The Best Way to Get Your Homeschool Off to a Good Start
So you already know in your heart that you should be getting started homeschooling. And you know that with God you can do all things, including climbing this mountain called homeschooling (Matthew 19:26; Philippians 4:13). Yes, the journey will require courage, strength, and perseverance, but you have made the decision and you’re ready to set out on the road less traveled.
Of course, you could use a helping hand pointing you in the right direction. So here’s a list of action items when you are getting started homeschooling.
Action Items to Help When You Are Getting Started Homeschooling
Know Your Homeschooling Law
You need to find out the legal requirements for homeschooling in your state and then set up any necessary files. For example, North Carolina requires that families keep attendance records and immunization records and administer standardized tests. I have an entire file cabinet drawer dedicated to storing our home school’s legal documents.
Attend a Homeschooling Conference
Join your state home education organization and attend a homeschooling conference in your region. At the conference, make sure you go to as many workshops as possible. You can even make it a weekend getaway! Rachael and I talked with excitement the entire drive home from our first conference. You will come away full of new insights and ideas that will change your home and family for the better.
I highly recommend that as you are getting started homeschooling you join the Home School Legal Defense Association. HSLDA was started in 1983, and its efforts have helped to make home education legal in all fifty states. For roughly $120 per year, you will have immediate access to experienced attorneys should a threatening letter arrive from the local school board saying your child is truant. We are lifetime members, and we’ve had to use HSLDA’s services twice. The good news is that they helped shoo away pesky and unwarranted contacts quickly and effortlessly. But we’ve known other families who panicked when they received a letter and didn’t have HSLDA to support them.
Join a Local Support Group or Co-Op
This could be as simple as getting together with a small group of friends who are homeschooling. Many such groups organize field trips, picnics, Ladies’ Night Out gatherings, and other activities that promote real-life education and positive socialization among peers while providing teaching moms with encouragement and support. Oftentimes these groups will organize meetings for families who are getting started homeschooling.
Most communities have one or more active co-ops where families come together to form parent-led classes in core subjects like science, math, writing, history, and Bible. These same groups often sponsor extracurricular studies in music, art, or foreign languages and may even offer organized sports. The variety and creativity displayed in this area is encouraging because of the help they provide with structure, accountability, and fellowship.
Relax and Take a Deep Breath
When you first get started homeschooling, you may be tempted to think you aren’t qualified, organized, or patient enough to do this. Stop thinking this way. God blessed you with these children because He wants you to train, disciple, and educate them in the ways of their Maker, and He will give you everything you need to do this for His glory. Remember that when you are weak, He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). Rely on Him for the results, and He will fill in those gaps that seem so big you could drive a school bus through them.
No teacher, tutor, coach, or counselor could ever love your children more than you do. So relax, take a deep breath, and exhale. Then embark on this journey with confidence and determination to stand strong when you feel like giving up. In due course, you will reap a bountiful harvest of blessed fruit that is good and satisfying.
Read to Your Kids
Not surprisingly, many moms who are just starting out worry that they won’t know what to do come that first Monday morning. I like to tell them to relax and just read to their kids. I’m serious. Snuggle up with your kids on the couch and read to them. Homeschooling is about so much more than academics. Reading together is a glue that will create strong bonds between you and your kids. This simple act may become one of your favorite memories years down the road when you graduate your first child and you look back in awe of everything God has done for you and your family.
Go Easy on Your First Curriculum Purchases
Of course, you should do some research, read reviews, and talk with friends before buying your first set of textbooks, notebooks, CDs, and videos. However, a word of caution: Go easy on the credit card. The temptation will be to buy too much in the excitement of getting started. You should be prepared to jettison at least $500 worth of curriculum during the first couple of years as you find your bearings. The fact is that what works for one child won’t work for them all. Every child is unique, and an important benefit of home education is that you can (and should) tailor your curriculum to the needs and learning styles of each child.
Get This Video
Watch the one-day video workshop How To Homeschool With Stunning Confidence, Contagious Joy, and Amazing Focus, available in both a physical and digital format. This DVD series discusses the effects of homeschooling on marriage, parenting, sibling relationships, and socialization before getting down to the how-to and nuts and bolts of homeschooling. The video also includes curriculum overviews and lessons on establishing daily routines, setting schedules, and organizing your home school. The course wraps up with information on creating an ideal learning environment and some encouragement to help you get started. This video will give you the confidence you need to begin and enjoy this adventure of a lifetime.
Feel the Freedom
Whatever you do, don’t try to bring the public or private school experience home. Feel the freedom that homeschooling affords. This applies to your annual calendar, your weekly routine, and the daily grind. In other words, you can go on vacation when everyone else is stuck in school, so you never have to wait in line at an amusement park!
With regard to your schedule, try planning around a four-day school week. (We did this for many years.) And decide early to ignore the clock. You don’t have to “do school” from eight o’clock to four each day. That is an arbitrary artifact of institutions. Remember, you’re not creating robots who think that all learning must be done in fifty-minute cycles with ten-minute hallway breaks between classes. More quality learning will happen when you choose to go with the flow and allow plenty of time for play, rest, and exploring God’s creation.
Trust me, you’ll find yourself having lunch at the right time, and no one will be stressed out in the process.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that life happens. For young families with little blessings and new ones being born, the joy of it all can quickly be dampened by stress and an overwhelming sense of responsibility. When you bring home a newborn, I highly recommend simply “doing family” for a while. Postpone math and science and allow for one to two months of teaching the other kids to help with bottles, diapers, laundry, cooking, dishes, cleaning up, and letting mom get some rest. Don’t think for a second that your kids are falling behind. In fact, they will be learning practical lessons that will serve them well and for a lifetime.
The homeschool community is diverse, vibrant, energetic, independent, resourceful, creative, family-oriented, and highly social. In addition to connecting physically with local support groups, co-ops, and homeschool conferences, find a few websites where you can connect with other homeschoolers online. There’s a wealth of knowledge and experience available via social media, webinars, and review crews. You will need to be discerning in where you spend your time online, but the convenience of finding the answers you need on the Internet can be a Godsend, especially when you are first getting started homeschooling.
Wrapping It All Up
The world of homeschooling may be small by public school standards, but it is fast approaching the total population attending private schools. Some states actually have more homeschooling students than private school students! Homeschooling demographics show a diverse and growing population. Remember that each of your children is unique and made in the image of God. So as you are getting started homeschooling, you will need to become a student of each child, discover his or her interests, and tailor your curriculum to best suit each individual’s learning style.
Walking by faith and enjoying the homeschooling adventure of a lifetime!
© 2018 Davis Carman
Davis is the President of Apologia Educational Ministries, the #1 publisher of Creation-based science and Bible curriculum for homeschooling families. He is the author of five illustrated children’s books designed to help parents instill a biblical worldview in the hearts and minds of their preschoolers. He believes that if there was ever a time to homeschool, it is now! Davis’s four books include: Good Morning, God, based on Deuteronomy 6, A Light for My Path, an ABC book based on Psalm 119, In the Beginning, based on the Creation account in Genesis, and Psalms to Know Early.