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My oldest son attended public school until he finished 5th grade. I taught high school at a public school for 10 years. I can tell you without a shadow of doubt that our decision to homeschool has been the best fit for our family. So I have made it my mission to help everyone that makes the decision to homeschool their children. I came up with 6 steps on how to start homeschooling.
STEP 1: RESEARCH YOUR STATE LAWS.
Before you do anything, you need to research your state laws. Every state is different and has different requirements. Some state requirements seem complicated, but don't get discouraged. Sometimes it is something simple like filing a letter of intent. I highly suggest that you also go to the HSLDA website (Home School Legal Defense Association") and read on your state requirements. The HSLDA is a great resource, but you don't "have" to become a member in order to homeschool. In addition, you should also find local homeschool groups in your area and ask them for advice. Many of them have Facebook groups, so try searching there first.
STEP 2: DECIDE IF FAITH-BASED OR SECULAR
When we started to homeschool, this topic was not on our radar. As a public school teacher, I was trained to not mix religion with education. We weren't allowed to mention or suggest it. So it was not a big deal for me when choosing a curriculum. As a matter of fact, I began teaching with secular curriculum because it was all I knew.
As I started to learn more of the options available, it dawned on me that I have an incredible opportunity and platform to really disciple my children. Raising them to be strong in our faith and be Godly men became our priority. So now I specifically look for faith-based curriculum. I research the publisher's denomination, if any doctrine is included, if it is biblical, if scripture is sourced, etc.
If you are not interested in a faith-based curriculum, there are plenty of secular options available. Some curriculum is labeled as Christian, but only mentions God in a generalized way, here and there. And you may be okay with that as well. Or you may not. So that is why you have to determine what your family values are and what you want in your children's education.
STEP 3: DETERMINE YOUR BUDGET
The cost of homeschool can be from FREE to VERY EXPENSIVE. For someone coming out of public school, the notion of "paying" for curriculum is new. You basically pay school taxes and pay out of pocket for homeschool. Certain states do give funding for homeschool. It is a very political and controversial topic, so do your research and don't get offended when you find people that are either completely against the idea or fully support it.
You can purchase "box" curriculum that include everything you will need for the entire year, including textbooks, workbooks, teacher's edition, exams, manipulatives, answer sheets, etc. These publishers have already written the lesson plans and have organized them by the day. All you have to do is open the book and go! Some of these publishers are very expensive, but you can find plenty with "middle of the road" pricing.
Don't get discouraged if you are on a tight budget. You can find full homeschool curriculum for free. But you will have to put in some effort into finding and organizing them. There are many options available online or the public library. You can also purchase used curriculum. You can find inexpensive pdf's or ebooks, and just use an ipad or computer to view.
Many people start to homeschool and choose the option of virtual public school, which is free. Just keep in mind that virtual public school is not necessarily "home school". It is simply public school, done at home. They still require state testing and the parent has zero control over which curriculum is being used, the content, the teaching methods, or the pace. There is nothing wrong with this option. I personally know of families that love it. But I also know of many that didn't. So I just want you to know the difference.
STEP 4: CHOOSE A TEACHING METHOD
This is the hardest step. You may not know what your child's learning style is yet, and it may take you a few months (or years) to figure out. Just start somewhere and go from there. it will be trial and error at first, until you find your rhythm. One indicator that it is NOT working is if there are tears (from your child or from you). Some kids learn best when it is visual, so online lessons work well. Other kids are more hands-on.
In the homeschool world, you will start hearing terms like Unschooling, Charlotte Mason, Classical, Eclectic, Traditional, etc. Don't feel overwhelmed! Over time you will learn all of these and determine which best describes your family.
Always remember that there is no "one way" to teach or to learn. The best part of homeschooling is that you get to tailor your child's education to best fit THEM!
STEP 5: WITHDRAW FROM PUBLIC SCHOOL
Once you make the decision to move forward with homeschooling, make sure you withdraw your child from public school if they are still enrolled. You don't want to have truancy problems. Research what your state and school district requirements are. My advice is to go in person and fill out whatever is necessary, so that you have something in writing...even if it is not required by your state. Sometimes the office workers at your school are not familiar with homeschool laws. In their ignorance, they may tell you incorrect procedures. This is why it is important to research requirements ahead of time. Most of the time, the school staff has no clue. Just remain calm and politely enlighten them.
STEP 6: GET CONNECTED WITH HOME SCHOOL GROUPS.
It is very important for you to find a support system, whether it is online or in person. Make friends with homeschool parents of kids that are older than your own. That way you can learn from them. If there are no homeschool groups that meet up in your area, consider forming one yourself. You will be surprised to find more families that also homeschool. I used to have to travel 30-45 minutes just to go for Homeschool Park Days, meetups, or field trips. Once I had a year of "experience" I decided to form my own group in my area. I started a life group at my church, for homeschool families. Our church is very big and we were fairly new members, so I didn't know if there were any families that homeschooled as well. Our first semester had 4 families. A year later and we now have 10 families enrolled! I am sharing this so that it encourages you to form your own group, if there aren't any in your area.
Homeschooling is hard work, physically and mentally. Your kids WILL test your patience. You will be with them all day long, every day! Your house will probably be a mess. You will feel like you can never leave the kitchen (because now they are eating all their meals at home, lol). On top of it all, your family may go through a difficult season. Don't get discouraged! God has already equipped you to raise, educate, and disciple your children. You will get to know your children better than you ever could when they were in public school. You will share great experiences and make lifelong memories. Remember this, nothing that is worth it is ever easy. So surround yourself with a good support system. Ask your prayer warriors to keep your family in prayer. And enjoy this journey!
Author: Debbie Garza
I am a Jesus loving wife, homeschool mom of 2 boys, love to travel, and I'm always looking for ways to earn extra income and work from home. We strive to live a Joy and Valor life, all for the glory of God. The journey is not always easy, but it is well worth it. With this website, I will share our journey, things that we've learned along the way, and anything that may be useful to empower you to be the best version of yourself.