You’ve just decided to homeschool. Congratulations!
Now that you’ve made your decision, it’s understandable and not uncommon to have many questions and uncertainties about what’s next. So let’s start by breaking everything down into bite-size pieces. Soon, you’ll feel confident and ready to start the school year.
Let’s begin at the beginning!
1. Why did you choose to homeschool?
From wanting your children to learn from a biblical worldview to having higher academic standards, more flexibility for your family or seeking more involvement in what your kids are learning, there are so many reasons families choose to homeschool. First, you will need to answer this question for you and your family, no one else. Your reason will not likely be the same as other families’ reasons, nor will their motives to homeschool be the same as yours. Knowing your “why” will assist you in setting goals for your year, and will allow everything else to fall into place.
2. What are your state laws and requirements?
Now that you have your “why,” you’ll want to learn about the homeschool laws and requirements in your state. Find this state-specific information at the Homeschool Legal Defense Association’s website, HSLDA.org. Meet expectations and succeed in your homeschooling journey by being well-informed.
3. What curriculum will you use?
This is probably the most overwhelming part of homeschooling. However, answering a few questions will make your search for the right curriculum easier. Here are a few questions you’ll want to ask yourself to get started:
Christian or secular?
Accredited or Independent Study?
All-in-one curriculum or an eclectic approach?
There are many curriculums from which to choose, but now you have a starting point. If time allows, check out a convention. These events make it easy to check out various curriculums, get hands-on access to materials and ask as many questions as you’d like. When looking for the right curriculum for your family, consider your situation. Will you have the flexibility to teach your child, or will you need assistance? Then consider your child. What is his or her learning style? Visual, sensory, auditory? Here’s a terrific article on how to recognize different learning styles.
Bonus tip: Ensure that the curriculum you’re considering offers lesson plans — additional resources such as tests and quizzes, answer keys and supplemental materials.
4. How do I keep my child’s records?
Many parents worry about keeping thorough homeschool records. It may seem overwhelming, but if you are consistent, you will be fine.
Here are some suggestions for homeschool record-keeping.
Keep a grade book. Consider your preference: paper or digital? Do you like to write things down, or do you prefer things online? If you choose to go with paper, your grade book can be as simple as a notebook, a printable paper grade book or a traditional grade book found at your local teacher’s store or online. This may seem like it belongs in a school setting, but you can easily do this at home. If digital is your preference, your options are countless, from a cloud-based app you can share with your children to an Excel spreadsheet. Remember, you can change it up if it doesn’t work for you. However, once you’ve found a method you like, be consistent.
Create report cards. These come in handy when used to help your children see their progress. Report cards can also be used to reward achievement. Rewards might be a discount or trip to a child’s favorite restaurant. Design something fun and different. This is your school and your journey. Make it your own.
Create transcripts for your high schoolers. Don’t wait till the last minute to create a transcript. Google is an excellent place to find transcript templates, and be sure to include course descriptions on your transcript.
5. Where will you homeschool?
This may appear to be a simple question, but it is essential. Will you have all of your children at the kitchen table, or will you allow your older children to spread out around the house to complete their studies independently? This is one of those trial-and-error kind of things. It’s not set in stone. Experiment with different options, and involve the kids. They may surprise you by offering an option you hadn’t considered.
6. What does your school year look like?
This is where flexibility factors in. Will you take the traditional route for your calendar year: September through May? Or will you homeschool year-round? What about your school week: Is it a five-day or four-day week? Whatever you decide to do, ensure you’re meeting your state’s requirements.
7. Where can I find support?
Co-op groups and other groups for homeschool families will be your greatest resource. There are several ways to find co-op groups in your area. Start by asking families who are currently homeschooling. They will be your best resource. Next, check out groups on social media. These mommas are quick to offer suggestions and locations of other groups.
While this is not an exhaustive list, these seven steps will get you started. Don’t be afraid to talk with other homeschooling families for their thoughts and ideas. My family homeschooled for 18 years, and I was adapting things even three to four years into it. Truthfully, when our first child entered high school, there was more adapting still!
It is about figuring out what works best for you. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Take time to breathe. Trust yourself, give yourself grace and enjoy this journey together as a family. It isn’t perfect; it just needs to be what works for you and your family.
Our homeschooling journey wasn’t without its bumps, bruises and tears. But I can tell you this: The victories and memories that were built far outweigh any imperfections. I love this time of year because of its new beginnings. New goals, opportunities and adventures await you and your family. I will pray for you as you begin this fantastic journey called homeschooling.