The choice to homeschool your child is one that isn’t made lightly. You have likely put much prayer, discussion, and research into this decision. Getting started on this journey may feel daunting, even overwhelming. Here are a few first steps to help you find your footing:
- Check out the legal requirements in your state. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 US states, but the requirements differ slightly from state to state. Be sure you familiarize yourself with the requirements of your state from the beginning. You can find them here.
- Read about homeschooling. There are so many good homeschooling books to choose from! You can find many at your library. Start with a general overview book, then keep reading! Listen to podcasts, read blogs. You will start to figure out what styles of schooling appeal to you; if an idea resonates with you, delve deeper. You can find our list of recommended homeschooling books here.
- Talk to homeschoolers. It’s a rare homeschool mom who doesn’t love to talk homeschooling. If you don’t know any homeschoolers in your neighborhood, church, or community, look online for groups where you can ask questions. Find your state and local homeschool organizations here. Search online for local coops or homeschool gatherings where you can meet homeschool families face-to-face. Joining a co-op is not a necessity, but feeling isolated can be a barrier to homeschooling and co-ops or other homeschool groups can be a great source of encouragement.
- Consider your educational philosophy and goals. Why do you want to homeschool? What are your short and long-term goals? What educational philosophy will you seek to follow in your homeschool? You might not have answers to all of these questions yet, and your answers may change over time; don’t be afraid to jump in as you are. But keep digging and refining your vision as you go.
- Make a plan. Make a list of the subjects you will teach and which levels. Select curricula that you think will serve your purposes well. Sit down with a calendar and fit your subjects into an ideal homeschool week, keeping in mind the natural flow of daily life in your home. This is just your beginning plan and will likely change once you have started and gotten a feel for what works (and doesn’t!) for you and your kids. Remember that your homeschool will not resemble a public or private school classroom! That is not an ideal that you are trying to achieve; your homeschool will be something completely different. Some homeschoolers plan out their entire year in advance, and some plan week by week as they go. Both ways work; take the approach that feels comfortable to you. When you are ready to begin, you may want to ease your way into one subject, then add in a second, and then a third, until you have worked your way up to full-speed.
- De-schooling. If you are pulling an older child out of traditional school mid-year, it is wise to give him some time to decompress before beginning formal lessons. Take this time to have him read good books; go on a field trip; identify a couple of subjects he is interested in learning more about. If your relationship was strained by whatever stress brought on this change, focus on restoring goodwill between you so that you can begin lessons on a better footing.
- A Note on Preschool: Resist the urge to prove to yourself and others that you are doing real school by jumping in too deep in the beginning. Lots of companies offer boxed all-inclusive preschool curriculum, but I encourage you to save your money. More than anything else, your four year old needs to play. Your child needs you to read lots of books, to draw pictures together, to count objects, to practice tracing and then copying letters and numbers and words. Your child needs to play outside. You need paper, pencils, crayons, and a library card. The first piece of curriculum you will really need will be whatever you choose to use for reading lessons, and your child may or may not be ready for that in what would be their preschool year.
Take a deep breath, say a prayer, and get ready to enjoy this time with your children! If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us and we will do our best to help you get started!
Amanda Moldstad is a co-founder of the Lutheran Homeschool Association. She and her husband, John, homeschool their five children in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.