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Start Homeschooling

by Mary Ann Kelley

TheHomeSchoolMom: Homeschooling 101New to homeschooling?

Although the idea of homeschooling can be overwhelming, know that you can do it. Learning takes place all the time, and just as your child learned to walk and talk with you as their teacher, they can continue to learn at home in a relaxed, loving environment. Homeschooling is not public school at home. As Rebecca Capuano says in her post about the differences between public school and home education, “It is a completely different way of thinking about education, and a completely different way of approaching education. It is teaching tailored specifically to individual children rather than according to a standardized set of guidelines or curriculum for the masses. And because of this individualization, home education is effective by virtue of the fact that it does not have to look like the public school classroom.”

The best way to consider the choice to homeschool and to begin to make choices about curriculum is to look at the big picture first, then funnel down to the smaller topics. Rebecca’s advice to new homeschoolers is a great place to start reading, along with our series about the benefits of homeschooling.

Start homeschooling with these steps

  1. Research your state’s legal requirements.
  2. Find local support groups and social activities for homeschoolers. Interacting with local homeschoolers not only helps with emotional support, they are also the best source of information about dealing with your local school administration.
  3. Think about teaching philosophies and learning styles. Be aware that you may need to go through a period of deschooling before you jump into homeschooling if your child was previously in school.
  4. Choose whether or not to use curriculum or which curriculum will work for you. Only after completing the above should you think about curriculum and research which curriculum fits the style your family is most comfortable with. When you are ready to buy, check out sources for used curriculum to save money.
  5. Attend a curriculum fair and/or convention that fits your philosophy. But first, read our tips for how to survive a homeschool convention – the sheer amount of resources at a homeschooling convention can be overwhelming for even seasoned homeschooling veterans.
  6. Involve the grandparents. Our Grandparents Guide to Homeschooling can help your parents understand how to support your decision to homeschool.

More Reading for New Homeschoolers

Ten Things Homeschoolers Don’t Have To Do

TheHomeSchoolMom Blog: Ten Things Homeschoolers Don't Have To Do You’re excited about the new homeschool year, and you have a list of things to do to get ready. Do you have a list of things you don’t have to do? Homeschoolers don’t have to… Read More »

Arranging a Strong Week: Your Homeschool Schedule

Your Homeschool Schedule: Arranging a Strong Week As a homeschool evaluator in Virginia, I’ve worked with hundreds of kids in families who have used all kinds of weekly homeschool schedules. I’m also in my 19th year of homeschooling, and since we’ve moved around a lot, I’ve been in a ton of different homeschooling communities and groups with so many good homeschooling families. I’ve seen all kinds of weekly schedules work well for people, and creating a strong week of homeschooling can look different for each homeschooling family. Some families have weekly schedules that look like school schedules, but most homeschooling families use the flexibility of homeschooling to ... Read More »

Finding Community as a Homeschooler

TheHomeSchoolMom Blog: Find Other Homeschoolers in Your Community At first, particularly if you are new to homeschooling, it may seem like there are no homeschoolers around at all. But chances are very good that they are just hidden in plain sight! Families in many areas have established homeschool groups that meet for field trips, projects, playtime, and even parent-run classes. Finding them can be the hardest part. Some homeschool groups maintain a low profile to respect or protect the privacy of their member families. So it can be challenging to make that first connection. But homeschoolers, in general, are very resourceful and well-connected, and once you’ve found one ... Read More »

Ask Jeanne: Homeschooling the Child Behind in School

Ask Jeanne: My son is 12 and in 6th grade but is reading at a 1.5 grade level. How do I go back and teach him the basics of reading and math? My son is 12 and in 6th grade. He is failing this year. Truthfully, I don’t know how he has passed in past years, and this year he seems to be regressing. He is currently reading at a 1.5 grade level. It is making it impossible for him to learn anything in school when he can’t read. He is in special ed, but they can not work with him one-on-one – not enough resources. We have spoken with the special ed dept and the staff and they agree that pulling him out of school and working with him at home ... Read More »

Adjusting to Homeschooling Mid-Year

TheHomeSchoolMom Blog: Adjusting to Homeschooling Mid-Year Making the decision to switch gears and begin homeschooling partway through the school year takes courage and faith. Whatever you were doing before wasn’t working, and whatever you are beginning hasn’t had time to feel routine yet. Here are ten suggestions to ease the way. Read More »

Is Homeschooling Right for You? What You Need to Know

TheHomeSchoolMom Blog: Is Homeschooling Right for You? What You Need to Know. Trying to determine the best path for educating your children can be confusing. Education is important, and we’re all trying to keep from messing up our kids any more than necessary. It’s not an irreversible decision (neither is any other education decision you make, such as putting them in a certain school or using a specific curriculum), but it will affect your whole family, so it’s worth putting some thought into. Read More »

You Decided to Start Homeschooling. Now What?

TheHomeSchoolMom Blog: You Started Homeschooling. Now What? When you’ve suddenly taken your kids out of school to homeschool, there is a long list of things to do, and it all seems like it needs to be done quickly so your kids won’t be behind. When you start homeschooling, one often overlooked aspect — especially if you hadn’t planned to homeschool — is the need for you and your child to come to terms with the school experience and the reasons you find yourself homeschooling. To help you process the big change that comes with suddenly starting homeschooling, I recommend this… Read More »

Thinking Outside the Textbook

Homeschooling not working? Try thinking outside the textbook. I’m a member of several homeschooling groups and email loops, and the most common questions are all related to, “It’s a battle to get my child to do her work. I thought homeschooling would be better for my child, but it’s all tears and yelling. For both of us. I may have to put her back in school.” The specifics vary, but many parents new to homeschooling are trying to recreate a public school environment in their home and finding that it doesn’t work. It’s not their fault. Most of us went to public school; it’s what we know. We’re taught ... Read More »

Ask Jeanne: Work Full Time and Homeschool Five?

Ask Jeanne: Is it possible to work full-time and homeschool? I work full time, and so does my husband. There is no way I could stay home and be a full time mom. We have 4 high schoolers and the youngest is in intermediate. The youngest we have the most trouble with, and I am at wit’s end trying to get her at grade level of her peers without medication. I have read about families who work full time and still homeschool their children. If I could make this work in our lifestyle, I would be interested in learning more about it. In addition, I would like to start a “trial” period during the summer months. Are their ... Read More »

Deschooling vs. Unschooling: What’s the Difference?

TheHomeSchoolMom Blog: Deschooling vs. Unschooling - What's the Difference? New homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers sometimes wonder about the word “deschooling” vs. “unschooling”. The prefixes “de” and “un” often mean such similar things. We “de-humidify” and we “un-tie” our shoes — both acts of reversing the meaning of the root word. And in that sense, the words are related. Both deschooling and unschooling require thinking about the inverse of schooling. But within the world of homeschooling, the two words deschooling and unschooling have meanings that are, most often, distinct from one another. Read More »

Goldilocks Effect: Learning When It’s “Just Right”

TheHomeSchoolMom Blog: Learning when it's "just right" Young children seem to recognize that knowledge is an essential shared resource, like air or water. They demand a fair share. They actively espouse the right to gain skill and comprehension in a way that’s necessary for them at the time. Often children seem to reject what they aren’t ready to learn, only to return to the same skill or concept later with ease. This is not only an expression of autonomy, it’s a clear indicator that each child is equipped with an learning guidance system of his or her own. Read More »

New Homeschoolers, Beware

TheHomeSchoolMom Blog: New homeschoolers, beware these red flags New homeschoolers are bombarded with information from which curriculum to use (see #11) to how to train their children (see #3). Homeschoolers are a wonderful group for crowd-sourcing information, but not all of the information available online or from other homeschoolers is helpful, useful, or productive. New homeschoolers are wise to beware the following… Read More »

What Curriculum Should I Use For My 4 Year Old?

TheHomeSchoolMom Blog: What Curriculum Should I Use For My 4 Year Old? Recently on TheHomeSchoolMom’s Facebook page someone asked for recommendations for her soon to be 4 year old. It took me back to when I had a 4 year old and a 1 year old and had recently decided to homeschool. I. Was. So. Excited. What curriculum should I use? Read More »

Why Homeschooling Boys Works

Peter Gray quote from TheHomeSchoolMom Blog Post "Why Homeschooling Boys Works" Today a friend posted a video called “War on Boys” to Facebook and it showed up in my feed with lots of enthusiastic comments. As I watched the 5 minute video, all I could think was how obvious the video’s assertions are, and yet how far public schools are moving away from addressing the truths presented. Not just limited to boys (many girls share these traits with boys), the video shows how the policies being implemented in schools reward quiet intellectual pursuits in young children while simultaneously removing the opportunities for these kids to explore and learn through play. Read More »

Parental Deschooling: 5 Things To Do While Deschooling

5 Things to Do While Deschooling Parental Deschooling Part 4 – I’ve explained why parents need to deschool as they begin homeschooling their children, and I’ve given you reading homework and asked you to network with other homeschoolers as part of the transition process. Another aspect of deschooling involves things to do as you make the transition to homeschooling. Here is your “to do” list… Read More »

Yes, You Can Homeschool!

You can homeschool! There are many reasons that lead families to consider homeschooling. Often it comes up when a child’s school is not a good match for their needs. Sometimes it’s driven by a parent’s desire to guide their child’s learning in the context of their own values. Sometimes children need a more flexible schedule in order to pursue athletic or artistic training, and sometimes parents simply can’t imagine missing out on the excitement of educational discovery. How do you know for sure if homeschooling is the right fit for you and your child? Read More »

Parental Deschooling: Homeschool Networking

Parental Deschooling: Deschooling is not just for kids While you’re in a deschooling period with your kids, I hope you’re doing some of the reading I suggested in Part 2 of this parental deschooling series. Another thing you’ll find beneficial is to begin networking with other homeschooling families. There are two basic versions of homeschool networking, online and IRL — in real life. Both are valuable in helping you with deschooling — the transition from school to homeschooling. Read More »

Parental Deschooling: Your Reading Homework

Parental Deschooling: Deschooling is not just for kids One of the most important things you can do is to read about homeschooling, education, and de-schooling. Read books, magazines, and online articles, blog posts, and websites. Stretch yourself and read some things you don’t think apply to you, that are outside your comfort level. You don’t have to accept the premise of each homeschooling book or article you read, but even if you don’t agree or find certain ideas too radical, you’ll educate yourself about the many approaches to home education. Read More »

Will Homeschooling Help ADD/ADHD?

Will homeschooling help ADD/ADHD? Will your child’s ADD get better if you homeschool? I’m no educational psychologist, but I’ve been homeschooling for sixteen years in three states. I’ve met hundreds of homeschooling families at conferences and workshops I’ve presented, I’ve answered hundreds of calls at a statewide homeschool phone line, and I’ve been a homeschool evaluator in Virginia for quite a few years now. I’ve heard dozens of parents praise homeschooling for their children who were labeled with ADD/ADHD in the school setting. But it’s not magic. The parents who observe such a change in their children also generally report actively shaping their homeschooling to ... Read More »

How to Start Homeschooling: Tips for Deschooling

How to Start Homeschooling: Tips for Deschooling For children who are starting homeschooling after an experience in a traditional school setting, deschooling is an important part of the transition. In an earlier post, we defined deschooling and how it might manifest in children who are transitioning from school to homeschooling. Knowing about deschooling helps parents to have realistic expectations about their children’s adjustment to homeschooling after they have attended school. Today, we’ll take a look at how to start homeschooling after a traditional school experience with tips for deschooling… Read More »

From School to Homeschool: What is Deschooling?

What is "deschooling"? Deschooling is the adjustment period a child goes through when leaving school and beginning homeschooling. To really get the benefits of homeschooling, a child has to decompress and disconnect from “school” being the default and “school ways” being the standard expectation. The longer a child has been in school, the more important it is to allow generous time to process the huge change from not being in school to learning as a homeschooler. Read More »

The Homeschool Parent-Teacher Conference

When mom is also teacher My first t-shirt as a homeschooling parent proclaimed, “Don’t bother me. I’m having a parent-teacher conference.” This expressed well my initial thoughts about the roles of mother and teacher while homeschooling. I could see my “teacher self” talking to my “mother self,” echoing the familiar adult roles in education that involves public school… Past my first few months of homeschooling more than a decade and a half ago, I have not separated a “teacher self” from my “mom self.” At the same time, I found it was important for me to set boundaries of time and space that made my family function ... Read More »

What I Learned about Homeschooling from Saxon Math

What I learned about homeschooling from Saxon Math As you may have read over on my personal blog, I’m thinning my library of homeschooling books, and it’s an occasion for reflection. One of the things I finally feel free to do is to pass along my copy of Saxon Math. Saxon didn’t work for us. In fact, it didn’t work in dramatic ways. We had multiple reasons for beginning homeschooling, but among the academic reasons was that the math taught at school was a poor fit and created a lot of stress and little math learning. Read More »

Delayed Academics: It’s All About Learning

TheHomeSchoolMom: Delayed Academics - It's all about learning Many experienced homeschoolers have long valued the ability to delay formal academics to create a more holistic early childhood education for their young children, with the understanding that this creates a rich foundation for later academic and life success. Today, parents new to homeschooling are embarking on homeschooling at a time when public schools are emphasizing early formal academics and implementing standardized testing of very young children, despite lack of evidence that these practices enhance educational outcomes for the children. As David Elkind (author of The Hurried Child and The Power of Play: Learning What Comes Naturally) writes in “Much Too ... Read More »

Yes, It Does Take A Village

Homeschooling: It takes a village You’ve heard the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” You’ve probably also noticed slap backs like, “I’ve seen the village and it’s not raising my kids.” Read More »

The Homeschooling Insider’s Dictionary

Homeschooling Insider's Dictionary New homeschoolers can’t help but experiencing it. It often happens the first time you go to a homeschool convention, or visit a homeschool co-op. You walk in, start to get the lay of the land, and then it hits you… This is like a whole different world. There are different norms, different terms, different expectations — and everybody who’s in it seems to “get” it. You start hearing things like “Notice of Intent” and “IOWA” and “lapbooks” and you start to wonder just what it is that you’ve gotten yourself into. Read More »

Homeschooling Multiple Children

Homeschooling Multiple Children Families new to homeschooling often wonder if it is possible to successfully homeschool more than one child at a time. It can seem very daunting! There are always challenges to homeschooling, whether you have one child or several. The trick to homeschooling multiple children, ages or grades with some measure of success and grace can be summed up in one word: organization. Read More »

What Homeschoolers Don’t Need

What Homeschoolers Don't Need Sure, there are basic necessities for getting the job done. But many of the perceived “needs” for an effective homeschool really aren’t. That’s right. You can educate your children at home with much less than most people think. So in this two-part series, let’s look at a new back-to-school list: the list of what homeschoolers don’t need! Read More »

What About Socialization?

TheHomeSchoolMom: What About Socialization? It’s often the first question out of the mouths of non-homeschoolers. For homeschoolers, it’s the question they wish they never had to hear again. As a new parent with homeschooling friends almost 2 decades ago, I asked it. As a homeschooler with young children in an area where homeschooling was prevalent, I had pat answers. As a more experienced homeschooler with a wider exposure to people in many geographic and social settings, I wanted to take a second look at the question of socialization with some input from another experienced homeschooler, Jeanne Faulconer. Read More »

My Advice For New Homeschoolers, Part 1

Advice for new homeschoolers I’ve had more friends this year decide to homeschool than any other year since we began homeschooling. The reasons have varied — concern over values taught in the public school system, distress about peer relationships, a desire to inculcate principles of faith, worries about increased “teaching to the test” procedures in government schools, an interest in providing more individualized instruction… but whatever the reason, each parent has had a significant “deer in the headlights” look as they have shared their newly chosen educational path. They have one question in common, whether spoken or unspoken: “How do I homeschool my child?” Read More »

Homeschool Testing: Evaluating Learning by Asking Questions

TheHomeSchoolMom - Homeschool Testing: Evaluating Learning By Asking Questions Homeschooling parents are sometimes asked about how often they test their children. Some do give tests that are associated with specific text books or curricula. However, many never give tests, and others only assist their children with learning test-taking skills when there is a practical reason, such as preparing for a state-required standardized test, a college readiness test such as the SAT or ACT, or helping a child prepare to enter a more formal learning situation. Read More »

Trying Homeschooling Over the Summer

TheHomeSchoolMom: Trying Homeschooling Over the Summer This is the time of year when I begin to hear from many people who are interested in trying homeschooling over the summer. For lots of parents who have not made a final decision about whether to homeschool during the next year, this seems like a practical approach. If homeschooling doesn’t seem to work, their children can enroll in school for the next school year, without any lost academic time. If homeschooling does seem to work, then the family can commit to homeschooling fully and begin the next academic year with home education. Many veteran homeschoolers will tell you, though, that a ... Read More »

Homeschool Conferences: Why Attend?

TheHomeSchoolMom: Why you should attend a homeschool conference Why should you attend a homeschooling conference or convention this year? Conferences help you adjust your course and recharge your batteries. If you need to refine your homeschooling style, find new curriculum or resources, or re-consider your children’s needs, a homeschooling conference can provide the stimulation you need to help you figure out how to tweak and improve your homeschooling life. You’ll also have a chance to re-charge your own batteries; hearing informative speakers and being surrounded by other homeschooling families can inspire and refresh you. Read More »

Homeschooling for Safety

TheHomeSchoolMom: Homeschooling for Safety This morning, my jaw dropped when I heard radio host Dennis Miller repeatedly tell a caller who was upset about the horrendous school shootings in Connecticut that he should consider pulling his young daughter out of school and homeschooling her. Miller was clearly serious. I’m not used to hearing homeschooling being recommended by people like Dennis Miller, but in the wake of the awful event at Sandy Hook, I can see where shaken parents all over the country are looking at their children and thinking, “How can I protect them?” when dropping them off at school each day no longer ... Read More »

My Secret to Managing It All

TheHomeSchoolMom: My secret to managing it all Secrets of a Successful Homeschool Mom: I think every successful homeschool mom has a secret…her secret to managing it all. Because the truth is that homeschooling itself is overwhelming; it’s just difficult to get it all done. When you add in the responsibilities of keeping the household going along with it, sometimes we feel like we’re on some roller-coaster that we can’t ever get off. Academics to teach, social skills to impart, character to instill, cleaning to complete, food to make, activities to attend, transportation to provide, jobs to fulfill…it’s just so much. Too much, sometimes. Enough that it usually takes ... Read More »

Guide to Unschooling for Beginners

The Beginner’s Guide to Unschooling There’s nothing I get asked about more as a parent than unschooling, and nothing I recommend more to other parents. Read More »

The Homeschool Year

TheHomeSchoolMom: The Homeschool Year The Homeschool Calendar: New homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers frequently wonder about whether the “homeschool year” follows or needs to follow the traditional calendar used by most public and private schools in the United States. Long-term homeschoolers frequently find their answer to that question changes as their children get older. Casual observers of homeschooling might think “of course” homeschooling has to follow a school calendar in order to be legitimate and sufficient. Read More »

Homeschool Groups: To Join or Not to Join

TheHomeSchoolMom: Homeschool Support Fall back-to-school often brings many homeschoolers to a choice: Do I join a homeschooling support group or co-op? There are many different types of homeschool groups, including intimate family groups with shared teaching, nationally-based tutor-led groups such as Classical Conversations, local extra-curricular-based support groups, state-based associations (such as Home Educators Association of Virginia), and local co-ops with parent-rotated teaching. The goals, purposes, cost, and time commitment varies with each different group, so it’s almost impossible to speak in generality about the myriad options homeschoolers have for joining with other home educators. But if you’re going to consider it, fall is ... Read More »

Homeschooling is Not Public School at Home

TheHomeSchoolMom: Homeschooling Is Not Public School At Home She got me thinking. My friend, who, for the first time, was questioning some of the values, methods, and efficacy of public school and began investigating the idea of home education for her family. By asking me questions about this whole “homeschooling thing” that we do, she brought to my attention something with which we homeschoolers ourselves struggle. My friend didn’t even realize it, but with her questions about what we did and why we did it, she displayed what is a very common misperception about homeschooling: that homeschooling is some kind of a microcosm of the public school classroom, ... Read More »

A Homeschool Guide to High School Grades, Credits and Transcripts

Homeschool Guide to High School Grades, Credits & Transcripts If you didn’t have a chance to attend our free webinar ,"A Homeschool Parent’s Guide to High School Grades, Credits and Transcripts", the full webinar recording is now online. Lee Binz of TheHomeScholar covers a variety of topics and spends over 45 minutes answering participants’ questions at the end of the webinar, so be sure to listen to the Q&A session as well as the presentation itself. Read More »

Back-to-School Perspective

Many public and private schools are starting the new year, and it’s not surprising that many homeschoolers use the fall to “get back into the groove” of things. Whether moving up to the next level in curriculum, adding a new subject, or simply trying something new, “back-to-school” can be an exciting time of rejuvenation and starting anew for home educators. It’s easy, though, to get caught up in the whirlwind of curriculum, practices, scheduled events, and educational endeavors that before you know it, the year is halfway over and you wonder where the time has gone. As those with grown ... Read More »

Homeschool Convention Survival Tips

Springtime brings warm weather, beautiful flowers, and….homeschool conventions! There are few better ways to be inspired, encouraged, and invigorated along the journey of homeschooling than attending a homeschool convention. It is an opportunity to be surrounded by like-minded people, attend informative workshops, see lots of new curricula, and receive wisdom and encouragement from experts and veteran home educators. Read More »

7 Reasons to Homeschool Through High School

Why would you want to homeschool through high school? Do the advantages really make it worth while? My husband and I homeschooled all four of our boys from kindergarten into early college, and we’d do it all over again in a minute. It was a joyous journey! Here are seven reasons you may want to consider homeschooling through high school. Read More »

How To Choose the Best Homeschool Curriculum For Your Family

One of the most frequently asked question by homeschoolers is : “What home school curriculum should I buy?” It definitely is a hard question and perhaps you are asking that question right now. However, I will not be giving you a simple answer so that you can purchase the correct home school curriculum for your family. Instead I will give you the tools and questions you need to ask in order to make a good choice. Firstly, to choose home school curriculum that will suit your family, you need to work out what your goals are for your family. Goals help you to ... Read More »


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