When you are first starting out, the prospect of teaching your children at home can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be as hard as it seems. Let’s do a little checklist of what needs to be done now so that you are ready when the school year arrives.
1. Find out what your state’s regulations are and how to comply. — The requirements for each state are different, and it is important to be well informed. Surprisingly (or maybe not), your state’s department of public instruction is not always the best place to find out what the rules are. Some overstate the requirements for homeschooling or ask for more of your family’s personal information than your state law requires.
Your state homeschooling organization, made up of homeschooling parents who stay up-to-date with current law, is usually the best place to find out everything you need to know to be in compliance. Here’s a list of the state homeschooling organizations, at The Teaching Home.
Do make sure you register with your state. It is important for your own safety (so that no one accuses you of truancy) and for the good reputation of all the homeschool families within your state. Now is a good time to get going on this, so that you don’t come up against any surprises at the last moment.
2. If possible, join a local homeschool support group, and begin making friends there. Perhaps you already have homeschooling friends who are helping you get started, but connecting with more people with experience under their belts never hurts. Ask lots of questions. Most homeschool veterans are more than happy to take you by the hand and walk you through the process.
3. Begin deciding what books you will use. Get them ordered soon, to avoid the end-of-summer rush that homeschool curriculum companies tend to experience. Also, having the books in hand for a few weeks before you are ready to start teaching will give you time to familiarize yourself with how the materials are laid out and what to expect.
There are so many choices these days — online programs; correspondence schools which provide accountability, schedule your weekly tasks for you, and do all the grading; publishers who let you choose between ordering a full curriculum package for the year, or who will sell you the individual books and/or video programs you desire.
Some people homeschool using packaged curricula from one publisher and do all the lessons exactly as presented; some use a mixture of publishers; some stick entirely to homeschooling materials they find for free online or at their local library. Every family is different.
My personal feeling is that if you are new to homeschooling, it might be wisest to start out with one publisher for the core classes — language arts, math, science, and social studies. After the first year, when you have a better feel for what you are doing, you may want to branch off and try new things. But having the structure of a full program laid out for you by one curriculum publisher can cut down on frustration and fear of failure when you are a beginner.
For further help in getting started with confidence, you might want to see my website page, Character Building for Families Homeschool Hints. I’ve got some tips there for you, as well as some links to other places with helpful articles.
Over the next few posts, I’ll try to give you more practical ideas to help you get started.