If you’re still just considering homeschooling and haven’t decided for sure – check out this blog post on the 12 Incredible Benefits of Homeschooling.
HAVE YOU DECIDED TO HOMESCHOOL AND YOU’RE WONDERING “HOW DO I START?”
It can feel a bit overwhelming as you begin investigating and thinking about how to homeschool, so I want to break it down into 7 simple steps.
- PRAY for the Lord’s guidance as you consider how you want to teach your children. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6.
2. Find out your state’s laws for homeschooling. MACHE (Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators), Minnesota’s Christian homeschool organization has a list of the laws for MN at www.mache.org. HSLDA the national organization that supports and helps homeschoolers, has a list of every states’ laws on their website. Go to hslda.org to find your state’s laws. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, and every state has a list of requirements for homeschooling there. There’ll be laws on reporting to your school district, subjects to teach, testing, and more.
3. Read about homeschooling and talk with other homeschoolers to learn more. Homeschooling is really more of a lifestyle of learning than an educational method. You’ll find that you’re teaching your child(ren) all throughout the day, whenever learning opportunities arise. Certainly you’ll have some structured learning time, but a lot of learning takes place as questions are asked and regular life provides learning opportunities. Here are a few book on homeschooling that I recommend (You can also browse my blog posts for topics that interest you):
by Debra Bell
A great book for those just getting started in home education.
Educating the Wholehearted Child
by Clay & Sally Clarkson
Excellent resource for home educators with a lot of helpful information.
The Three R’s
by Ruth Beechick
A simple but very helpful book that helps set the overall goals of teaching the “three R’s.”
4. Research curriculum options that you can use to help you teach your child(ren). Find out what subjects your state requires you to teach and find options for how to teach these subjects to your child(ren).
Minnesota requires the following: (your state may be different but at the least, the core courses are required in all states: Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, & Science)
- Basic Communication Skills (Reading, writing, literature, & fine arts)
- Social Studies (History, Government, Geography, Citizenship & Economics)
- Health & Physical Education
If you’re teaching multiple children of different ages, I highly encourage you to teach as many subjects as possible to all your children at once. There are several subjects that don’t have a specific scope and sequence, especially in the early years, so they are easily taught to children of different ages all together. The subjects that are conducive to this type of family learning are Science, Social Studies, Health, Physical Education, Art, Music, & Bible). There are many curriculum options available that work well for teaching multiple children of different ages together. Math and Language arts typically need to be taught individually to each child because they follow a specific scope and sequence and children of different ages will be at different levels in these subjects.
Decide on any other subjects you might want to teach, such as Bible, Character development, etc. Then do your research to determine what curriculum will work best for your family for the various subjects. Cathy Duffy, a veteran homeschooler has a website with curriculum reviews of many of the options available today: Cathy Duffy Reviews. Once you’ve decided which curriculum to use, purchase or borrow the curriculum you’ll need for the school year. You don’t have to spend a lot, especially in the early years of your child’s education. You can also buy used curriculum or find free educational resources online. For more information on choosing curriculum, check out this blog post Tips for Choosing Curriculum to Fit Your Family. It’s also helpful to understand your child’s preferred learning styles, you can learn more on this through this 2-part post Understanding How Your Child Learns
I love to meet with families to help them determine what curriculum will work best for them based on their situation, personalities and learning style preferences. Contact me to set up a consultation!
5. Determine how you want to structure your school year and school days. As homeschoolers we set our own schedule for the school year and for each day. Some states require a specific number of school days or hours per day, so check out what your state requires. Every family is different as to how they structure their school year. Some choose to make their schedule similar to the public school schedule with 5 day school weeks and holidays, vacations falling at the same time as the public school. Others like to have 4 day weeks and they start sooner in the fall and go longer in the spring. Others school year round… and there are options in between these as well. Determine how you want your year to look. After you receive your curriculum, you’ll want to read through it to learn how to use it. Then you can more easily plan your school days. Again, each family’s day will be unique. Here’s a possible daily schedule:
- Get up, get ready eat breakfast, do chores
- Bible time together as a family
- Language arts – each child works independently or with a parent on their language arts school work (if you have multiple children who need help, you can have some work independently on a different subject till you’re available to help)
- Phy-ed or break of some kind
- Math – each child works independently or with a parent (see above)
- History with activities or projects to follow (family learning)
- Family read aloud time – reading a favorite fiction book or historical fiction based on historical time period studied.
- Science – family learning time – this may involve a nature walk or experiment
- Other subjects… music, art, phy-ed (some of these might not happen every day)
- Delight-directed learning opportunities (check out this post: Ignite the Joy of Learning in Your Children)
I personally liked to vary my days, so every day looked a bit different. I’ve heard of some families that teach all their history for the week in one day and all the science for the week on another day. You don’t need to teach all the subjects the state requires every day, you just need to be sure to teach them to your child. You really can decide what schedule works best for your family!
6. Set up a record-keeping system. Most states require keeping good records of what you’re teaching your children. My planner, The Homeschool Life All-in-One Planner is a great tool to help you with record-keeping as well as many other areas of managing your homeschool and your home. I recommend that you keep:
- A list of the curriculum you’re using for each child (including the year published and the edition) – make a copy of the table of contents of each book studied, this will give you a good idea of what was studied that year.
- A daily log of school work (you can use a notebook or a weekly assignment sheet)
- Samples of work in each subject (1 per quarter for each child in each subject) – take a picture if you don’t have room to store these.
- Testing results (many states require an annual achievement test, you should keep the results for these even if your state doesn’t require that you turn them in) 6 Popular Acheivement Tests for Homeschoolers
- Awards received, accomplishments, etc.
- Immunization records
- Report cards (optional in most states)
- Keep a copy of your intent to homeschool form that you sent to the school district
- High school transcript – start developing your student’s transcript as soon as they are doing high school level course work
- Diploma (you create)
7. When you’ve purchased your supplies/curriculum and have found a good area to study in your home, you can get started! You’ll be surprised how much fun it can be teaching your own children, especially as you see their love for learning grow!
I love to meet with families to help them get started with homeschooling! I can help you determine what curriculum and schedule will work best for your family’s situation, personalities and learning style preferences. Contact me to set up a consultation!