Sometimes making that initial decision to homeschool is the most difficult part. It can often be a scary and overwhelming feeling knowing that you are making this huge choice that a lot of people won’t agree with or understand. You and your significant other have to make this decision for you. If this is the right choice for your family, then do what you need to do to make it official in your state.
Be prepared for potential criticism from cynics. There will be people from your family members to folks in the grocery store who will tell you that you are making a mistake for homeschooling. You need to be okay with that. Your decision to homeschool has nothing to do with them and everything to do with your family.
Homeschooling is a legal choice in all 50 states (thanks to the hard work and dedication of the many homeschoolers who have come before us who fought for those rights). Homeschooling is a legal alternative. Make your choice and be proud of it!
It is extremely important that you learn your state’s homeschool laws. Homeschool laws vary from state to state. Some states have very strict laws and requirements while others are very laid back and have barely any requirements at all. You could get into legal trouble if you aren’t aware of what is required in your state.
Here is a link to a page that has every state’s legal requirements.
You can also do an internet search with your state’s name and “homeschool state laws and requirements.”
There are a wide variety of homeschooling styles. It can be beneficial to learn about the different types of homeschooling before you start your journey. Everyone can learn a thing or two from the variety of philosophies. Some approaches are more popular than others, but no one philosophy or approach is better than the others.
Many homeschoolers follow more than one method, picking and choosing the ideas that work for them from different styles. They wind up with an approach that works well for their family.
Here is a summary of the most common homeschooling methods (taken from our Homeschooling FAQ page):
The school at home style looks the most like public school since it is usually a very structured approach. Families who follow the school at home method typically purchase a boxed curriculum that comes with textbooks, a schedule, record keeping, and grades. Some families make up their own lesson plans and find their own materials designed to teach all subjects at a specific grade level. This approach is a great choice for families who require a structured learning environment.
The classical homeschool method is based on three stages of learning. The grammar stage (grades 1 through 4) focuses on memorization of facts and figures. The logic stage (grades 5 through 8) focuses on the student's ability to understand abstract, the relationship between events, use formal logic, and see cause and effect. The rhetoric stage (grades 9 through 12) focuses on a student's ability to express their own thoughts through writing and speech using knowledge and reason. It follows a sequential, four-year cyclical study of science and history. Languages such as Greek and Latin are, as well as classical works of literature and philosophy, are taught starting at an early age.
The Montessori Method was developed by Maria Montessori, an Italian physician, in the early 1900s. This method is based on the idea that learning is a natural, self-directed process. It focuses on hands-on activities, allowing children to learn about the world through the use of their senses using manipulatives. Wooden tools are preferred over plastic ones, and learning materials are kept organized and ready to use. The aim of this method is not to teach facts but to cultivate a life-long love of learning. The Montessori Method also discourages the use of television and computers, especially for young children.
The Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling is based on the writings of the 19th century British educator of the same name who advocated learning through living books, nature study, music, art, and free time to enjoy life. This approach includes all core subjects with a main focus on classic literature, poetry, fine arts, crafts, and classical music. The Charlotte Mason method encourages reading rich literature and spending time in nature.
Unit studies pull all or most subjects into one general theme. For example, if a student is interested in trains then a unit study on trains could include reading fiction and non-fiction about trains, studying about the different types of trains, learning about railroads and railroad conductors, visiting a local railroad yard, taking a train ride, reading about the history of the railroads and trains, calculating the distance between different railroad stops or figuring out how much weight a typical railroad freight car can hold, visiting a train or railroad museum, watching a documentary on the train or railroads, learning about how the railroad and trains affected our history, writing a story about trains, talking to a railroad engineer, build a train out of Legos, and drawing a train. This method takes advantage of the fact that children learn best when they are interested in a topic and encourage a love of learning. This style of learning is mostly popular with families that have children in the elementary ages.
Unschooling is the homeschooling method that is also known as child-led learning. Unschoolers do not use school schedules or formal lessons. Children learn from everyday life experiences and follow their interests. Unschooled children have time to research and become experts in the things in which they are interested. Parents act more as a facilitator, providing opportunities for learning, but never coercing a child to learn something they haven't chosen to learn.
Eclectic homeschooling is the method used by many homeschooling families. Many homeschoolers start out with some sort of formal homeschool program, but often find that a "one size fits all" approach to homeschooling doesn't work for them. They soon find that they can pick and choose from a variety of homeschooling resources that are more personalized for their needs. Eclectic homeschoolers can use workbooks for math, reading, and spelling, they can use an online curriculum for science, or they can unschool some subjects if they choose. The benefit of this homeschool method is that it allows the family to choose the resources (textbooks, co-ops, online resources, tutoring, hands-on experience, and field trips) that work best for them and their needs.
There is a lot of curriculum available for homeschoolers, so it can be overwhelming. There are textbooks, workbooks, computer based programs, unit studies, and literature based studies.
Do research before you purchase. Try to visit a curriculum fair. Talk with homeschool friends about the curriculum they use. Ask opinions online from veteran homeschoolers.
Finding the right fit is usually a matter of trial and error. The math program you start with most likely will not be the math program you end up with. Just remember that what works for one child might not work for the next and what works for one family might not work for yours.
Join a local homeschool group or a co-op. As a new homeschooler you will need the support of other homeschoolers. A homeschool group will give you a mix of new homeschoolers and veterans. They can help answer your curriculum questions, help you understand your state’s laws, and give each other much needed support. Also, your children will find friends.
Here is a link to our Homeschool Support page listed by state. If you can’t find a group locally, find one online and think about starting your own group later.
A normal school year is usually based on 5 days a week/36 weeks. That adds up to approximately 180 days. You can do a lot with 180 days. There are many different scheduling choices from which to choose. Here are a few schedules just to give you some ideas.
This schedule typically runs from August through May with the summer off. For many families this schedule has many benefits. The children are on the same schedule as some friends, family, and neighborhood kids. The best part is the schedule planning is already done for you.
Starting a new school year at the beginning of the new year works for a lot of families. You can easily take a month-long break at the end of the year before starting again in January with a few other scheduled breaks as needed.
year round - This schedule allows families to schedule longer holiday breaks. Some will take off from the week of Thanksgiving and start back until after New Year’s. It then allows either for several mini breaks throughout the year or an early end to the year and a few week break before starting back with the next school year.
15 days off a month - Another option for year round schooling is dividing the 180 days of schooling into 12 months. That gives you 15 days of school per month. You can schedule them whenever you want. This can give you a lot of flexibility.
Some families who school year round choose to use a four-day school schedule and use Fridays for a lab day, field trip day, catch-up day, cleaning day, co-op day, or appointments.
It takes a while to for your and your child to hit your homeschool stride. Be patient with yourself and your children. Make a list of your reasons for homeschooling and a list of your educational goals. These will be nice to refer back to on those rough days to remember why you started this journey in the first place. Keep in mind that anything worthwhile takes hard work. Eventually, homeschooling will feel comfortable (although there will always be difficult days) and it should all be worth it in the end.
This is the question most homeschoolers are asked by family members or strangers. If children aren’t sitting in a classroom all day, how are they socialized? Most homeschool children, from an early age, learn to socialize with children both older and younger than themselves. They interact with folks of all ages. Between play dates, co-op classes, field trips, sports, and more homeschool children have many opportunities to socialize.
How you homeschool will most likely differ from your homeschooling friends. How you homeschool now will most likely change as your children grow and your needs change. Your schedule will most likely change. Keep in mind that the best schedule is the schedule that works for you and your family.
As mentioned in #3, how you homeschool will most likely differ from others, so don’t compare yourself to others. If what you are doing is working for you, then stick with it. Don’t worry about what others are doing. When you start comparing yourself to others, it causes you to lose focus on your family and your goals. Trust yourself and your children.
Also, don’t compare your children to other children or to each other. All children are unique. Some have different strengths and weaknesses. Some children will learn at different paces. So continue on and remember that you know your children better than anyone else.
Once the academic subjects are done, get outside and get some fresh air. Take a walk or ride a bike. Take a nature hike. Have some fun together. If the weather is not agreeable, play games. We all need downtime. It doesn’t matter what you do, but having some unstructured time is good for everyone. It can allow younger children to enjoy playtime together or older children to pursue other interests that aren’t scheduled or structured.
Make reading to your children a priority. Don’t stop when they can read. Snuggle up on the couch and read a story together. Reading aloud to your children helps expand their vocabulary, their love of reading, and it’s just fun.
There are so many benefits to homeschooling, and you will discover some that you never thought of before. Here are just a few:
-You can choose your own schedule and your own pace.
-It allows your children to have a voice in their education.
-You get to be there to help your children when they are struggling.
-You will learn alongside your children.
-You get to spend quality time with your children.
-Your children get to spend time quality time with each other.
-Your children get plenty of time to play.
-There doesn't have to be homework.
-You can travel during off seasons when it's cheaper and less crowded.
As mentioned in #1, there will be hard days. There will be so many wonderful days as well. Enjoy them and enjoy your children. This time goes by fast and before you know it they will be heading off to college. Take it all in and enjoy.