Homeschooling is an excellent way to equip your child with an education that is best tailored to their needs, learning style, and preferences. According to NPR, since the onset of the pandemic, homeschooling has doubled from 5.4% to 11.1% for U.S. households. Parents often wonder how to start homeschooling after they've made the decision. This blog covers steps you can take to facilitate the best homeschooling experience for your family. Keep reading to learn more about learning styles, planning templates, and fun excursions for your children.
How Do I Start Homeschooling My Child?
There is no universal best way to homeschool children. But there are steps you can take to ensure you create the best learning environment and curriculum for your child. The below steps will guide you through identifying and implementing the actions you need to take to set your child up for success.
1. Research Homeschooling Laws in Your State
Each state has varying requirements that residents must comply with to legally homeschool their children. Some states are more strict than others, while some have no stipulations regarding notifying the state. The Home School Legal Defense Association is an excellent resource for answering any/all questions you might have about the laws your state has for homeschooling. You can find the specifics on your state’s homeschool laws here on HSLDA’s website.
Here’s a general overview of how which states are the most regulated for homeschooling:
No notice required/low regulation: Alaska, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma
Low regulation: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming
Moderate regulation: Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia Washington, West Virginia
High regulation: Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont
2. Consider Your Child’s Learning Preferences
It’s not new news that every child is unique and learns differently. But the methods used to help students learn are always growing and expanding in new ways. Homeschooling is the ideal setting to observe how your child naturally learns, and make choices about how to guide their education based on their natural abilities. For example, some students learn better with hands-on projects like experiments or baking, while others respond best to traditional learning methods such as reading and writing. If you’re curious about how to best tailor your approach to homeschooling you can also have your child take a learning style assessment. You can learn more about learning styles and assessments here at time4learning.
Here are the four main learning styles according to the VARK model:
- Visual: Learns best through diagrams, maps, graphs, charts, etc.
- Auditory: Learns best when information is delivered involving discussions
- Kinesthetic: Learns best through practical application of hands-on experiences
- Reading/writing: Learns best through reading or writing text
3. Choose a Curriculum
There are many ways to source a curriculum, and many companies will claim to have the best curriculum. There is no one best curriculum; there is only the best curriculum for your child. Don’t be afraid to try out multiple curriculums before committing to one. Testing different curricula allows you to see how your child learns best. Take note on how your child reacts and absorbs material from the different companies you test. Doing so provides the space for you and your child to decide together what will work best for your child’s education. Be sure to keep in mind the laws and standards your state of residence has in place when making your selection.
A great place to start researching curricula based on reviews and cost online is Home School Advisor. This company allows you to outline your educational needs and philosophy, and then provides you with recommendations from one of their advisors. You can learn more about this service on the HSAdvisor website.
Another avenue you may want to consider when it comes to curriculum is including subjects and skills that aren’t typically fostered in traditional schooling, but that can be incredibly beneficial for students in their careers and in their lives. Check out Create & Learn’s K-12 curriculum for real-world applicable STEM learning that opens the door for your child to gain invaluable knowledge about computer science. Classes are taught live online providing your student with access to experts. There are also a number of online homeschooling forums dedicated to sharing wisdom about what curricula have worked best for other homeschooled students. A good forum to start with is Home School World.
4. Set Goals & Keep Records
Because homeschooling is self-paced, it’s critical to set goals to keep your family accountable and on track for what your child needs to learn. Create a roadmap including what you want to learn and give those milestones deadlines. Keep in mind not just the academic portion of homeschooling, but also necessary components to your child’s holistic development like physical activity, socialization, and extracurricular activities. Often extracurriculars provide opportunities for physical activity and social interaction. Be sure to check local community centers, Facebook events happening in your area, and ask your local network about opportunities for your child to get involved.
There are copious amounts of digital resources to help you set goals and record your progress for homeschooling your child. Apps such as Syllabird or Homeschool Planet allow you to plan months in advance and keep track of assignments in a user-friendly format. If you need to keep track of state requirements be sure to check out Homeschool Hall which is designed to keep track of your state’s requirements like attendance, grades, and more all in one place. If you prefer to write down your goals and records, there are plenty of free templates you can find on Pinterest.
5. Plan Your Homeschool Schedule
While flexibility is one of the main tenets of homeschooling, it’s still important to create a schedule that includes a week-by-week breakdown of what your child should be doing. Children need structure to function well and maintain healthy physical and emotional regulation. Fortunately, you have the opportunity to integrate rich learning experiences for your child, up and beyond what’s provided in traditional schooling, into your homeschooling schedule. Be sure to include excursions such as trips to the library, science center, and musical performances in your schedule. Look for unique online classes that can supplement your child’s learning about exciting topics like NASA or digital art.
Great options for planners to scope your homeschool schedule include these templates from The Home School Mom, tangible planners from Amazon or Etsy, and any of the previously mentioned apps. Keep in mind that life happens and assume you will need to continuously edit your schedule. Adjusting your schedule based on your child’s needs is normal and to be expected.
6. Find a Homeschool Community
Finding a homeschool community allows you to meet people with the same interests and values as you, and to learn about useful tips, resources, and gain answers to other questions you might have about homeschooling. Homeschool Central’s support group page includes a list of homeschool support groups in every state. You can even find a homeschool co-op which is a group of families who homeschool and meet to support each other learning common goals. Goals for homeschool co-ops can be anything from learning foreign languages to community service. You can find homeschool co-ops in your state here on The Home School Mom. It’s highly beneficial to build your homeschool community to avoid feelings of isolation and provide support as you embark on your homeschooling journey.
Now you know how to start homeschooling
There is no one right way to do homeschooling. The best thing you can do for is create an optimal homeschooling environment for your child based on their unique strengths, and continuously track progress. You have the tools you need to succeed, and we wish you the best in your homeschool endeavors.
Up next read Coding for Homeschoolers to learn about how to set your child up for success in STEM and cultivate critical thinking skills. If your child is interested in coding here’s what classes we’d recommend checking out based on their age:
Grades K-2: Scratch Junior
Grades 2-5: Scratch Ninja
Grades 5-9: Accelerated Scratch