Get started with homeschooling with this easy-peasy guide!
These 5 easy-to-follow steps will walk you through what you need in order to get started with at-home learning!
Even if you live in one of the more highly regulated states like we do (New York) it's actually a simple and straightforward process.
Here are the main steps with some other helpful tips and resources to get you started with at-home learning!
1. Check your State's Homeschool Regulations
The very first thing you need to do is to check the homeschool regulations for your state.
Each state has their own set of guidelines for homeschooling. Some states have minimal requirements and others (like New York State) have more detailed guidelines in place.
Regardless which state and how many guidelines there are, navigating the homeschooling rules is really pretty straightforward.
To find your state's homeschool regulations, you can either do a Google search or visit the HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) website. HSLDA has each state's regulations very clearly written out in an easy to navigate format. Click here to find your state.
Below is a screenshot from HSLDA's website to give you an idea of the information they have available. I just chose Wyoming at random to show you how each state's info is set up.
In addition, HSLDA has a plethora of information and FAQs available to help find answers to your questions.
Note: My Kidz Bookshelf is not affiliated with HSLDA; we just find their site to be useful and easy to navigate.
2. Decide on a Curriculum or Learning Approach
Regardless of your reason for deciding to home school, you will need a plan.
One of the benefits of home schooling is that you get to decide which plan will work best for you and your kids.
You need to cover the basics, but how you do it is up to you.
Whether it's online, free, paid, hands-on, religious, secular--I could go on-there are plenty of different curricula out there! Needless to say, there's no shortage! A quick search will yield numerous options!
This Is What Worked for Us:
When it came time for me to put together a homeschool plan, I found this book and used it as a guideline.
I knew we needed to cover the subjects and subtopics, but didn't want to be tethered to a specific curriculum.
For 10 years I used Rebecca Rupp's book, Home Learning Year by Year. It is super helpful and it's the first book I recommend to people when asked!
As a former public school teacher, I had become very comfortable with finding what worked and what didn't quite cut the mustard!
The above book is the recently updated edition from January, 2020. For more reviews, see the original edition here.
Why Home Learning Year by Year is a Great Go-To Guide for Homeschooling:
Home Learning Year by Year has every subject outlined for every year Pre-K through High School
All the bases are covered for every required subject
Subtopics are also included for every subject at every grade level
Curriculum options, websites, and other resources are offered as options
Book lists, games, movies and other learning extension ideas are also given
It also contains references for further homeschool reading, research, and discussion regarding frequently asked questions pertaining to specific subjects.
Home Learning Year by Year was an ideal choice for us because it outlined very clearly everything we needed to cover but gave us the flexibility to choose which resources, materials, etc. to use.
If you're looking, however, for a fully prepackaged curriculum, there are a ton out there! You can choose an online learning experience or go traditional with pencils and books!
For our homeschool experience (ten years and counting!) we did a little of both and added in plenty of field trips and experiences.
(I'll save our materials and extension ideas for another post because that would take a while!)
When asked, however, these are a few that I wholeheartedly recommend:
Khan Academy is a completely free and all-encompassing site that has every subject for every grade up and through college including AP courses.
I am okay with teaching/helping with certain subjects and levels, but others- not so much! Kahn Academy is good at all of them! Takes the stress out of teaching things you're not the best at!
Video tutorials and lessons, regular text paragraphs, questions, quizzes and tests are all included in this free site that is great for homeschool students, parents and teachers!
We're also big fans of the Brain Quest materials by Workman Publishing! The Q&A decks are great and the fun and colorful workbooks are comprehensive.
The Brain Quest materials are terrific for full-year learning as well as keeping the 'summer slide' at bay with in-between-grades Brain Quest Summer Workbooks!
Their Big Fat Middle School Notebooks are great resources that cover all the bases and are easy to stay on track. Perfect for middle school students!
Teaching Textbooks - an Online Math Curriculum for Grades 3 through PreCalculus
Math is difficult for this mom! I'm solid with the basics, but once we get past fractions, it's headache-central! Teaching Textbooks is a great online curriculum that has excellent instruction broken down into very digestible bits!
They also do the record keeping for you! Huge bonus!!
Here is a screenshot from one of the lessons so you can get an idea of the presentation.
According to my daughter, here are her favorite reasons she liked using Teaching Textbooks for Algebra:
Easy to understand
Good progression of lessons
Explained the concepts well and gave ample time to practice and absorb them
Integrated and wove in earlier concepts into the newer concept
Would also do early intro to upcoming concepts
For each lesson, if you didn't understand or forgot something, you could go back and review it without losing your spot.
There is a button for the grade book and for each lesson you can see how well you did (raw score & percentage).
They have fun little embellishments that make it cheery like switching out the background, and changing the little character (like the squirrel below!) that gives hints!
Click here for a Free Trial for Teaching Textbooks Math Curriculum
3. Come up With a Routine or Schedule
Home schooling offers a lot of flexibility with how you structure your day.
Keep in mind that you are not going to need the same amount of time to get through the material at home as you would need in a school setting!
Learning at home is pretty efficient for many reasons - far less kids than a traditional classroom, less downtime for switching between classes, taking turns with other students, etc.. So, adjust your routine/schedule to make it work for you!
Don't feel the need to go from 8:30 - 3:10 with every minute accounted for! Embrace the breathing room to give yourself a few minutes here and there and your kids will enjoy the flexibility as well!
It may take some time to get used to it, but eventually going with the flow will indeed feel more natural!
For us, we tried to put the core subjects in the morning and be done by noon because that just worked best.
We were freshest after breakfast for the more challenging concepts and didn't get burned out that way.
Our afternoons were reserved for getting outside, artistic endeavors, extension activities, going to museums, bookstores, libraries, dance classes, Girl Scouts, getting together with other homeschoolers, etc.!
You and your kids/students can use the extra, new-found time to explore and expound upon their personal interests, excel at the subjects they're currently studying or get outside!
4. Whether it's Online or In Person - Stay Connected!
This is very important for both the kids and the parent(s) doing the home instruction!
We have all heard a million times how important it is for homeschoolers to have socialization opportunities. I think it's actually just as important for the parent who is doing the homeschooling!
Staying connected is the answer. I am not a super social person and I still think this is tremendously important!
Whether it's a neighbor, friend or family member that also homeschools, it's really helpful to stay connected with someone who's in the same educational boat!
If you don't have anyone you know that's going the homeschool route, take to Facebook and look up 'Homeschool Groups.'
Facebook Home School Groups are fantastic resources when you have questions of any kind, need inspiration, looking for socialization opportunities and more! It's a terrific resource!
I'm in two New York State Homeschool groups. Both of these groups have proven to be very helpful!
Reasons it's important for Home Schooling Parents to Stay Connected
Good support for any questions you may have
Great way to stay on top of things, i.e. regulation changes
A good resource to hear about local classes, activities, groups, etc.
If there are every any problems with your paperwork, it's a fast way to find support and answers.
If you are in New York State like us, here is the New York State website with all of the regulations and information for homeschooling
5. Home Schooling Doesn't Mean You Have to Stay Home!
Remember just because it's called homeschooling, you don't have to spend your whole school day at your dining room table!
Here are some ways to enjoy the flexibility and other opportunities that make your homeschool journey fun!
Physical Education requirements don't have to be running laps & doing push-ups! Kids can bike, hike, ski, swim, dance, do gymnastics, golf, fencing, archery, martial arts, baseball, yoga or any other physical activity that they're interested in!
Visit a museum to explore more about a topic or as a great introduction to an upcoming subject!
Take a day trip! Pack a lunch, bring the books (or leave them home!) and pick a destination!
Get social with other homeschoolers -socially distanced is completely possible on a hike or at a park!
Visit a local point of interest - interesting architecture, outdoor gardens, a lake or mountain all make for perfect choices!
Take advantage of your local libraries. Libraries have a multitude of resources and knowledgeable staff to give suggestions.
Participating in Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts is great for socialization and other learning connections.
Volunteering or community service is a terrific option for homeschoolers with their flexible schedules!
When available, performances are fantastic ways to learn about and enjoy the arts!