Congratulations on thinking about homeschooling! If you’re like most families (and by most, I mean all – including us!), you’re probably wondering how to start homeschooling and what it all entails. It’s a big question and the answers can be a bit vague, but hang in there – we’ll help you figure out how to start homeschooling!
How to Start Homeschooling Your Kids
Step 1 – Making the Decision to Homeschool
You’ve decided that you will be homeschooling your children. You’re excited and want to dive right in, but there is still much to do before getting started.
You likely have many questions – including where and how to find a curriculum, what you have to file with the state, how many hours it takes to homeschool, how to homeschool multiple children, how to make sure there’s socialization, and the list goes on and on.
Don’t worry! You are not alone. Every homeschool family goes through the same exact doubts and fears and excitement and enthusiasm that you’re feeling right now. But you’ve done the first step – you’ve made the decision to homeschool. Congratulations! Now let’s dive in to the details!
Step 2 - Check Your State’s Homeschool Requirements
This is the first step when you decide to start homeschooling. Your state’s board of education will have all of the requirements and information you need in order to prepare. This information may be listed on their website, but you also may have to request it or visit the department to find out everything you need to know.
It’s important that you do this step before doing anything else, because every area has its own legal requirements. These can range from the number of hours you will teach, to attendance records, to subject requirements, testing requirements, when to start homeschooling, and more.
If you don’t know what the state wants from you, you might start homeschooling and later find out you had to file paperwork before beginning. In some instances, the hours accrued before the paperwork is filed may not even count toward your homeschool year! You definitely don’t want to lose all of those hours and work!
Here are the links to each state’s Department of Education. We suggest doing a search for “Homeschool”, “Homeschooling”, or “Homeschool Law” on the website to find the information you need. If you can’t find the law, contact the Department of Education for clarification.
State Departments of Education
- Alabama - https://www.alsde.edu/
- Alaska - https://education.alaska.gov/
- Arizona - http://www.azed.gov/
- Arkansas - http://www.arkansased.gov/
- California - https://www.cde.ca.gov/
- Colorado - http://www.cde.state.co.us/
- Connecticut - https://portal.ct.gov/SDE
- Delaware - https://www.doe.k12.de.us/
- Florida - http://www.fldoe.org/
- Georgia - http://www.gadoe.org/Pages/Home.aspx
- Hawaii - http://www.hawaiipublicschools.org/Pages/Home.aspx
- Idaho - http://www.sde.idaho.gov/
- Illinois - https://www.isbe.net/
- Indiana - https://www.doe.in.gov/
- Iowa - https://educateiowa.gov/
- Kansas - https://www.ksde.org/
- Kentucky - https://education.ky.gov/Pages/default.aspx
- Louisiana - https://www.louisianabelieves.com/
- Maine - https://www.maine.gov/doe/
- Maryland - http://www.marylandpublicschools.org/Pages/default.aspx
- Massachusetts - http://www.doe.mass.edu/
- Michigan - https://www.michigan.gov/mde/
- Minnesota - https://education.mn.gov/MDE/index.html
- Mississippi - http://www.mde.k12.ms.us/
- Missouri - https://dese.mo.gov/
- Montana - https://mt.gov/education/
- Nebraska - https://www.education.ne.gov/
- Nevada - http://www.doe.nv.gov/
- New Hampshire - https://www.education.nh.gov/
- New Jersey - https://www.state.nj.us/education/
- New Mexico - https://webnew.ped.state.nm.us/
- New York - http://www.nysed.gov/
- North Carolina - http://www.ncpublicschools.org/
- North Dakota - https://www.nd.gov/dpi
- Ohio - https://education.ohio.gov/
- Oklahoma - http://sde.ok.gov/sde/
- Oregon - https://www.oregon.gov/ode/Pages/default.aspx
- Pennsylvania - https://www.education.pa.gov/Pages/default.aspx
- Rhode Island - http://www.ride.ri.gov/
- South Carolina - https://ed.sc.gov/
- South Dakota - https://doe.sd.gov/
- Tennessee - https://www.tn.gov/education.html
- Texas - https://tea.texas.gov/
- Utah - https://www.schools.utah.gov/
- Vermont - http://education.vermont.gov/
- Virginia - http://www.doe.virginia.gov/
- Washington - http://www.k12.wa.us/
- West Virginia - https://wvde.us/
- Wisconsin - https://dpi.wi.gov/
- Wyoming - https://edu.wyoming.gov/
Step 3 - Choose Your Homeschool Curriculum
Once you know the requirements, as well as your child’s individual needs, you can then choose a homeschool curriculum. You also may decide to utilize an online program or write your own curriculum. There’s no one way or one curriculum that will be ideal, so be prepared to change some things around to best suit your family’s needs.
Since all of my children are very different in terms of the pace that they learn and how they learn, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what would work best for each of them. More often than not, their curriculums were totally different and pulled from a hodgepodge of different places. That’s okay!
Remember, the whole purpose of homeschooling is that it’s addressing your child’s needs where he or she is right now. Some years may be more rigorous and some more relaxed. As long as you’re following your state’s requirements and your child is actively learning, you’ll be fine.
Step 4 - Plan Some Homeschool Field Trips
Field trips are an important part of learning and one that sometimes gets overlooked when trying to figure out how to homeschool. As homeschool educators, we get so focused on the lessons that we forget that the best, most memorable learning occurs outside of the classroom – no matter if that classroom is at home or at a school building.
Once you have decided on your homeschool curriculum, but before you start your homeschool year, plan some field trips around lessons. If there’s a unit or lesson on farm life, plan a homeschool field trip to the farm in the fall. If your child is studying biology in homeschool high school, schedule in a few trips to the nearest zoo or aquarium.
You can always add impromptu homeschool field trips throughout the year, but I found that when I had some planned out, it gave us all something to look forward to. I also let the kids choose at least one educational field trip a year to make them more invested in the process. You’d be surprised how quickly they found information about the homeschool STEM days at one of the amusement parks near us!
Step 5 - Make Your Schedule for the Homeschool Year
One of the keys to successfully homeschooling your kids is to make a schedule and routine. Not only does a schedule help you stay on track to meet all of the state’s requirements, but it also gives you an overview of your homeschool year. Trust me, by February you will want to know exactly how many days you have left!
There are a lot of online homeschool planners that you can use to plan out your lessons over the course of the year. They’re great for quickly changing things around without having to do a lot of erasing. Many of them also generate reports for yearly attendance and some even print out your book or reading list if you need to turn that in for state reporting as well.
Despite my love for the simplicity of the online planners, I also loved a paper and pencil planner. I would print my planner out (because it was less expensive than buying a fancy schmancy one!) and put it in a three-ring binder. It became my master homeschool binder for the year and where I would check off attendance, keep track of books, and put samples of the kids’ work for the end of the year portfolio. It served me well throughout our decade of homeschooling!
Step 6 – Make Your Weekly Homeschool Schedule
After the yearly schedule is made, breaking it down into a weekly routine and schedule was paramount. It can be a lot of work to create different schedules when you’re homeschooling multiple children or teaching different grades, but I found it was always worth it.
That weekly schedule also allowed us to mark off the things that we accomplished and gave the kids a sense of pride about the things they learned throughout the week. Don’t skimp on making a weekly homeschool schedule, because it will make things go so much smoother!
Step 7 – Find Other Homeschoolers
Some places to find information about homeschool groups include:
- the library
- bulletin boards (online and at stores)
- online – your state department of education might have a list of homeschool support groups, but check social media as well
- other homeschool parents who you know
- community centers/YMCAs
If you need help finding resources for your area, leave a comment below and we’ll try to help you find some!
Step 8 – Have Fun Homeschooling
Besides all of the legal and educational requirements for starting to homeschool, the most important thing that can make or break your year is your attitude. Have a joyful heart, be optimistic, and have fun homeschooling.
As first time homeschoolers, we tend to take ourselves way too seriously and get hung up on all of the administrative things instead of remembering what really matters. You’re homeschooling not to fulfill state requirements, you’re homeschooling to make a difference in your child’s education and life. Enjoy those times. Know that not every day will be great, not every day will be easy, but in the end, it will all be worth it.
Questions about how to start homeschooling? Leave them in the comments below! We’re happy to answer them for you! Have a great year!