How do I homeschool?

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So you’re interested in homeschooling but you aren’t sure how to proceed? Maybe you’re all fired-up and ready to dive in headfirst! Or maybe you’re paralyzed with fear and simply mustering the nerve to locate this website was a source of anxiety. Either way, take a deep breath and relax. Granted, effective homeschooling doesn’t happen overnight; it does require plenty of research and hard work. But whether you’re champing at the bit or wishing you could run for the hills, there’s a certain, ordered process you must follow to reach your goal. If you just take this one step at a time, your patience and effort will bring rewarding results.

Step 1 - Determine the Homeschooling Laws of Your State

First, you need to find out what the homeschooling laws are in your state of residence. Some states have very few requirements while others are very demanding. Knowing what your state requires may change your mind about homeschooling for better or for worse.

An organization called Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) provides a breakdown of state homeschooling laws. A colorized map of the United States offers quick access to information about each state. If you live in a green state, you can homeschool immediately without notifying anyone. Yellow states have minor requirements. Orange states have more regulations. Finally, red states are the most demanding.

By clicking on a state, you can read a legal analysis of that state’s requirements. HSLDA will request some basic information from you before they will allow you to view your state's laws. Don't hesitate to give them this information. They are a very reputable organization, and receiving an occasional email or two from them is a small price to pay for the knowledge you'll gain!

Reading through your state's laws can be quite daunting, but it's important that you take the time and effort to understand it to the best of your ability. As you read, if anything is vague or difficult to understand, jot down any questions that come up. When you are done compiling a list of questions, simply call HSLDA, inform them that you are interested in homeschooling, and ask if you can speak to your state's representative to clarify some questions you have regarding the legal requirements you read about on their website.

HSLDA provides legal defense for homeschooling families. We will further discuss this service in step 5.

For now, simply go to the HSLDA website to determine your state’s requirements.

Homeschool Legal Defense

After doing so, if homeschooling seems like a reasonable option for your family, move on to step 2.

Step 2 - Determine Your Philosophy of Education

At this point, you may be tempted to jump straight to choosing a curriculum. But if you haven’t considered your philosophy of education, you may second guess your choices later. A philosophy of education simply refers to your beliefs about how children learn best. For example, is it more effective for your child to read about leaves in a descriptive textbook, or to go for a walk and collect and examine different leaves? You may have strong opinions on this topic. Or perhaps you have always assumed the public school’s approach to learning is the most effective. Why are you considering homeschooling in the first place? Interestingly, the answer to this question often reveals your philosophy of education, which will have a strong influence on your approach to homeschooling and in turn, your curriculum choices.

Parents turn to homeschooling for many different reasons. For some, avoiding bullies or other undesirable situations may be the primary motivator. For others, the traditional textbook approach of a public school may be incompatible with their child’s learning style. And the list goes on. Let’s look at some scenarios to illustrate how your motives for homeschooling reveal your philosophy of education and influence your curriculum choices.

As you consider the scenarios below, please understand that your philosophy of education can change over time. It’s ok to start with one approach and gradually adopt other approaches. Also, more than one scenario may describe your situation. Read any scenarios that apply.

Within each scenario, different approaches to homeschooling will be mentioned. After you read the scenarios, step 3 will help you understand these different approaches to homeschooling and will also address compatible curriculums.

Scenarios

Step 3 - Determine Which Homeschooling Approach and Curriculum Best Suit Your Family

Your circumstances, philosophy of education, and learning style (both yours and your child’s) will have an effect on your choice of curriculum. Now that you have some idea how your circumstances can determine your philosophy of education, we will discuss the approaches to homeschooling which were introduced in step 2.

Before we proceed, however, I must recommend an excellent resource which will cover approaches to homeschooling in greater detail and will be invaluable for selecting an appropriate curriculum. This 300+ page book written by Cathy Duffy and entitled 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum may seem intimidating at first, but only the first fourth of the book needs to be read in detail. In less than 100 pages, the author helps you determine your philosophy of education, suggests appropriate homeschooling approaches, helps you determine you and your child’s learning styles, and provides a chart which helps you select curriculums that coincide with your homeschooling approach and learning style. The rest of the book gives specifics about the curriculums introduced in the chart. Thus, you only need to read the details of curriculums that you deem relevant after viewing the chart.

On her website, author Cathy Duffy also reviews other curriculums which are not part of her 102 Top Picks.

Until you have the book in hand, you can read the following brief descriptions of homeschooling approaches and begin researching some curriculums. After reading these descriptions, if you are feeling overwhelmed with options, continue reading; I will recommend some all-in-one programs to get you started immediately.

Common Homeschooling Approaches

If none of the approaches listed above appeal to you, there are two other approaches you should look into: Waldorf and Montessori.

Although you’re now familiar with homeschooling approaches and some popular curriculum options, you may be feeling more overwhelmed than ever with all of the choices available to you. Fortunately, many companies have created all-in-one programs to get you started quickly. If you want to get a jump-start on homeschooling this year, simply order one of their complete programs. If you find you don’t like it, you can always change things up next year; at least you will have a year to figure it out in the meantime!

Most importantly, please always remember… you don’t have to do a perfect job straight out of the starting gate! Take it gradually your first year or you may burn out and feel like throwing in the towel. Don’t feel you have to complete every possible assignment in the curriculum (even the companies who assemble the all-in-one packages will suggest you not try to complete every assignment they offer). You are learning along with your students. Give yourself grace this first year (and keep some grace handy for future years!) If your students get a little “behind” they can catch up later. Homeschooling offers much more one-on-one attention than they would ever receive in a classroom setting. Even if you don’t cover everything you set out to, chances are they’ll still have gained more than they would have otherwise!

Sonlight is a Protestant, all-in-one curriculum. They implement an eclectic approach to homeschooling, mixing traditional approaches with "living books." Reading their “12 Reasons NOT to buy Sonlight” article may help you decide if their program is right for you. Also, you will find a review of this program in 102 Top Picks. If you have any trouble navigating their website, simply contact one of their curriculum advisors for help.

Heart of Dakota is an all-in-one program that also uses an eclectic, literature-based approach to learning. Although their programs are very popular, unfortunately, their website is not as user-friendly as Sonlight’s.

Cathy Duffy’s website also lists numerous all-in-one programs.

Homeschool Legal Defense Association’s article may also help you narrow down your options.

Step 4 - Get Connected

Although books and the internet offer a wealth of information for homeschooling, there is no greater support for the initiate homeschooler than other homeschooling families. Visiting with other homeschooling families on a weekly basis can provide essential socialization for your children and emotional and spiritual support for you. Homeschooling veterans can offer troubleshooting solutions and curriculum alternatives if you are struggling in any area of homeschooling. This support is invaluable. The following website offers excellent suggestions for locating other homeschooling families in your area. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with other parents. Most homeschooling moms are more than happy to help “newbies.”

Depending on the laws of your state, you may also be able to homeschool via a private school program (psp) or co-op. For example, in the state of California, numerous churches and other charitable groups file private school affidavits with the state and function as psp’s which families can join (usually for a fee). These psp’s offer varying degrees of assistance and accountability to homeschoolers but generally allow you to choose your own curriculum. Co-ops, on the other hand, are cooperative groups of families who share the homeschooling burden. One parent might teach science to children in the co-op while another arranges field trips or teaches writing classes. Many families new to homeschooling choose to join a psp or co-op because they can connect with other homeschool families, gain assistance in areas of struggle, and find accountability in their homeschool journey. You can learn about any psp’s or co-ops in your area by searching the internet, inquiring with nearby churches, or communicating with other homeschool families you meet.

Websites:

A Final Note Before You Begin Homeschooling

You're almost there! There is only one more consideration before you begin. Unless you are homeschooling through a charter, there is always a chance the government could question what you are doing. A concerned neighbor or public school official could make a call to child services and a social worker might show up on your doorstep. As long as you are adhering to the homeschooling laws of your state, you have every right to homeschool. Unfortunately, some social workers can be quite pushy, and the visit can be very unnerving. Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) was founded to protect your right to homeschool and defend your rights if they are ever questioned. For an annual membership fee, you will be a phone-call away from immediate legal assistance, day or night. Many homeschooling families take advantage of this peace-of-mind.

Homeschool Legal Defense

Visit HSLDA if you want to join or simply learn more about this service.

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Despite the growing popularity of homeschooling, families who are considering it for the first time still feel baffled and clueless about how to get started. When veteran homeschoolers Conrad and Chloe Jamir found that friends and family were constantly inquiring about how to homeschool, they decided to offer their answers to a much wider audience. Combining Chloe’s passion for research and Conrad’s technical skills, Slatespot seeks to offer prospective homeschoolers a basic framework for getting started. We hope our efforts have alleviated the challenging process of embarking on this journey called homeschooling.

Conrad, Chloe, and Micah Jamir

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