How to Start Homeschooling Anytime During the Year: The Ultimate Guide for Beginners

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Homeschooling jumped right into the mainstream spotlight this past year. Many parents suddenly found themselves with the title of homeschool teacher as schools shut down across the nation.

After seeing the benefits that can come from homeschooling, some parents are considering permanently changing to homeschool education. Typically only 3% of U.S. children are homeschooled, but the National Home Educators Research Institute is predicting it might increase to 10% in the 2021-2022 school year. 

There are many reasons that homeschooling is rising in popularity. If you are wondering how to start homeschooling and the best way to homeschool your child, I’ve compiled the ultimate guide for homeschool beginners in 2021. 

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Reasons to Consider Homeschooling

  • COVID: If you have a medically fragile child or immunocompromised person in your family, the threat of COVID might be a driving factor for you to consider homeschooling. School districts and state legislation are making it easier to switch to homeschooling if you are trying to limit your exposure to the Coronavirus. 
  • Medical reasons: There are other medical reasons that compel parents to educate their children at home. Whether your child has a chronic illness, allergies that can be better managed in a controlled environment or mental health issues that make in-person school difficult, homeschooling can be the solution to your problems. 
  • Religious beliefs or culture: Some families choose to homeschool so that they can better incorporate religious beliefs and/or cultural information. 
  • Problems with the teachers and/or other students: If your child is having irreparable issues with teachers or students at their current school, homeschool can help you temporarily or permanently remove them from a hostile environment. 
  • Family travels full-time: Homeschool is an excellent fit for families that make the exciting decision to travel full-time. Homeschooling allows for flexibility both time and curriculum-wise so that your child’s education perfectly pairs with your adventure!

What is homeschooling?

Homeschooling has many forms including unschooling, roadschooling, world schooling, co-op, classical and Montessori to name a few. All of these homeschooling methods have the same basis; the education of your child is done at “home.” Homeschooling puts your child’s education into your hands. You get to choose the curriculum and you get to teach it using a method that works best with your child’s learning style.

How to Start Homeschooling. . . in 7 Easy Steps

If you are feeling overwhelmed with how to start homeschooling these seven steps can help simplify the process. 

  • Find out what your state laws & regulations are for homeschooling 
  • Deschool
  • Choose homeschool learning/teaching method/styles
  • Choose a curriculum based on the method you chose 
  • Find and get involved in the homeschool community 
  • Plan your homeschool year 
  • Keep homeschool records

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1. Find out what the local and state laws & regulations are for homeschooling

One of your first steps into the journey of homeschooling is to learn about local and state laws and regulations.  

    • Florida homeschooling– In my home state of Florida, there are three options to choose from in order to legally homeschool: 1) Homeschooling under the homeschool statute (see below). 2) Homeschooling under a private school umbrella program. 3) Using a private tutor for homeschooling.
    • Florida homeschool lawsFlorida Statute 1002.41 includes the following responsibilities for homeschool parents: 
      1. Send a written notice of intent to your school district superintendent
      2. Maintain a portfolio of educational records that is available for inspection with a 15-day written notice
      3. Provide an annual educational evaluation of the student’s educational progress to the superintendent (there are several options for the evaluation).
      4. Preserve each student’s portfolios for two years

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2. What is deschooling and why is it important?

The next step in the process towards homeschooling is called deschooling. Deschooling is a time of rest and transition. It is a period of time that allows both you and your child to gently move from traditional school methods into your new way of schooling.

If you are jumping into homeschooling unexpectedly you might feel like you need to begin right away and perfectly. However, allowing time to remove old habits and expectations of school and ease into a new way of learning will benefit both you and your child.  

Deschooling also gives parents time to reflect and plan for their homeschool journey as well as pick up cues for what curriculum and teaching methods will most benefit their child. 

How you deschool is up to you. Some families will explore learning in a non-traditional way, some families will allow a complete break from learning and others will spend time playing games and talking. Feel empowered to make deschooling an enjoyable transition for your family.

3. Choose a homeschool learning/teaching method

There are many different methods of teaching and learning. The success of each method is going to depend on your family’s lifestyle, personalities, goals, motivation, and your child’s learning style. 

You can talk with your child about the ways they enjoy learning, and also try to observe the organic ways they explore the world. One good piece of advice is to recognize that it is okay to change your family’s learning/teaching methods if a specific way isn’t working for you. 

4. Choose a curriculum

Curriculum choice can be one of the biggest roadblocks for parents deciding how to homeschool. Because it requires an investment, it can feel like a really important decision. Choose a curriculum that will work best with your teaching style and your child’s learning style. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from fellow homeschoolers as you make this choice. 

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5. Find and be active in the homeschool community

This step is so important for the long-term success of homeschooling. We are fortunate to have access to supportive homeschooling communities no matter where we live. 

Your homeschool groups might be local or virtual but finding a community means access to recommendations, opportunities to meet in person, resources and most importantly support. There are many Facebook groups, type in your city and/or state along with “homeschool” to find one near you.

6. Plan your homeschool year

Create an annual calendar, choose weekly goals, write out daily schedules, etc. You can plan far ahead or keep your schedule more loose to go with your child’s learning style. 

7. Keep homeschool records

Create a physical space for your homeschool records including a portfolio. Make it as easy as possible to add to your records. Set reminders on your calendar or in your phone to help you remember.

8 Approved Homeschool Teaching Methods

There are benefits and drawbacks to each option. Begin by eliminating the methods that won’t work for your child and then dive deeper into the remaining methods until you find the perfect fit. There are 8 homeschool teaching methods that are approved for use in homeschooling, including:

  • Traditionalmimics a traditional school setting in environment, schedule, and curriculum.
  • Classical Education Model  – involves a curriculum that a child learns from without much deviation.
  • Charlotte Mason –  uses “rich literature” and “living books” as the basis of education and emphasizes narration or re-telling by your child.
  • Unit Studies focus on a topic or theme to incorporate multiple subjects for learning.
  • Unschooling  –promotes non-structured, child-led learning.
  • Montessori – is child-led learning facilitated by parents’ preparation of an environment and connection of learning and interests.
  • Waldorf

    is a holistic approach that encourages education of mind, body, and spirit. Textbooks are rarely used and activities, discoveries, and finding one’s place in the real world are emphasized.

  • Eclectic – is a combination of any and all homeschooling methods to suit a child’s personality and learning style.

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Useful Tips for a Successful Homeschooling

Most homeschoolers learn things from experience that contribute to their overall success. Here are some tips we’ve learned along the way. 

  • Be flexible
  • Stay in your lane. Don’t compare your journey with someone else’s
  • Give yourself and your family grace
  • Utilize your homeschool community

Homeschool Preschool Tips

  • Realize that preschoolers learn through play
  • Don’t stress about academic measures
  • Make sure that your preschooler is rested, has a full tummy and an empty bladder before school begins
  • Make your learning space colorful, comfortable, and inviting

Homeschool Tips for Older Children

  • Set a reasonable schedule – teens need more sleep. Starting later in the day might be beneficial
  • Allow for movement and stretching breaks
  • Involve family, friends and homeschool associates to guest teach as a way to cover gaps and keep things interesting

Frequently Asked Questions about Homeschooling

How can I start homeschooling immediately? Check with local and state regulations. Determine what you need to do to make homeschooling your official education choice. Allow some time to deschool and plan. 

How can I start homeschooling in the middle of the year? Homeschooling mid-year is legal in all 50 states. Follow the seven easy steps above to get started. 

How much does it cost to homeschool your child? The costs will vary depending on the type of curriculum you choose, but estimates run from $300-$1,700 per year per child. These costs will go down as you re-use the curriculum with younger children. You can purposely choose a curriculum to fit your budget and utilize free community resources to supplement. Also, check with your local homeschooling association to see if your state provides any reimbursement or benefits to homeschoolers. 

Is homeschooling during a pandemic a good idea? Many families have had tremendous success switching to homeschool during the COVID-19 pandemic. Homeschooling gave parents control over their children’s education during an uncertain time and limited exposure to the Coronavirus.

Can you start homeschooling at any time? While it is important to confirm with local state laws and regulations, typically you can start homeschooling at any time after providing necessary notification. 

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What are the qualifications to homeschool your child? Most states do not have requirements for parents to be able to homeschool their child. However, you should check with your state’s department of education to confirm if there are any education requirements for homeschool teachers. 

How many hours a day does homeschooling take? If you are talking specifically about formal learning time, typical estimates for hours a day range from 1 hour (K-2) up to 5-6 hours (9-12th grade). This can vary depending on your teaching style as well as your child’s learning styles. Preparation work by the parent/teacher will require additional time, anywhere from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours depending on the curriculum and number of children. 

Is homeschooling illegal? Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, however, some states have more “homeschool friendly” laws and regulations. It is important to research your state’s particular rules prior to planning your homeschool. 

Is my child too old to start homeschooling? No, homeschooling can be successful with children of any age. It is a common worry that if you don’t start children at a young age that homeschooling isn’t an option. However, by deschooling and communicating openly with your child, you can have success with homeschooling at any age. 

Do I get paid for homeschooling my child? Some states allow homeschooling families to receive a deduction, tax credit, or even a stiped if they are homeschooling under an umbrella school. Check with your local school district for more information. Additionally, some states offer tax credits or deductions to homeschooling families. Check with an accountant familiar with your state’s laws.  

What is the best age to homeschool? This is a personal decision and should be decided on a child-by-child basis. Some children are ready to begin homeschooling at age 4, while others will benefit from waiting a bit. Consider the age that you want your child to complete their schooling as well as their attention span and desire to start school. 

What are the benefits of homeschooling? Homeschooling helps strengthen family bonds and allows you to customize your child’s learning to their learning style and any religious or cultural beliefs that you want to strengthen. It is beneficial for students that are struggling with learning disabilities as well as students who are ahead academically since you can support their learning one-on-one. Homeschooling is also a great fit for children who are medically fragile or have allergies that make attending traditional school risky. 

What’s my child’s learning style? There are four main learning styles including Kinesthetic, Auditory, Visual, and Reading/Writing. You can determine your child’s learning style through observation or direct questions. Websites like this can also help you determine what style most closely fits your child. 

What homeschool supplies do I need? This is another question that will depend somewhat on the type of curriculum you choose. Generally, you will need pencils, paper, scissors, glue sticks, notebooks, and art supplies. You might benefit from a chalk or whiteboard as well as dry erase markers and mini-boards for each child. A good pencil sharpener and wall map are a great addition to your homeschool classroom. 

Do homeschool parents need to be certified teachers? Most states do not have requirements for parents to be able to homeschool their child. However, you should check with your state’s department of education to confirm if there is any education requirements for homeschool teachers. 

What about socialization? This is one of the main complaints/worries of parents considering homeschool. Today there are local options, both within school districts and homeschool co-ops that can provide socialization opportunities. You can check with your school district to see if there are any hybrid options for schooling. Some districts allow homeschoolers to enroll in elective classes in middle or high school. Additionally, research your area to see if there are homeschooling co-ops. You can do this using Google or Facebook Groups. A homeschool co-op is a group of families that meet together for activities and/or field trips. If there isn’t one in your area you could start one yourself!

What are the pros and cons of homeschooling? PROS: Flexible, customizable, allows time for other interests, strengthens family bonds, protects children from possible negative influences, lets children learn at their own pace, more hands-on. CONS: Puts stress/worry on parents, hard to keep records, can be hard to motivate or teach kids, less opportunity for socialization.  

How can I homeschool multiple children at different levels? Yes! Teachers in one-room schoolhouses used to do it all the time. There are a few strategies for homeschooling multiple children that are at different levels of education. 1) You can separate their school times so you can teach them one-on-one. 2) You can find ways to use the same curriculum but have the students explore it according to their education level. 

Can homeschool students be involved in extracurricular activities? Absolutely. You can look for extracurricular activities through local parks and recreation departments. Many businesses including gymnastics or tumbling, karate and swimming have day options specifically for homeschoolers. Additionally, most school districts allow homeschool students who live within their boundaries to participate in extracurricular sports. You will have to do research to find out tryouts and other pertinent information for extracurriculars at your neighborhood schools. 

Homeschool Tools & Resources

We are fortunate to live in a time where homeschooling resources are plentiful! Here are some tools and resources you can find online.

Legal Information/Resources

Lesson/Teaching Resources

  • TED-Ed Lesson Builder: This site helps you build a lesson around an engaging TED talk video.
  • Khan Academy: Has helpful step-by-step videos, online activities and lessons for any subject you can imagine.
  • NASA for Students: For students in grade K-12, this amazing resource has articles, games, activities and videos for STEM topics as well as aeronautics and space exploration.
  • Project Gutenberg: Has 45,000 eBooks for free! Also, check with your local library for eBooks, audiobooks and other resources.
  • Duolingo: This free language app is amazing and offers lessons in many different languages. This is a great way to add a new language to your curriculum.

Support Groups 

Search your city or state name and “homeschool support group” in Google to find options near you.

Books 

Magazines

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