Educating your children at home has many advantages. It gives you the opportunity to form strong bonds with your kids and the freedom to personalize their education so they can realize their full potential.
Right now, many of you are thinking twice about sending your kids back to schools that may be forced to administer temperature checks, face masks, social isolation and staggered classes upon reopening. Or you saw the benefits of having your kids at home with you when schools were closed and are now ready to take the plunge into real homeschooling.
It can be a bit overwhelming knowing exactly where to begin, however. How do I meet my child’s educational requirements? What curriculum should I choose? Here are some helpful tips on how to get started!
Research the laws in your state
Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, but the laws vary by each state so it’s important to know what yours are. Some require you to submit a letter of intent to homeschool to your district, either at the beginning of each school year, or when you take your child out of public school. Others require standardized testing and keeping records of your children’s work. A few will require that you have your curriculum and lesson plans approved by a representative from the district.
A website that you can go to in order to look up your individual state’s laws is hslda.org. HSLDA stands for Homeschool Legal Defense Association. In addition to offering helpful homeschool resources, they also provide legal counsel. Sometimes your district demands you do something that goes above and beyond state law, and it’s a good idea to have representation that will fight for your rights!
Connect with your state homeschool organization
Your state homeschool organization can help you get connected to other homeschoolers in your area for such things as support, co-ops and play groups. It is also useful for finding out information about upcoming conventions.
Some offer a newsletter or magazine with helpful education tips and announcements of special events for homeschoolers throughout the year, too. They also work in the state legislature to protect and expand your freedom to educate your children.
Pick your curriculum
There are many different types of curriculum available today, including boxed (pre-packaged with ready-made lesson plans, online (graded for you) literature heavy, classical and hands-on. The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a curriculum is, will this fit the needs of my children and our family?
You may decide that you’d like to mix n’ match a few subjects from two different curricula; for example Language Arts and Math from one, Science and History from another. Keep in mind that you can always switch curriculum also, if it’s just not the right fit for your child. You don’t have to be married to any particular one!
You also don’t need the most expensive curriculum on the market either. Your kids’ success largely depends on simply a heart for learning and you being their biggest encourager.
Plan out your daily schedule
Before the school year starts, sit down and figure out what your day will look like. Decide what order you’d like to teach each subject, such as harder ones in morning and easier ones in afternoon. Also decide whether you want to accomplish school 5 days a week, or 4 with a day set aside for co-op or field trips. Plan your day so you make sure that you’re fitting in other important things besides school, like housework, that also need to be done.
Remember that you don’t have to organize your day to match the typical 8am-3:00pm schedule of a traditional school. The average length of seat time instruction for homeschoolers is only about 3 hours per day!
You have the freedom to take large breaks in between each subject if that works for you, or do them all in the morning after breakfast. Most times you’ll even find that you can combine certain subjects together, like Geography and Science, or Language Arts and History.
Keep in mind that a schedule is important because it provides a guide for each day, but it shouldn’t be a task master either. Sometimes, it will be necessary to change things around, or scrap your agenda entirely. Plan, but also be flexible!
Give yourself grace
The most important tip I can give you in starting your homeschool journey is to extend grace to yourself. You’re going to make mistakes, and that’s okay! It is no small task to educate, train and disciple your children, and anything new has challenges.
Just keep reminding yourself that you will figure things out as you go and eventually find your rhythm. I promise you, your kids will be resilient as you work out the kinks and won’t hold things against you. So let go of some of your expectations and don’t be so hard on yourself!