How to start homeschooling: 10 steps to start your homeschool journey
The benefits of homeschooling, tips on getting started, transitioning to homeschool, and how to choose a curriculum.
Homeschool 101 to get you started
Note from Outschool: Laws about homeschooling vary from state to state. Before beginning any homeschool program, be sure to learn about and follow all state laws and guidelines, including public health orders.
How to start homeschooling – the thought alone may overwhelm you. If you’re new to homeschooling, you might ask yourself, “What homeschool programs are out there?” “How do I start homeschooling?” or even if homeschooling is the right choice for you and your family.
With more and more families choosing Outschool as a homeschooling option, we’ve created an easy-to-use Homeschool 101 eBook to get you started. Packed with information on how to get started, how to find affordable classes, and tips from current homeschooling families, this guide has everything you need to get the ball rolling. You might want to bookmark this link for future reference.
If you’re grappling with how to start homeschooling, this article is for you. Let’s explore why you want to homeschool, tips on getting started, transitioning to homeschool, and choosing the right curriculum for your child.
How to start homeschooling: 10 steps
Consider the benefits of homeschooling and why you want to homeschool
Weigh the pros and cons of homeschooling
Research your state’s homeschool laws and regulations
Make a homeschool plan
Find a homeschool community
Find a homeschool approach that works for you
Explore homeschool resources or create your own
Choose or create a homeschool curriculum that works for your child
Leave your child’s current school
Step 1: Consider the benefits of homeschooling
Before leaping into homeschooling, you may want to think about what is prompting you to homeschool and why. There are many reasons that families choose homeschooling in place of traditional schooling, but to make it work for your family, you’ll need to think about why you want to homeschool.
Homeschooling allows your child to learn about things they are interested in and passionate about. Your schedule is flexible, allowing you the opportunity each day to explore.
This freedom lets students take their learning out of the classroom, whether it’s a trip to the zoo, job shadowing at the local hospital, or even a field trip to a nearby city. You have the freedom to help your kids figure out what and how they want to learn.
The traditional school day comes with distractions that students don’t face at home. In a homeschool environment, students are free to fully be themselves without worrying about what others will think and without being distracted by other students.
Rather than learning from a decades-old curriculum with the primary purpose of doing well on tests, homeschooled students may benefit from a more meaningful approach to learning by studying things that matter to them. This approach helps them learn and retain information for life rather than cramming it all in, taking a test, and forgetting all about it five minutes after the test.
Time with your kids
If your family is constantly feeling rushed by a frantic schedule, homeschooling can give you the freedom to set your own pace and enjoy several additional hours in the day together.
Ability to customize your kid’s passions and needs
If you have a gifted and or neurodiverse learner, the one-size-fits-all approach of brick-and-mortar schools may not be able to provide what they need. Many families are drawn to homeschooling because they can create a customized, individual education experience for their kids.
Step 2: Weigh the pros and cons of homeschooling
For families thinking about transitioning from a traditional public school to start homeschooling, you may want to consider the pros and cons of homeschooling and how to make the transition easy for your child and your family. To do this, you need to consider three aspects that are important to all families seeking to make a change:
Have a conversation with your kids
Find out what your kids want and don’t want. While homeschooling may be the best option for everyone involved, there may be some anxiety or nervousness regarding the unknown. Topics such as not knowing if your child will have friends after homeschooling to concerns about working full-time while teaching your child are important discussions to have from the get-go.
Study your state’s homeschool laws
We’ve said it before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Once you’ve decided to transition to homeschooling, you will want to be up-to-date on your state’s rules and regulations. Some states require a letter of intent and a profile filled with your child’s work at the end of the year. Other states may not need a profile but might ask for standardized test results. You’ll want to know what your state expects to avoid any surprises down the line.
Choose a curriculum that works for you
With the amount and variety of homeschool curricula available, it’s best to ask yourself what is most important about the curriculum you want to use. Consider your child’s learning style and interests. It’s okay to know that the curriculum your neighbor is raving about may not be a match for your child. Mix and match materials and resources to create the right setup for your child.
Step 3: Research your state’s homeschooling regulations
Each state has its own rules. We suggest that you learn about them before taking the plunge. Sites such as SEA Homeschoolers have a page dedicated to state-specific laws that will help you identify the requirements for where you live (if you’re in the United States).
Step 4: Make a plan
When starting something new, it’s important to put a plan in place. With Outschool’s 7 Tips to Get You Started, you can start thinking about requirements before taking the leap or researching the next steps if you’re already committed to homeschooling this year.
Step 5: Find a community of like-minded people.
Ask around, find groups on Facebook, or do a little research online, but make sure that you find others who have been down this path before. Homeschoolers are an especially open group who want to share their experiences with you and help you during the process.
Step 6: Find the homeschooling approach that works for you
There are many different types of homeschool types and styles. (We’ll talk about that more in-depth later.) However, it is important to remember that homeschooling is not a one-size-fits-all type of schooling. It’s okay to try out different styles and approaches as you determine what works best for your family.
Step 7: Explore the smorgasbord of existing homeschool resources
There are a lot of resources available for homeschooled children, from textbooks and workbooks to video enrichment and online resources such as Outschool. Mix and match the various subjects and add a class or subject that interests your child.
No one knows your child better than you! If your child enjoys reading, consider using story-like history and literature books. Maybe you have more of a hands-on learner. Enjoy an afternoon cooking up creative science experiments in the kitchen. Your resources do not have to be from a curriculum when the learning opportunities are all around you.
Step 8: Choosing a curriculum
No two kids are the same. So how do you choose a curriculum for your family's unique needs? Here are key steps to choosing a curriculum, how to make sure it's right for your family, and how to check that it's culturally relevant.
Consider what subjects you want to cover
Depending on your country or state, certain subjects are required regardless of if you are in a traditional schooling or homeschooling environment. When choosing a curriculum, put these as a priority to meet your state laws, but know that how you present the material is up to you.
However, the beauty of homeschooling is that you, the parent, can tap into your child’s unique interests and adjust what you are learning to meet those guidelines.
Determine the number of hours you’ll spend homeschooling
Our child’s age is a significant factor in choosing which curriculum you will use. There is a big difference between how long and what a 5-year-old can do versus that of a high-school student. Keep this in mind when looking at texts, videos, and workbooks.
Create a budget to calculate the cost you want to spend
A budget is helpful to keep you from spending too much at the beginning of the school year. You may want to reserve some money for later in the year in case you change curricula, need to hire a tutor, or come across a fantastic video game coding class. Instead, focus on how you want to spend the money: field trips, vacations, etc.
Attend homeschool conferences
Many states offer homeschool conferences and conventions that allow you to touch and feel different curriculums. At these conventions, you can listen to veteran homeschoolers and experts cover multiple topics that may be helpful when you’re getting started.
Consider your child’s interests
Can your child identify a dinosaur by its bones? Or maybe they can name every make and model of trains, but when it comes to retaining their multiplication facts, they just don’t stick. In these cases, opt for interest-led learning that broadens your child’s passions with subjects and life skills like cooking, finance, coding, or even zoology and marine biology.
Find learning resources appropriate for your child’s needs
Not all children learn the same way. Unfortunately, this is one of the most significant pitfalls of traditional curriculums since they often leave children with non-traditional learning styles behind. Does your child learn best by creating things or talking to people? When you choose your homeschool curriculum, you should determine whether your child is a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner and then find a curriculum that best suits those needs.
If finding the perfect curriculum just isn’t happening, you can always create your own. With the number of resources available, you can research more about the different types of curriculum styles. Check out these suggestions Outschool has covered in the past:
Step 9: Officially leave your child’s current school
If you’re transitioning from a public or private school to begin homeschooling, you will want to make sure that the school knows. Laws about homeschooling vary from state to state. Before making the transition, be sure to learn about and follow all state laws and guidelines, including public health orders.
Step 10: Breathe
Homeschooling is a journey filled with many baby steps over many years. Don’t worry if your homeschool does not look like someone else’s or if you use a different method than your neighbor. Just as every child is unique, your version of homeschooling will be too. Instead, breathe and soak it all in. Enjoy these years at home together!