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Homeschooling is gaining in popularity at record speed. For a variety of reasons, families are deciding that homeschooling might be the right educational choice for their family. It can feel overwhelming in the beginning, though. I can help with this step by step guide on how to start homeschooling.
How to Start Homeschooling
How to start homeschooling: Step 1
Research the laws for your state
Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, but the requirements vary a bit by state, so it is important to research the laws in your particular state. This information will be on your state department of education website and should also be available on your school district website.
My favorite resource for researching homeschool laws by state is the HSLDA homeschool laws map. It gives you a quick overview if you are comparing several states, but also gives you accurate in-depth information by choosing a state.
How to start homeschooling: Step 2
Officially withdraw your child from their current school
You can skip this step if and only if your child is not enrolled in school yet.
If your child is currently enrolled in a public school, you will need to officially withdraw them or they will be considered truant (which can cause big legal problems). This might vary a bit with each state, but I think it is generally a pretty simple process. Hannah was enrolled in a Virginia public school when we decided to homeschool.
Once I knew the requirements (which are pretty simple), I sent a certified letter explaining my decision AND our official Notice of Intent to our school board office and elementary school notifying them of our intent to homeschool.
I highly recommend sending a certified letter because you will have proof that you complied with the law.
Be aware, many public school employees know nothing about what the law requires of homeschoolers and may give you incorrect information. This is why it is important to know the law yourself. I gave the school board and elementary school an official withdrawal date. I also emailed our teacher to make sure everyone was on the same page. This step might not be legally required, but is a courtesy that can save everyone a headache.
Remember, you are the parent. You are NOT asking for permission. You are merely notifying them of your choice.
How to start homeschooling: Step 3
Decide what to teach
Choosing a curriculum can seem overwhelming. There are so many choices! You will need to consider a few things before you decide on any particular curriculum:
- Learning style
- State requirement
Age – This is common sense, but educational needs vary by age for most subjects. There is a lot more time for free play with young children, while teenagers are preparing for the independence of college.
Budget – You can spend almost no money on homeschool curriculum or you can spend thousands. It is important to know your budget before you start searching for a curriculum, otherwise you might fall in love with something that is completely out of your budget. Don’t worry if your budget is small (or nonexistent)! You can piece together a free curriculum through Pinterest ideas and the library. I use a mix of prepared curriculums and free plans to create a curriculum that is personalized for my family.
Learning style – Do your kids learn best through hands-on activities? Or do they prefer reading lots of books? Maybe video courses are right for your family? Here is a great online quiz to help you determine your learning style.
State requirements – Many states do not dictate what you need to teach, but a few states do require certain subjects be taught. These are generally subjects you would teach anyway, such as reading and math, but it is good to be aware of your state’s legal requirements.
Once you have taken all of these things into consideration, check out Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. This book contains some of the most popular homeschool curriculums. Each page notates the learning style and price range of a particular curriculum.
How to start homeschooling: Step 4
Find a homeschool group or two
Homeschool groups are certainly not necessary, but they can make the homeschool journey more enjoyable. They provide a chance for kids and parents to socialize with other families.
Homeschool groups can be a few families gathering for field trips and park days, a few families team teaching a subject such as geography, or an official co-op.
Try a few to determine what is right for your family. There are lots of different options and you may find that different options work better different years. Many groups will allow you to try a meeting or two before requiring you to officially join.
To find homeschool groups, ask around. It is quite possible that someone you know already homeschools and would love to introduce you to other homeschool families.
Googling your city and homeschool groups can also turn up results. Many states have homeschool organizations that keep lists of homeschool groups. To find your state homeschool organization, look to see who hosts homeschool conventions in your area. In VA, that will be either VA Homeschoolers or HEAV. In WA, check out WHO.
How to start homeschooling: Step 5
Testing isn’t something you need to worry about at the beginning of your homeschool journey, but you should be aware that many states do require some sort of assessment at the end of the year. This is yet another reason to know the homeschool laws for your state.
Many new homeschoolers stress over testing, but it really doesn’t need to be intimidating. Depending on your state laws, you may be able to administer the test at home. You would simply order the test from a testing company (I like Seton Testing), administer the test following the enclosed rules exactly, and mail the test booklets back for scoring.
We test every year, although alternative forms of assessment are allowed. The tests are not as high stakes as they are in public schools so there is no stress on my kids.
It gives them practice taking standardized tests (which they may need for college entrance or professional exams), and most importantly, gives me an idea of how they are doing. For example, last year, my kids had no problems in our weekly grammar lessons, but they struggled on that part of the test. This led me to choose different grammar curriculums this year. Use the information to help you find educational gaps, but don’t let it overwhelm you.
Do you have any questions about how to begin homeschooling?
Ask in the comments, post them on my Facebook page, or email me!
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