Getting started with your homeschool journey can be a daunting and overwhelming challenge.
So challenging that many do not even start!
Your mind is likely swirling with things you glimpsed on social media, questions about lesson plans, online resources, homeschool curriculum, state regulations, and whether the whole thing is even a good idea.
Can homeschoolers even get a high school diploma or earn a college degree someday?
Take a deep breath, future Homeschool Mama.
If you’re reading this then you have decided to homeschool – good for you brave mama!
Or you may be sneaking a peek at what you need to do to start homeschooling so that you can make a decision.
If you are in that second camp, consider also reading A Letter to the Mom who is Undecided on Homeschooling. Lots of good info there too to help you out!
When I first decided that I was going to homeschool, I felt like I was stumbling around in the dark trying to figure out what I needed to do. Lucky for you, I am going to flip on a light switch and walk you through all the steps to getting your homeschool up and running!
The below post will take you through the first steps to the final step of running your homeschool and taking charge of your children’s education!
Do not do all of these steps in a day, a week, or even a month.
Take your time.
Just start checking these off one by one and you will be on your way!
****Don’t miss the free printable checklist at the bottom of the post!
Step-by-Step Guide To Start Homeschooling
1. Write Down Why You are Homeschooling
Maybe you’re sick of the private school life, full of uniforms, mountains of homework, and stress.
Or maybe you’re middle school child is being mercilessly bullied.
Maybe your child’s first teacher failed to meet the mark. Or you disagree with your local school district policies.
Whatever the reason that has you fired up to join the homeschool community, write those things down!
They will never be clearer to you than they are right now. Believe it or not, there will come a day when things are rough and you can’t remember why you stepped on this train to crazy town.
You will look out the window and see all those mamas waving goodbye to the school bus as they go off to have coffee with friends, head to the gym, or go to some amazing job.
You may turn from the window and look at all the challenges ahead of you that day and wonder – why am I doing this?? Is homeschooling the right choice?
Believe me, even the most seasoned homeschooling parent I know admits to having periods of doubt and wanting to quit. Knowing why you are doing this is so important to encourage you during those times.
Write this mission statement down and keep it close as a reminder of your goals and vision for your kids.
****Spoiler Alert: The benefits to homeschool families are so much better than spin class, coffee shop, or day at the office!!!
2. Research Your State’s Homeschool Laws
Homeschooling in the United States does not fall under any federal laws, so every state has its own standard. Some states are very relaxed and there are some that have many different stipulations to follow.
For example, the first state I started homeschooling in only required a “letter of intent” to the school board with a list of the subjects I planned to teach that year. At the end of the year, I had to “show progress” by submitting standardized test scores or a letter from a homeschool evaluator.
Well, we moved to a new state last year and I am now required to keep attendance records throughout the homeschool year, certain subject areas are required (state history, civics, fire safety, etc.), and I have to keep a list of all the books my children have read or that I have used to teach them.
Depending on grade level, testing is also required. And at the end of the year, I have to submit a homeschool portfolio to an evaluator for each of my kids as an annual assessment.
But it could always be worse. I could live in a state like New York where quarterly reports are required.
The best way to find out about your state is to go to the HSLDA website and look up your state’s laws. You should be able to quickly find out what your state requirements are in terms of being eligible to teach, at what age your child must be registered, record keeping, student evaluations, etc.
****I just want to add that I know my current state’s laws sound like a lot to juggle, but the laws were fairly simple to comply with. If you feel overwhelmed with your state, plug into local homeschool groups (or even a Facebook group!) to get more info and guidance from veteran homeschoolers in your area. It is likely much easier to keep up with than you think.
3. Contact your Local County Board of Education For Guidance
Depending on your state’s laws, new homeschoolers will likely have to connect with the local Board of Education in order to formally withdraw students and/or register children as homeschoolers.
The board should be able to let you know of any and all forms that need to be filled out to make your homeschool legal. There will likely be a deadline to have this completed before the beginning of the school year, so watch out for that.
You may have to only tell your county once that you are homeschooling, or there may be a yearly requirement.
For those who are still terrified of homeschooling – this is not permanent. You can reenroll your child in public school if you change your mind about homeschooling.
4. Become A Member Of HSLDA *Optional, But Recommended*
This is very important. It is only $10 a month and a very wise investment in your homeschool. HSLDA offers amazing resources and information on its website, but that is not why I am a member.
HSLDA stands for Home School Legal Defense Association. When you are a member, they will be your advocate and fight for you in court if your homeschool is ever threatened with legal action. This is from their website:
“After a family joins HSLDA, there are no further charges of any kind for defending them in court. HSLDA pays in full all attorney fees, expert witness costs, travel expenses, and all other court costs permissible by state law for us to pay.”
Unfortunately, you do not know if your nosy neighbor is going to report you for having your kids playing outside during school hours. The grocery store cashier might wonder why your very healthy kids are in the store with you when they should be in school.
I don’t think it is likely, but it is possible that Child Services could show up on your doorstep someday.
I was walking outside with my kids on a beautiful day and a police car drove by noticeably very slow. I was nervous that he would pull over and ask me what I was doing, but I felt a lot better knowing that I had my HSLDA card in my wallet. I could have a lawyer on the phone giving me counsel in minutes if I needed one.
For $10 a month – that’s a deal! I am not an affiliate for them – this is just common sense. Go here – to learn more about HSLDA and sign up.
5. Record Keeping
Remember back to what your state regulations were for record keeping and evaluations and start thinking of how you are going to best track all of this.
You might also consider reaching out to homeschool evaluators in your area or looking into testing options – depending on what your state asks for.
Either way, it’s much better to start putting these things in place at the beginning of the year than scrambling at the end of the year.
6. Choose A Curriculum
Alright! You are legal, registered, and ready to go with record keeping – time to figure out what you are going to teach!
A word of caution. Do not let this part paralyze you. Choosing the curriculum can be more terrifying than choosing to homeschool!
I cannot tell you what to choose because that will enormously depend on your child’s age, how many kids you have, what your budget is, your child’s learning style, and your teaching style.
Are you into student-led learning, Waldorf, Montessori, Classical, computer-based, or the Charlotte Mason method? There are a lot of home education options out there!
I recommend you take your time. Read about the options, talk to homeschool moms, swim through the reviews, and try to match your homeschool style to what fits best with your family’s needs and budget.
I do highly recommend looking into “all in one” homeschool programs that have a lesson plan ready to go and every day mapped out for you.
I personally loved My Father’s World when we were first starting out.
There are many other “all-in-ones” out there including The Good and the Beautiful, Sonlight, Heart of Dakota, Easy Peasy, and many more.
And the most important thing to remember is that most expensive DOES NOT mean best. Tough lesson to remember, but very true in my experience.
****If you can attend a homeschool convention in your area, you will be able to flip through all kinds of homeschool resources and get answers to a lot of questions from the vendors. I have never attended one in my 7 years of homeschooling, but it is on my bucket list!
7. Go Through The Curriculum
Your curriculum has arrived!
Set some time aside, open the box (not with your kids), and go through everything.
I usually lock my door and spread it all out on my bed so I can see everything all at once.
This is a great way to get a feel for the curriculum and see what is ahead in the coming year.
It is very normal to feel overwhelmed at first, but once you start reading through it, it will be less intimidating.
Now when a curriculum box comes, it feels like Christmas morning to me! I love opening all the books and diving into all the things we’ll be learning together.
8. Set Up Your Homeschool Space
There are many different methods out there when it comes to carving out a homeschool space.
Some prefer to sit on the living room sofa, lay on the floor, or pull a chair up to the kitchen table.
Others will go outside, retreat to their bedrooms, or designate an entire room as a traditional school space.
The first thing you need to do is look at your home and see where you would be most comfortable doing school with your kids, and start planning out from there.
All of my best tips for setting up the space are here – How To Set Up A Homeschool Room On A Budget.
9. Make A List And Shop For School Supplies
There is usually a list in the teacher’s manual of your curriculum. It will likely include notebooks, folders, construction paper, binders, pens, pencils, markers, scissors, glue sticks, etc.
You may very well have a lot of this on hand already. I found that our homeschool supplies list was remarkably shorter than the kindergarten public school list had been.
One of the areas you might save money by homeschooling!
Here are some related blog posts with additional information you might find useful:
10. Set a Budget and Buy School Clothes, Shoes, Backpacks, and Lunchboxes
New pajamas from Old Navy for everybody! Ha! Just kidding!
Another area where you will save money by homeschooling!
11. Make A School Calendar
You are almost ready! Now you need to sit down and look at a calendar and decide when you want to start school. Mark off breaks for holidays, family visits, etc.
Do you want to do an all-year-round homeschool schedule with more frequent breaks or take traditional summer breaks?
**** A full school year is considered to be 35-36 weeks long.
You may be shocked by the idea of year-round school, but it can actually be a much more relaxing choice for teacher and student. No rushing to cram the whole year’s curriculum into so many months and no need to spend a month reviewing at the beginning of the year.
Do some research and take time to see what would fit your family life best.
Don’t worry too much though – you’re homeschooling – so you can be flexible and go at your own pace.
One of the many benefits of homeschooling is that you have a lot of freedom to move and change things as you see what is a good fit – and what doesn’t serve your family.
If you are interested in seeing how I map out a year, check out my Free Printable Homeschool Planner.
12. Decide On A Homeschool Co-Op
I strongly recommend looking into co-ops or homeschool support groups in your area. There are always pros and cons to getting invovled with any group.
When it comes to homeschooling though, it is priceless to have a community around you for help and support.
What is a co-op? A group of homeschoolers who meet regularly to provide enrichment classes or core classes. Everybody pitches in and helps in some way.
My daughters have had a great time in classes like STEM, astronomy, cooking, art, P.E., and more! It is a highlight of their week to go be with other students and learn together. I also love meeting other homeschool moms and having a break!
I especially love the planned field trips we do every year together.
Keep in mind though, that most co-ops only work because everybody pitches in. You will likely be expected to volunteer in some way whether it be childcare for the nursery, teaching a class, or assistant teaching.
How do you find out about what is available in your area? A great way to get connected is to search for homeschool Facebook groups in your area
Also, try googling “Homeschool co-ops near me” and you will likely get a number of options. If that fails, HSLDA also has a national database on their website divided by state and county.
13. Consider How You Will Structure Your School Day and Week
Now that you have your curriculum, a school calendar, and you have decided about a co-op…it is time to sit down with the curriculum and map out what your days and weeks are going to look like.
What subjects will be taught every day? What subjects do not need to be taught every day? What time of day do you plan to start school? Could you try to plan the days that are “lighter” to be the days you also go to co-op, library day, or an errand day?
Again, you are homeschooling – which means you are in charge – and you can change all of this the first week if it isn’t working for you. I am just a big fan of having a plan and a structure and THEN adjusting it if need be.
I write here in Flexible Structure For Your Homeschool about how to set up a simple structure that works for you and your kids.
I still use the same method with all three of my kids. Check it out!
14. Final Step: Incentive Plan
Your kids may be really excited at first. School will be super fun and they will look forward to the day’s lessons with mom.
No matter what homeschool style you use though, you are likely to hit a day (or many days) when your kids do not want anything to do with school. They may throw tantrums, refuse to do work, and refuse to listen.
What are the best things that will drive him/her to work on the tough days? Take some time to think about what will motivate your kids BEFORE school starts. Do not wait until you are squared off in a battle of wills over handwriting.
I strongly recommend not going to a negative consequence first – that makes school the equivalent to eating vegetables. You want to cultivate a love of learning for a lifetime! That is much less likely to happen if they are only working because they want to avoid punishment.
If you have no idea what I am talking about or where to start – I have yet another link!
You will not regret having a plan in place!
Update: Also, check out these great resources: Exactly How To Handle a Homeschooler Who Refuses To Do School Work and Bribing vs. Rewarding in Home schooling
Recap How to Start Homeschooling + Free Printable Checklist!
You’re done! The first day of school is here!
Okay, so actually the work has just begun. But you are as ready as you can be to have an awesome first year homeschooling your kids!
You are on track to do something amazing for your kids that many others either can’t do or will not do.
Are you fired up and ready to get going?! Download my “Ultimate Step by Step Checklist for Getting Started with Homeschooling” – today!
It outlines all the steps I just talked about, so you can keep organized as you check them off and start your journey as a new homeschool parent!
This is the light switch I’m turning on for you, so you can see every step as you check it off. No stumbling around in the dark like I did!
This awesome tool is FREE when you subscribe to The Simple Homeschooler (no spam ever!). I send out Monday morning emails full of homeschool encouragement, tips, blog post updates, homeschool freebies, and laughs to start your week off with awesome!
Just Fill Out the Form Below and Your Free Checklist Will Be in Your Inbox Today!
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