Getting Started Homeschooling
New to homeschooling?
The idea of homeschooling can be overwhelming to even the most self-confident parent. The best way to consider the choice to homeschool and to begin to make choices about curriculum is to look at the big picture first, then funnel down to the smaller topics. Rebecca's advice to new homeschoolers is a great place to start reading.
Other resources to help you get started:
- Read about the benefits of homeschooling.
- Research your state's legal requirements.
- Find local support groups and social activities for homeschoolers. Interacting with local homeschoolers not only helps with emotional support, they are also the best source of information about dealing with your local school administration.
- Think about teaching philosophies and learning styles.
- Choose whether or not to use curriculum or which curriculum will work for you. Only after completing the above should you think about curriculum and research which curriculum fits the style your family is most comfortable with.
- Attend a curriculum fair and/or convention that fits your philosophy. But first, read Homeschool Convention Survival Tips - the sheer amount of resources at a homeschooling convention can be overwhelming for even seasoned homeschooling veterans.
The ABCs of Homeschooling - This eCourse covers all of the basics and much that you might not even think to ask. Terri Johnson and her husband Todd have been homeschooling for 11 years and are also the publishers of history and geography curricula for homeschoolers. Terri has put together a wealth of information in the 26 week e-course for beginning homeschool parents. The course is also available with all lessons up front. The math lesson from the eCourse is available as a free download.
Helps for New Homeschoolers
Thinking of Homeschooling? As homeschooling has grown in popularity, I have had more and more people ask me for advice on how to do this thing. And let's be honest, there aren't a lot of guidelines. One of the great benefits of homeschooling is that you can make it be whatever you need it to be for your individual family. However, in this benefit is also a challenge – there are so many options, so many different ways of homeschooling, it can be overwhelming to those who are starting for the first time. Many a friend considering homeschooling has moaned, "I just don't know if I can do it!". Read more »
I've had more friends this year decide to homeschool than any other year since we began homeschooling. The reasons have varied -- concern over values taught in the public school system, distress about peer relationships, a desire to inculcate principles of faith, worries about increased "teaching to the test" procedures in government schools, an interest in providing more individualized instruction... but whatever the reason, each parent has had a significant "deer in the headlights" look as they have shared their newly chosen educational path. They have one question in common, whether spoken or unspoken: "How do I homeschool my child?" Read more »
Homeschooling parents are sometimes asked about how often they test their children. Some do give tests that are associated with specific text books or curricula. However, many never give tests, and others only assist their children with learning test-taking skills when there is a practical reason, such as preparing for a state-required standardized test, a college readiness test such as the SAT or ACT, or helping a child prepare to enter a more formal learning situation. Read more »
This is the time of year when I begin to hear from many people who are interested in trying homeschooling over the summer. For lots of parents who have not made a final decision about whether to homeschool during the next year, this seems like a practical approach. If homeschooling doesn't seem to work, their children can enroll in school for the next school year, without any lost academic time. If homeschooling does seem to work, then the family can commit to homeschooling fully and begin the next academic year with home education. Many veteran homeschoolers will tell you, though, that a summer trial of homeschooling may not be a great indicator of how homeschooling will work for your family. Read more »
Why should you attend a homeschooling conference or convention this year? Conferences help you adjust your course and recharge your batteries. If you need to refine your homeschooling style, find new curriculum or resources, or re-consider your children's needs, a homeschooling conference can provide the stimulation you need to help you figure out how to tweak and improve your homeschooling life. You'll also have a chance to re-charge your own batteries; hearing informative speakers and being surrounded by other homeschooling families can inspire and refresh you. Read more »
This morning, my jaw dropped when I heard radio host Dennis Miller repeatedly tell a caller who was upset about the horrendous school shootings in Connecticut that he should consider pulling his young daughter out of school and homeschooling her. Miller was clearly serious. I'm not used to hearing homeschooling being recommended by people like Dennis Miller, but in the wake of the awful event at Sandy Hook, I can see where shaken parents all over the country are looking at their children and thinking, "How can I protect them?" when dropping them off at school each day no longer looks like a safe thing to do. I get that, and being as pro-homeschooling as I am, I agree. BUT, please know that homeschooling isn't something you do impulsively. It requires serious thought. Most importantly, it requires at least one highly committed parent (ideally, two). Read more »
Secrets of a Successful Homeschool Mom: I think every successful homeschool mom has a secret...her secret to managing it all. Because the truth is that homeschooling itself is overwhelming; it's just difficult to get it all done. When you add in the responsibilities of keeping the household going along with it, sometimes we feel like we're on some roller-coaster that we can't ever get off. Academics to teach, social skills to impart, character to instill, cleaning to complete, food to make, activities to attend, transportation to provide, jobs to fulfill...it's just so much. Too much, sometimes. Enough that it usually takes some sort of plan, some sort of secret -- to actually get it all managed well. Read more »
There's nothing I get asked about more as a parent than unschooling, and nothing I recommend more to other parents. Read more »
The Homeschool Calendar: New homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers frequently wonder about whether the "homeschool year" follows or needs to follow the traditional calendar used by most public and private schools in the United States. Long-term homeschoolers frequently find their answer to that question changes as their children get older. Casual observers of homeschooling might think "of course" homeschooling has to follow a school calendar in order to be legitimate and sufficient. Read more »
Fall back-to-school often brings many homeschoolers to a choice: Do I join a homeschooling support group or co-op? There are many different types of homeschool groups, including intimate family groups with shared teaching, nationally-based tutor-led groups such as Classical Conversations, local extra-curricular-based support groups, state-based associations (such as Home Educators Association of Virginia), and local co-ops with parent-rotated teaching. The goals, purposes, cost, and time commitment varies with each different group, so it's almost impossible to speak in generality about the myriad options homeschoolers have for joining with other home educators. But if you're going to consider it, fall is one of the best times to think about whether joining a homeschooling group is the right choice for your family. Read more »
How to Homeschool Your Child
This free online homeschooling video series from the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers includes topics from "What is Homeschooling" to "Homeschooling for Working Parents". The series is great for anyone starting out or wanting to explain homeschooling to grandparents or friends.
Because education falls under the powers of the state, homeschooling is regulated at the state level. Each state has different homeschooling statutes, therefore the requirements in your area will be different from those of homeschoolers living in other locations. Because homeschooling statutes change as new laws are passed, I recommend reading the actual statutes for your state and then looking around the web for insight into the statute. Please remember that information found online is not considered legal advice and each homeschooler is responsible for complying with the legal requirements of her locality. After you have found out what the law says, local support groups can be quite helpful in helping you to understand what it means for you in a practical sense.
Some states require a curriculum description to be submitted. VaHomeschoolers.org has several sample Notices of Intent here that include very general curriculum descriptions. Keep in mind that less is more when submitting to your state or county. Submit only what your state requires. If an official asks for more than the law requires in your state, I recommend the "Show Me" letter approach.
Homeschoolers often classify themselves under different methods, and if you are new to the whole idea of homeschooling you might be confused by some of the terms you will hear. Below are some resources and articles that will familiarize you with some of the better known methods of homeschooling.
State Homeschool Conventions
Every year, most state homeschool associations sponsor state-wide conventions that include seminars, workshops, and hundreds of homeschooling resources on display. Many homeschoolers do the bulk of their shopping for the year at the state homeschool conventions because convention specials and no shipping add up to big savings.
State and local support groups
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to get to know other homeschoolers in your area. Even if you do not participate in group activities, online and local support groups can keep you connected with people who are familiar with the legal climate for homeschooling in your state and city/county. Homeschool support groups are also helpful for finding out about local classes, field trips, and activities for homeschoolers. Above all, when things get rough (as they periodically will), knowing that you are not alone will go a long way in strengthening your commitment to your homeschool choice.
Still have some questions about homeschooling? Try the Frequently Asked Questions page and see if your question is answered there.