After the “Why do you homeschool” question, the next question I get on a regular basis is “How do you start homeschooling?” While this is not an in-depth, step-by-step list, here are several suggestions I have to get ready to homeschool:
How to Homeschool: Six Ways to Get Started
1) Visit families that are homeschooling.
I think this was the most beneficial step I took when I first began homeschooling. If you can, try to visit several families with different philosphies. You’ll soon see that everyone has a unique approach and ideas. I think most homeschoolers enjoy visitors and love to share what’s working for them…and what hasn’t worked so well. Ultimately, you need to make your own decisions, but it’s so helpful to have someone who has already been through those first few years to offer advice and encouragement.
2) Find out the homeschooling laws in your state.
Every state has made specific laws dealing with homeschooling. One of the best places to find the current information is on the HSLDA website (find your state on the map and click it). You’ll be able to download information for your specific state.
3) Research homeschool curriculum approaches.
Here’s the thing I love about homeschooling: There is no *right* way to do it. Because I was trained as a teacher, I’ve actually had to “unlearn” quite a bit! Instead of making our homeschool into a miniature public school classroom (which I sometimes still have to remind myself not to do), we have freedom to approach education differently. There are so many approaches to curriculum, it takes some time to figure it all out.
Here are just a few of the more common curriculum approaches to homeschooling:
- Traditional: This is the typical textbook and worksheet-driven approach. It systematically leads children through a prescribed scope and sequence. If you like structure, this may work for you. It might be a little more difficult to do when you are teaching several children of different ages.
- Classical: This approach is based on the educational philosophy of the Greeks and Romans. It focuses on the Trivium — three stages of learning. The first part the child passes through is the grammar stage. They move onto the logic stage during middle childhood. The final passage is into the rhetoric stage.
Find out more:
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise
- Unit Study: This form of education seeks to combine all subject areas into one theme. For instance, your child may be fascinated with butterflies, so your math, reading, art, science, P.E., etc. all come back to butterflies. I use units (or themes) quite a bit with my younger girls. It’s easy to find something they are interested in and build activities around it.
- Unschooling: This approach believes children are stifled in a school-type environment. Instead, this method relies on a much more natural and relaxed approach to learning. While implementation of this approach varies from family to family, you can find out more about this by reading the works of John Holt.
Teach Your Own by John Holt
- Charlotte Mason: An educational pioneer in Great Britain, Charlotte Mason’s key ideas were “living” books, short lessons, narration, and nature studies.
- Eclectic: This approach combines aspects of various approaches. This is my own personal approach! I take a few thoughts from Charlotte Mason, throw in Unit Studies, use some flashcards for basic facts, and do some unschooling (a less intimidating term might be “delight-directed”) in the afternoon. Each day looks different — although I do use My Father’s World (which combines various philosophies, too) as a basic guide for each day.
4) Read some great books.
Educating the WholeHearted Child — Third Edition: This is my absolute favorite book on homeschooling. Of course, I adore Sally Clarkson, but I loved this book before I even read any of her other books or met her in person! If you can only afford one book on homeschooling, this would be my recommendation. I reread this book every year. It inspires me, and I find something new each time I read it!
The Well-Adjusted Child: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling: The number one question most homeschoolers face is the “socialization” question. This book puts that question in a new light. What does is really mean to be socialized? Is true socialization really found only in schools? I’m always encouraged when I read this book — maybe I’m not really “ruining” my children! 😉
100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum: Choosing the Right Curriculum and Approach for Your Child’s Learning Style: Although this book is several years old, and there are quite a few new curriculum options since it was first released, I still love the way Cathy Duffy leads you to find the best approach for each of your children as individual learners (*update: it looks like the book has been revised). There are helpful charts, questionnaires, and more (I recommend the print version and not the Kindle version). This is an extremely helpful guide for figuring out your teaching style, your child’s learning style, and your philosophy of education.
5) Attend a homeschool convention.
If you have the opportunity to attend a homeschool convention, you should! I would, however, recommend attending with someone who has been before, because you might be extremely overwhelmed on your own. The first time I went, I couldn’t believe the rows and rows of curriculum options. I felt like running away!!
The easiest way to find a conference is to ask the homeschooling families in your area if they attend one. If not, you can probably just Google (or use your Swagbucks search page) to find one near you.
I truly believe everyone should attend a convention. The ability to view the curriculum is one big reason I recommend it. Another great reason is to be encouraged and equipped by the workshops and guest speakers. At the end of our homeschool year, I often feel tired…and sometimes even discouraged or burnt-out. Attending a conference never fails to reignite my passion for home education! It’s also so encouraging to see how many other families have made the homeschool choice, too!
6) Find some support.
You’ll want to get connected with other homeschool families as quickly as you can. So often, people feel isolated and they start to wonder if they’ve made the right decision. This can be a challenging time — especially if you have family members or friends who are already critical of what you’re doing. You can begin to doubt and think it would be much easier to go a different route. In many communities, you can find a homeschool support group, playgroup, or co-op of some kind.
What questions do you have about how to start homeschooling?