So you think you want to homeschool. Great!
I know you don’t want to screw up your kid with this homeschooling thing. So you probably want some time to research what the best way to go about it is. You might have so much to do, people you need to talk to, research to read… You have lots to think about. Am I right?
No worries. You can start today. Here is how. Here is how you can start homeschooling today. It might be hard to know where to begin. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone took your hand and showed you around?
First: Be a Responsible Home Educator
Check Your Local Laws. Understand what empowers you to educate your kid in your area.
The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is an excellent place to begin your journey. They provide you with a clear legal overview for each state and links to the appropriate agencies to help you file your paperwork.
Depending on where you live you can generally expect;
- states with no requirements
- states requiring you to notifying them of your intent to homeschool, with a yearly renewal
- states requiring you to submit samples of your curriculum or a sample of your student’s portfolio
- states requiring periodic testing
For the majority of the states, you are not required to have a set curriculum or portfolio before starting your homeschool. The states that require documentation are more interested in proof that you are homeschooling and they understand you wouldn’t have anything to show for it until after a year of homeschooling.
When you think about it, the kind of proof the majority of states really want is proof that you are actually providing an education. Some states require periodic testing to gauge this. Since homeschoolers use a variety of curriculum and do not teach to the test, there is no sure way that a state test geared towards a certain standard is a fit measurement of a child’s education. In reality what these tests do, regardless of how well your child performs on such tests, is prove your child is progressing. Another way to determine if a child is getting an education, is collecting a sample of their curriculum. A local homeschooling group will be able to help you determine if you need a homeschool advocate to assist you in preparing a portfolio. Typically you can prepare this yourself, if you are aware of the requirements from the beginning.
Usually the biggest concern people have with homeschooling is the possibility you will neglect your child’s education. They get this idea from one or two bad apples they hear about. Homeschooling is not an excuse to get out of doing something. Homeschooling is a commitment. Avoid being a bad apple by learning what you are responsible for.
Joining a homeschool group will help you figure out how best to navigate local laws and requirements.
Finding a Homeschool Group Near You
Usually you can find a homeschooling group by typing in the name of the city or base + the word “homeschool”. States that regulate homeschoolers generally have a statewide online community or “homeschool network” to assist you with the required paperwork. Joining a group helps you understand what resources are available in the area and to get support from other homeschoolers.
*DoD employees, if there is a military homeschooling group where you are assigned, as the rules equally apply -you are always welcome to join them!
*Are you a Department of Defense (DoD) Employee? This section also applies to you!
Under the military guidelines you are allowed to homeschool under the laws of your home state or a state of your choosing. For example the state you hope to retire in or gain residency in. The idea is that you decide which set of rules to follow and be govern by.
The other option is to homeschool like other homeschoolers and follow the local laws every time you move. The choice is yours.
When you are assigned overseas, your homeschooling activities are protected by your Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) status, which is governed by the same federal regulation that gives DoDEA schools their right to operate. This agreement enables the children of U.S. military and SOFA status DoD civilian personnel to seek educational opportunities as they see fit without undue hindrance from local agents. It means you can participate in DoDEA activities if you want (you must register and comply) and if there is space available. It also means you are not required to report attendance to any local or stateside agency. Which means you can focus less on turning in unnecessary paperwork and redirect your time and energy back into your homeschooling activities.
My experience so far is that every base has an active local military homeschooling group. So far they have all been great. The hardest part about moving frequently is leaving the group and losing those connections. Here are a couple of Facebook groups you should consider joining for continuity.
- Military Homeschoolers Group
- Military Homeschoolers Overseas
- National Alliance of Secular Homeschoolers
- Secular Military Homeschoolers
Because we are always moving from one group to the next, I am compiling a list of easy to search resources in my own Facebook group Phoenix Rising Homeschoolers, A Secular Inclusive Worldwide Homeschooling Community. Come hangout and share your homeschooling journey with us!
Find Your Homechooling Legs
When you ask around you will get lots of helpful advice that don’t sound helpful.
Eventually, it will make sense. That particular advise is to deschool. But what is deschooling? Simply put it is the process that allows both you and your child to bond. So take this time to enjoy each other’s company. Give yourself time to see how you interact with each other. Let them learn to be independent of you, without ignoring their presence. It looks pretty laid back but it a critical piece of making your homeschool experience a smooth one. All of this will help you figure out the best way to support your children’s learning style. Deschooling looks different for different families. This is the time to ask your child about what they are interested in and show you are interested in exploring the world with them. Some homeschoolers find this method wonderful and look for ways to continue. Others love this time simply as a time to build a stronger relationship that helps them spring forward though difficult times.
The one thing we can all agree on it deschooling is not about forced table work or busy work or your child doesn’t want to do. If this makes you panic a little, recognize that you really need this as much as your kid. Up until this point the world has defined your relationship with your kids. Now you get a chance to decide for yourself how you want to develop that. I can think of scarier things than being home with them all day. Boredom is not as big of a curse as I once thought. Get ready to for your kids to drive you crazy. And then watch your family evolve as you embrace it.
Okay, Now You Are Ready! Let’s Homeschool!
Why is homeschooling a huge success and how can I make that happen in my home? Well hold onto your coffee cup, because today I am revealing the 4 secret pillars of homeschooling. Not only can you start using these 4 today, but if somewhere down the line you find yourself overwhelmed and frustrated, you can come back anytime and start over.
1. Play is Hard Work!
When kids play by themselves they create worlds and rules. It helps them develop a sense of self and builds self-esteem. Some of the toys they play with can help develop mathematical reasoning and fine motor skills. When they play with other kids they learn to communicate, collaborate, and develop social problem solving skills. Starting today you can play with them! Let them loose with LEGOs, toy trucks, and plushies. Get down on their level and play the games they want to play. It doesn’t have to make sense and it doesn’t need to be orderly. Play dress-up and sing silly songs together. Sit down and color together. These moments matter! Life tip: Don’t be afraid to let them play without you! When we let them play out of our sight they learn that fun is not dependent on the parent. They learn to be comfortable with their thoughts and their emotions. If your kids are older, help encourage their ability to be independent by letting them go to the playground without you.
2. Talk to Them!
Contrary to traditional beliefs, children develop their language skills by listening to their family members talk to each other. Let them participate in the conversation! Life tip: When we talk to our kids like they are human beings we respect, they learn to treat other people with respect.
3. Acknowledge Them!
Kids of all ages and stages want to know they are being heard and understood. A good deal of miscommunication comes from not confirming you heard the problem or understanding what the problem really was about. Giving in to your kid’s demands is not the same as acknowledging them. How you respond to them, even when you are frustrated or unable to solve the issue, teaches our kids how to behave. When we look at them and say “hey I see you and your problem,” they feel they can trust you. Life tip: Sometimes acknowledging the problem does not mean you solve the problem for them.
4. Encourage Curiosity!
Discovery is vital to understanding how the world works and how we operate in it. We learn so much from watching what goes around us! We learn so much more if we can experiment with it! Leave the house and explore the area you live in. Go on field trips, nature walks, and visit museums. Watch a show or listen to a podcast, and then build on that by following your kid’s interest! Life tip: Build your kid’s confidence up by demonstrating an activity, then stepping back. Give your kid time to figure it out.
These 4 things are hard because most of us grew up in a society that didn’t support a child’s natural development. And for that reason, this will be the biggest and most frustrating part of homeschooling. Burn out happens when we neglect one of these fundamental pillars. Work on your pillars and your homeschool issues will work itself out.
Find Your Spine
Chance are you think everything I said above is hogwash. There is a part of you screaming, “this is NOT enough!”
It really is.
I would even go so far as to say if you are missing those 4 pillars in your homeschooling-you are not homeschooling. You are schooling-at-home. Depending on your goals, this is not a bad thing. If your goal is to actually homeschool, those 4 things are the fundamental differences between a traditional public school experience and the benefits of a home school experience.
Which one is the Right One for You?
The next thing to figure out is how you want to learn and what do you want to learn.
At this point the advice you are probably receiving from your well-meaning homeschooling friends is to figure out which homeschooling philosophy you jive with the most. The hope is that you can find a method of teaching or learning that will work best for you.
I love fun tests like these!
Until it becomes distracting. Finding out which homeschooling philosophy and method works for you, doesn’t happen overnight. Fun quizzes can help you explore options and give you a little insight into where you should consider starting. You might take this quiz and find the results don’t give you a clear cut answer. For example at one time one of the philosophies I rated highly in was Montessori. I absolutely love the idea of a child centered, self-directed learning environment. Except that we tried to do an elaborate version of it and finally concluded that particular learning style wasn’t a good fit for us. We kept what we were inspired by and moved on.
Take the quiz to help you figure out what resources might work for you, take time to look into it, and let what you find inspire you. But whatever your results show you, don’t let it keep you from starting your homeschool journey today.
Stretch Your Legs
You really do not need to wait until you have done the right amount of research. While you are trying to figure it all out, here are 4 things you can do today;
1. Go to your local or online bookstore and buy a workbook!
Highlights, Brain Quest, Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills, and Flash Kids’/Harcourt’s Complete Curriculum are a couple of my favorite workbooks to recommend. They were designed for homeschoolers. They were made for parents wanting to help their kids. Keep that in mind when you see “complete curriculum” and understand that certain explanation and subjects are missing. As homeschoolers it is a good way to see what your kids know and don’t know.
Once you see your kid struggling with something, you can decide to look for a different workbook that specifically address the subject. When it comes to individual topics I tend to like Evan Moor, Spectrum, Scholastic Success, Mark Twain’s Tutor Series, and Teacher Created Resources workbooks. My kids like them because they are fairly easy to use and they can see their own progression. Pro Tip: If you are Type A organized homeschooler, you can still use this method by first creating a schedule of topics and skills you want to cover. Then find workbooks and materials that help you cover those subjects.
2. Pick up a textbook from a thrift store!
Why? These are already aligned with state standards and you can skim through and use it as you see fit. The biggest problem you will face is figuring out what to learn and when to learn it. Textbooks are the result of a committee of people coming together to figure out that very question. Keep in mind that they did so with an agenda, they tend to omit things, and that teachers rarely teach the textbook in its entirety. Use the Table of Contents to help you plan out the year and then use their content to start you in a direction.
3. Use a Free Online Resource!
There are tons of free online programs to help you. cK12.org, Curriculum Pathways, Khan Academy, MobyMax, and HippoCampus are a couple good places you should consider. Access to quality education are the goals of these online resources and they have gone above and beyond to provide them to you for free. Homeschooling today has never been easier!
Pro Tip: If you don’t like any of the above suggestions, look up your state’s learning standards and create an education guide based off of that.
But …I really want a curriculum!
I know what it is like to stand where you are right now. Some of us go through a stage where we want a little more than someone telling us to jump into the pool. I hope you understand that I want you to look for opportunities to trust yourself. I want you to know that you were designed to float. But I also know that you have to discover that for yourself. I want you to know it is okay to ease into this homechooling thing. Grab the side of the pool and hangout there for a minute. When you feel comfortable, take a deep breath, and let go. Trust yourself.
4. Find a Ready-to-go Secular Homeschool Curriculum
There is nothing wrong with wanting a proven method of success.
Some of us need more time or we feel we need a detailed plan we can follow. Being honest with yourself will help you to reevaluate things later. In the meantime here is a list of secular curriculum and resources by Homeschool Gameschool that homeschooling families are happily using.
Dive in! There are many families who are happy with the results of where their curriculum has taken them. The thing to remember is our curriculum choices are simply routes we take to navigate oour homeschooling adventure. There is no curriculum proven to be better than another. If there was we would all be using the same map. If you find yourself not happy with your navigation system, don’t hesitate to reroute your homeschool.
Take a deep breath.
Homeschooling is affordable and doable. You’ve got this!
It’s unrealistic to believe you have to do it all. Before there were a plethora of online communities to encourage you, there were homeschoolers who lived without access to a schoolhouse or schoolbooks. Somehow, without formal learning Americans were successful and they did it without the ever expanding resources we have today. So stop over complicating things. No one is asking you to replicate a schoolhouse. The only thing you need to do to make your homeschool a success this year, is think about what you want to learn and then figure out a way to learn it.
In many ways you are your child’s perfect teacher.
Who nurtured them since the day they were born? Who taught them their first words? Who taught them to wipe their bottoms? You did that. But you are more than that. You are a facilitator. What does that mean? You help them to explore their world and understand who they are in this world. You help them become self-sufficient. And if they want to master something, you help them figure out how to do that.
What are you waiting for? For more information, Click the pic below and Start your journey today!
We are rooting for you!