I Want to Homeschool But I Don't Even Know Where to Start!
I get questions all the time from people who are desperate to take their kids out of the school system and home school them, but they have no idea where to start. This guide will get you on your way and give you the courage to take that step!
I have homeschooled my kids for about fourteen years now. Prior to that, I taught public school for twelve years. I can tell you with 100% certainty that homeschooling is hard, but it is WORTH IT! I can also tell you that if you feel called to homeschool your kids, you will find a way and you will make it work!
In this article, I’m going to talk to you about the nuts and bolts: laws in your state, programs that I do not recommend and a little encouragement. I cannot cover everything about homeschooling in one article. Check other articles in my blog for ideas about curriculum, handling stress, etc.
Homeschooling might seem like Mt. Everest at the moment, but if you break it into small action steps and get into the right mental space, YOU CAN DO THIS! Teaching your own children is not rocket science. I have an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction, and I know that gives me a leg up, but I’ve also spent the last four years as a consultant working with homeschool families and guiding them on their journey. A determined homeschool parent is UNSTOPPABLE, and a determined homeschool couple with both parents committed to the journey is even more so!
Once you decide to do this, nothing will get in your way. I have helped homeschool moms overcome every obstacle in their path. I have worked with moms who have young children, who have jobs and work while homeschooling, who have unsupportive spouses (that is a tough one, but it can be done, too), and moms who homeschool with chronic illness. All of them amaze me everyday.
Homeschool Laws in Your State
Find out your state’s laws for homeschooling. All of them are different. Homeschool Legal Defense Association is a group of attorneys and others who have been fighting to defend homeschool freedom for decades. They have a list of homeschooling laws by state.
Find out if your state also has a homeschool organization. I live in California and we have California Homeschool Network. They are also a group that defends homeschool freedom and helps new homeschool families get started. Do some searching and see what groups are organized in your state.
IMPORTANT: I do NOT suggest you call your local school district. Public schools and homeschooling are like oil and water. If you homeschool, they don’t get money for your child sitting in that seat, and they REALLY want that money. I have counseled many parents who were flat out lied to by the school district, gaslighted, manipulated and even harassed by school secretaries and district employees. School personnel are not in the business of homeschooling. They usually have no clue what the laws are because it’s not their wheelhouse. It does not benefit them at all for you to pull your child out, so they are not your source for accurate information. Don't even tell them you are planning to homeschool. Get all your ducks in a row and then pull your children out. You don't owe them anything more than whatever paperwork is required to transfer.
If the school tries to stop you from pulling your child out, be FIRM. Know the laws in your state. Find out if there are any advocacy groups and also keep the info for HSLDA handy.
In California, we have a few options for homeschooling. I’m sharing the California example with you to give you a taste of what options can exist for homeschooling. Then you can find out what is available in your state.
Homeschool on your own and file a PSA (private school affidavit.) You file your own paperwork with the government and you are considered a small private school.
Join a PSP (private school program) where they file your paperwork for you. Some PSP’s will run as a co-op and offer classes, field trips and park days to students. Others just file your paperwork. If the PSP is charging you just to file paperwork, save your money. The PSA is easy to file and if a PSP isn’t offering you anything, it’s a waste of your money.
I was with a Christian PSP for many years. It was a wonderful community where the moms met once a month for planning and prayer groups. We had weekly park days for the kids to play. Moms took turns hosting field trips and offering classes to the children. We also did holiday parties, graduations and whatnot. It was an incredible experience. You also might find co-op groups that are not filing your paperwork, but they still offer a community to get involved with. You would file a PSA, and then join the co-op for their activities.
California Public Homeschool Charter School
You can also join a public charter school in California where the students are homeschooled and you meet with a teacher once a month. The charter school pays for things like curriculum and extra curricular classes, which makes it worth jumping the hoops and meeting with the teacher, turning in work samples, etc. Since they are a public school, you also can get special-ed services for your child if they need an IEP. We needed and IEP for one of my children, which is why I joined the homeschool charter school.
NOTE: Most charter schools allow you to choose your own curriculum. If the school does not allow you choose what curriculum you are using, it is NOT homeschooling and I would say don’t do it. The beauty of homeschooling is CHOICE and FREEDOM.
Programs I do NOT Recommend
Homeschooling your children is about freedom, getting away from the grind of the public school system, NOT doing what the failing schools are doing, teaching the whole child, teaching to your child’s strengths, following their passions, quality time with your family, getting outside, taking field trips, hands on learning and learning at an appropriate pace.
You probably know that old saying, “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.”
There are programs out there that say they are homeschooling, pretend to be homeschooling, but are set up just like the public school model that homeschoolers are getting away from.
One of the worst examples of this are the all inclusive online programs where all of the classes are assigned to your child and you have no control over the learning. The other ones are independent study programs provided by the school district or your local school.
These programs are the worst of public school without the benefit of having a teacher to instruct you all day long and having kids to play with. The all inclusive online programs have your child sitting at a computer for hours and hours doing wrote drill and kill, shoveling information into their brains all day long. Studies have proven how bad too much screen time is for kids. I do recommend some online learning, but in small doses. There are sites that offer online classes at your own pace and you can purchase just one or two classes.
I NEVER ever recommend any child sits on a screen all day long doing class after class like a robot. That is worse than public school. At least in public school they get to have friends and a human being in front of them.
Years ago, when the all day online schools first came onto the scene, I had friends that wanted to try them. I told them I had concerns and cautioned them against it. I had heard nothing but unhappy stories from other parents. Several of my friends did not heed my warning and did it anyway. All of them pulled their kids out mid year and I sat with each and every one of them as they cried about the experience.
The saddest story I encountered was a mom who sobbed to me about how her five year old daughter was so miserable sitting on the computer for the online school all day, that she screamed, "I hate you," at her mother everyday. The husband was convinced that the online school was the only way and would not budge. Of course, he wasn't there all day to see the child suffering and the mom crying.
Independent study at your school district can also be the worst of public school without the benefits. You are given a ton of homework to do and most likely meet with a teacher once a week. There is no flexibility. You cannot change the curriculum or assignments to suit your family’s needs and the teacher is more of the task master than an educator. Your child does not get the benefit of instruction from the teacher and friends at school, but they get all of the homework plus more.
If you’re going to do either of these programs, I personally think your children are better off in school where they can work with a real human being, have human interaction with friends and get outside a few times each day. Of course, there will be those who have a positive experience with the full time online schools and independent study programs from their school district, but these programs are not homeschooling, and doing real homeschooling will be so much more!
Find Your Why
You want to homeschool for a reason! Before you embark on this journey, do a long journaling session about your WHY. Write down all of the reasons you want to homeschool. Write out the negative ones about your frustration with the schools. Write out the positive ones about what you want to do with your own child. Write out your fears. Then give yourself a pep talk.
You have reasons for wanting to take your children out of the public school, and usually those reasons have to do with toxic environments and madness that you don't want your child to be subjected to. Once you dig deeper, you'll also find the positive reasons. You'll find all of the glorious gifts that homeschooling offers, and you'll be very clear on your mission. This IS a mission. You know the stakes and you know your why. Now to get it really clear and focused.
If you’re scared, that is normal. I was even scared to homeschool, and I had already taught public school for twelve years! Write out your fears. Then pretend to be someone comforting and write a journal entry to yourself. Pretend to be me if you want. What would Heather Anne say? I would say, “You can do this! You got this! You have what it takes!”
When the naysayers happen (and they will happen), you won't care because you know your why. I had plenty of pushback about homeschooling. I even have a crazy cat lady neighbor whom I barely know, who bothered me about it. She got so mad when she found out I was homeschooling my kids, she started yelling things at me when she saw me. Thankfully, I rarely see her, but this goes to show you that even people you don't know and crazy neighbors might give you pushback. Know your why and be strong in that. These are YOUR children and you want what is best for them. Stick to your why.
There is NO right curriculum. There is NO right philosophy for educating human beings. Volumes have been written about educational philosophies and people have been arguing about this for all of human history.
So guess what! You cannot screw this up! As long as you are moving towards learning, your child will thrive! I’m not kidding. I know it sounds crazy! You mean to tell me that if I don’t follow the state standards, my child will learn? YES! Actually, they'll do better!
In the twelve years I taught public school, I saw four major shifts in educational philosophy. With each shift, we had to attend teacher training, buy new materials and change how we taught the students. Each shift was supposed to be new, better, brighter, smarter. None of them promised what they offered because children are human beings! They all learn differently. What works for one is a disaster for another.
I have other articles about curriculum (links at the bottom.) It’s way too big of a topic to cover fully here. Let me just say a few things to help you take that step on the homeschooling yellow brick road.
I don’t recommend expensive all in one curriculum bundles that cover all of the subjects. You waste a ton of money, and you throw most of it out.
You can teach with NO curriculum and do hands-on, read literature and research things your child loves.
Amazon has an incredible amount of curriculum that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
Literature based learning is the best form of education.
Hands on learning is crucial to make learning enjoyable.
If you choose to use curriculum, please do not torture yourself and your kids by trying to cover every lesson in the book. Curriculum is designed to give you more than you could cover in a school year, even most small workbooks. Public school teachers do not cover every single lesson in every book. It is not possible.
Evan Moor is my favorite publisher for workbooks. They sell them on Amazon. They cover just about every subject. They have great history and language arts resources. They are inexpensive and not bulky.
Hands-on science kits are the best way to teach K to 8 science. You can buy them on Amazon, Rainbow Resource, and many other websites. Magic School Bus kits are wonderful and you can get a subscription from the Young Scientists Club.
Lapbooking is an excellent way to mix reading, writing and hands-on, project style learning. You can find free lapbooks online and many people sell them for just a few dollars. Lapbooks are file folders, folded in a certain way, and then you make mini books, piwheels, accordion books, etc. about a subject. I have seen lapbooks for every subject you can imagine. Look into them. My kids loved them growing up.
De-school Before You School
If your children have been in public school and you are pulling them out, take some time to de-school them.
I know this is going to makes some of you cringe, but trust me when I say this, as a curriculum specialist with a graduate degree in the subject… ready for this? You can start school without having the perfect curriculum picked out because there is NO perfect curriculum!
You can throw out all of the public schooly pressures and school without curriculum or just use it sparingly. Find a math workbook, and then everything else, make it fun. Read lots of literature together. Do fun projects with your literature. Take lots of field trips. Ask your children what they want to learn about. Do lapbooks (see above.) Read historical fiction. Do virtual tours of museums. Make learning fun!
Do nature study for science. Here is my article on how to do it.
Find your rhythm. Build back your relationship with your children. Bond. Find yourself in all of this. I know the world tells you that you are on a speeding train to Success Land and the only way your kids can get there is to shovel information at your kids as fast as possible until they throw up. That is a LIE. Homeschoolers prove that this is a lie all the time.
If you feel called to homeschool, then God is telling you something. God will provide the resources you need. You have this inside of you. Get in touch with your fire! Wake up your passion! Nobody knows your children or loves your children more than you do mamas and papas.
How Will We Socialize?
Homeschoolers laugh at the myth of the unsocialized homeschooler. We have vast networks and communities, which grow everyday. We do lots of classes and activities. We join co-op groups and park days. We join nature study groups and play groups. Use social media to search for groups in your area. I promise you they exist. If in the rare circumstance, you don't find anything near you, start one! Get involved with a local church and advertise a once a week park day. Your community will grow.
Read my article on this subject. https://www.heatheranneworld.com/post/busting-the-myth-of-the-unsocialized-homeschooler-part-one
If you want to homeschool, you CAN do it. It won't be easy, but what is? Everything worth doing is hard. It is worth it! Be brave and do it. You got this!
This article is ©2021 Heather Anne at Heather And and Soul. All rights reserved. Do not copy and paste my article onto your site. I do not give permission for reblogging my content ever. See my copyright notice here.
Read my article on literature based learning.
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