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How to Start Homeschooling: The Complete Beginner’s Guide

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Want to know how to start homeschooling? Discover the 6 easy steps to begin homeschooling your kids!


So, you’ve made the decision to jump head-first into the world of homeschooling.

Congrats!

You’re about to embark on a very challenging, enriching, and rewarding journey – one that will transform your family life and open up learning opportunities in every moment of every day.

But…where to begin?

Just the mere thought of homeschooling can be so daunting. I was there myself not too long ago, so I completely understand.

In this post, I will break it all down for you into easy action steps to help you feel less overwhelmed and intimidated and more confident and prepared.

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Getting Started with Homeschooling

Making the decision to start homeschooling was a tough one for us, but even more difficult was trying to figure out the steps I needed to take to make it happen.

I had so many questions and had no idea where to start.

The internet is often a good place to find information, but it is also a place where you will get flooded with information overload and become quickly overwhelmed.

I researched for months about how to start homeschooling and fell down many rabbit holes before I was able to piece things together and make any sense of what I needed to do.

I don’t want that to happen to you.

My hope today is that you won’t have to spend months figuring it all out like I did. I’d like you to leave this post feeling more confident as I give you simple, actionable steps to start homeschooling your kids.

Let’s get started!

How to Start Homeschooling in 6 Easy Steps:

1. Pray Over Your Homeschool

The very first step you should take when beginning to homeschool is to pray.

I never could have started homeschooling without the gentle nudge I felt from the Lord, and without His help during the phase of trying to figure it all out.

And even three years later, I still consistently pray over our homeschool.

So, before you rush into all the nitty-gritty details of homeschooling, ask God to give you wisdom during this process.

Pray that He will guide you on this new endeavor and that He would go before you to lead you down this path.

2. Look Up the Homeschooling Laws for Your State (or Country)

If you are interested in homeschooling and you live outside of the US, you would need to first find out if homeschooling is legal in your country.

If you live in the US, you’ll be happy to know that it is legal to homeschool in all 50 states. However, you will need to know your specific state’s homeschooling regulations.

This may sound scary and intimidating to you (it sure did to me at first!) but don’t worry. Just visit the HSLDA website to find your state’s homeschool laws.

Feel free to print out a copy for yourself, but keep in mind that homeschooling laws can and do change at times, so it would be better to bookmark this link and refer back to it often.

Each state differs in what they require of homeschoolers. Some states have very strict homeschooling regulations, while other states are much more relaxed.

If you live in a highly regulated state, please do not let this discourage you! Our family lives in a state with very stringent homeschooling laws, and while I was a bit intimidated at first, it quickly and easily became second nature to me.

My advice is to just make yourself familiar with your state’s specific homeschool regulations and commit to being on top of the requirements the state expects of you. All this means is just a little bit of organization and discipline.

My best tip for staying organized with homeschooling legal requirements is to add all the important information, dates, and deadlines (such as quarterly report submissions, for example) for the entire school year into your planner or your phone’s calendar.

This will ensure that you never miss any important reporting deadlines (if that is something your state requires).

If you live in a state with very lax homeschooling laws, then I envy you. 😉 Consider yourself very blessed and enjoy the freedom!

3. Figure Out Your Family’s Homeschool Style

Now with the legal stuff out of the way, you can focus on discovering your family’s homeschool style or approach.

One of the many things I love about homeschooling is the fact that each family can choose what approach they want to take. There is no one right way to homeschool – the choice is up to you.

There are 5 main styles of homeschooling and most families will fall into one of these categories.

The 5 main homeschooling styles are:

TRADITIONAL

Emphasis: Knowing the facts
Approach: Textbooks and workbooks
Overview: This style is the closest to more formal public schooling.  It uses mainly textbooks and workbooks.  It encompasses a systematic approach with lots of structure.

CLASSICAL

Emphasis: Memorization (younger children); Learning to think and ask “why” (older children); persuasive language (oldest children)
Approach: Research, oral presentations, debates
Overview: This style is based on the Trivium, which is a 3-stage process of learning based on the child’s age. The first stage is the grammar stage (ages 6-10). Children move into the dialectic stage next (ages 10-13). The final stage is the rhetoric stage (ages 13-18).

CHARLOTTE MASON

Emphasis: Form relations; Relate and connect with characters and subjects
Approach: Literature and “living books” (a book that makes the subject come alive and allows the reader to relate to the character through emotion)
Overview: Named after a British educator whose main focus was on connecting with characters through literature and living books. Charlotte Mason’s approach encompasses narration that evokes emotion, short and succinct lessons, and nature studies.

UNIT STUDIES

Emphasis: Learning by doing
Approach: Hands-on projects
Overview: This approach arranges all subject areas around one common theme. The idea is to pick one theme that your child may be interested in learning about and build the rest of the subjects around that theme.

UNSCHOOLING

Emphasis: To learn through real-life experiences
Approach: The world around you (no set curriculum)
Overview: This approach is child-directed instead of teacher-directed and allows the child to choose the topic of learning. It’s a much more relaxed approach that uses the child’s environment as the method of learning and doesn’t usually utilize a set curriculum or agenda.

I highly recommend checking out the video below on the 5 different styles of homeschooling, which goes into much greater detail on each of these homeschooling approaches. I found it extremely helpful when trying to figure out our family’s homeschool style.

I will also point out that you should not panic if your family doesn’t fit exactly into one of these styles. Maybe two or even three different ones appeal to you – and that’s perfectly okay!

If you find that your family’s approach to homeschooling is a blend of two or more different styles, then your family would just be considered eclectic. Feel free to mix up the different homeschooling styles within different subjects, if you feel that would fit your family’s needs best.

Remember, there’s no way to do this wrong! Choose what’s right for your family.

4. Choose Your Homeschool Curriculum

Once you know your family’s homeschool style, then you can begin to select your curriculum.

There are many different homeschool curricula out there that makes choosing what’s right for your family a little overwhelming. And to make it more difficult, everyone seems to have their own opinion on what curriculum is best.

The “best” curriculum for one family might not be a good fit at all for another family.

To help you get started in your search, begin by looking at curriculum that is designed specifically for your family’s learning style.

Choose something that seems to line up with your homeschool style, even if you might feel a bit afraid that you may be choosing the wrong thing.

It’s okay to ditch something down the road if it isn’t working well and switch to something else.

There’s no rule that says that you must stick to the curriculum you’ve chosen. In fact, we switched a few times before we settled on the ones we liked and worked best for us.

It can sometimes be a little bit of trial and error. But making sure you choose curriculum that matches your family’s learning style is the first step to ensure you’re at least on the right path.

A great resource to help you choose your homeschool curriculum is Cathy Duffy Reviews. She has very thorough reviews of many different curricula that I have found quite helpful in our family’s search for the right fit.

Here are a few additional things to consider when choosing your homeschool curriculum:

Christian or Secular?

For our family, it’s very important that the curriculum we choose is Christian-based. We want to ensure that our children’s education is biblically sound and lines up with God’s word.

Free or Paid?

There are great free curriculum options out there, such as Easy Peasy All in One Homeschool (one that I highly recommend).

If you have it in the budget to spend a little money on your family’s curriculum, then even more options open up for you.

You can spend anywhere from very little to a small fortune on homeschool curriculum, so my advice is to come up with a budget that makes sense for your family, and shop curricula that you can easily afford within that budget.

Boxed Curriculum or Pieced Together?

When you are brand new to homeschooling (like we were just a few short years ago), it’s sometimes easier to go with a boxed set that comes with a teacher’s manual and has everything included. At least for the first year or two.

You might actually enjoy it enough to continue using boxed sets! Nothing wrong with that.

On the flip side, that may seem too rigid for other families, and they may like having the freedom of choosing each subject from different companies themselves. That’s okay, too.

We started with boxed sets (Heart of Dakota and My Father’s World are what we used) and we loved them!

Eventually, we moved away from boxed sets as I gained more confidence choosing subjects on my own, and we’ve found that to be a great fit for us.

If you’d like to take a peek at our family’s recent homeschool curriculum choices, you can view them here:

This will give you a glimpse of what sort of materials we use and love in our homeschool, but make sure you thoroughly check out each piece you may be interested in using to make sure it’s a good fit for your family.

5. Plan Your Schedule or Routine

You may choose to set a specific schedule that you stick to each day, or perhaps you will simply have a basic homeschooling routine to follow. Either way, decide what each homeschooling day will look like in your home.

Your options are endless. You can choose to homeschool 4 days a week, or 5 days a week. You can homeschool Monday through Friday, or pick whatever days work best for your family’s schedule.

Some families homeschool for a few hours in the morning and have the rest of the day free while others will take it slow and spread their homeschooling out over the whole day, taking larger breaks in between.

Many families adopt a “Sabbath schooling” schedule, where they homeschool for six weeks, take one week off, and do another six weeks…and so on.

It can mimic the public school’s schedule (generally, from September to June) or your school year can start and stop whichever months you choose. You can also opt to homeschool year-round if you so desire.

Above all, it needs to be whatever works for you and your family.

6. Begin!

Just dig right in and get started. Don’t wait until everything is perfect, don’t wait until you feel “ready,” because honestly, you will never actually feel ready.

Just begin, and see how the first day or week or month goes. Make adjustments as necessary, and most importantly, HAVE FUN! Learning should certainly be fun and enjoyable.

Tips for Success in Homeschooling

Lower Your Expectations

Don’t go into homeschooling thinking that every day will be perfect.

Homeschooling can be tough at times. You’ll want to pull your hair out some days.

Those may be signs telling you that you need a little break.

Get outside with some fresh air or just bake some cookies. Sometimes, taking a break or even calling it quits for the day is exactly what’s needed in order to start again fresh.

Besides, going outside lends itself to an opportunity to learn about the weather or nature while playing. Baking cookies together in the kitchen gives your children exposure to units of measurement.

One of the most beautiful things about homeschooling is that even when you are not actually “doing school,” so to speak, your kids are still learning a ton about the world around them.

Start Small

Do not jump right in on the first day of homeschooling with ALL the subjects planned for the whole day and a strict schedule set out before you.

You will burn out on day one, and squash any excitement your children might have had about this new adventure.

Start small, and take it slow.

Maybe pick a couple of core subjects to work on, such as spelling, math, and reading.

Ease into it, don’t push, and keep lessons very short. You can always add on more later, but this will give you a chance to get your feet wet without biting off more than you can chew.

Resist the Temptation to do “School at Home”

Your homeschool style and structure is going to be unique to your family, and may not look at all like another family’s routine.

That’s okay!

But keep in mind that when starting to homeschool, most people feel compelled to take what they know of the public school classroom from when they were kids, and apply it to their homeschool.

They make their kids sit still at a desk for great lengths of time, read textbooks, complete tons of worksheets, maybe even have them raise their hands!

And you know what? If this more rigid style works for you and for your kids, then that’s great!

But for a lot of families, one of the attractions they have to homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility to homeschool however and wherever they want.

For example, you can choose to homeschool at the kitchen table, on the couch, spread out on pillows on the floor, outside on the deck, at a park…the possibilities are truly endless!

Feel free to adopt a more relaxed approach, if that’s what your kids need.

Keep lessons short and take some breaks in between subjects. Let them fiddle with Legos while you’re reading them a story. I promise they’ll soak up just as much (or maybe even more!) information than if you made them sit perfectly still.

Give Yourself Grace

You don’t have to be perfect.

You don’t have to have the greatest patience in the world.

You don’t have to be good at math (I certainly am not!) or spelling or have a teaching degree in order to start homeschooling your kids.

You just have to have a desire to do it, a reason why it’s important to you, and a willingness to put forth some effort in order to reap huge rewards.

You know your children better than anyone else, so naturally, you are going to be the best teacher they could have.

Homeschooling is definitely a joy most days and there are days where things are flowing well, we’re all having fun, everyone’s getting along for the most part….and then there are the days where you may second guess your ability to do this or maybe even just feel like giving up.

On those days, just give yourself some grace and hand it all over to the Lord. Take the rest of the day off from homeschooling, and start again the next day.

I promise those feelings of defeat and overwhelm will pass and you can start fresh again the next day.

Find a Support Network

It’s really helpful to new homeschooling families to find a network of other homeschoolers.

This can be in person or online – or both!

There are tons of homeschool-related Facebook groups you can join, and most have a wealth of information in them. Try searching for specific homeschool groups, such as Christian homeschoolers, homeschoolers in your area, or homeschoolers who use the same curriculum that you’re planning to use.

These are just some simple ideas to get you started.

Local, in-person homeschooling groups would be another way for you to find support. Check here to find local homeschooling groups, or ask around in Facebook groups — you’re sure to find someone who can point you in the right direction.

The Most Important Thing to Remember About Homeschooling

Your homeschool should be what works for YOU and your family. If something is not working, then switch it up!

We tried several different curricula and materials before settling on those that worked best for us. It was a bit of trial and error, and we figured out what worked and what didn’t, and then adjusted and pivoted as needed.

The same thing with our homeschooling schedule. We tried a few different routines and schedules before settling on the method that works best for us. And if things change or our schedule starts not working for us, we’ll change it again or tweak it to fit our needs.

That’s the beauty of homeschooling — it’s so flexible and can be shaped and molded to each family’s unique needs.

You Can Absolutely Homeschool Your Kids – You’ve Got This!

I hope this post was helpful to you and gives you some more clarity and confidence to start homeschooling.

Just take a deep breath and follow each step, one by one.

It’s okay to feel a bit nervous, scared, or uncertain at first. Take it one day at a time and before long, you’ll see what works and what doesn’t and you will eventually fall into your own rhythm.

Over time, you will feel more confident as you go along, and your fears will subside. And that’s when this homeschooling thing gets really good! 😊

I’d Love to Hear from You!

If you are considering homeschooling your children and you found this post helpful, I would love you to let me know in the comments below!

Or do you still have a question about homeschooling that I didn’t cover in this post? Leave your question below and I’ll do my best to answer it for you.

Also, please consider sharing this post with friends and family who may be at the beginning of their homeschooling journey, too – I’m sure it would be a great help to them!

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Kristine
Kristine is a busy homeschooling mom to four awesome kids and the wife of a professional computer geek. Her passion is to help encourage other moms while teaching the importance of giving yourself a little bit of grace in this crazy yet blessed calling of motherhood.
Smart Living Mama_Kristine Bessell_profile picture_circle

Hi, I'm Kristine!

I'm a busy homeschooling mama, a blessed wife, and an imperfect child of God. I help overwhelmed moms learn how to simplify the day-to-day and give themselves some much-needed grace in the joys & struggles of motherhood.
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5 Comments

  • This is so incredibly detailed! If anyone is looking to homeschool this is the best article I’ve seen yet!

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  • Thanks for posting this awesome article. I’m a long time reader but I’ve never been compelled to leave a comment.
    I subscribed to your blog and shared this on my Facebook.
    Thanks again for a great post!

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    • That’s great, Lunette! I’m glad you enjoyed the post — thanks for sharing! And I’m so happy to have you as part of the Smart Living Mama community! 🙂

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