When parents first start researching how to start homeschooling, they often end up bringing what public schools are doing to the home.
But the whole point of homeschooling is that it’s an entirely different approach to education.
It won’t be based on standardized lesson plans or curricula, but it’ll be completely individualized to your child’s skills and abilities.
The idea of homeschooling can be overwhelming, especially if you haven’t done it before.
So, it’s easier to start by thinking about the bigger picture.
After that, continue reading the rest of this post for a quick step-by-step guide on how to start homeschooling your child.
How to Start Homeschooling in 9 Simple Steps
Step 1. Write a Letter of Withdrawal
This is the first step for parents who want to start homeschooling their child who’s already in school.
If you’re not one of those parents, skip to the next step.
For your letter of withdrawal, all you have to do is state your intent to remove your child from school in order to begin homeschooling.
From there, follow the other guidelines the school or district has.
Step 2. Know Your State’s Requirements
Once you’ve dealt with the paperwork required to withdraw your child from school (if this applies to you), the next thing you need to worry about is your state’s legal requirements for homeschooling.
Some states treat homeschools as private schools, some have specific statutes, and some don’t have regulations at all.
Most states don’t need the parents to have an education degree for them to homeschool their child, but you should still be familiar with the particular regulations your state has on homeschooling.
Here’s the Home School Legal Defense Association’s interactive map for the entire US that you can explore to check homeschool laws by state.
There, you’ll see answers to questions such as:
- Is notification required when I’m homeschooling?
- Do I need to be qualified as a teacher?
- Does the state have mandated subjects that I need to teach?
- Should my child be immunized?
Aside from that, the website will also take you through several options on how you can comply with your state’s homeschool laws, as well as step-by-step guidelines for each option.
The HSLDA also offers legal protection for your right to homeschool when you sign up for a membership with them for a monthly fee.
If you’re still confused with the laws you need to follow, you can contact local homeschool groups for advice.
Step 3. Deschool and Start Slow
Now that you’ve got the legal stuff covered, it’s time to begin with the real work.
For children who are still fresh off of public or private school, it’s important that they go through a phase of deschooling before they start any formal homeschool lessons.
Deschooling is simply an adjustment phase that kids should go through after leaving school and before starting homeschooling.
The main purpose of deschooling is to help the child let go of institutional school norms and start embracing a homeschooling culture.
If you start homeschooling right away without going through this adjustment phase, then your child is likely to be more confused and challenged by their new learning environment.
Homeschooling should be less stressful for your child; an approach to education where they could learn in a relaxed manner and surrounded by loving and supportive parents.
And deschooling isn’t just for your child either, but it’s for you, too.
It’ll help you let go of the traditional school mindset and preconceptions you have about education, so you can see it in a completely different light.
Deschooling will help you and your child transition to homeschooling and make the process easier for both of you.
Here are a few deschooling tips to help you navigate through the transition:
a. Start Slowly
Set a schedule that only involves formal learning a few days a week or just a few minutes each day.
You can even let go of formal learning entirely for the time being.
That means no sitting down for lessons and instead opt for a more experiential or hands-on way of learning.
It might feel like the slow speed will hinder you from making progress, but don’t worry, you’ll build up momentum in no time.
Just let your child lead the way for a little while, explore what they like, what they’re good at, and what they enjoy learning about.
This will help you in the long run, too.
b. Learn Something New
Nothing too tedious. But something fun.
Is there something that your child has always wanted to learn? A musical instrument? A new hobby like ballet, gardening, or baking?
If it’s within budget, now’s a great time to have them do those things. Besides, there are plenty of free resources you can find online.
Learning something new isn’t just for them either.
If you’ve always wanted to learn to knit or read a book you’ve been meaning to read, this is your opportunity to do those things.
You can even bring your kids along if they’re interested.
c. Go Out and Have Fun
Exploit the freedom and flexibility that homeschooling gives you.
Now that you’re free from rigid schedules and expectations that regular schools have, you can go wherever you want and learn outdoors as much as you can.
Your community’s museums, natural parks, libraries, zoos, and historical places are all waiting for you to explore.
You don’t have to stress out about turning these trips to complete educational tours; just simply go there.
Your kids will surely pick up a lesson or two anyway.
d. Talk About Public or Private School
Leaving traditional schooling behind doesn’t mean you don’t talk about it ever.
For sure, your kids might miss (or not miss) some parts of it.
To process what’s happening, help your kids be open and talk about what they’re feeling.
Have them compare what it’s like being at home to their experiences back in school.
But talk about it naturally, when the conversation presents itself, and don’t force the discussion to happen.
Just be there when they ask questions about why they’re home suddenly or if they’re going back to school, and comfort them if they miss their friends and teachers.
e. Reflect on What You’ve Learned Outside of School
Ask your child what they’ve learned during the trips you’ve made outside.
Chances are, they’ve picked up a valuable lesson or two.
After they’ve shared these with you, help them understand that it’s because learning happens everywhere they go. It can be in school, and it can be at home.
And even when things are different now, you’ll still be learning stuff, but this time, you’ll be learning with them.
Now, this step might be particularly geared toward children who’ve spent a bit of time in a traditional school.
But starting slowly and not getting into formal lessons right away is equally important for preschoolers and kindergarteners who are about to start learning at home.
Step 4. Decide on a Homeschooling Style
The next step when figuring out how to start homeschooling is to choose one of the countless teaching methods that you can use for your child's learning.
Here are a few examples:
- Classical Method
- Eclectic Homeschooling
- Unit Studies
- And so many more
This is one of the best things about homeschooling...
You have limitless approaches and options in teaching your child, so you can customize the lessons in ways that fit them best.
Every child is unique, and with homeschooling, you can help them learn in ways specifically tailored to them, even in ways that aren’t possible in traditional schools.
Most homeschooling families don’t stick to a particular style.
Instead, they follow multiple suggestions until they eventually have a method specific to their child’s proficiencies, interests, and their family’s lifestyle.
So, don’t be afraid to read about all these homeschooling styles and experiment with them.
Take note of how your child performs with each approach and see which works best.
To help you with choosing, here are the 3 key questions you need to ask yourself:
- What’s your main priority? Is it academics, athletic excellence, artistic performance, or spiritual learning?
- Does your child have special needs? What are they?
- What’s your family routine? Are you a full-time worker who can only homeschool at night and weekends?
Remember that you can try out different homeschooling styles until you figure out the best dynamic for your family.
Step 5. Plan, Plan, Plan
This is where we talk curriculum, and that depends on the homeschooling style you’ve chosen.
But just as your teaching method can keep changing, your curriculum doesn’t have to be super strict either.
And it’s not a must-have.
If you want your homeschooling lessons to be intricately structured, go ahead and buy a full curriculum that has your needs or maybe even write one yourself.
But even when you’re approaching home education in a super relaxed way, you still need to plan your child’s education.
This step requires a lot of research and flexibility, especially if you’re still starting.
Whatever you plan, it should be easily adjusted if you need to switch teaching methods.
In the beginning, you’ll be doing a lot of experimentation, seeing what works or not for your child and you.
But as time passes, you’ll slowly establish an effective and personalized homeschooling style, and planning will be easier from then on out.
Here are a few factors to consider when you’re planning:
- What’s your purpose and mission for homeschooling?
- What type of learner is your child and what motivates them?
- What will your child be learning this year?
- What are your child’s interests?
- What type of activities will you do, where will you go for field trips, and what events will you be attending?
- What’s your annual budget for materials, equipment, field trips, and other resources?
- What are the start date and end date for the homeschooling year?
A homeschool system is good to establish because it’ll help both you and your child fall into healthy habits that’ll last for a long time.
Having a calendar to follow for the entire year is also a good idea, but make sure it can be easily adjusted or mixed up if a situation arises.
It’ll also give your child an idea of what to look forward to for the year.
Remember: Don’t overschedule.
Simply create a framework and then build on it as you go through the entire homeschooling year.
Step 6. Find Homeschooling Co-ops Near You
This is a life-saving step for new homeschoolers.
Getting in touch with a homeschooling community can save you a lot of stress and anxiety.
Whether it’s online or in-person, if you need advice on resources, legal matters, or support, homeschooling cooperatives will get you through most of the challenges you’ll face.
You don’t have to do this alone. Joining a group of homeschoolers will make your learning journey with your child so much more vibrant.
You’ll get to meet many friends and you can even have joint learning sessions with other families, go on outings and field trips, and celebrate holidays with them.
If you’re new, a homeschool co-op is invaluable.
You’ll be able to get in touch with parents who’ve already navigated the waters of homeschooling, and they’ll be able to give you advice and resources as you figure out how to start homeschooling.
Step 7. Attend Homeschooling Conventions
This step isn’t completely necessary, but it’ll be super helpful for you, especially if you’re researching more about homeschooling.
Attending conventions will expose you to a lot of resources and other homeschooling families that you can get together with.
Conventions will be filled with speakers who’ll answer your most pressing questions, booths with countless curricula you can look into, as well as discounts for resources.
Attending a homeschooling convention for the first time can be overwhelming, especially with the sheer amount of resources you’ll find.
So, before you go to one, here are a few tips you need to know about:
- Check the background of the convention’s sponsors. Make sure they’re aligned with your philosophies and perspectives on education.
- Organize the brochures into two bags. One bag for promotional materials that you don’t need as of the moment and the other bag for brochures that you plan on reviewing when you get home.
- List down everything your child needs before going to the convention so that you can save time going through the vendor hall.
- Bring a notebook to take notes in.
- Research prices beforehand. Take a look at what curricula cost online and compare. Some materials in the convention might be too expensive and maybe you can buy similar ones online for cheaper.
Step 8. Evaluate Your Child’s Performance
Once you’ve started and tried out the homeschooling style you chose, make sure to pause, evaluate how your child is doing, and then adjust accordingly.
Your child should enjoy the learning process and be engaged with the lessons. If they’re not, brainstorm on methods that’d help increase their engagement.
You should also check how they’re performing academically.
Where are they making the most progress and what topics are they not quite getting?
You can evaluate these by researching learning milestones or with quizzes and exams.
Remember that it’s okay to switch homeschooling styles, schedules, routines, and curriculum mid-year as long as it’s for your child’s wellbeing.
There might be a small adjustment phase, but it’s better than sticking to a method that doesn’t work.
Besides, having a mindset of flexibility and growth will also teach your child to be more creative and positive with how they approach things in life.
Step 9. Celebrate Achievements
Your child is amazing and unique, and it's a great thing to always be positive with their achievements and growth.
Be supportive of them by showcasing their art, essays, math work, and other papers on your fridge or walls.
Be proud of their accomplishments.
This will help increase their confidence, self-esteem, and be happy about their work.
Researching how to start homeschooling can be pretty overwhelming, but as long as you follow the 9 fundamental steps listed above, you’ll be alright.
Make no mistake: It’s going to be very hard.
You’ll have to experiment and adjust a lot to help your child be the best they can be.
You’ll face challenges, frustrations, and obstacles, but as long as you’re patient, and you’re working through everything with your child and keeping their best interests at heart, you’ll both be successful.