The Ultimate How-To Guide for New Homeschoolers
Welcome, new homeschoolers! Are you all in? Nervous? Excited? This how-to homeschool guide is intended to provide new homeschooling families with the understanding, tools, and confidence needed to get started. Countless homeschool success stories precede you. Now, it’s your turn!
Is Homeschooling Legal?
Legally, you are allowed to homeschool your children in all fifty states. Once you have determined that home education is the best course of action for your family, you will need to stand strong to claim what is rightfully yours. Most parents will not run into any opposition other than a disgruntled family member or neighbor, but some parents might need to work a bit harder to keep their kids home if local school districts are unaware of the legalities. Local laws and registration requirements vary from state to state. Visit the HSLDA website to find out your state’s requirements and to get connected with local homeschool groups. Speaking face-to-face with the homeschoolers in your area who know the law is the best course of action.
What Should I Teach?
You will need to check your state’s requirements to see if there are required courses. Some states simply require that you provide a list of the subjects that you will be teaching. Others require a more detailed list. So, where exactly do you find the list of subjects for the grades you will be teaching? One place to look is at a Scope and Sequence chart. This chart provides a rough outline of what is generally recommended for each grade for preschoolers to students in grade twelve. You will find suggested materials to use as well as a list of milestones that your child should reach. For example, it is recommended that a fifth grader is able to use a multi-step writing process, involving prewriting, writing a first draft, revising, editing, and writing a final version of their work. Knowing which basic skills are generally required for each grade level will help you to pick and choose which materials you will use.
Once you have a rough outline of what each child should be learning, you now have the freedom to create a curriculum that will fit your child personally! This is one of the greatest joys of homeschooling! No need to try and find a one-size-fits-all curriculum, but you have the freedom to create your own!
First, consider the ages of your children. Do you have several younger elementary kids? Find a literature-based curriculum so you can all gather around the kitchen table together and read as a family. Are your children close enough in age where they can understand the same principles of science? Find a curriculum, such as the Apologia Young Explorer series, that allows you to teach children in K-6 at the same time. More is required of the older children, but they all learn similar content at the same time. If you have several children, it can be difficult to do science five times a day, history five times a day, and so on. Combining as many subjects as you can will save a significant amount of time.
Second, consider the learning styles of your children. Is your child a visual learner? Take that into consideration as you choose curriculum. Is your child a hands-on learner? If so, be encouraged because there are plenty of hands-on based programs out there for the student that simply cannot learn from a workbook.
Once you have an idea of what you want to use for each subject, shop around. You might choose to use one source for all of your needs, such as SchoolhouseTeachers.com which includes basic courses such as math, science, and spelling for PreK-12 plus electives. Instead, you might decide to pick and choose curriculum from different sources. When you know what you want, search the Internet for deals; check out Facebook groups, curriculum swaps, and eBay. Keep a list handy when you visit thrift stores, yard sales, and discount book stores, and you might be pleasantly surprised to find a treasure from your list!
What About Socialization?
Examine the pros and cons of joining a homeschool group. Are you nursing? Do you have younger ones that take naps in the middle of the day? If so, a full day homeschool co-op might not be ideal. Seek out a relaxed group that focuses on field trips and park days. Do your kids thrive on social interaction? Then a structured co-op might be for you. Search around and see what is available in your area. Just be sure to see if the group that you are considering to join has a statement of faith so you can see if it lines up with your family’s belief system before committing to anything. Also, remember that now that you are homeschooling, your children will not be bound by specific hours to do their schoolwork, freeing them up to participate in more activities throughout the week. In addition to sports, local theater, and community activities, some venues such as bowling alleys, skating rinks, and movie theaters have special homeschool hours with discounted rates. Just look around!
Online Learning Options
Online learning might be a good fit for your family if you are looking to pay one price for all of your needs to be met in one place. SchoolhouseTeachers.com, Bob Jones University, Abeka, Outschool, and Luma Learn are all online learning platforms. Each has a different price point and different method of presenting the material. If you are looking for video learning, then you might want to pay the extra cost for Abeka or Bob Jones University distance learning. If you are looking for resources that you can teach yourself with video supplements for some of the courses then SchoolhouseTeachers.com would be the perfect fit. Some online learning options are live while others are self-paced. Consider which would work best for your children and go from there.
What Should I Keep on Record?
Each state has different requirements in the record-keeping department. While some require you to keep attendance throughout the school year, some ask for grades from specific tests. Others require samples of each child’s work in a portfolio form while some states have no requirements at all. Be certain to find out what is required in your state.
For more ideas on how to get started with homeschooling, visit here!