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In 2019, there were approximately 2.5 million students in the United States who were homeschooled. Those numbers are expected to increase as more and more families discover the benefits of homeschooling. For many children, traditional schooling works well, but for countless others, the relaxed atmosphere of the home coupled with self-paced learning provides a far superior educational option. As a result, many parents are researching how to start homeschooling their children rather than send them back to a system that isn’t working well for them.
There’s a lot to consider when you are deciding if you should homeschool your children. And once you’ve made the decision to homeschool, you likely have a lot of questions. This is all new territory, and it can feel overwhelming and confusing at first. But, rest assured, there are answers out there for your family and you can figure this out.
In this article I discuss how to ensure you are homeschooling legally, the importance of taking time to get to know your children – their interests, strengths, and learning styles, and the importance of finding your personal educational philosophy.
How to legally homeschool
Once you’ve decided to homeschool, one of the very first things you need to do is to make sure you’ve got your legal bases covered.
In the United States, the federal government regulates the public school system, while homeschooling is regulated at the state and local level. It is legal to homeschool in all 50 states (and many other countries), but each state has its own set of homeschooling laws and requirements. You will need to spend some time researching the laws in your area.
I suggest you visit your state’s education department website and read up on how homeschooling works in your area. Simply enter “[state name] department of education homeschooling laws” into a web search tool and find the .gov website that relates to your state. There you will find the information you need to move forward with legally homeschooling in your state.
After reading the requirements, if you still have questions, you may wish to join local homeschooling groups on Facebook. These groups are filled with families who have experience navigating the laws and regulations in your area, and can be a good source of support and information.
Just keep in mind that people make mistakes and may not know your specific situation. So while it can be helpful to gather information from Facebook groups, always refer to your state’s official website for the most accurate information. Remember, the onus remains on you as the homeschooling parent to ensure you’re doing everything you need to legally do to stay compliant.
Start Homeschooling Your Child by Getting to Know Them Better
When it comes to homeschooling your children, you do not need to know everything or have all the answers right away. It will take time, trial and error, and experimentation to settle in to a homeschool style and routine that works for your family. The most important thing to remember is that homeschooling is not a race. You do not have to follow a rigorous schedule and your lessons do not have to align with your local public school curriculum – although you can do these things if you wish.
If you are pulling your child from a public or private school, take some time to deschool. Deschooling can be a helpful transition process when leaving the school system and beginning to homeschool. As a general rule of thumb, you may wish to deschool one month for every year your child was in a traditional school setting. The deschooling process will allow you to put aside preconceived notions of what learning should look like and figure out what learning will look like in your home.
Even if you are not pulling your child out of the school system, you can still benefit from taking time at the beginning of your journey to really get to know your child. Discover how your child learns and where their interests lie. Figure out what kinds of activities you enjoy doing together. Determine the kind of lifestyle you want to create in your home.
Hold off on buying curriculum right away
At the beginning, you do not need to go out and buy expensive curriculum. In fact, I do not recommend spending any money on homeschool curriculum until you have a better sense for how your children learn and what your homeschool style is. If you purchase curriculum before you nail these things down, you risk wasting money on something that won’t be a good fit for your family.
So, take time to visit the library with your children. Watch documentaries together. Visit museums, state and national parks, and explore the world around you. Do art projects. Dig in the mud. Build LEGO projects together. Let your children explore their interests.
Really get to know your children to understand what type of learners they are. Do they prefer to do lessons on the computer? Tap into the free resources Khan Academy or sign up for some Outschool classes to find out if this style of learning resonates.
Is your child a hands-on learner? Pick up some activity books at the library that cover history, science, and math – you’d be surprised at the options out there. Or consider subscribing to a monthly activity kit such as Green Kid Crafts or Groovy Lab in a Box.
Does your child thrive while playing games with you? Does your child prefer to curl up on the couch with books? The key is to really get to know your child’s learning style and connect as parent-teacher and child.
Your Perspective Matters Too
Homeschooling isn’t just about your child’s education; it’s a lifestyle that affects everyone in the family. As such, it is important that everyone is on board. It is difficult to foster an environment conducive to learning and exploring the world if you or your spouse have doubts. Having everyone on the same page can make things so much easier, especially as kids are good at picking up on any tension or uncertainty.
It’s also important to take your preferences into consideration as well. Are you a hands-on parent-teacher? Or do you prefer to be hands-off and let your child take the lead? Are there subjects you prefer to hire a coach or tutor for? Do you want your child to take some classes outside the home? These are important questions. Take time to step back and determine what works for you.
You’ve Decided Homeschooling is for You, Now What?
You’ve committed to the idea of homeschooling as a family and you know how to start homeschooling legally in your state. Your family has spent time deschooling. You have a feel for how your child learns and you know how involved of a parent-teacher you want to be. Now, it’s time to explore your educational philosophy.
But, what exactly is an educational philosophy?
Understanding your educational philosophy
The nice thing about homeschooling is that it doesn’t have to look like school at home. Indeed, there are myriad approaches to home education. Some of the most common homeschooling philosophies include the traditional method, the classical approach, unit studies, Waldorf, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, eclectic homeschooling, and unschooling.
You’ll want to spend some time understanding your homeschool style by exploring the different homeschool educational philosophies. Once you’ve identified your homeschool style, it will be much easier to determine the right curriculum for your family. So save yourself some money and headache by figuring out what will work for your family before you spend hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars on curriculum that doesn’t fit your family’s learning style.
Finally, if and when you are ready to purchase curriculum, check out a curriculum review site like Cathy Duffy Reviews to find curriculum products that match your homeschool style and will work for your family.