First, I’ll repeat what a homeschooling friend said to me when I first started out-
I will add, Believe in yourself. You’ve got this!
I’m going to share the steps I took when I first started homeschooling my son. Keep in mind that in Ontario (Canada), all that was required of me legally was to notify my school district (in writing) of my intent to homeschool. Also my son is my youngest so most of my homeschooling experience has been as if homeschooling an only child.
Step 1: Know your state’s homeschool laws. Here are some links to start out with or you can google “(your state) homeschool laws” and see what comes up.
If you know homeschoolers in your area, they should be knowledgeable about your state’s homeschool laws and I bet they’d be willing to help walk you through any legal requirements such as submitting an affidavit to your school district. Some states regulate homeschooling more than others. I only have personal experience with Utah and Arizona, and both of these states have very relaxed homeschool laws (those are the best kind!).
Once you’ve got a handle on your state’s homeschool laws and requirements, you’re ready for the fun part. Steps 2-5 are just suggestions based on my personal experience. I list them as steps, but there’s no right or wrong way to go about homeschooling. It’s really a learn-as-you-go process.
Step 2: If you’ve taken your child out of public school, in the middle of a school year like I did, please give your child a few days to a few weeks just to decompress and adjust to being at home. It’s a big change to go from waking up early and rushing out the door to go to school for 6 full hours, with all of its complexities, to waking up and staying at home. It’s a good change, but a change nonetheless. My son and I spent the first couple of weeks visiting the library and curling up on our couch reading together. This also gave me time to research homeschooling styles and watch a homeschooling friend in action.
Step 3: Find support. If you know homeschoolers in your area, let them know you’re just starting out. They could be a valuable resource. If there’s a homeschooling group, consider joining. Any support can help. When I first started out, there wasn’t a group I could join. In fact, there was only one other homeschooling family that I was aware of, but I reached out to that mom and that made a difference for me. She let me watch her homeschool her children, to give me an idea of what homeschooling could look like. I also found support online. There is a whole homeschool blogging community now. Take advantage of it.
Step 4: Develop a loose plan that includes a simple routine and the basic subjects you want your child to learn. Don’t worry about what the public schools are teaching or how they teach. Give your child a truly unique education. Sit down with a notebook and make a list of the subjects you feel are most important for your child right now. For an elementary aged child, these are probably the 3 R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic). Start with just the baseline of subjects for now and add the rest later. Remember, you don’t have to teach every subject every day (not even math!) and you don’t need to spend endless time on any particular subject.
To form a basic routine, ask yourself how you want your mornings to go. Do you want to get some housework out of the way first? Some families do their homeschooling first thing in the morning. Others start late morning. Some even homeschool in the afternoons. I like to start around 9am and go ’til lunch, break for lunch and then see what still needs to be covered after that. Pick a starting time and try it out for a few weeks to test drive it.
Step 5: Once you know what subjects you want to teach, you can look into curriculum. There is a lot out there so take your time. Read reviews before you purchase anything. Attend a curriculum fair if there’s one near you. If you are following a particular homeschooling style, that can guide your curriculum. Some families create their own curriculum. Others mix it up. It can help to know your child’s learning style. Are they hands-on? Math-U-See is a more hands-on type of math because of the blocks. Does your daughter enjoy worksheets? Then go ahead and purchase that spelling workbook for her. You can find curriculum in book stores, at Walmart, in teacher-supply stores, online (Amazon, etc.), and at your local library (try the non-fiction section). Don’t go overboard! Start simple. There are a lot of free resources online. Curriculum will probably be the most expensive part of homeschooling, but you don’t have to spend a fortune to give your child a great education.
Homeschooling moms love to post which curriculum they’re currently using or what has worked for them in the past. When visiting other homeschooling blogs, find their posts or pages about curriculum.
Step 6 (final step): JUMP IN WITH BOTH FEET. In other words, just start somewhere and enjoy this time with your child. Try a craft together. Read a children’s book together. Take a nature walk together. See my homeschool Pinterest boards for lots of great ideas. And remember, your time with your child is precious and fleeting! I hope you’ll find homeschooling as rewarding as I have.