So you are considering homeschool and not sure where to start. That is exactly where I was about 6 years ago. What I needed was some direction, a first step, and some confidence. I’m hoping to give that to you here in this post, Homeschooling for Beginners. I really hope that these words find you well and offers you some clarity on a journey that has been such a blessing for our family.
If what you read intrigues you and you are ready to hear more details on how to take the next steps, I encourage you to download my new eBook, The Homeschool Beginner’s Guide. It’s a 35-page resource guide to help you navigate the beginning stages of homeschooling your children. It includes printables, schedules, routine charts, and checklists, as well as guidance from other veteran homeschooling parents to help you get started. You will find everything from encouragement and self-care tips, to journaling pages and planning sheets. This guide was intended to equip you with the skills you need to get started and sustain a loving homeschool future.
If you’re considering homeschooling this year, I know this can feel very scary and intimidating. When I started I was overwhelmed by watching other homeschooling moms who seemed to have it all together. They had their routine, they had their curriculum, and they made it look so effortless. What I have learned is that we can all get there, but we need a little help getting started and a little confidence to build on. I wanted to create this post to help the new homeschooling parents do just that. If you have a preschooler at home and you want to start implementing more learning or if you are ready to make homeschooling the learning choice for your family, I hope this serves you well.
Homeschooling Requirements in your State
You really want to look at the laws in your state, every state is completely different. I live in Florida and here you submit a letter of intent to your county. I’ve put a link below to a site that will share all the laws and requirements in your particular state. The first thing that you want to do is look into your state guidelines and figure out what steps you need to take to legally homeschool your child. In the state of Florida, you do not have to submit a letter of intent until they are six years old. So with Edith, my middle daughter, (even though we did kindergarten last year), I did not have to submit the letter of intent because she wasn’t six until May. Take some time to go on to the site and look at the individual requirements for your state and that will give you an idea of what steps you need to take to move forward.
So why do you want to homeschool? Is it to form a bond with your children? Is it to be able to provide an education that is really catered to your children and their needs? Is it to help them flourish in areas they are really passionate about? You really have to think about that as their teacher. You now have this unique opportunity. You are going to be with your children, teach your children and pour into your children. It’s beautiful and it’s amazing but it does require some sacrifice, some research, and lots and lots of time. I do believe that in the beginning a lot of that happens alone by yourself in the reading that you do. The reason I think this is so important is that three months from now or even three years from now you will possibly hit a bumpy road and it is important to look back and remember why you began the journey. Take the time now to create a mission statement, documenting why you decided to take this step to homeschool your children. After you create it, take the time to reflect on your statement for a while. Part of my mission statement was the importance of forming a strong relationship with my children, especially while they are young. I don’t know if I am going to be homeschooling forever, but being with them and forming a relationship, building in their character, and being a major influencer is something that is very important to me and my family.
Read more about how and why we started this homeschooling journey in this post:
Foster a Love of Learning
I wanted to foster a love of learning by creating this child-like experience where they can have a dialogue with me about what they are going to learn and how they are going to learn it. Obviously, we do have a structure in place to provide guidelines on what they are learning, but when it comes to things like social studies, science, or arts and crafts I do give them a lot of flexibility. This was really important to me when I was deciding to homeschool. I really do believe that when they learn what they want to learn, they retain so much more and they really enjoy learning. That’s why I feel strongly about fostering this love and enjoyment for learning in everything we do in our schooling.
Sacrifice and Dedication
Homeschooling requires a great deal of sacrifice and even more dedication. This is why researching and understanding your “why” and your purpose, playing to your strengths, and knowing what leads you to homeschool is so important. These are going to give you this foundation that you will be able to build off of and grow from as a homeschool teacher and as a homeschool family. You just don’t wake up one morning and decide I am going to homeschool and everything falls into place… it definitely does not happen like that. This decision and path is something that takes a lot of time and commitment. I truly believe that if you put in the work, you will be able to provide your child an incredible and positive educational experience.
Understanding Your Style
Here’s another top priority…understanding your style. What really appeals to you when you think of a homeschool space? Are you looking for a more traditional setting with workbooks? Are you looking for a Montessori type homeschool? There are many different styles to choose from like the Reggio Emilia Approach, the Charlotte Mason Method, or classical homeschooling. I’ve put some book recommendations towards the end of the post below so that you can read about all of the different styles to better understand what fits you and your family dynamic. As you read them, ask yourself what works for your teaching style? What works for your child’s learning style? I will get into choosing your curriculum more, but just know that as you start to research curriculum they are going to reference these different styles and it helps to know the basics.
I remember when I started I was very drawn to the Charlotte Mason Method and now as things have evolved, I’ve noticed that I pick and choose things from different styles that really work for us. In the beginning, I would feel very disappointed if my homeschool didn’t look like true Charlotte Mason. Our curriculum has really evolved and now I research and implement all of the different styles into our schooling for best results. I really do believe that the hard work that you put into these steps and choosing the right style before you ever pull your kids out of school or before you ever open a workbook is so incredibly important.
Read more about the homeschool styles here:
Find a Community
Finding a Homeschool Community is really necessary for beginning homeschool families. This can be done in several different ways and look very different from state to state. To find a group in your area, you can jump on Facebook and search for like-minded parents and teachers. You can research by doing a simple google search for the different co-ops in your area. We attend several different co-ops here in Florida. We have a co-op that meets once a month for a full day of learning, where the parents take different responsibilities and teach different lessons. This group is really fun because the children get to interact with one another and the homeschooling moms also get to interact. My children also go to a drop-off style co-op where they attend classes for the performing arts and different music classes for several hours a week. If you look into it, there are so many resources for you right in your own community. You really have to determine what your needs are and what you want your day to look like. I know for me when I first started out it felt a little intimidating and overwhelming to join these groups. In the beginning, I really just focused on building structure and routine in my home so leaving my comfort zone seems scary. You really have to figure out what is important to you, but having a community will give you strength.
Strength in Homeschool Communities
It is important for your children to have friends that they meet with continuously and I would argue that it is even more important for you. Homeschooling can be a very isolating journey but it doesn’t have to be, that’s your choice. So I would advise you to find a few homeschool moms that you can confide in, that you can ask questions of and that you can talk to openly about your struggles and about your successes. Having the community that comes with a co-op and joining a group of homeschool families is not only about socializing, there is so much more that comes from that support and that type of relationship. There is a sense of accountability that comes from homeschool communities and that really helps you to become successful on this journey. So, make sure that you go to Facebook or run a google search, find some people on social media that can be your support system as you start off as a beginning homeschool family.
Choosing Your Curriculum
Now we are getting to the part about how you pick WHAT you’re going to teach. Choosing your curriculum and how you are going to work it into your homeschool is no easy task. At first, it seems so daunting. There seem to be so many styles to choose from and so many ways to implement them. Don’t worry, there is one out there that will work for you and your children but it is up to you to determine which one. When you are at this step, just keep going back to your mission statement and remembering why you are doing this. Choosing the curriculum is all about creating the picture you have in your head about how all of this will go. Lean on your resources, ask your community, and don’t be afraid to try something and change. You got this!
Read about our current math curriculum here:
The first thing that you need to think about is, what type of learner is my child? This may sound like a difficult task, but there are great resources available. The link below is a great site to understand more about the different learning styles. There is a section where you can assess your child and determine which of the seven styles best suits them.
Also, my ebook, Homeschool for Beginners, has a great assessment tool and built in quiz to help you determine what style could fit your child best.
Because all of your children might be different, (my children are very very different) it’s important to learn to teach to all styles. Incorporating your child’s learning style can really narrow down your search for curriculum and why they would work best for your family. For example, if you’re looking at a math curriculum and you have a kinesthetic learner, you’re going to want to look for a math curriculum that has a lot of manipulatives. If you have an auditory learner, it might work best if you have a math curriculum that is more literature-based so they can learn through stories. A more visual learner might really thrive on a workbook style settings because they can see, it’s very clear, simple to the point. This can seem overwhelming, but if you make the assessment fun it can help you start to get into the groove.
Find out more about the different learning styles here:
Next is how to implement the curriculum and create the structure of your day. This is your routine, your schedule, how you’re really going to implement homeschooling and start each day. This is something I revisit at the beginning of every school year, because as your kids get older and they change as people, what your day will look like will also likely change. It’s just natural and that’s ok. I want you to really think about what you want your day to look like. Do you want everyone to be seated? Are you snuggling on the couch? Do you guys read more books in the morning? Would you just rather have a quiet morning where everyone does their own thing and you meet together in the afternoon to get your schoolwork done? You have to think about what is going to work for you and a lot of that requires trial and error.
I have gone through so many different schedules in the course of my homeschooling years. So many different routines before I found one that worked and then I still have to change things up and tweak it again. That’s just part of the journey and it’s really what’s beautiful about it. There were times that I changed it because it was best for my children and other times I changed it because it was best for me and my mental health. You have the flexibility to create anything that you want. Some people prefer a more structured day with time blocks and schedules and to-do lists and that works for them. Some people are totally not like that at all and that is 100% ok. Think about how you work and how your children work because you’ve been with them, you know your children, you know how they thrive. You are the one that will be able to create a structure that really works for your family, but please be sure that it ultimately works for YOU.
Check out the exact schedule pages we use to keep our homeschool days organized HERE
How We Homeschool
Here is a pretty good example of what our day looks like. We really don’t start anything until about nine. So our mornings are a little more relaxed because I am not the best morning person. I like to wake up, I like to have my coffee. Sometimes my girls are reading or playing or watching tv to get started. That may sound crazy to some to give them that independence, but it just works for us. Usually, their dad is the one who makes them breakfast and gets them started. Then around nine o’clock we just start coming together to get to work. Typically, nine to twelve is when we do the majority of our school work and in the afternoon is when we make more fun things. Our co-ops or extracurriculars (we are not doing that now because of the pandemic) happen in the afternoons too. We do have the occasional field trips and we do quite a bit of nature walks and outdoor play to supplement, but nothing on a rigorous schedule. We just seem to go with the flow of each day, but keep in mind the work on our weekly schedule that is to be completed. That’s really it. It doesn’t have to be complicated to work well. In our house simple is better.
Think about the Space
Pulling off a successful homeschool environment can all come down to the learning space. Think about creating an inviting space. Think about a space that your kids will love and always want to go to. Think about a space that you will enjoy too, that won’t cause you stress. If the idea of having papers clutter all over your dining room table gives you a panic attack, then don’t do that. Do something completely different that makes all of you happy. Be sure to make the space comfortable and easily accessible for them. Make sure that it is organized in such a way that they can find everything they need and know where to replace it when they are done. This simple tip promotes the kind of self-led learning style that we cherish and enjoy so much.
Here are some ideas on ways to organize your homeschool space:
Take Baby Steps
I fell victim to this a lot in my first year. I would go on social media and I would see these moms and they would have it all together. They would be teaching seven different subjects, they would have poetry tea time with beautiful artwork, and these nature walks and these journals – and everything! Their perfect homeschool rooms with all the curriculums and manipulatives and pretty toys. I saw all that and felt so overwhelmed but what I failed to remember is that doesn’t happen overnight. So if you’re a homeschooling mom just starting out my biggest advice for you is please take baby steps.
When I started out, which was pre-school, I just focused on two small things: teaching them their alphabet and their alphabet sounds, and teaching them their numbers. That was it! That is all I focused on in the beginning as I got used to being a new homeschool parent. Then when implementing kindergarten for my oldest I decided to purchase a language arts curriculum and a math curriculum and that is what I took on. Instead of taking on huge curriculums with hours of work, I made sure to make room for the other things that make homeschool just as special. The learning that happens outside of the books. We did science projects, and we read a ton together, and art projects. I would play with them a lot, we would do nature walks, take field trips and go on hikes. They can learn from all of this!
As the months went by I just built on the curriculum I had, so as I started to become more comfortable with our new lifestyle I would add in something new. At first, it was a more structured science program and then I started to bring in more structured art projects, handwriting, and a bible curriculum too.
So please keep this in mind as you get started. It is very easy to look at another homeschool mom and think I have to do all of this, but you don’t. Not all right away!
My Homeschooling Journey
Whenever I would talk about my choice to homeschool I would get the same comment: “I could never do that” and “ I don’t know how you do it”. I know those comments are well-meaning but they can also lead to this huge misconception. I am nothing special and I don’t have some extraordinary skill set that makes me equipped to teach my children. I make mistakes, I cry about things, I feel disappointed. There are days I feel like giving up, but I also feel like I get this opportunity to see my children flourish and they get to see me making mistakes and we get to build on our relationship. I get to form their characters, I get to pour into them every single day.
Some days look better than others, but I still have the opportunity to show them that I am an imperfect person and they are too. It is just a beautiful and unique opportunity that you get to do this with your children and I just want you to know that you are capable.
You are so capable! You are your child’s best teacher! You know them more than anyone. So please, if things get hard, if you are disappointed because it didn’t meet your expectations, if you are frustrated because your children maybe are not doing what you ask them to do, please know that is all normal. I have been there. I have been in those situations. It comes and you adapt and you get stronger and you realize how capable you are.
I know those comments were well-meaning but also it shows that maybe some people think arent capable. And that is so not true. There is going to be a lot of sacrifices but if it is something that you really want, and you see the beauty that can come from it, you’ve got this. You can do it.
Books that helped me on my Homeschooling Journey:
Again, if you are feeling good about what you read and ready for more, I have more for you. Everything a first time homeschooling parent needs to know. This all in one kit is sure to answer those difficult homeschooling questions and help you on this path to creating a beautiful and successful homeschool for your children.