If you’ve just decided to start homeschooling, congratulations! Making that decision and truly committing to it is the first step in your homeschooling journey. But now, you might be thinking, well, “I’ve made the decision, but I have absolutely no idea what to do next!”
Last month I shared a bit of our “journey to homeschool story,” and probably like you, this whole concept was completely foreign to me. I had been raised going to public schools and had spent the majority of my adult life (up to that point) teaching in a classroom. However, we truly felt this was something we had been called to do, so we just went for it. There were certainly some challenges and hiccups, but we just took everything one step at a time, and God was (and continues to be) so faithful on this journey.
Thankfully, we’ve learned quite a bit along a way, and I’m eager to share these tips with you so that the start of your homeschool journey will be as smooth as possible!
- Spend some time researching your legal requirements
As I shared last month, we have had the privilege of homeschooling through a school, so almost all of the legal components are taken care of for us. So, I recommend looking there first. Is there a public, private, or charter school in your area that offers a homeschool option? If so, what does it offer? Does it align with your goals and purpose in homeschooling? What kind of support do they provide?
If homeschooling through a school is not an option – or it’s not a great fit for your family – don’t fret. There’s plenty of support available. I suggest visiting the Home School Legal Defense Association website. It offers a plethora of information regarding the legal requirements for home school in your state. While some states require a minimal amount of documentation, others are stricter. It’s important to know your legal requirement before you get started.
- Establish a Budget
Now, this was one area I had to learn from my mistakes! I didn’t establish a budget early on and ended up spending much more than I had planned on supplemental curriculum (the majority of our curriculum came from our school), materials, school supplies, “cool” educational gadgets, books, and more (some of which we hardly used!) You don’t want to repeat my mistake. But at the same time, it’s important to realize that homeschooling is an investment – and that includes the financial component. So, work with your spouse to set aside money for a budget that will allow you to purchase the supplies you need. Notice I said need – not want. Because if you’re anything like me, when you start browsing all those teacher supply and curriculum sites, your cart fills up fast! Having a budget really helps to keep your spending in check!
- Evaluate Your Child’s Interests and Learning Style – and Think About Your Own Teaching Style as Well
Before you decide on a curriculum, you will want to consider your child’s learning style and interests. Does he like a hands-on approach to learning? Does she respond best to visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learning experiences? Can he focus on an activity for an extended amount of time, or does he need to incorporate lots of movement and activity into the learning process? Does she process information inwardly, or does she need to talk it through?
It’s also important to consider your teaching style. Even if you haven’t been formally trained as a teacher, consider what you want your day and your instruction to look like. Do you want a more structured, scheduled routine or do you prefer it to be more relaxed? Do you want to guide instruction or do you envision it being student led?
It’s important to consider both of these factors because if either party is completely miserable, it’s just not going to last long. Prior to homeschooling, I didn’t even realize there were different homeschool methods (traditional, classical, Montessori, unit-based, Charlotte Mason, project-based, unschooling, and eclectic to name a few). So, you may want to spend some time looking at the different methods and evaluating what might be a good fit for your family.
- Find a Community
After asking a number of homeschool families the top things they can’t image homeschool without, one of the top responses is almost always “other homeschooling families.” Friend, this is a huge task that you are starting – and it’s not an easy one at that – so you need people who understand what you’re facing, can offer encouragement or advice, or simply be someone you (and your kids) can share life with. So, try to establish connections with other homeschool families. Look into joining – or starting your own- co-op (look for more info on that next month). But get out there and find your community!
- Choose Your Curriculum
Once you’ve got some ideas about your child’s learning style, your teaching style, and the budget that you have to work with, it’s time to start investigating some different curriculum options. If you’re going through a school, start there and see what’s available. However, don’t feel like to have to do exactly what that school’s doing. There’s also an abundance of other resources available. A few places to start browsing could be: Sonlight, A Beka, Heart of Dakota, Time for Learning, Oak Meadow, My Father’s World, the Teachers Pay Teachers website…… the list truly goes on and on. Again, you want to choose materials that will be a great fit for your family, so don’t rush this decision. There’s also a reason I mentioned finding your community before settling on a curriculum – they are an incredible resource! Ask them to share what’s worked for them. What are the pros and cons of different programs that they’ve used? It’s likely that a large portion of your budget will be allotted to curriculum, so take your time with this one. Ask for samples, borrow guides from other families, and don’t be afraid to ask the publishing company questions. You also don’t need to go out there and purchase huge amounts of expensive curriculum, especially when you are just starting and really figuring out what works for your family. Yes, you’ll need to purchase some, but there’s also lots of free materials available, so explore lots of options before making any final decisions.
- Map Out a Weekly Plan
Once you’ve selected your curriculum and have nailed down your weekly commitments (co-ops, classes, piano lessons, etc), I suggest mapping out a general idea for your week. Now, the beauty of homeschool is that there is flexibility; however, having a general idea of what your week and each day looks like will help ensure that you are meeting your legal requirements while also meeting the individual needs of your child. It’s also a time to determine when and how often you plan on teaching each subject. Do you plan on starting each day with Bible? Is it important to you to incorporate technology into your plans? Be sure to go back to your child’s learning style as you’re drafting this. If you know your kiddo needs plenty of breaks, build them in. Is your child an early riser? Maybe you want to start school earlier in the day and leave more free time in the afternoon. There’s not a right way to do this. And most likely, you will modify it as you get into the school year, but having a general idea, gives you an excellent starting point, especially if this is your first time. I also highly recommend building some “independent time” into your week. This could be quiet reading time, independent work time, or even independent play time for the younger ones. But this gives you a much needed opportunity to get some of your prepping and planning work done (or even a well deserved nap!)
- Get Started – and Give Yourself Grace
Like we tell our kids, “Just go out there and try it. You’ll never know, unless you try,” – the same goes for us. Eventually, you just have to start – even if you’re still filled with an infinite number of questions. Just start. Yes, you’ll need to make adjustments, tweak some things, maybe even try a completely new curriculum, but you won’t know what works best for your family until you try. So give yourself plenty of grace! One method of homeschooling not working for your family? Try a different approach! Kids feeling burnt out every week? Adjust your schedule or try an alternate curriculum. Remember, there’s not just one way to do this. Find the best fit for your family, and enjoy this precious time with your kiddos!
Are you starting to homeschool this year? I’d love to hear from you! Comment below with your questions – and I’ll be sure to get back to you!