You’ve Officially Decided to Homeschool. Here’s What to Do Now.
by Linnea Johnson
You’ve made the decision to homeschool this year and you’re wondering where to start. Don’t panic! You’ve got some time. There are a couple of things, however, you could do right now.
- Check your state or locality’s laws about homeschooling. You may need to withdraw your children from their school to avoid truancy laws. Your state may require you to notify the state of your homeschool and provide some documentation. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) can help.
- Contact your local homeschool support group and join. Ask how you can get connected and if they have curriculum resources to share with you. Find out if there are any open co-op groups or classes being offered through the support group and how you can enroll. Ask them for advice.
What can be done to develop our homeschool style?
Ask yourself these questions, and be honest: How much time do you have to devote to homeschooling? How much time do you want to spend preparing for and doing homeschooling? These key questions, along with the next ones will drive your choice of homeschool style and curriculum.
Ask your children these questions if you haven’t already:
- How do you feel about homeschooling?
- Is there anything that worries you? What? Why?
- What is your favorite part about school? How could we recreate that in homeschool?
- Is there a subject that is your favorite? Why do you feel that way?
- Is there a subject that you don’t like? Why do you feel that way?
- What things would you like to learn this year?
- What activities would you like to be a part of? (sports, music, art, hobbies, etc.)
- If you had the choice of learning by the following ways, which ways would you prefer and why? Your child may prefer one method for Math and another for English or spelling. Older children will tend to gravitate toward certain methods since they’ve been in the school system for longer. Some children may not know how they learn best, but as you progress in the school year, it will become more apparent to you and to them.
How do I know what my child’s learning style is?
This article details basic learning styles.
- Listening to the teacher explain (auditory)
- Watching someone do it, then doing it (visual). I was a visual and kinesthetic learner and took copious notes when the teacher lectured. It was the only way I could remember the lecture. Then, in preparation for a test, I would rewrite and distill my notes until I could explain the concept when queued by a key word.
- Reading about the new idea and/or writing about it (reading/writing)
- Moving around pieces or making a model that helps you understand what you’re trying to learn (kinesthetic). Oftentimes, younger children learn mathematical concepts this way.
- Learning in a group or by yourself (social vs. individual)
How can we create our homeschool curriculum plan?
Keep a notebook or digital file of all the information you collect: support groups, classes, contact information, your children’s answers to the questions you pose, curriculum that you’ve reviewed and links to resources. This will be the start of your homeschool planner and documentation. All this information you collect will inform your choice of curriculum. Here are some homeschool resources.
Include a calendar in your notebook or digital file to keep track of what you and your children do each instructional day. Here’s an example of one free download, but you can create your own in Word or Excel almost as easily. Some states may require a schedule and lesson plan, but if not, it is still a good practice to track your plan and progress.
Keep in mind that what may work for one child may not work for another. In addition, what works for your learning style may not work for your child. Remember, it’s about helping your child to learn the best way they can. One preschool curriculum had us put water in a squirt bottle and squirt out letters on our back porch concrete. Another had the child wear the letter of the day on his shirt and people would ask why he was wearing the letter K! My son probably hasn’t yet forgiven me for that!
There are a bazillion ways to learn different things and experienced homeschoolers have tried them all. Get advice from them.
What is the best way to ensure learning goals are met?
Above all, keep in mind that your goal is to instill a love of learning in your child. You may not be able to get to the core subjects as quickly as you like or not spend as much time on them initially. Relax. Enjoying learning is the initial goal. Once that is done, learning is self-perpetuating.
Focusing learning around a child’s interests best accomplishes this.
- Does your daughter love to sew or make things out of fabric? Teach her to read patterns, to understand the vocabulary of sewing, and encourage her to design her own patterns using mathematical ratios to scale up them up or down.
- Does your child love mechanical things? Find some broken equipment from Goodwill or a school auction and let him/her tinker with it. Encourage them to scour the Internet for YouTube videos or articles on how to fix the item, and then fix it.
- Do you have a naturalist in the family? Have him/her research planning and planting a garden, which uses math and reading skills.
- Someone else in the family might like raising chickens or training a dog.
All of these are great life skills and your child will gain a love of learning, self-sufficiency, and thereby self-worth by learning valuable skills.
Time well spent.
Remember, you and your children will accomplish more in 2-4 hours of homeschooling than an entire day spent in a large classroom of students. This is because you’re teaching one on one and not one on 30. That leaves a lot of hours to explore and develop skills, talents, and interests. They will learn by doing life with you.
After you’ve considered your needs and abilities and your children’s concerns and interests, decide which homeschool style will fit best for your family this school year. This site outlines many of the homeschooling styles. We’ll talk about each of these, as well as learning styles, in upcoming articles.
Have you considered these factors? Have you talked to your children? Have you made observations of your children? What did you learn? What style of homeschooling would work best for your family and why? Share your thoughts below.
Linnea Johnson has her MA in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught preschool students through adults on topics including music, English as a 2nd language, technology, business and personal finance. She and her husband homeschooled their two active sons, who both went on to careers in entrepreneurship. Her greatest joy is spending time with her family, cultivating an urban farm, creating fused glass items and enameled jewelry, and traveling with her husband. Linnea authors StartHomeschoolNow.com.