By: Andrea Dillon
Is homeschooling right for my family? Can I homeschool my child? What do I need to homeschool my child?
These are some of the questions racing through our minds when we first start to consider homeschooling. Don’t stress. We are here to help!
Families decide to start homeschooling for all sorts of reasons:
- Maybe it has been the “year from hell” for your child at school.
- There may be pressing health and safety reasons that led you to explore homeschooling as an option.
- Maybe your religious beliefs or cultural values are so different from your community, that you are looking to homeschooling as a haven.
- It could be that events have led you to where you need to homeschool temporarily for a while.
You are not alone, as many of us have been in your shoes before. We may not all have the same driving reasons to homeschool, but we all have struggled with similar questions at the beginning.
What Do I Need to Homeschool My Child
“So, where do I start?” As with anything in life, we start with research, which is what probably led you here. Congratulations, you are already well on your way! In the beginning, you’ll want as broad a picture as possible before you narrow down to a “fit” for your family.
These are the best sources to help you get started homeschooling.
- Your local homeschooling support group can tell you how the homeschooling laws of your state are really applied in your area. Maybe the law says to keep an attendance record, but has any official ever asked to see one? The state and country pages on this site will help you locate a nearby support group.
- Your state-level homeschooling association can keep you informed about the homeschooling laws, especially any new changes. You’ll usually get a newsletter and invitations to various activities, such as conferences and campouts. These may require a membership.
- Homeschooling laws for your state can seem pretty convoluted at times, but you need to have a good copy on hand to see all the options. I put this 3rd so you’ll talk to the others above first. State associations can usually provide you with the current laws and an interpretation. Homeschool websites may or may not have current laws posted. “Current” is the keyword here. The most accurate links are the ones directly to the homeschooling laws on your state’s department of education website.
- Homeschooling chats and social networks can help you with information, but be warned, people mean well, but can sometimes steer you wrong, so take what you get here with a grain of salt. On the other hand, they can also give you exactly the specific information you need for very unusual questions. So use these as resources but verify the information with other sources to be safe.
- Homeschooling Conferences are held typically in the spring and summer. Do try to attend the full conference if possible. Bring along someone to watch the kids so you can concentrate on the information. The Homeschooling Events calendar is loaded with upcoming conferences. Early registration is often at a discount, so check the calendar and the Association sites regularly. Most have an associated curriculum fair where you can waste tons of money buying things your kids will never use. Either kid-test the products or bring the vendors’ catalogs and flyers home. Buy when the pressure is off. Alternatively, get the curriculum catalogs before you go, know what you want, and save shipping costs. Many vendors will lower prices on the last day of the conference.
Where Not to Start Homeschooling
There are some homeschooling organizations out there that, unfortunately, feed newcomers a rather narrow and sometimes negative picture. Be wary of any group that could make money, lots of money, off of your family.
- Your local school district – it is in their best interest to keep you tied to the district so they will continue to get attendance funding. They may either tell you independent homeschooling is illegal in your state or will greet you enthusiastically into their Independent Study Program. They’ll encourage you to duplicate at home what wasn’t working when your child was in their schools.
- A homeschool legal group – it is in their financial interest to scare the daylights out of you so you’ll buy into their insurance plan. If you follow the laws of your state, it is unlikely you’ll need legal representation. A family really needs a good, local family lawyer, anyway: one to draw up a will, and to be there should you need representation for anything, say, for an auto accident, let alone a confrontation with the school district.
- Some curriculum companies or distance learning programs – of course, their objective is to sell you a big package of books and materials and maybe throw in a supervisory teacher for a lot more money. Just do your research as this is one service some homeschool families will need because the schedules and time necessary to do all the required record-keeping may be hard to accomplish. Remember, this is YOUR homeschool so find a trusted homeschool program right for your children. We review some of our favorite curricula here.
- Self-proclaimed homeschool “experts” who have never actually stayed home and taught their own children.
Other FAQs from Beginning Homeschoolers
We have covered how to get started, but I am sure that you have more questions about how to homeschool your child. Below are some of the most common ones that I am asked from new homeschoolers.
How much does it cost to homeschool?
This is my number one emailed question. The cost of homeschooling will depend mainly on how you want to homeschool and how many children you will be homeschooling.
- There are also many different ways to help you budget homeschool and homeschool for nearly free.
- Many contract-free curriculums also offer discounts for families enrolling multiple students to help keep the costs down. Time4Learning is an example of a homeschool curriculum that does just that.
Can you start homeschooling at any time?
This and a version of this, how to get started homeschooling mid-year, are my second most asked email questions. Curriculum provider Time4Learning offers a free eBook that details how to transition from traditional schooling to homeschooling during the school year.
- The short answer is yes. Homeschooling is legal in all fifty states, and you can start at any time, even in the middle of the year.
- The long answer is to make sure that you check on your homeschool law. Some states will require that you notify the school board and/or school within a certain time frame before pulling your child to homeschool. If your child has been in the school system and is under your state’s minimum compulsory age, you still may be required to notify the board and/or school. Again, this is a good time to reach out to your local homeschooling support groups. These current homeschools can help with those questions and with how to submit your notification.
Additional Homeschooling Resources:
- We have a lot more educational articles to help you get started with homeschooling. Plus, a whole library of lists of homeschool links I hope you will explore.
- A2Z also has an extensive educational list of homeschool curriculum materials.
- Explorations 4 Kids learning online material and sources have been hand-picked for your youngsters to teach things to themselves right online. Use the children’s links yourself to plan your own unit studies.
- Time4Learing.com offers a free Welcome to Homeschooling eBook that offers insight and helpful tips for newbies. I recommend this download.
- Get some great tips on transitioning from public school to homeschooling.
Many of us start homeschool for a short time and then often continue homeschooling simply because of the freedom. While the beginning can seem chaotic, you too will soon discover the homeschool gift of living and learning with your children. Honestly, you have been teaching your child since birth, and homeschooling is a continuation of this learning-within-the-family lifestyle.
Do you have more questions on how to start homeschooling? Feel free to contact me for more help!