Thinking about homeschooling your children, or know someone who is? As a newbie homeschooler, I would have been lost if it weren’t for the homeschool veterans that helped me put everything into perspective. So, here I am paying it forward. Not that I consider myself a veteran, but I’ve learned a thing or two. Here are my top ten things every prospective homeschooler should know and/or consider before their first year of homeschool. And if you’re already in the homeschooling game, perhaps you may still find some of these tips useful.
10 Things You Should Know Before You Homeschool
1. The Law
In the United States, you have the right to provide your child with a home-based education. Homeschool is a legal practice in all fifty U.S. states and has been since 1993. However, there are legal requirements you should know regarding homeschool. Requirements differ depending on where you live, so it’s best to research the requirements for your state. I can offer you a summary here, but be sure to do the research for yourself for up-to-date legal requirements.
Homeschool Law Breakdown
There are four types of states regarding homeschool laws: The first type is a No Regulation State. A no regulation state has no requirements for homeschool parents. The second type is a Low Regulation State. A low regulation state only requires parents to send notification of their intent to homeschool. The third type is a Moderate Regulation State. A moderate regulation state requires parents to send notification of their intent to homeschool, as well as test scores and/ or professional evaluation of student progress. Finally, the fourth type is a High Regulation State. A high regulation state may require notification, test scores, curriculum approval by the state, teacher qualification of parents, or home visits by state officials, among other things. Click here to get a snapshot of the category your residing state falls into.
I can’t stress enough to do your own research. Laws change all the time and there are always details to consider. To help structure your research, seek to answer the following questions:
- Is there a compulsory attendance?
- Are there required subjects?
- Is there a deadline?
- Do you have to keep records?
- Can you teach other kids?
- Can you hire a tutor?
- Do you need a college degree?
- Are there required standardized tests?
- What are your other rights?
- Did any laws change?
I know. It all seems so scary. If you need any legal help, the Homeschool Defense Legal Association will point you in the right direction.
2. Your Vision
So, what’s a vision, anyway?
I like the way leadership expert, Jessie Lyn Stoner, defines vision: “Vision is knowing who you are, where you’re going, and what will guide your journey.” It is made up of your purpose, picture of the future, and your values. Now let’s apply that to your homeschool. Ask yourself these questions:
- What is your purpose for homeschooling and what value will it provide to your family?
- What will your picture look like at the end of your homeschool journey when your purpose of fulfilled?
- What are your core values and how will they support your purpose?
Make sure you write your vision down! Here’s an example from my vision and mission statement for the upcoming school year.
3. The Benefits
Understanding the benefits of your decision to homeschool will keep you going when things get tough. Be sure to do thorough research on all of the benefits you’ll be providing for your children (and yourself!) during your homeschool experience. Write them down or print them out. Here are a few statistics from the National Home Education Research Institute:
- Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income.
- The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests.
- Homeschool students are increasingly being actively recruited by colleges
- The home-educated are doing well, typically above average, on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development. Research measures include peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service, and self-esteem.
It’s important to understand that some statistics in favor of homeschool, and those against homeschool, can be biased. Instead, make it a habit to write down your personal list of benefits that you’ve experienced as a result of homeschool. Here’s mine. Perhaps I’ll explain these in depth in another blog post.
- Improved Focus. We’re able to modify our learning environment to ensure the best possible focus.
- Close-knit Family. We have the opportunity to strengthen our relationship with one another.
- Tailored Education. We can choose a curriculum that best suits our family and make necessary modifications if needed.
- Tailored Pace. We can speed up or slow down our lessons depending on the level of mastery.
- Lifestyle Learning. There’s very little separation between real-life and “school.” Everything’s a lesson!
- Lifestyle Freedom. Our schedule is super flexible. We can vacation off-season and visit attractions during low-traffic hours.
4. Discounts & Free Resources
Homeschool has the potential to get costly, especially for beginners who are tempted to purchase everything that veterans recommend. Research free resources in your area. You might be amazed by all your community has to offer for little to no cost. The local library is a great place to start, as they are typically connected to many resources that offer free admission to the museum, zoo, aquarium, and much more. You can even find free or low-cost classes at your local museum, zoo, aquarium, capital building, and education center.
Of course, there are many free resources on the Web. Youtube has great educational channels for all ages, and there are websites galore that are full of access to free educational resources. Websites I’ve used frequently for free printables and curricula are:
- Education.com—Free printables for core and elective subjects for grades pre-k thru high school. Also provides games, activities, lesson plans, and more.
- Kidzone—Free worksheets for pre-k thru grade 5.
- Teachers pay Teachers—Free lesson plans, worksheets, games, and resources from experienced educators around the world.
- AllinOneHomeschool—A free online curriculum for core and elective subjects for grades pre-k thru high school.
- Khan Academy—Free online courses, classes, and practice.
- Scholastic—Free resources and tools, printables, and more.
- Hoffman Academy—Free music lessons.
- Nike Anderson’s Classroom— (Shameless plug, hehe!) Free printable worksheets for pre-k thru grade 2 designed for kinesthetic learners.
This list doesn’t even make a dent so please do your own research. New resources I haven’t tried but am just learning about are:
- Crayola—Free lesson plans and resources for language arts, math, STEM, social studies, art, and more.
- Homeschool Buyers Coop—Free virtual field trip lesson plans, resources, tips, and more.
Read FREE Homeschool DEALS Your Wallet Will LOVE for more resources.
*******You May Also Qualify for Teacher Discounts******
Don’t forget you are a teacher, too! I mean, I know this should be a given, but it took me a while to accept that title. So make sure you attend teacher drives in your area and take advantage of the free school supplies they give out at the start of the school year.
Even more? You can receive a teacher’s discount at participating supercenters, bookstores, and office supply stores. I’ve personally received discounts at my local bookstore, but am now learning there are so many stores that may offer homeschoolers a teacher’s discount. Keep in mind that you may have to show your declaration of intent, homeschool membership card, or HSLDA membership card. Here are some stores you might want to try according to the HSLDA.
· A.C. Moore Arts and Crafts
· Ann Taylor Loft
· Apple Store
· Barnes & Noble
· Big Lots
· The Book Barn
· Colonial Williamsburg
· The Container Store
· Creation Museum
· Generation Joshua
· Half Price Books
· HSLDA Online Academy
· J. Crew
· Joann Fabrics
· Mount Vernon
· New York and Co.
· Office Depot
· Office Max
· Patrick Henry College
· Ripley’s Attractions, Gatlinburg, TN
5. The Types of Homeschool Groups
Basically, there are different types of homeschool groups that cater to the needs of different families. The best way I found out about the homeschool groups in my area was through a Facebook search. I simply searched “homeschool groups near me” and requested to join the groups I was interested in. Please note that there is an additional process to be an official member of the homeschool group of your choice. Joining a Facebook group may give you access to information about that group, but many groups require an application, a membership fee, references, a background check, mandatory volunteering, and more. Be sure to seek out the group administrator for additional requirements. Here are some examples of homeschool groups to consider:
- Christian Homeschool Groups—A group that provides homeschool families with information, fellowship, and learning opportunities centered around Christian beliefs.
- Secular Homeschool Groups—A homeschool group that provides non-religious families with information, fellowship, and learning opportunities.
- African American/ Ethnic Homeschool Groups—A homeschool group that connects African Americans and/or various ethnic groups with one another.
- STEAM Homeschool Groups—A homeschool group that helps families provide their children with an education in the areas of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics.
- Homeschool Playgroups—A laid back homeschool group focused on providing children with fellowship opportunities in the form of open-ended play.
- Classical Education Homeschool Groups—Connects homeschool families who follow the classical education method. This group usually offers classes by parents who specialize in teaching classical education.
- Tutorial Co-op—A co-op for children of any age in need of specialized tutoring in a particular subject. Usually, taught by qualified parents and/or teachers.
- Parent-support Co-op—A co-op for homeschool parents to gather, fellowship, and minister to one another.
- Traditional Homeschool Co-op—A co-op that’s usually parent-led designed to provide homeschool children with elective classes, field-trips, socialization, and more.
6. How Your Children Learn.
If you plan to use a curriculum, make sure it suits the way your child learns best. There are different types of learning styles. Here’s a list of six different ways your child may prefer to learn.
- Visual, or learning using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
- Aural, or learning using sound and music.
- Verbal, or learning using words, both in speech and writing.
- Physical, or learning using your body, hands, and sense of touch.
- Logical, or learning using logic, reasoning, and systems.
- Social, or learning in groups.
- Solitary, or preferring to work alone and use self-study.
Scholastic offers a simple “Learning Style Quiz” you can do with your child to point you in the right direction. When I sought out a curriculum for my children, who are visual and physical learners, I made sure to implement a curriculum that involves games, physical movement, and stimulating visual prompts and videos. But even in doing so, we’re not limited to the curriculum. I’ve created many resources, learning games, and projects along the way to enhance classroom learning. You can, too! Pinterest is your best friend. So is your imagination!
7. You Don’t Need an Extensive Curriculum
Well, maybe you do if you live in a high regulation state that must approve your curriculum choice. However, for the rest of us, an extensive curriculum with all the bells and whistles isn’t necessary. Trust me when I say, “What will always matter most is how much you put into a curriculum. Not what you get out of it.” When a parent places a great deal of effort into their child’s education they will never come up short—regardless of the curriculum choice. I am living proof. Due to financial hardship in the past, I’ve had to get super creative. I relied heavily on free curricula, library resources, and my creative juices. If you’ve been following me since Day One, you know this. These days, I am blessed to purchase curricula that suit my family, but I still take advantage of free resources.
Please know there are parents who’ve spent a fortune, yet get frustrated by a curriculum because the child is disinterested and/or not thriving. Usually, this is because the curriculum doesn’t fit the child’s preferred learning style. Read the forums! You’ll read all sorts of horror stories regarding the most recommended of curricula. And while these particular materials may work for some children, they do not work for all.
I don’t care who wrote the curriculum, what the author’s credentials are, and how many awards they’ve earned, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all curriculum. And just because it costs a fortune doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for your family. I personally know parents who are using free online homeschool curricula and their children are thriving because the parents are involved, innovative, and dedicated. I say this not to steer you away from a boxed curriculum, but to inspire those who cannot afford it. You can do it!
8. Different Types of Homeschoolers
There are all kinds of homeschool families. Some of which are underrepresented on the Web. You don’t have to homeschool the way you see other families on social media do it. Take a look at these alternative methods to homeschool.
- Eclectic homeschool, or homeschooling that mixes several different learning styles.
- Classical education, or teaching according to the phases of a child’s cognitive development.
- Charlotte Mason, or a method that uses real-life experiences to teach a child.
- Unit studies, or a specific interest that is studied from different angles.
- Unschooled, or child-led learning that is void of curricula and lesson plans.
I know there’s a stigma against implementing traditional schooling into your homeschool classroom, but hear me out: If this method works for your family, use it! You don’t have to forgo the traditional method just because you’re a homeschool family. In fact, if you have children who are being pulled out of public or private school, they may be most receptive to traditional learning because it’s what they know. That’s okay.
9. You Have Support
Say farewell to the stigma that was once associated with homeschool. Welcome, the days where homeschool has increasingly gained both popularity and respect. The U.S. homeschool population continues to grow each year at a rate anywhere between 2-8 percent. As the population grows, so do social support groups, legal support groups, and resources. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association is probably amongst the most popular support groups. They provide homeschool families with pertinent information regarding homeschool laws, legal services, and may offer peace of mind.
Many public libraries also support homeschoolers. Check out your local library to see what they have to offer. Our local library offers STEM classes, STEM kits, free admissions passes to parks and museums, and much more. Local businesses may also offer “homeschool days” where admission is free or discounted. Our local Skyzone, skating, and bowling center offer homeschool days for a discounted admission. Our state capital building also offers a homeschool day where they give a free tour and low-cost legal classes. Taking advantage of these opportunities is a great way to meet and connect with other homeschool families in your area. So get plugged in!
10. Inevitable Bad Days
If you have a Mary Poppins expectation of what your homeschool days will look like, allow me to bring in a bit of reality—some days will not go so well. Just as with traditional school, where you’d expect days when your child hates it, expect the same for homeschool. Prepare in advance for how you’d like to handle your uncooperative child (or your uncooperative self!). Here’s what worked for us:
- Everyone take ten deep breaths—Deep breathing reduces muscle tension, improves mental concentration, and increases the sense of well-being.
- Let the child talk about it—Sometimes they need to let it all out. Give them a window of opportunity to let their voice be heard.
- Take a break—Whether it’s just for ten minutes or for the rest of the day. Sometimes we forget that our children need breaks from the monotony of homeschool.
- Push through—Helping your child to push through something challenging, even when they want to give up, will teach them the value of perseverance.
So, there you have it! Keep in mind that there’s so much pertinent information out there. These are just some of the tips that I’ve found quite useful as a newbie homeschooler, along with other tips I’ve learned along the way. It goes without saying that every homeschool journey is different. So when seeking advice, always consider that you know what works best for your family better than anyone else.
Let us know in the comments where you are in your homeschool journey and what you’ve learned so far.