How to start home schooling when you feel totally clueless
While you may have once thought yourself crazy for even considering teaching your kids at home, homeschooling is going mainstream. The National Home Education Research Institute says that there are at least 2.3 million home-educated students as of 2016. Parents who decide to take the plunge do so for a big variety of reasons — providing a child with a customized learning environment, improving education or using alternate educational approaches, strengthening family bonds and even protecting kids from racism, drugs or violence at school.
If any of these motivating factors ring a bell, homeschooling might be a great fit for you and your kids. Follow these "foolproof" tips to get started, with much less of a headache.
Check the homeschooling laws
Let's call the homeschool laws "Homeschooling 101" -- you have to know the basic legalities before you take on homeschooling. While some states are very relaxed in their approach toward homeschooling, others have more rigid guidelines and regulations. The strict states require regular reporting, submission of test scores, evaluations by outside professionals and sometimes home visits by state officials. Read our article about understanding homeschooling laws in your state. Also check HSLDA.org, where you can become familiar with the specific laws, filing requirements, record-keeping expectations and other regulations in your area.
Research homeschooling methods
Just like it is with parenting styles, there are almost countless philosophies, methods and approaches to home education, which means that you get to dabble in the research, test them out and take your pick. Here is a brief overview of the more common homeschooling methods.
Traditional method — Your homeschool would be set up just like a public school with a complete curriculum and traditional grading system. It's just like a traditional school, but at home.
Classical education method — The basis of this Christian homeschooling method is based on author Dorothy Sayers' well-known essay, The Lost Tools of Learning. The Well-Trained Mind is a great resource for exploring this method.
Charlotte Mason method — British educator Charlotte Mason developed a three-pronged education approach centered around atmosphere (home environment), discipline (good habits) and life (teaching living thoughts and ideas). This is one of the more popular homeschooling methods.
Montessori method — You've probably heard about Montessori preschool, and the same concepts from Dr. Maria Montessori translate into homeschooling, too. The Montessori method is based on the idea that learning is a natural, self-directed process.
Eclectic method — An eclectic homeschooling family takes bits and pieces from a variety of different methods to form their own homeschooling philosophy.
Unschooling — In recent years, unschooling (child-led learning) has become a more common approach to homeschooling.
These home-educational styles are only the tip of the iceberg. You can also take a look at other homeschooling methods, including the Unit Studies Approach, Waldorf Education method and The Principle Approach.
Examine your child's learning style
Here's the good news on this one -- you know your kid better than anyone. Consider your child's personality, strengths and weaknesses, as well as their dominant learning style. Some children are visual processors, learning best by seeing, while others are auditory processors and learn by listening. Other children do best by doing. These kids are dubbed kinesthetic or tactile processors. Your child's learning style can be broken down even further -- into linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, naturalistic and other learning types. Think about what has worked best for your child at home and school, when it comes to learning and play.
Choose a homeschooling curriculum
When it comes to curriculum, you can purchase a complete homeschool curriculum, buy textbooks and workbooks separately, create hands-on activities and projects, make supplemental lapbooks, use computer programs and much more. The amount of homeschooling curriculum available can be overwhelming, but Homeschool-Curriculum.org and Cathy Duffy Reviews are terrific curriculum resources to help it all make sense.
That old saying could not ring truer when you're taking your child's education in your own hands. It takes a village -- especially when you're homeschooling.
You can find a number of homeschool support and networking resources both online and in your community. You can join a local homeschool co-op, support groups of like-minded homeschooling moms in your city, online homeschooling groups, and online homeschooling communities such as homeschool.com. No two homeschooling experiences are exactly alike, but you can learn a lot from homeschooling parents who have been there and done that.
Before you go, check out our slideshow below:
Originally published March 2012. Updated Aug. 2016.