Homeschooling Basics (101)

Mother with son doing homework
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When you're new to homeschooling, the logistics can seem overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be a stressful time. These homeschooling basics will help you have your homeschool up and running as stress-free as possible.

1. Making the Decision to Homeschool

Making the decision to homeschool is usually difficult and not one to be taken lightly. As you are deciding if homeschooling is right for you, consider factors such as:

  • The time commitment
  • The pros and cons of homeschooling based on your family’s needs
  • Your spouse and child’s opinions about homeschooling

There is a myriad of factors that go into deciding to homeschool and many are unique to your family’s specific needs. Talk to other homeschooling families in person or online. Consider attending a homeschool support group meeting or find out if the groups in your area offer events for families new to or considering homeschooling. Some groups will pair families with an experienced mentor or host Q&A nights.

2. Understanding Homeschool Laws

It is very important to know and stay within the homeschool laws and requirements of your state or region. Although homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, some are more heavily regulated than others, particularly if your child is a certain age (6 or 7 to 16 or 17 in most states) or has already been enrolled in public school.

Make sure that you understand what is required of you to withdraw your child from school (if applicable) and begin homeschooling. 

3. Starting Strong

Once you make the decision to homeschool, you’ll want to make sure that you start on a positive note. If your student is transitioning from public school to homeschool, there are steps you can take to smooth the transition.

For example, you’ll want to allow time for everyone to make the adjustment. You don’t have to make every decision right away.

You may find yourself in the position of wondering what to do if your child doesn’t want to homeschool. Sometimes that is simply part of the adjustment period. Other times, there are root causes that you will need to address.

Be willing to learn from the mistakes of veteran homeschooling parents and to listen to your own instincts regarding your children.

4. Choosing a Support Group

Meeting together with other homeschoolers can be helpful, but finding a support group can sometimes be difficult. It often takes patience to find the right match for your family. Support groups offer encouragement and help along the way and can help with choosing curriculum, record keeping, meeting the state laws, and providing opportunities and activities for your students. You can begin by searching for homeschool support groups by state.

5. Choosing a Curriculum

Selecting your homeschool curriculum can be overwhelming. There is a dizzying array of options and it’s easy to overspend and still not find the right curriculum for your student. You may not even need curriculum right away.

You may be able to utilize free printables and your local library while you decide.

Consider used curriculum, creating your own, and other options for saving money on homeschool curriculum

6. Basics of Record Keeping

It is very important to keep good records of your child's homeschool years. Your records can be as simple as a daily journal or as elaborate as a purchased computer program or notebook system. Your state may require that you write a homeschool progress report, keep a record of grades, or turn in a portfolio.

Even if your state doesn’t require such reporting, many parents enjoy keeping portfolios, progress reports, or work samples as keepsakes of their children’s homeschooling years.

7. Basics of Scheduling

Homeschoolers generally have a great deal of freedom and flexibility when it comes to scheduling, but it sometimes takes a while to find what works best for your family.

It can be helpful to see sample homeschool schedules from other families or to ask them what a typical homeschool day looks like for them. A few tips to consider are:

  • When your kids work best – are they early birds or night owls?
  • Your spouse’s work schedule
  • Outside classes and commitments

8. Homeschool Methods

There are many methods for homeschooling your children. Finding the right style for your family may take some trial and error. It’s not uncommon to try a few different methods throughout your homeschooling years or to mix and match. You may find that some aspects of unschooling may work for your family or there may be some bits of the Charlotte Mason method or some unit study techniques you’d like to employ.

The most important thing to remember is to be open to what works for your family rather than feeling that you have to make a lifetime commitment to a particular homeschooling method.

9. Beginning to Homeschool Mid-year

Is it possible to begin homeschooling midyear? Yes! Just remember to check your state’s homeschool laws so that you know how to properly withdraw your children from school and begin homeschooling. Don’t feel that you have to jump into homeschool curriculum right away. Utilize your library and online resources while you figure out the best homeschool curriculum choices for your student.