit of everything. You just pick and choose what works for you. (For a summary of each method click here.) Determining your educational philosophy will help you weed through the enormous amount of curriculum there is to choose from.

Think About How Your Child Learns Best

Figuring out your child’s learning style isn’t necessary but it can be very helpful especially in the earlier years of education. Is your child a visual learner (one who learns best through visual images such as reading, videos and watching others), an auditory learner (one who learns best through hearing) or a kinesthetic learner (one who learns best by doing, touching and using manipulatives)? Find out more about learning styles here.

Choose Curriculum

Now it’s time to put your educational philosophy and your child’s learning style together to find a good curriculum for your family! A great resource for pulling it all together is Cathy Duffy’s book, 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.

When choosing curriculum make sure to keep your family’s needs in mind. Ask yourself these important questions before purchasing any curriculum:

  • Am I able to spend a lot of time in one-on-one instruction or would it be better to teach some subjects as a group with all of my children?
  • Do I need to have certain children working more independently?
  • Does my family (or a particular child) need a curriculum that provides more structure to our days or can we be more flexible?
  • Can we afford this curriculum? Can I find it cheaper at a used curriculum fair, at the library or can I borrow curriculum from another homeschool family?
  • Do I have the time for intense lesson planning or do I need to steer away from curriculum that requires a lot of teacher preparation?
  • Does this curriculum meet the goals we have for our children’s education?
  • Do I desire a Christian, Christ-centered curriculum or am I okay using secular material?
  • Have I taken the time to pray about my family’s curriculum choices and seek God’s input for our school year?

If you’d like assistance with choosing curriculum, I am available to help. Click here for more information.

Organize Supplies and Decide on a Schedule

One of the last things you need to do is organize your school supplies and decide on a schedule for your homeschool. There are endless ways to organize your supplies and schedule your days. It’s great to get ideas from other homeschooling moms on how they organize and schedule their school time but keep in mind that your family is unique and what works for one family may not work well for yours. Here are some questions to ask yourself…

  • Do I want a separate space to homeschool in (like a classroom) or do I want learning to take place all over my home?
  • Where will we be doing most of our school work? Remember to keep school supplies close to where you will do school.
  • Do I have little ones that I need to keep an eye on while working with older kids? Then perhaps doing school close to where your little ones play would be a good idea.
  • Do I want to store school supplies on a bookshelf, in a cupboard, in bags or crates that can be moved from room to room or easily taken in the car?
  • Do I want to school 4 or 5 days of the week? Do I want to stick to a traditional school year or school year-round with lots of breaks in between?

There are a lot of different parts to organizing your homeschool. If you still feel overwhelmed, check out the Ultimate Homeschool Organization eCourse! It will walk you through how to set up your homeschool for success.

Pick a Day and Start

You are ready to start your homeschooling journey! Choose a day to start and jump right in. It might help to start with just one or two subjects the first week then add in more subjects later. Remember that it will take some time to find what works best for your family. Don’t get discouraged! You can do this!

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