Homeschooling is a growing educational option and many families are choosing it for the educational excellence and personalization homeschooling offers. I’ve been homeschooling my 6 kids for the last 14 years. During that time I’ve homeschooled in two different states as well as tried out multiple homeschool curriculums, philosophies, and homeschool groups. Here’s all you need to know about how to start homeschooling today!
Table of Contents
[I have made minor edits to the video transcript for readability and accuracy.]
Full Video Transcript
Yes! You absolutely can start homeschooling today! There are certain states where it’s legal to fill out the form and begin homeschooling immediately.
But in this video I’m going to explain to you the five things that you need to do to start homeschooling legally.
1. Legal Requirements
We’re going to give you the first one right here. Number one: go to the Homeschool Legal Defense Association website. That’s the hslda.org website, and find out what the legal requirements are to homeschool in your state, if you’re in the United States or in your Province.
Global homeschooling resources
Now if you live in somewhere other than the United States and Canada the HSLDA website does have some information about legal homeschooling in other countries where that’s possible.
There are a lot of countries where it is legal to homeschool, but of course the requirements to do so legally are going to be different in each country. But the HSLDA is still a great place to get started.
Make sure you’re legal
The second thing I want to say is make sure that you take care of this legal side first. So if your state is a state where you need to fill fill out a form to pull your kids out of school if they’re already in school.
Or if you need to register your student, like here in Oregon we have to register our students at age six and say that we’re homeschooling them.
Or in California, I think you had to fill out a form and you could start homeschooling them basically the next day if you wanted to.
But it depends on what state you’re in, what province, and what the laws are. So the HSLDA website’s a great place to get started.
Is HSLDA membership worthwhile?
I want to recommend that if you’re on there, and you’re learning about your State’s requirements. And you see that there are a lot of homeschool legal challenges for homeschoolers in that state, it’s worth it to invest in the HSLDA membership. It provides you with some legal protections in case at some point your homeschooling comes into question.
So just giving you that tip. When we were living in California that’s where what we did. We did pay for our HSLDA membership, because California had experienced a lot of legal challenges to homeschooling. We wanted to make sure we had the option of legal protection if that was needed at some point.
Here in Oregon it’s very homeschool-friendly and so we haven’t felt the need to have that membership. But it’s a worthwhile membership. They will deal with all kinds of legal stuff if you ever face a legal challenge to you homeschooling your kids.
2. Get Connected
So second step: go to social media and find some homeschool groups in your area. Find the local homeschoolers. That’s the second step.
And the reason I say that is that you’re going to want to find people who are already doing it. They’ll be able to answer your questions pretty intelligently.
You’ll also want to find people who have been through some of the things you’ve already dealt with.
Facebook as a starting point
I’ve found that Facebook is pretty handy for this. There are a lot of groups for different kind of homeschoolers. So that’s what I would recommend, is get on Facebook and find some homeschoolers in your area.
Or if you have specific types of homeschooling needs. Like if you’re homeschooling ADHD learners, or if you’re homeschooling kids who struggle with dyslexia, you’re going to find there’s groups for all kinds of homeschoolers.
I think I’m currently in a group where it’s kind of a mix. It’s public charter school homeschoolers. So we can consider ourselves homeschoolers because our kids do most of their classes at school at home on Zoom.
But it’s… a lot of people would consider it public schooling because it’s run through the public school system.
All kinds of homeschool groups
So there are all kinds of groups out there, and try to join a couple of the local homeschooling groups. Because then you’ll have fellow parents who are already in it who can answer your questions and help you figure things out.
And especially if you’re a minority too, you’ll find… Or if you are aiming for a particular kind of homeschooling, if you already know you want to be a secular homeschooler. Or if you already know that you want to do, say, literature-based homeschooling.
Those are great groups to get involved in. So find the ones specific to your situation. And join two or three different groups, I would suggest, so you can really get a feel for what it’s actually like homeschooling in your area.
3. Decide what you need
Number three: take some time to think about the needs of yourself as the instructor and your learners.
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Do you have special education requirements? If your kids have already been in school, did they have an IEP?
Do they need help with reading? Do they struggle with math? What are the specific needs that you and your family have that you’re going to need to be thinking about as you’re homeschooling?
I feel like this is really important to do before you choose curriculum, because this is something that most of us who homeschool have found. I found it myself.
My homeschool journey
I’ve been homeschooling for over 13 years and I’ve homeschooled six children. I’m currently homeschooling three.
And when I started the easiest thing to do was just buy a boxed curriculum because it had everything. And it was going to cover all the subjects and that was great.
So when I started it, I discovered that it really didn’t match my kids’ learning styles. And it didn’t match my teaching style and it was way more teacher-intensive than I was ready for.
Decide what matters
So this is why I say, take the time to think about, “What things does my family need to homeschool well?” Think about, “What do my kids need?” Think about how much time you as the instructor are going to have to spend on homeschooling.
These are things you want to think about ahead of time. Or, do you have unusual life circumstances?
Do you have kids with special health needs where you’re going to be at appointments all the time? In that case it might be helpful to have a curriculum that allows a lot more flexibility.
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So those are some of the things you’re going to want to think about.
Your personal teaching style
Do you prefer to be very hands-on with homeschooling, or do you prefer your kids to do a lot of their learning on their own?
How old are your students? Are they really little and so you can start with just letting them live life and doing minimal instruction? Or are they getting into high school and they’re going to have to start thinking about college qualifications?
All these are things you’re going to want to think of ahead of time.
And of course budget has to come in too! Are you going to be paying for this out of your pocket? Do you need to go with less expensive resources?
So just take some time to think through kind of what your needs and the needs of your students in your household are going to be.
4. Dream a little!
Okay the fourth step, and this is actually what I feel is the most important one: take some time to dream.
Think about what you would like your ideal homeschool day to look like.
Many of us choose to homeschool because we want to have more time with our families. And that’s something that I… we, for our family, we found that to be a priority.
So we have chosen curricula that are, maybe less rigorous, less time-consuming. Those are the kinds of curriculums that we have found that we like best, because we don’t want to spend all this time in a book.
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What do you want, and what don’t you want?
What do you want for your kids that you weren’t getting in the previous educational scenario that you came out of? You know, did your kids feel unsafe? Do you need to find new community for them, or for yourself as a parent?
Again, this is a great time to find other homeschooling parents on social media, or look into some blogs about homeschool families to get a feel for what’s possible.
If you’ve never homeschooled before, you’ve never known personally any homeschooling families, there are so many options. And it can be really overwhelming to start with the options.
What’s the end goal?
So that’s why I say, dream about what would you like your homeschooling to look like? Do you want freedom to travel? Are you thinking to road school?
Do you want your kids to be able to get into the best colleges? That’s going to be a very different look to your homeschooling than somebody who’s really more prioritizing my kids and my family.
We value a lot of the creative side of things, or we want to experience a lot of things there. It’s just different and there’s not good or bad to it.
Of course, each one has its advantages and disadvantages. But take the time to dream, to really think about why you’re homeschooling, and what you hope to accomplish, and what you’d like your life and your family life to look like.
5. Curriculum choices
Okay the last thing I’m going to say, number five, if you’ve been counting, is…
After you’ve made sure you’re legal, after you’ve gotten on and found some homeschooling groups, after you’ve thought about your needs, and your students’ needs, after you’ve taken some time to dream about, “Wow what do I really want our homeschooling journey to start like?”
Unschooling or deschooling
Then start looking into curriculums. Or look into, think about, unschooling.
So that’s number five there.
And I start with unschooling because I want you to understand that a lot of kids who have been schooling, who have been in regular standard public school or even private schools they do need time to kind of detox from that environment.
Not all of them but there are going to be a lot of kids, who…. Frequently, a parent chooses to homeschool their child because they recognize they’re not thriving in that environment.
Not attacking public schools or teachers
And I am not knocking teachers! My husband has been a teacher.
The way schools are set up here in the United States are not the most efficient model for teaching. And I think any teacher who’s honest with you will tell you that having huge groups of kids all trying to learn the same thing at once, it’s not ideal.
So I’m not knocking the teachers. It’s the way the system is set up.
But because of that, students who are now moving into homeschooling from a public school setting they may need some time to, kind of, unwind. To kind of detox, and figure out, “Okay, how do I want to pursue learning now?”
So I would say, don’t START with looking at your catalogs or your curriculum websites. That’s not the place to start.
There’s something called the Rainbow Resource catalog—thing is like, this thick! [*about 2 inches]
That many resources is just going to overwhelm you! So don’t start there.
Get reviews and input
Instead, talk to some of the homeschooling parents in the forums you’ve found. If you have found a homeschool group to be a part of, talk to some of the other parents. See what they’re using: what they like about it, what they don’t like about it.
My personal advice
If you have… I’m going to give a couple of recommendations just based on my own experience here….
If you have the freedom to choose curriculums, I’m going to suggest that you choose the ones that are the least work for you as the teacher to begin with.
So a box curriculum can be really handy, because you don’t have to plan any of it, and you know that stuff’s being covered. So that can be very reassuring for a lot of first-time homeschoolers.
Take your time
Or maybe you just need time to figure things out for yourself. It is totally okay to take several months—even a year—to just go to the library every week and let your kid check out books in their interest area.
Or watch documentaries, or go to the park, or visit museums. Do some of this experiential learning and some of this interest-based learning. And let your kid figure out what they need, and are interested in, and let you have time to figure that out.
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Other homeschool families
Again, if you can meet with other homeschool families, this will very quickly help you start to learn from actual families what things you like in a curriculum and what things you don’t.
You can talk with the other families. You can see how their kids are absorbing it and learning it. It’s just a really great way to figure out where you’re going with yours.
Along with that I want to say, don’t worry too much about what curriculum you start with. Just start! Pick something if you can’t… if you’re having trouble deciding.
Because honestly, you’re going to get started in it, and then you’re probably going to figure out, “Oh I don’t like this.” Or, “Oh, that doesn’t cover the things the way I wanted it to,” or, “This is definitely not working for my kid!”
That’s okay. I think probably any homeschooler you talk to would be truthfully saying that they have not stuck with the curriculum they started with.
Change is okay
I know for our family, we’ve changed curriculums every year in some area! There’s some curriculums, for example our history curriculum, we’ve been doing that for a lot of years because we like it and it fits with our family.
We’ve switched math curriculums a couple of times. We’ve switched language arts curriculums a couple of times, we’ve done…
Just know that you are not stuck in any particular one, and try not to…
Another piece of advice I have here is, try not to emotionally attach yourself or morally attach yourself to a particular homeschool curriculum, system, a way of doing things, or to a homeschool group.
Allow yourself the freedom to grow and change as you go along.-Experienced homeschool mom
Here’s how to start homeschooling today (summary)
And if you have gotten to step number five, that’s it! You’re homeschooling! You’ve started!
So just to recap really quickly, you should:
- Make sure you’re legal and then,
- You want to go and find people who are homeschooling already so you can learn from them and get your questions answered.
- Think about the needs of you and your family.
- Take some time to dream: what do you want your homeschooling journey to look like? And then,
- Start researching curriculums, and maybe make a decision and just start somewhere!
©️ Copyright Jennifer D. Warren 2023