Getting started with homeschooling can be a daunting and overwhelming challenge. So challenging that many do not even start!
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!
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:
Step by Step Guide to Start Homeschooling
1. Write Down Why You are Homeschooling
As you sit here, fired up and ready to get your homeschool going, the reasons you want to homeschool will never be clearer. Write it down! 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 good-bye 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??
Believe me, even the most seasoned homeschooler 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.
2. Find out Your State’s Homeschool Laws
Homeschooling 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.
The easiest way to find out about your state is to go HSLDA.org 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.
3. Contact your Local County Board of Education for Guidance
Depending on your state’s laws, you will likely have to connect with the local Board of Education in order to formally withdraw your student and/or register your children as homeschoolers.
The Board should be able to let you know of any and all forms that need to be filed 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 that 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
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 their 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 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 door step some day.
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 $10 a month – thats a deal! I am not an affiliate for them – this is just common sense. Go here – to learn more about HSLDA and sign up.
5. Record Keeping
Remember back to what your state requirements were for record keeping and evaluations and start thinking of how you are going to best track all of this.
My state does not require record keeping or a portfolio to be submitted. We just have an end of year evaluation. I am definitely not an expert in record keeping, but thankfully there are an enormous number of resources on Pinterest and Google to help you out here. There are downloads, phone apps, and printables galore!
If I did need to keep records, I would probably use the online record keeping companies that HSLDA provides discounts for – My School Year, Homeschool Tracker, and Homeschool Reporting Online. The prices come out to between 3$ and 8$ per month before the HSLDA discount. A great deal! Also much better to have it all organized online instead of in a binder you could lose. Or your kid could spill orange juice on.
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 how old your kids are, how many kids you have, what your budget is, your kid’s learning style, and your teaching style. Are you into student led learning, Waldorf, Montessori, Classical, computer based, or Charlotte Mason? There is a lot out there!
I recommend you take your time. Read about the options, swim through the reviews, and try to match yourself to what fits best to your family and your budget.
I do highly recommend looking into “all in one” homeschool curriculums that have a lesson plan ready to go and every day mapped out for you. I personally love My Father’s World and write about it here. There are many other “all in ones” out there including The Good and the Beautiful, Sonlight, Heart of Dakota, and Easy Peasy. Again, take time to research and pick what you think will fit your family, student learning style, your teacher style, and finances best. Remember most expensive DOES NOT mean it is best.
7. Go through the Curriculum
Your curriculum has arrived! Set some time aside and 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 normal to feel overwhelmed at first, but once you start reading through it, it will be less intimidating.
8. Set up Your Homeschool Space
I know there are some out there who believe that a designated homeschool space is not necessary. I explain why I disagree in 6 Reasons you Actually do Need a Homeschool Classroom. I also explain what you need (and what you don’t need!) in How to Set Up a Simple Inexpensive Homeschool Classroom. This is mercifully short with pictures too!
9. Make a List and Shop for School Supplies
There is usually a list in the teachers manual of your curriculum. Usually 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!
10. Set a Budget and Buy School Clothes
New pajamas from Old Navy for everybody! – Ha just kidding! Another area 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 and try to mark off breaks for holidays, family visits, etc. Do you want to do an all year round school schedule with more frequent breaks or take traditional summer breaks?
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 move those dates around as needed.
All I did was print out a one year calendar for free from google. Then I just highlighted the weeks and days I wanted to take off. This if very fluid and flexible as life just happens and things have to adjust. I really like being able to pull it out though and see what is coming up.
12. Decide on a Homeschool Co-Op
I strongly recommend looking into co-ops in your area. There are always pros and cons to getting involved in 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 a helps in some way!
My daughters have been able to take STEM, astronomy, cooking, art, P.E. and other cool classes at our co-op. 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!
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? I would recommend searching for any homeschool Facebook groups in your area to connect with and ask. Also just google “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 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 everyday? 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. Check it out!
14. 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. Eventually though, you are likely to hit a day (or many days) where your kids do not want anything to do with school. They may throw tantrums, refuse to do work, and refuse to listen.
What will drive him/her to work on the tough days? Take some time to think about 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! Check out The Simple Plan to Motivate Your Homeschooler to Get that Work Done
You will not regret having a plan in place!
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 homeschool journey!
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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