The First Steps To Start Homeschooling
Why do you think you want to start homeschooling?
Beginning the homeschool journey is no easy decision.
I am going to show you the proper way to think about the journey so that when you start homeschooling, you will be successful.
The problem for most parents is the overwhelming nature of the topic.
There are so many things that you must consider.
When you first start homeschooling, it is a daunting task. Just thinking about explaining your decision to your family can be a scary prospect. This article will help you walk through the initial steps for beginning the homeschool journey at your own pace.
1. Why are you homeschooling?
There is a great business/leadership book titled Start with Why by Simon Sinek. Consider why certain people or organizations seem to accomplish the extraordinary against all odds.
Why is it that some people accomplish so much with the same 24 hours you and I have?
Why was Martin Luther King Jr was able to inspire a nation? He was not the only persecuted African American in the United States in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Why were the Wright brothers the first ones to take flight? They were not the best funded or even the smartest one’s trying to accomplish the feat!! Yet they were first.
There is something that these people had in common. Simon Sinek called this pattern or commonality the “Golden Circle.”
The idea is to first identify why you want to homeschool. When you clearly understand why you are want to homeschool, then that motivation propels you through the how (general) and towards the what (specifics).
You have to have an inspiring “why”?
If you do not know why you want to start homeschooling, you will not be able to convince your extended family, let alone your children, that homeschool is the right thing.
Use your “why” to create focus
A solid why will keep you centered on accomplishing your goals once you start homeschooling.
You are going to run into hiccup after hiccup.
Did you hear me? You will run into hiccups, delays, and major pains. Just accept this NOW!
As you start homeschooling, you will experience frustration—perhaps like never before. When these things rise up, it will be your “why” that gets you back up on your feet!
Perhaps you are wondering yourself why you should homeschool. Here are several reasons that motivated parents to take the first steps to homeschool:
14 Reasons to Start Homeschooling
- The “new” approach to math is RIDICULOUS and CONFUSING!
- Your child gets early graduation opportunities
- Select a curriculum that actually meets your children’s needs
- Decide the ideals and morals your children learn
- Control the curriculum that your children consume
- Opportunities to teach your children things they don’t teach in school like personal finance and cleaning the house (yes, I mean exactly what I said)
- Teach your children to think outside of the box
- Provide your children with an alternative route to college—and colleges are becoming more and more excited about admitting homeschool children. Check out this podcast episode where I interviewed a member of the admission’s committee from The Ohio State University.
- Teach your children about respecting authority rather than peers their own age
- Teach your children about appropriate behavior in public places rather than their peers.
- Enjoy freedom to utilize religious texts and curriculum according to your own beliefs
- Control the speed your child goes through the material according to their needs rather than the needs of 24 other students
- Decide holiday schedule
- Go on interesting field trips that will excite your children
These are only a handful of reasons to start homeschooling!
Create your own list of “why” YOU are going to start homeschooling
This is a very important step. I want you to stop reading right now and get a piece of paper and a pen or pencil.
Did you get the paper and pencil?
I want you to create a list of reasons why you want to start homeschooling.
Don’t worry about the challenges right now.
Instead, just consider why you are thinking about taking the leap. Answer the following questions to get your list started. Some of them may seem redundant, but I want you to very thorough with this list. It is important that you get a firm grip on a solid, motivating “why” to be successful.
- What first caused you to think that homeschool was something you wanted to do?
- What are the advantages you anticipate homeschool will provide?
- When does the idea of homeschool resurface?
- What positive experiences do you have with homeschool?
- In what ways will your children (child) benefit from homeschool?
- What about public school causes your child to struggle?
- Are there aspects of public school that cause you anxiety?
- What aspects of public school causes your children anxiety?
- Do your children love everything study or explore in a public-school setting?
- What do you know about your children that teachers (especially when they change every year) will never know or understand?
These ten questions are aimed at greasing the wheels. Keep going as you write you list of reasons. Then, I want you to put this list somewhere that it will be handy (maybe in a document or list on your phone or notebook that you will have access to. As other ideas pop into your mind, add them to your list.
Your “why” will become your answer
“Why would you want to start homeschooling?”
Every homeschool parent hears this question (or some form of it) from friends, family, and strangers alike. It can be an awkward conversation because of the immediate negative tone of the question. Some people simply cannot fathom the reason that you drive you teaching your children at home.
On the other hand, it can be a very eye-opening conversation for others if we homeschoolers approach it correctly.
When you get asked that question, you have a golden opportunity.
There is a right way and a wrong way to go about answering the question.
So, don’t blow it.
The wrong way is to overwhelm them with your entire “why” list. That list is for you. Don’t force feed it to every person that comes along. That will just make you look like you are still trying to convince yourself.
So, remember, do not overwhelm them with every little reason you have ever considered to start homeschooling.
Instead, prepare an answer that will blow their socks off!
First, you need to go over your list of reasons and find the one or two that jump off the page at you.
These reasons need to hit the core of your desire to homeschool your children. When you hear these reasons, your spine should tingle with excitement.
Now that you have identified your core reason, it is time to come up with what I call your “elevator response.”
You know people are going to ask you the question. What you want is a short, simple response that you can give with total confidence. It should only take about 30 seconds to explain. Think about a conversation in the elevator. You don’t have time to explain the details or the nitty gritty. All you have time for is the most basic of responses. Trust me. The most basic response is the one that appears the most confident.
2. Figure Out “How” You Want to Homeschool
Now that you have your why and you can explain it in 30 seconds or less, it is time to figure out the “How” portion of the Golden Circle of Homeschool.
I am not talking about deciding on every Math or History book right now. There is plenty of time for that later—in fact, if you are like us, you will probably make and remake decisions on homeschool curriculum as your children get older and you start to become more familiar with their learning styles. Instead of the specific how details, I am talking about the “how do I get started homeschooling” details.
Every State is different when it comes to homeschool laws
That is not the case anymore.
All 50 states (in the USA) have declared that homeschool is legal, however, they have not all agreed on how it should be done. Your next step in the homeschool journey is to figure out what special regulations, if any, your state has for homeschool families. You can use the map to get an idea of how your state ranks in the homeschool regulation world.
A great resource is the website www.hslda.org If you go to this website you can find out exactly what your state requires for you to homeschool and be on the legal side of the homeschool laws. For example, in my state of Utah, we are required to submit a form to the school district every year stating that we intend to keep our children home for their educational pursuits. You can usually find necessary forms like that online without too much hassle.
Consider the resources already available for homeschool families.
Most parents are surprised to find out how many homeschool resources are ALREADY available without much research.
With the explosion of the digital age in the last 15 years, homeschool families have podcasts, YouTube, Ted Talks, educational apps, and more available on their phone or tablet. This does not even scratch the surface of what you have at your fingertips.
School district resources
If budgets are tight (aren’t they always tight), you might be surprised to learn that you do not have to invest in curriculum text books—and they can be very expensive.
Many school districts have libraries of old text books that they will check out to families that live within their boundaries. Remember, your taxes helped pay for those books. You may only be able to get the older textbooks that teachers are not using currently.
The interesting thing about math and reading texts, however, is that these subjects have not changed much over the years. Albeit, the way we attempt to teach math may have taken many steps backward.
Considering that little fact, you might prefer the older textbooks.
Another school district resource that might be available in your area is online school.
You will want to consider this option (if it is available) and weigh it against your reasons for homeschooling. If you “why” deals with avoiding the assembly-line mentality towards education, then you might not want to consider this option. It is likely that whatever you get from the school district online will be very like what your child got in the classroom.
On the other hand, if you are just looking for flexibility and one-on-one time with your children, but you don’t feel super comfortable selecting homeschool curriculum then this option might be exactly what you are looking for. In Utah, this option is called K-12.
Other subsidized homeschool resources
There are other online services that may or may not be attached to a school district.
Some even help you pay for the curriculum.
That’s right. You can get help paying for curriculum.
Harmony Education in Utah (and Idaho, Minnesota and Hawaii) is one of these services.
It is run through a local school district. Your child enrolls through their system and then you can select your curriculum (non-religious because of the government funding). The curriculum is then sent to your house and you jump into the schooling. Some families like this option because it allows them to choose almost any curriculum they want with only moderate oversight from the public-school world. However, they are willing to tolerate the oversight because the materials are paid for out of the public funds for education.
The one drawback
—it is attached to Federal Funding so there will always be a drawback—
The one drawback is the fact that you have to submit worksheets to Harmony every two weeks and this can impede on your purpose for homeschooling.
Free online homeschool ideas
Aside from those resources that are tied to the school district, there are many other options besides just buying the books and plowing through them. As you get started homeschooling, you may just want to find some free resources so that you can take homeschooling for a test drive so to speak. Below are some recommendations for free online sites where you can find homeschool curriculum ideas. Buckle Up!
This is not anywhere near the comprehensive list of online services that are aimed at helping homeschool parents. The trap here is the un-exhaustive list of possible places you could look to for help in any given subject.
Clearly, the issue is not having too little material (like most hopeful homeschool parents think)! The issue is selecting something and moving forward. Success in homeschool is not determined by these “how” decisions.
These “how” decisions, however, can become a major impediment to your progress if you get bogged down. I suggest you find a couple that you like and move forward.
Understand that if you find a curriculum at the beginning and stick with it, you might be the only homeschool family in the world to ever pull of such a feat! It is common for families to skip around a little before settling on something they like. You might even find that your different children need different styles of instruction and/or help. If you would like my entire list of free online homeschool resources, click on the link and dig in!
Figure out your schedule and routine before you start homeschooling
Another important piece to the “how” puzzle is to figure out how you would like to see the typical homeschool day run.
Before you start imagining the perfect homeschool day, go back to your “why” and remind yourself why you are considering homeschool.
Too often, as soon as homeschool parents start considering their schedule, they switch back into public-school mode. As a result, they plan out a typical day that would fit in an average elementary school day schedule.
Depending on your personal “why,” this might be okay. On the other hand, if you are looking for a more customizable experience… then customize it.
Did you go back and reread your “why”? No. Well, go back and do it.
Okay, are you ready now? Do you have your “elevator response” ready to go?
Ask yourself the following questions and take some good notes.
- What would you like to accomplish each day?
- How long would your children spend doing school on that day?
- What will your role be with each child?
- What is your personality? Hands off or hands on?
- Do you have enough electronics (computers and laptops and notebooks) so that all your children can use online resources at the same time?
- Where will meals fit in?
- Where in your house will you children study? Will they have enough quiet space?
- Where will you store your curriculum?
- What subjects will be every day?
- Are there subjects that will be less frequent?
- What is the attention span of your children?
- Will you need to give your children breaks? If so, how frequently?
- How frequently will you take field trips?
Each of these questions will help you begin to piece together a typical schedule.
Not every day will fit into this category. Some will be very, very unique. However, it is important that you at least start out with an idea of what “average” will look like in your home.
Now that you have at least a vague picture of your day-to-day operation as a homeschool parent and family, compare this to your “why” statement from above.
Does it line up?
If it does, great.
If not, then you need to adjust your expectation now.
When we have expectations that are not met, we experience major frustration.
Some of the frustration associated with homeschool life can be alleviated through a good plan that will address your personal “why.”
“What” Do You Do Now?
According to the Golden Circle philosophy, once you have your “why” and “how” in place “what” follows naturally.
When you have selected a couple of online (or textbook) based curricula, it is time to actually write down your schedule.
Get out your paper and pencil again (or you could use your tablet).
Just take your thoughts from the previous section and plug them into a daily chart.
You are going to focus on the specifics of each day.
- What days each week will you focus on Math?
- What days are you going to work on Grammar and Art?
As you start to chart each day out, it should dawn on you that there needs to be some kind of system in place that will help you effectively implement your goals. This is especially true if you are trying to homeschool more than one child. You will need some structure setup so that while you are working with one child, the other(s) will be able to get going (or keep going).
Organizing homeschool assignments for the day/week
One of the challenges can be how do you organize the lessons as you are planning the school year. Depending on your specific method of preparation, it might be helpful to organize your homeschool lesson plans before you focus on organizing you children’s day to day activities. There are several online sources that will help you build your lesson plan. I believe that different subjects can require a little different approach to lesson planning.
There are all kinds of systems that are meant to help you children take some initiative and jump in with both feet.
Crate Homeschool Lesson Organizer
If you are a thorough planner—I mean someone who wants to know set up what you will cover from week to week, then you will need some sort of filing system. You can purchase a filing cabinet, but those are rather ugly. Here is one way that you can use colorful crates that will coordinate with your room and keep your homeschool from looking like corporate America has taken over.
Purchase the crates and colored folders. It is ideal if you can have a different color for each child. Label the folders Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, etc. (or if you are really specific, you can go by days).
Once you get your workbooks (if you are going that route), you are going to tear out the pages—its okay, just do it. Now put the separate sheet, or sheets, that you want Jimmy to do during week one in that folder. Everything Jimmy needs can go in there. Now, when you get each specific week, the folder is already to go and you have very minimal guesswork regarding what should each child be doing.
Hanging Wall File Organizer
This is a simple office supply store purchase that can help your children know exactly what is next and help them move effectively through the day. It will eliminate down time between subjects or projects. Depending on how many children you are homeschooling, one may be sufficient. It will take a little organizing time from you either the night before or the morning of each school day. You will dedicate one folder to each subject. I would suggest getting different color folders for each child. Garrett is green; Koby is red; and Faith is cream. This will help the children quickly identify which folder is theirs.
In each folder place that day’s assignment for each subject. If there is not assignment in a particular folder, then there is no assignment that day. Yeah! When you children finish an assignment, they put it back in the correct folder and then move onto the next folder. As you can see, this will save you a ton of time because you will not have to give specific instructions each time a child finishes something. Another benefit to this system, besides it simplicity, is the fact that your children have a place to put completed assignment.
Work Cart System
I like the mobility of this particular cart because you can wheel it next to a desk where you will organize the homework. Then it goes straight into the carts.
The other benefit this system is the fact that you have more room to put things like science project materials or art materials. If you like the idea of folders, you can still use them and just place them in the box.
My wife prefers that things remain as simple as possible.
We have learned that simple is best when you are dealing with young children or my wife’s husband. My created a list of “duties” that our children must do each day.
The children start by doing things that get their day moving: shower, teeth, eat, etc. Those duties must be completed by 8:30. Then the school day begins in earnest. The list now explains what the children are expected to accomplish before the end of the day. This includes x number of lessons in math, writing, logic, etc. They have a list for each day of the week. On days that require flexibility, she just keeps the cards in the closet.
Helping your children learn how to track their progress is an important function of whatever schooling system you choose. Creating a weekly checklist also helps you hold your children accountable. It will give you a great record of any material that may be falling by the wayside. You can use a checklist system in conjunction with one of the systems above, or on its own.
These are simple to create in Word or another processor. All you need to do is create a table and enter in the worksheets or assignments that each child should be completing each week and then leave empty cells for them to check off when they accomplish the task.
As with other organizing systems, if you are more detail-oriented, you might choose to create daily checklists rather than weekly. This will also depend on the disposition of your children.
Organizing your materials when you start homeschooling
When you start homeschooling, you will realize that it requires a lot of “stuff.”
You will need a plan for that stuff.
If you don’t have one, the stuff will take over your home.
Like everything else, everyone has their own opinion regarding where they should store their homeschool supplies and materials. Here are a few ideas just to help you start thinking about it.
Look for existing opportunities
Some people have cabinets or bookshelves that are just collecting dust. Sometimes these provide great opportunities to organizes homeschool supplies. We were not using an existing closet in an office, so I built permanent shelving. This year we also purchased each child a backpack and had them store their daily books and supplies in those. The backpacks stay on the floor of the closet. When the kiddos get started on their work they get their backpacks from the closet, look at their laminated list, and get to work. On the shelves are the other resources and materials that the children do not use every single day. Finding a place for homeschool supplies can be a major challenge, but if you look around the house, you might find places that are just waiting to be used more effectively.
Cube Organizers for Homeschool
One of the most popular pieces of furniture utilized for homeschool storage is the 9-Cube Organizer. It looks good in most places and is extremely versatile regardless of how you organize your homeschool stuff. They are not extremely expensive at between $45 and $70, and, thanks to online services, you don’t even have to leave your house to get one. The crates fit great in these spaces as well as textbooks or literature books. With different fancy storage options you can even store science project materials on this organizer.
This is a very popular purchase when families start homeschooling because it is just so easy to utilize.
You MUST figure out why you want to start homeschooling.
If you identify a “why” that strikes at your core, you will be successful because nothing else that raises its head and tries to compete with your time or resources will be able to compete.
Spend sufficient time on the “why” part of this article and your “how” and “what” will eventually fall into place.
Homeschooling is challenging. Homeschooling is tough. There may not be, however, a more rewarding and fulfilling experience that watching your children sprout and grow under your personal tutelage.
If you will follow these steps, then when you start homeschooling this year (whether it is your first or tenth), you will be successful.