Making the decision to homeschool is never taken lightly. There is the never ending list of pros vs. cons when you decide if you should homeschool. At the end of that list and countless prayers and discussions with your spouse, a decision needs to be made. Finally, it’s time to make the decision. Will you homeschool your children?
If you’ve answered “yes” first let me say welcome to the homeschool family! I applaud you for your decision to homeschool your children. While I can’t promise you that everyday will be amazing (in fact I can promise you there will be hard days), I do believe this is an amazing opportunity you are giving your family.
Ok, so you’ve decided to homeschool. You’re probably wondering what to do next now that you’ve made the decision. I would probably even go out on a limb and say you’re probably feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the choices to you, and don’t know where to start. Trust me, I’ve been there. In fact, all of us homeschool moms have been there. You’re not alone!
My first piece of advice is to take a deep breath and know that you can do this! Don’t just take my word for it, that’s God’s opinion too, “For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength” Phillipians 4:13.
The following is a step by step guide to begin your homeschool journey. Remember, homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t need to have all of the answers on the first day. In fact, you can’t have all the answers on the first day. Homeschooling is a journey, not a destination. So don’t panic, take it one step at a time and everything will fall into place.
Know Your State’s Laws
I live in Minnesota where the homeschooling regulations are pretty minimal compared to other states. I am not a lawyer and don’t pretend to be an expert in the laws, especially when it comes to outside of Minnesota. So I’m really not going to go into detail here, but I will point you in the right direction. Visit HSLDA for all the state laws you will need to follow.
Create a Mission Statement
I suggest you sit down and write out a mission statement early on in your homeschool journey for one simple fact. If you haven’t already, you will soon be bombarded with information overload. If your head hasn’t started spinning yet, it will soon.
By having a mission statement from the beginning, you can filter out information that simply doesn’t have a place in your homeschool. This means you won’t waste time researching different methods or ideas that simply aren’t for you because it doesn’t fit into your mission. This is my mission statement.
Because my mission statement states that I want to instill a strong foundation of faith, I typically seek out a Christian based curriculum program, especially in areas of Science and history. This means I don’t waste time evaluating secular based science programs.
Consider Your Teaching Style & Your Children’s Learning Styles
When deciding how you want to go about homeschooling, and choosing curriculum, you should first take some time to consider your teaching philosophy. Knowing this will help you best determine which curriculum options would be a good fit.
Along with knowing your teaching philosophy, knowing your child’s learning styles is equally important. You can find a top rated curriculum product, but if it doesn’t teach to your child’s learning style you’ll be in for a bumpy homeschool year.
I highly recommend the book 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy. This book will start off by helping you determine which homeschool method you fall into, and determining your child’s learning styles. It’s then followed by a grid to list which curriculum options fit into which styles followed by an in depth review of each of her 102 top picks.
Set a Budget
Before you even begin looking at different curriculum options, you should sit down with your spouse and together agree on a budget for homeschooling. When it comes to homeschooling, it CAN be expensive, or it can be really inexpensive. In fact there are even some free options out there. Homeschooling curriculum can really fall into any budget. Because of this, I suggest you make your budget first, then start shopping for options that fall within your budget.
If your budget is fairly limited, I always suggest spending your money on a good reading and math program. I suggest this because these are subjects that build on themselves as your child progresses. Learning the fundamentals of these two subjects well early on will set your child up for success.
Of course I’m not saying the other subjects aren’t important, but there are a lot of free resources you can use for other subjects. You will learn to know the library like the back of your hand. There are also some amazing resources on pinterest for everything from arts and crafts to science experiments and history unit studies.
Find a Local Homeschool Group
Homeschool groups are amazing. They might do some educational class like activities, field trips, or just offer weekly social activities. However academic in nature they are, join. This is a great opportunity for your kids to have fun and build friendships with other homeschooled kids.
Homeschool groups are also a great way for you to connect with other moms who are there in the trenches with you. Take the opportunity to learn from their wisdom. Troubleshoot problems together. There is a wealth of support that can be found in these groups.
Attend a Homeschool Conference
Being I’m from Minnesota, my husband and I usually attend the MACHE conference. You’ll find that most conferences are held in the spring. When it comes to attending conference, I have a couple tips.
- If possible, go with your spouse. I have two reasons for this. The first, it’s a good reminder to him why you’re doing what you’re doing and help him have a better understanding. Second, if there are two workshops you want to attend at the same time you can divide and conquer! Bonus reason – you can get away for a night or two without the kids.
- Look at the schedule of speakers and workshops before going. Make a game plan so you know which speakers you want to make a priority. Having a plan before hand will help reduce some of the stress/overwhelming feeling you might experience.
- Go to the trade show, but don’t make any decisions (at least the first day of the conference). This is especially true if you’re just starting to shop for curriculum. I remember my first time on the vendor floor, it’s overwhelming to say the least. That being said, it’s also a great time to get your hands on products and see them, talk to the reps and have your questions answered. Grab their catalogs and take your time going through them. Allow yourself time to process all the information.
That being said, I am also believe that we should support the sales reps, and companies at their booths, so if you find something that you absolutely love or knew ahead of time it’s what you wanted, go ahead and make the purchase. My point is simply, don’t feel like you need to make all your homeschool decisions there at the vendor show.
Avoid the Comparison Trap
Be careful not to put unneeded pressure on yourself to preform. Your homeschool isn’t the public school. It also isn’t your friend’s homeschool. We all have a slightly different approach. Remember these different approaches are because we are tailoring our child’s education to meet their needs, not the needs of your friend’s children. What works for them might not work for you and that’s ok.
Your child might not know some scientific fact, but that’s simply because you’re studying different topics. Don’t panic because your child doesn’t know something. Remind yourself that your child probably knows a thing or two that other kids don’t, simply because you’ve chosen to study something different.
Be Willing to Make Changes
No matter how prepared we are for anything in life, we don’t know how it will turn out until we put it into practice. Don’t feel like a failure if a particular method isn’t working with your child like you thought it should. Be willing to adapt and make changes as you go. We’ve all done this. Don’t be hard on yourself if things need to be adjusted a little (or a lot). This isn’t just a learning experience for your child, it’s a learning experience for you as well. We don’t expect our children to have all the answers, don’t expect that from yourself either.
Enjoy the Journey
Lastly, as you are homeschooling, remember to enjoy it. It’s very easy to get bogged down in the to-do list of your homeschool day, but try not to. Find ways in the everyday life to stop what you’re doing and embrace a teachable moment. Enjoy this journey with your children. It can be an amazing relationship building experience for your entire family.