This guide will help you get started with homeschooling today, easily, calmly and without the overwhelm. Beginning this new venture can feel scary. It can feel like everyone else has it figured out while you are feeling lost. The process can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.
Take a deep breath as we explore how to begin homeschooling with intention and simplicity. We will touch on what is important for your limited time right now. That way, you can find your confidence and homeschool groove faster.
GET STARTED HOMESCHOOLING TODAY
Either you are contemplating homeschool or you have already decided to give it a go. Soooo, now what?! Where to even start?
You are probably feeling overwhelmed and confused with all of the options and even the jargon of the homeschool world. Delight directed, deschooling, unschooling, Charlotte Mason, CTCMath vs. Math U See, classical, trivium, nature study, state laws…What does it all mean?
Maybe you have just pulled your child out of school and are afraid they will be behind unless you scramble to get started right away. (p.s. they won’t be)
You want to jump in but there is so much to learn. All you know about teaching and education comes from your own experience in public school. A teacher at the chalkboard, textbooks, worksheets, drill, rote memorization and recess. Is this what you have to recreate at home?
Maybe you are feeling doubtful that you can figure this out quickly or that you are even capable of teaching your own children. Furthermore, there is the constant pressure and criticism from outsiders and even society itself causing you to lack confidence in the process. You have fears of failing and your spouse may not even be on board 100% yet.
I totally get it. I was once there too. In fact, many homeschool families start out this way.
Here is a secret ~ You won’t be a beginner forever. Before you know it, it will be you turning around to offer a helping hand to the new mom who is feeling the overwhelm and confusion that once consumed you.
Getting started with homeschooling today doesn’t have to make you crazy. Here are some tips to help you sort out the information and make your first few months calmer and easier.
Remember, taking it slow is OKAY. You are in charge now!
Quick Encouragement for Right Now
~ It may take 1-2 years to find your groove.
Homeschooling is not a fast process. It takes years of trial and error to find what works for you and your children. Because of this, Plan to commit for a full year before reassessing. This is not something that can easily be pulled off in a month if your are new. Ease into this, be flexible and go slowly. Soon, you will be looking back to see just how far you have come.
~ Feeling overwhelmed is normal.
You are not failing right now. Being in the process of learning something completely new and probably foreign is huge. Also, changing mindsets and habits is always difficult. That alone can take several months. Upending everything you know about education is a major upheaval and feeling overwhelmed in the beginning is absolutely normal. The start is always the hardest and it will not feel like this forever.
~ You will not need to become a “classroom teacher”
Comparing homeschool parents and classroom teachers are like comparing apples and oranges. They are vastly different jobs. Teachers do an amazing and vital job managing and educating 20-30 students at one time. However, that will not be you.
Putting yourself up front and expounding on a subject from your own knowledge base is not what you will be doing. You will not have to be an expert or even remotely knowledgeable in any area your child studies. With that said, your unique expertise in a specific area will be a gift to your children. However, it is not necessary to homeschool well.
The materials, books, programs, extracurriculars, outside lessons and curriculum you choose will do the “teaching” for you. You will now walk beside them through their educational journey, facilitating, helping, assisting, watching, organizing, guiding, mentoring, finding materials that engage, questioning, showing them how to find their own answers, honoring their individuality and providing them a safe, encouraging place for them to develop at their own unique pace.
~ You will not need to recreate a mini classroom at home.
The beautiful homeschool spaces on Pinterest and Instagram are inspiring, but they are not necessary to focus on when first starting out. Homeschooling can take place anywhere. The kitchen table, living room floor, snuggled on the couch, around the coffee table, under a tree, at the park, on the front porch or in the backyard. Not to mention all the free time you will have to visit museums, science centers, nature classes, co-ops, art and music lessons, scouts and sports.
Spending time decorating a perfect room will take you away from focusing on what’s important right now. Figuring out the legals, finding initial curriculum and learning materials that work, researching methods or setting up a family routine is where your initial focus will pay off dividends.
If after starting, you feel like a separate space would suit your needs better then go for it! Meanwhile, don’t try to add that onto your to do list when you are just getting started with homeschooling.
~ Homeschooling will not take up your entire day
Its important to note that homeschooling generally takes a fraction of the time to complete each day then schools. Since you are not responsible for adhering to a rigid, mandated schedule or managing a class of 30 children, you can easily finish before lunch. Here is how much time it usually takes to homeschool:
PreK: 1/2 to 1 hour/4 days a week Kinder-5: 1 to 3 hours/ 4-5 days a week Middle School: 3-5 hours/ 5 days a week High School: 5-7 hours/ 5 days a week. (Much of this will be independent work)
~Your children may not be happy about this
This is normal too, especially if you are pulling older children out of school. Your family is facing a huge lifestyle change and it is OK for some to not be so accepting at first. Show lots of love and empathy. Practice active listening skills. Be intentional about maintaining friendships.
The worst thing you can do is ignore an older childs feelings about this. They have been fed the same stereotypes about homeschooling and will need time to shed those misconceptions.
If you can, plan a period of deschooling. Take things slowly, follow their lead, let them sleep in and set their own learning schedule. Most likely, with a little time they will start to see the benefits of their new learning lifestyle soon.
Focus On Whats Most Important The First Few Months
Forget the rest as you get started homeschooling and focus only on these in the beginning.
- Figuring out the legals
- Develop a family routine that feels natural
- Explore homeschooling methods or styles
- Choosing curriculum and learning materials
- Consider “Deschooling”
GET STARTED HOMESCHOOLING TODAY
Step 1: Know Your State Homeschool Laws. (Start Here First)
Before starting kindergarten or pulling your child out of school, you must become familiar with the homeschool laws in your state. While homeschool is legal in all 50, the requirements vary from state to state. Some are very relaxed while others have very strict regulation that must be followed in order to remain on the right side of the truancy laws. You will need to do your due diligence in this area before doing anything else.
Relaxed states like Texas, Michigan and Alaska offer the most opportunity for homeschool freedom. There will probably be a compulsory age where instruction must begin or recommended subject to teach. But that is about it. Most likely, parents do not have to inform school districts, keep attendance records, maintain a portfolio or have curriculum approved. Living in one of the homeschool friendly states can be a blessing for unschoolers and eclectic homeschoolers who enjoy the freedom to choose what, when and how to home educate.
Some states fall into the middle of the spectrum like Wisconsin, Nebraska, New Mexico and Montana. These states usually have a compulsory age, recommended subjects and notification of the intent to homeschool. Other than that, there is no real enforcement of other rules and regulations.
Still in the middle, but becoming stricter, states like Florida, Oregon, Colorado and Maine possibly require a compulsory age (usually 6 or 7), a notice of intent, record keeping and usually standardized testing requirements.
Finally, examples of the most restrictive states are Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania. Homeschool laws can feel invasive and overreaching. An important point, is that even if you don’t agree with the rules you MUST follow them exactly. These states will/may require notification, approval of chosen curriculum, testing, minimum parental qualifications, intense record keeping, home evaluations AND/OR mandatory subjects that must be taught.
Step 2: Consider Deschooling (For You and Your Kids)
If you are pulling your child out of the school system to homeschool there will naturally be an adjustment period while learning how home education works. This adjustment period is known as deschooling in the homeschool world. Deschooling is an intentional period of not schooling or downtime or recovery time after having attended formal school. A reset, if you will, of letting go of the “school mindset” and transitioning into homeschooling.
This is a time of decompression for everyone. It will allow time for your child to become comfortable with a less structured learning environment than what they have been accustomed too. Also, because this is a time of child-led activities, it can allow for them to rediscover their natural curiosity and love of learning. Finally, it can allow for siblings to relearn how to be together again. It also allows you time to slow down, observe and assess your child.
The common suggestion is one month of deschooling for every year a child has gone too formal school. However, the amount of time is more fluid than that. You can deschool for as long or as little as it feels right for you and your kids.
This time period may not be easy. After all, you are both in the process of shedding beliefs about what school and learning are supposed to look like. Your child has been exposed to the same misconceptions about homeschooling as us all and may need time to experience the reality. You may notice that the kids complain, fight, whine, and seem to have trouble figuring out what to do with themselves. You may feel frustrated, irritated, impatient and like you are failing. Remember, this is a time of adjustment and it will not always feel like this.
You may be thinking “I can’t let my child do nothing for months at a time”. Thats not exactly what deschooling is. It can be if you choose, however there is much learning that can be done without curriculum or scheduled academics.
I like to think of deschooling as summer break, in that, you will focus on the activities you would do with your family during the “lazy” days of summer.
So, Instead of jumping right into new curriculum and trying to recreate a school environment at home, use this as a time to reconnect, to rest, to live and to play.
What to do during deschooling instead of academics
- Spend a morning at the library
- Let them sleep in
- Start a nature collection
- Find a book to read aloud together (let them choose all the books at first)
- Go for a hike
- Spend a day at the beach
- Buy new art material and give your children unlimited access to it
- If your child has a particular hobby or passion, enroll them in lessons (if they want to)
- Explore new playgrounds and parks in your area (great oppotunity to bump into other homeschoolers)
- Be a tourist in your own city
- Visit far away family
- Allow for ample unstructured play (your kids may need to relearn how to do this if they are used to having a very structured schedule)
- Go to the Zoo/Butterfly House/Science Museum/Botanical Garden
- Visit Grandparents
- Go camping
- Take a vacation
- Play outside and in nature as much as possible.
- Explore their interests
- Let them do nothing all.day.long
- Garden or build something together
- Sit down with them and plan their next academic year. Involve them in the process.
Step 3: Start Exploring Methods (but You Don’t Have To Follow Exactly And Stick To It Forever)
You have researched the legalities of your state and considered if deschooling is right for your family. Now, we start to get into the nitty-gritty of learning how to homeschool. So let’s start talking about homeschool methods.
A homeschool method is the style, approach and philosophy behind how you choose to homeschool. Choosing a method is like choosing a guide.
It will help you narrow down choices for curriculum, activities, subjects and show you how to put it all together.
A method will also act like a support group in a way, as each method has specific social media accounts to follow as well as local groups committed to a particular learning style that you can tap into to learn, ask questions and gain inspiration.
As you start learning about each method one may resonate with you immediately. However, don’t be surprised if several seem interesting. Most veteran homeschoolers pick and choose from several in order to create a learning approach that fits their needs and values.
The method that speaks to you will be your first jumping off point into the world of homeschool curriculum. It will help you determine which types of curriculums you need and what style.
For example, if you choose to design your homeschool around the Charlotte Mason method you wouldn’t choose a dry textbook for history. You would instead look for a literary based curriculum like Story of the World and include lots of historical fiction read alouds and “living books” that help bring the subject alive.
Most Popular Homeschool Methods
Traditional or School-at-Home
Relaxed or Minimalist
Unit Study/Thematic/Project Based Learning
Unschooling or Life Learning
Explore The Major Methods…
Step 4: How to Choose the Perfect Curriculum (P.S. It Doesn’t Exist)
Even though I have been homeschooling for several years now, I clearly remember how overwhelmed I felt in the beginning. Much of that overwhelm had to do with finding the perfect curriculum. I wanted to make the right choice and not waste money with trial and error.
I lost a lot of sleep (and sometimes still do) comparing pros and cons of different curriculum. Exasuted, I would finally purchase something just to get the decision off my to do list. Within the first two or three lessons, I knew without a doubt that this well thought out purchase was a bust.
But I learned something…There is simply no such thing as a perfect curriculum.
So much of homeschooling is trial and error. Finding curriculum is no different. You will buy something you decide you or your children don’t like later. You will spend money that feels like a waste. Every single homeschool mom, at some point, has switched curriculums mid-year. You will too.
Types of Homeschool Curriculum
All in One Programs (also known as boxed curriculum or multi-subject curriculum)
These programs contain multiple subjects and are ready to go. They are a one stop shop and done purchase. They usually include all the core curriculum, textbooks for each, teachers guide, and schedule. Everything is planned for you and you will not need to lesson plan or piece together your own schedule.
The following are all in one programs but books and materials are purchased separately.
- Build Your Library (Secular, Literature Based)
- Easy Peasy All in One Homeschool (Free!)
Computer based instruction comes in several forms for homeschoolers and is a super popular choice for many families. There are online public and private schools as well as programs from specific curriculum providers where students can enroll full or part time. There are also subject based online curriculums, software, online textbooks, lectures, workbooks and educational apps and game. Some can be used to supplement an existing curriculum or can be used as the primary source for learning a subject.
Subject Based Curriculum
These are like the curriculum you are most familiar with when you think about school, however the approach and content can vary widely. You will have one book for math, one for reading, one for spelling and so on. Each are purchased separately and you can mix and match from different companies to create an individualized program for your child.
- Math U See
- Right Start Math
- Real Science Odyssey
- All About Reading
- All About Spelling
- Brave Writer
- Story of the World
Method Based Curriculum
These are curriculums that were written with a specific method in mind. They incorporate the style, approach and philosophy of that method.
- Ambleside Online (Free & Not Secular but can be tweaked)
- Simply Charlotte Mason (Not Secular)
- Build Your Library (Secular & Charlotte Mason inspired)
- Classical Conversations (In Person Co-op Program) (Not Secular)
- Veritas Press (Not Secular)
- Memoria Press (Not Secular)
- Memoria Press Charter (Company Can Customize a Secular Core Curriculum for You)
- North American Montessori Center Homeschool Program (3 Years of Curriculum in One & Secular)
- Allison’s Montessori for Homeschool (Secular)
- Shiller Learning (Math and Language Arts Kits) (Secular)
Relaxed, Minimal, Eclectic and Unschooling are more approaches based in a philosophy vs. a method. Curriculums and materials are pieced together to build a customized learning environment.
Here Are My Top Tips For Finding Curriculum When First Starting Out
- Start Small: You do not want to try researching and buying 6 different curriculums all at once. That is a recipe for burnout. Become comfortable with one program. Then move onto another.
- Consider Your Homeschool Method: Start with your method. Next, find Facebook groups dedicated to that method. Ask question and seek recommendations for the other members of the group. They will help you discover curriculum you may have never heard of, give reviews and opinions about what worked and what didn’t and will help you narrow down the choices to the few that fit your choses style.
- Consider Yourself: What works best for you will be just as important as what works for your kids. You will need to determine how much parental involvement is required before buying. Do you like prepping for lessons or do you like the idea of a more hands off approach? Do you want a structured curriculum that is laid out for you or would you prefer a framework that allows for flexibility? Also, consider what your strong and weak areas were in school. Think about investing in the subjects that were the hardest for you. It would be difficult to facilitate math if the curriculum doesn’t explain exactly what you need to do.
- Consider Your Child: Do you know your Childs learning style? Knowing if your child is a visual, auditory, kinesthetic or tactile learners can help you pick the best curriculum for them.
- Consider the Cost: More expensive does not necessarily equal better. There is a massive amount of free or cheap curriculums on the web that you can access today. They can help you get started right now, are low risk with little upfront cost and offer a ton of flexibility. A few examples are:
- Easy Peasy All In One Homeschool
- Ambleside Online (Charlotte Mason)
- Buy Used or Check Your Library: Since finding learning materials and curriculum can be so hit or miss its best to spend as little money as possible while trying something out. You can find most curriculum used on eBay or Amazon for a fraction of the price. If it doesn’t work, you can turn around and resell it. Usually, for the same price you bought it for. Many libraries carry popular homeschool curriculum. This will allow you to try it for a few weeks for free and then move on or purchase to keep.
Step 5: Create a Natural Family Routine
Have you seen those beautiful, printable, fill in the blank schedules? The ones with 30 minute time increments for each subject to have its own dedicated time slot? Its tempting to take the time to schedule our day like that. After all, it helps us feel more in control and less chaotic. However, schedules like that are doomed to fail.
Strict schedules are frustration on paper. What if you or your kids gets started late? Your whole schedule will be thrown off. What is someone wakes up sick and needs to go the doctor? What if your son becomes engrossed in the history reading and isn’t ready to transition to math? What if its an usually beautiful day for the season and you want to take advantage?
A time based schedule does not allow for life to happen, and oh boy will it ever. It leaves you feeling constantly behind, frustrated, guilty for not sticking with it and worse, like you are failing at this homeschool thing. You’re inability to stick to the schedule is not the problem sweet mama, its the schedule itself.
Enter the daily routine.
Adopting a daily routine that naturally flows with your day is the key to finding peace in your homeschool. So what’s a routine and how is it different then a schedule?
A schedule requires certain hours of the day devoted to certain activities. You are done when the time is up and move on regardless if that is wanted or not. Schools are organized with schedules.
In contrast, a routine is a flexible rhythm that is not dependent on time but rather order. You generally follow the same order of tasks everyday and move on to the next when you are done with the previous or just plain ready. A routine is more of a general outline that can easily be tweaked and rearranged as you proceed throughout the day/week/year.
In order to create a daily routine, you need to think about how your day naturally flows. How many early and late risers do you have? When do you like to break for lunch? Do you like having big chunks a free time for rest, outdoor play or running errands? What about schoolwork? What subjects do you like to do as a group and what needs to be done individually. Then there are meals, chores and housework that need to be considered too. Do you like those done first thing in the morning or little bits throughout the day?
Here is a peek at our daily routine
- Quiet Coffee Time for Mom (~6-8am)
- Kids Wake Up (They are allowed to come downstairs at 8am. (They are expected to play quietly in their room if they wake up before 8)
- 1st Read Aloud
- Morning Chores for Kids and Mom
- Individual Work ~ Math, Copywork, Spelling, Reading Lessons, and Phonics
- One Group Lesson ~ History (M&T), Science (W &Th) Poetry Memorization and Teatime/Shakespeare/Art/Music (F)
- Lunch and Clean Up
- FREE TIME! (Outdoor Play, Hobbies, Art, Extracurricular Activities, Play Dates or Errands)
- Daddy Home ~ 2nd Read Aloud
- Dinner and Clean Up
- After Dinner Family Time ~ More Read Alouds, Games, Puzzles, Walk, Frisbee or Bike Ride
- Bedtime for Kids!
- Mom and Dad Quality Time
- Mom and Dad Bedtime
Advantages to a Routine
- There is no right or wrong routine. The “right” routine will be the one that works for your family.
- With no designated end time for each subject, you have the flexibility to dive deeper when the opportunity arises or finish up quickly if a child understands the content. This is the secret sauce to homeschooling vs. public school!
- You can handle the interruptions of life without the feeling of being rushed, frustrated, irritated, behind, or guilty for not sticking to the schedule.
- Less stress, more calm and peace for kids and Mama
Learn More about Different Types of Homeschool Routines
Start Homeschooling Today. Calmly, Focused, and With a Plan
The steps outlined above are the very basics needed to get started on your homeschool journey today. By cutting out the information clutter you are able to reduce the initial overwhelm and face this next chapter with intention.
What do you think are the most essential steps to starting homeschool? Please let us know!