Are you interested in homeschooling but not sure how to start? This easy guide can help break down the steps you need to start your homeschool journey.
Keep in mind that each state sets their own rules and standards regarding homeschool and some areas have more requirements in place than others. This guide is a general breakdown of the basic steps to start homeschooling.
You will need to consult your local laws and regulations before proceeding.
1. Find the homeschool laws for your state
Before you can begin to shop, prep, and teach, you need to know exactly what laws and regulations apply to your child. Some states have very strict rules and standards that must be met by homeschool students, and others have less regulations in place.
No matter how strict or homeschool friendly your state is, you must be ready to work within the stated laws before you can start homeschooling. Begin with the link below and input your state to find the laws regarding homeschool students.
Things to look for:
- Teacher certification requirements
- Required record keeping
- Required subjects per grade level
- Notification and filing requirements
- Necessary assessments and frequency
- Required number of hours/documentation
This list can look overwhelming at first, but many states do not require all of the points listed above or they have flexibility in how it can be achieved. For example, the notification requirements may only mean sending a letter to your state declaring your child a homeschool student. It could also mean registering your child as a homeschool student with your local school district. Similarly, required subjects are pretty standard, but that usually still allows for you to pick which program or method works for you.
The link above is a great tool when you start homeschool research, but your state website will also provide you with the specific laws related to you as a homeschool family as well as any necessary forms.
This information should not be interpreted as legal advice. It is your responsibility to research and understand the laws regarding homeschool for your state.
2. Notify your local education authorities
Once you’ve decided to start homeschooling, the next step is the required notifications to your local education authorities. You’ll likely need to file a notice of intent to homeschool letter along with any other specific documentation for your state.
We have a notice of intent to homeschool PDF template form for free download.
If your child was previously enrolled, their school will need to be notified that your child will no longer be a participating student. You can complete this step with a student withdrawal letter and submit it to the school office. In addition, you may need to provide a copy of this withdrawal letter to your school district. Since most states require children of a certain age to attend school under truancy laws, you may need to inform your school district of your homeschool intent even if your young child never officially attended.
Here is a student withdrawal letter PDF template form for free download.
Any and all letters you send for official homeschool purposes should be via certified mail. Certified mail will provide you proof of the mail date and delivery date. If you opt for the return receipt, you will also have the signature of the person that accepted your letter. Both sets of information are important to have on hand to protect against any filing errors and truancy laws. You should keep a copy of the written, signed, and dated letter in your records along with your certified mail receipt.
Carefully check the exact notification requirements for your state before proceeding.
Researching and selecting the right curriculum or program before you start homeschooling can feel daunting for many new and experienced homeschoolers. There are many options available, for every learning style, age group, and family dynamic. One of the best parts of homeschooling is the ability to meet your child exactly where they are based on their learning needs and interests, rather than only their grade level.
Check out our helpful “Which homeschool curriculum is right for you?” guide that helps you sort through your options and find the right fit for you and your child!
4. Explore your homeschool style
You don’t need to know exactly what your homeschool style is before you start homeschooling, but it’s a good idea to explore the differences between each style and see which appeals to you the most. Some families change styles overtime, based on what works for their home and the ages of their children. Others mix different styles together, especially when mixing and matching materials/programs. Just like with curriculum, no one size fits all approach applies to teaching style. Do what works!
Below are different styles of homeschooling. Expanded details are available when you click on each type.
Traditional Homeschoolers model their home lessons after traditional school schedules. This often employs schedules, planners, textbooks, workbooks, and dedicated desks for learning. Curriculums in this style match closely to traditional school curriculums and are designed to line up with state standards.
Unschoolers forgo traditional schooling methods, and instead focus on interest based, child centered learning models that focus more on the experience of learning rather than “doing school” at specified times.
Roadschooling is taking your learning on the road as a family. These families travel with any necessary materials (usually more a minimalist inspired list) or rely on digital formats, and learn as they travel around the country. This style focuses on real life experiences and exploration in addition to set subjects.
Unit studies style homeschooling centers your learning around a specific topic or theme. This can involve multiple subjects, but each subject will have a particular theme/focus and all lessons will be written around that topic.
Distance learning employs exclusively online learning. These online classes are usually instructor-led, but they may be synchronous or asynchronous. Some families use this style subject by subject, or across the board for all subjects.
This form of homeschooling is a lesser heard about style, but can be a great way to educate your child with a multicultural worldview through immersion. World schoolers travel the globe and learn as they go, allowing their child to have first hand experiences in different places while meeting different people in their travels.
Many families eventually become eclectic homeschoolers as they grow and learn what their children enjoy and how they learn. This method allows families to apply different approaches and styles together, rather than adhering to only one style.
Montessori homeschoolers follow a child-led approach for learning. The child’s environment is designed around their ability to self-access learning based toys/materials to encourage discovery and exploration. A focus on learning independence is a large part of Montessori style education.
Charlotte Mason Homeschooling
Charlotte Mason homeschooling is based around the concept that children should be educated as a whole person, rather than just focusing on teaching subjects. Lessons are usually based around literature rather than textbooks, and involve more narration style answers, rather than worksheets.
The Waldorf homeschool approach is a holistic liberal arts education where subjects are not separated from one another and education covers body, mind, and spirit.
Beyond methods of teaching, how and where you choose to teach can vary in style as well. Some families dedicate a room in their home to homeschooling, creating their own classroom. Others find a corner of a room or homeschool at their dining room table with shelving for materials nearby. Further still, many families forgo dedicated space altogether and allow children to learn wherever they prefer. That could be the couch, floor, bed, outside, or even on the go. This may mean each child has a bin/box with their materials and they can bring them wherever their heart desires.
Don’t be afraid to try different methods as you start homeschooling and you’ll quickly gravitate to the one that best suits your children and your home!
5. Find extracurricular activities
Now that you’re ready to start homeschooling, you may be wondering how and where your child will socialize with other children outside of their family unit. It’s a common misconception that homeschooled children are isolated or undersocialized. To the contrary, homeschool children are able to enjoy a wide array of experiences, and often achieve a diverse and varied social group.
Homeschooling allows you to set your schedule and offers flexibility for extracurriculars. Your child can participate in classes, lessons, sports, and interest explorations at times that work for your family. Without the strict traditional hours in a school building, your options for activities open up considerably.
Within the ever growing homeschool community, most areas have local homeschool family groups and many have groups of varying types. In these communities, you can find like-minded families with children of different ages, abilities, grade levels, and interests. Homeschool co-ops are becoming more common as well, which can offer everything from group lessons, field trips, sport teams, and support for families as a whole.
Extracurricular activities for homeschoolers:
- Sport leagues
- Gymnastics & Ninja classes
- Martial Arts & Yoga instruction
- Music & Dance lessons
- Art or Cooking classes
- Study groups
- Volunteer opportunities
Most of the options above are available at home/online as well.
Classes available for 3-18 year olds
Outschool offers a wide range of interest and subject based online video classes and clubs for kids. It’s a safe and secure platform that offers children the opportunity to work face to face with an instructor and in smaller groups of similarly aged peers. You can find just about any subject or interest, including standard school subjects. The site has options to sort by age, time, price, format, frequency, and subject. Outschool can be a great tool for expanding on lessons in your curriculum or just for a bit of fun.
The most important thing to remember is homeschool is all about what works for your family. No two families homeschool exactly alike, and it’s okay to explore different options as you go. It’s also okay to change your mind, switch programs part way through the year, or ditch a curriculum because it’s no longer working. The key is to find the best way to teach your children in a way that allows them to grow and learn.
Helpful links and Resources:
Student withdrawal letter PDF template form for free download.
Time4Learning – Homeschool Advice/Resources