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I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

5 Steps to Start Homeschooling

5 Steps to Start Homeschooling #homeschooling #homeeducation #homeschool

This week marks the start of my 13th year of homeschooling and my husband's 20th.

Why the discrepancy in numbers? you ask. Because he's a second-generation homeschooler. He was homeschooled back in the early 90s when it was super weird and slightly illegal in many states. And now he's crossed the great divide between homeschooled and homeschooling.

The student has become the teacher. (Or at least the teacher's helper.)

The homeschooling landscape has changed quite a bit in the last 25ish years since he first started. Golly, a lot has changed in the past 13 when I grabbed the baton from his mom to carry on the legacy. It's not the same race that it was. And if we're being truly honest, he and I are not the same runners. We're in the final stretch with our first child and just barely out of the gate with our last. We're in the messy middle, you might say.

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5 Steps to Start Homeschooling #homeschooling #homeeducation #homeschool

But, this is not a message about us. It's a message for you.

If this is your very first year, get ready for something you won't ever regret! You're coming in at such a great time. So many have gone before you to pave the way, making it possible for you and your kids to flourish--to wonder, to nurture curiosity, to develop passions, and do the deep work of learning.

As you get started, here's a quick-start list to help you on your way. Consider this a homeschooling launch list--something I wish I had been handed when I first began!

Know the law

Homeschooling has come a long way since John Holt published his groundbreaking newsletter, Growing Without Schooling in 1977 and singlehandedly ushered in a new (but very old) way to educate. That being said, laws vary from state to state. Be sure to know the legalities of your area so that you can be in compliance.

Pro tip: Don't assume that the local school district will shoot you straight. They receive funding based on the number of kids enrolled each year. Sadly, many districts prey on naivety, hoping to scare parents from homeschooling or at least to make them limp while doing it. Case in point, my district sends out a large manilla envelope to all homeschooling hopefuls each September. Their introductory letter makes it sound like the completion and filing of all the enclosed forms is mandatory for homeschool enrollment. However, state law only requires that a parent fill out one simple worksheet containing five questions. A packet is not necessary or required, despite what the school board would have newbies believe.

If in doubt, head to Homeschool Legal Defense Association to learn the homeschooling rights and responsibilities within your state. 

5 Steps to Start Homeschooling #homeschooling #homeeducation #homeschool

Link Arms with Locals

Homeschooling can be a lonely road if you are going it alone. Luckily, you don't have to. Nearly every area of the country has a local or state homeschooling association. A quick google search will lead you to these watchdog groups which often host annual conferences and workshops where you can hear encouraging speakers and have access to dozens and dozens of the best curriculum vendors in the country.

In addition, most of these state organizations can point you to local support groups, learning co-ops, and online communities that will gladly link arms with you, providing a like-minded tribe not just for you, but also for your kids. 

Need help finding an association? Head to Homeschool World to find a list of groups in your state.

5 Steps to Start Homeschooling #homeschooling #homeeducation #homeschool

Determine Your Method

Spoiler alert: Montessori is not a type of dinosaur. It is a learning method--just one of around a dozen different types of philosophies that drive the way a teacher teaches and a student learns. While there is some overlap in ideologies and practices, most learning methods are quite different from each other and have very distinct core principles.

The most popular styles of education include the following:
  • Traditional Text-book
  • Charlotte-Mason
  • Montessori
  • Waldorf
  • Classical
  • Thomas Jefferson/Leadership Learning
  • Unit Study
  • Project-based Learning
  • Unschooling
Don't try to eenie-meenie-miney-mo your way to the right method for you and your kids. Read up on the pros and cons of each, keeping your children, your giftings, your budget, and your personal limitations in mind. Or, if you're like me, keep-the-best-and-leave-the-rest by designing an a la carte, eclectic homeschool that is tailor-made for your kids.

5 Steps to Start Homeschooling #homeschooling #homeeducation #homeschool

Purchase Curriculum

With your chosen method in mind, begin to shop for curriculum. Don't go overboard. Remember that your child's natural curiosity and a library card will serve your homeschool in far greater ways than any overpriced boxed set of this or that ever will. When in doubt, stick to the main companies that appeal to each major method. These are tried and true curriculums that have been around for dozens of years and have a proven track record of success.

Be careful not to just copy/paste whatever your homeschooling friend happens to choose. Ask her questions? Yes. Get her opinion? Definitely. But then, forge your own way. Homeschool with your kids in mind, not hers.

If you need a more in-depth review of any particular curriculum, be sure to consult one or both of the following:

5 Steps to Start Homeschooling #homeschooling #homeeducation #homeschool

Begin to Plan

Education is a discipline. For your kids, but also for you. Just as a runner needs a clear and known track in order to know how best to get to the finish line, you need an organized and efficient plan for your homeschool day.

A plan brings freedom and lets you put your entire homeschool day on autopilot so that even when interruptions come, you can still have forward motion. It lets you slow down and enjoy the journey without having to play victim to the willy-nilly.

Before you launch, determine how you'd like to set up your school year calendar and your day-to-day schedule. My Quick-start Guide to Brave Homeschool Schedules will introduce you to the most popular school year/day scheduling methods and help you to craft your very best year yet!

Once you've built some scaffolding for your days, you can then focus on laying a framework for each of your daily lessons.  I highly recommend keeping all your plans in a planner designed specifically for homeschoolers. No run-of-the-mill classroom-style planner will do. They all fall short: the calendar grids don't align with a homeschool lifestyle, the lesson plan space only accommodates for one grade level, the emphasis is on grades and rubrics.

Make a plan and follow through with it.

5 Steps to Start Homeschooling #homeschooling #homeeducation #homeschool

Establish School Day Habits and Routines

Nothing will derail an otherwise successful homeschool day quite like the chaos that comes with home life. You can't always control the unexpected, but you can control what's within your power to control. There's no reason to constantly find yourself in a time famine. By establishing good daily habits and routines, you can put the majority of the homeschool day on autopilot and save both time and sanity. You won't even have to think about these habitual times of the day. They'll run with or without you.

To establish good routines, mentally walk through how you'd like the entire day to go. Be sure to consider the parts before and after the school day too, as those bookend times often impact all the middle moments.

  • What personal hygiene and self-care routines need to be completed by your kids before the school day starts? 
  • How will you call school "to order" each morning?
  • Where will the actual learning take place?
  • What will one child be doing while you are helping/teaching another?
  • What about the babies and toddlers? How will they stay occupied during the busy school day?
  • Where will supplies be stored? 
  • What should your kids do when you are busy with homekeeping demands--nursing the baby, answering the telephone, starting a load of laundry?
  • Where do you want your kids to put their completed work for your once-over?
  • How will you wrap up the day? 
  • How should the kids prepare for the next school day? 
Good habits provide safety nets and make each part of the homeschool day more efficient and timely, allowing you to welcome the occasional mess and interruption with calm resolve. 

Here are a few resources to help you establish school day routines.

It's been 13 years since I launched my own homeschool. There's no do-over for me. But if I could rewind and try it all again, I'd start with these 5 easy steps. They'll definitely ensure longevity even after the honeymoon feeling of a new homeschool year wears off.


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