How To Start Homeschooling Your Child, A Step-By-Step Guide
As you assess your child's academic needs, you might have found that traditional public school just isn't what you want for them. After weighing all of your options, (including remote learning), you've turned to another educational option: homeschooling. But if you’ve never put on a teacher's hat before, you might not even know where to begin. How does one even start the homeschooling process? There are a few steps involved.
Depending on your personal situation, opting to homeschool may not have been an easy decision to come to terms with, but this is the reality for many families, especially after seeing how a pandemic can affect all aspects of childhood education. You've likely thought long and hard about the school district your child is already enrolled in (or about to begin) and willingly opting out of their program may be overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. "Homeschooling is surging, and while it can feel daunting to tackle it, the reality is that parents have been teaching their children from the moment of birth," Heather D. Nelson, author of 5 Easy Steps to Homeschooling, tells Romper in an email. "Adding in a selection of curricula is merely the next level of what parents are already doing, since homeschooling is a very natural extension of parenting."
So for parents who've decided to homeschool their children for the first time, here's what you need to know to get started.
1. Find Out Your State’s Requirements
Homeschooling is allowed in all 50 states, but in order to do so, you’re going to need to fill out some paperwork, which can vary depending on where you live. “The best thing a parent can do is hop online and search up their individual states guidelines,” says Nelson. While the vast majority of states don't have any parental requirements to teach, some states (such as Georgia, New Mexico, and Virginia) require parents to have at least a high school diploma if they intend to homeschool. Sites that offer state-by-state guidelines for parents who want to homeschool, such as Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), are a great place to start.
2. Notify Your District
Once you know the guidelines and requirements for your state, it’s time to make your homeschooling intentions official. To do so, you’ll need to submit, at a minimum, a formal Notice of Intent (or NOI) to your child's school district. “This notifies the school district of your intent to educate your child at home,” says Nelson. It might take a few days or even up to a week to hear back from the district's registrar to ensure that all the paperwork is correct. Some states may want to conduct an annual portfolio review of the completed work your child has done during their time homeschooling, while others just might want you to submit an NOI each year. So be sure to find out ahead of time so you can keep any files (such as tests or reports) that they might want to see.
3. Create A Curriculum
In some ways, your child will learn similar subjects at home as they would if they were in school. (So you’re still going to have to do decimals with your child.) That’s when having a good curriculum is crucial. “The most important tools to effectively homeschool is high-quality curriculum for reading, writing, and math. Those are the core subjects of any education and the foundation that all other subjects are built on,” Lauren Schmitz, a homeschooling mom and founder of The Simple Homeschooler tells Romper in an email. Beyond the basics, you can hone in on areas of interest for your child, whether that’s learning another language, history, art, music, or gym class.
But don't feel that you have to replicate the typical 9-3 school day at home. “The dedicated homeschool day should only take 2-4 hours — unless your kids are really interested in the topic and want to keep diving in,” Lindsey Wander, Founder and CEO, WorldWise Tutoring LLC, tells Romper in an email.
Kimball Lewis, founder of Empowering Parents tells Romper that parents should keep it simple at the start of homeschooling. "As you get into it, you’ll do more and more things,” she says.
And unstructured time can be good for your child. Not only does independent study time give your child a chance to explore new hobbies and interests, but it also gives you a much-needed break, too.
4. Set Up Your Space
Ideally, each child should have a desk that’s theirs to work and study from, but you don't have to go all out setting up an elaborate space for your young student. “A small rectangular folding table with adjustable height can also create a makeshift workspace,” says Wander. “If separate rooms are not an option, give everyone headphones with mics.” If space is at a premium, you can always use a dining room table or part of the kitchen counter — whatever works so that your child can study without interruption.
And just because your child isn't going to a traditional school doesn't mean that preparing for the new school year can't be fun. Put together a back-to-school kit with the school supplies they'll need for scholarly success — finding a system to keep yourself organized can be fun, too.
5. Stick To A Schedule
Above all, try to stick to a schedule. Sure, homeschooling means that you can, in theory, start your school day when you want, but it's best for kids to have a routine. It might mean having lessons from early in the morning until lunchtime — and then everyone having the rest of the day off.
You might even want to look into homeschool groups in your area, especially if you're looking for some at-home classroom camaraderie or additional socialization for your child (and you, too).
Starting homeschooling when you've never done it before can feel like you're diving into the great unknown. But that's what's also exciting about it, as you and your child create academic adventures together, and possibly bond even more as well.