I was CERTAIN I had written this post before. I've searched, I've looked. Maybe one of you can find it. I can't find it. Maybe I've just typed it up for so many friends that I thought I already wrote it. I don't know. Just in case I'm going to write it now. I seem to always have friends and family members ask me about homeschool and how to start. It really is overwhelming at the beginning. I remember all the panic I felt as I started to research the topic.
1. I'd say the first place to start is with the requirements of your state. Each state has a different set of laws and regulations when it comes to homeschool. Some only require you file an intent to homeschool (a document stating that you are homeschooling your kids). Others make you submit lesson plans. Tennessee is on the easier end of the spectrum. There are lots of places to find this information. HSLDA is a great starting point. You can also look on your state's website or just do a search for the information online.
2. Now that you've familiarized yourself with the laws in your state you will need to decide how you want to homeschool. This can take quite a bit of time. There are lots of choices in most states. The most common are:
*Straight homeschool through the local school board. In this case you will need to file paperwork with the school board and then follow their standards. Some will require you to use certain curriculums, others just require the paperwork and will require your child to participate in testing in the local school. Either way most will need you to submit grades and attendance twice a year.
*Online school is an up and coming method of homeschool. It wasn't available when we began this journey a few years ago. Most online schools are free, provided by the state, and assign your child a teacher. They require online weekly or monthly meetings with a "class" and your child will be required to test in the local school system. With this method you are more of a facilitator than a teacher. It can be a great springboard for those just starting or leaving the public school. Many seasoned homeschoolers will find the program too burdensome with a lack of freedom.
*Umbrella schools provide you a different experience. This is the method we use and always have used. In this case you pay a yearly fee and report your attendance and grades to your school. Some allow you to select your own curriculum, others have a list of pre-approved resources for you to choose from, some require testing and some do not. The school we use allows us to choose our own curriculum. While we pay the yearly fee and pay for our curriculum we are still able to school in a frugal way. More on that later. I love our particular umbrella school because we are able to submit everything online. It makes it quick and easy for me! There are also counselors available to help in any area.
3. Curriculum will be your next time consuming area. Trust me there are SOOOOO many choices out there. For real. If you select online school or an umbrella school with specific curriculum requirements then you won't have as many choices. Otherwise get ready for some research. To be honest unless you just feel called to classical curriculum or another specific path then it will be trial and error at the beginning. You may not know your child's learning curve. You may be unsure of how they learn the best. That's okay! Actually I ignore all the labels. We don't do Montessori or Charlotte Mason or kinesthetic or any of those (I don't think). I'm sure they are all lovely and wonderful but I just don't use them. I research (and research and research some more) and then I take the plunge and purchase something. I get as many items as I can second hand so I haven't blown all our money on something that may or may not work for us. While I bought some items hoping they would work for both kids, I don't push if they don't. Apple and Speedy are very different and their learning styles are very different too. If you've been following my blog then you know we made some changes this year to shake things up a bit. It really is about trial and error and just finding what works best for you and your child. If you have more money than time you can order boxed sets of curriculum that offer everything you need for a school year.
4. Scheduling will be your next hurdle. You must decide when to begin and end your school year. This can follow the local public school, can be a variation of year round school, or can follow whatever works best for your family. You just need to make sure you have a plan to get in your required number of days and stick to it. Each state has a different requirement. Usually we do traditional calendar but we tend to do a few things in the summer to stay on top of it and to give us a few extra days off during the regular semester. You also need to schedule your hours. Most systems require a specific number per day. Maybe your kids work better in the morning. Maybe they work better in the evening. Maybe you like to work around your spouse's work schedule. Remember there is freedom in homeschool and you should enjoy doing what is best for your kids! Do make sure that you are doing enough though or you will be playing catch up when you'd rather be playing catch.
5. Make sure you are committed. Pray before each step and then through each step. If this is what God intends for your family then it will be obvious. Just like many other areas of life you need to be committed or it will be a miserable experience. It isn't always easy, in fact I'd argue that it's that narrow road, the tough path, the hard row but if you are certain it is right for your family and you are ready to go then you will pull through even the worst days. As you are making sure you are committed do little things to get your child or children excited about the prospect. Take them out with other homeschoolers, find some books with characters that homeschool (they exist!), plan in some fun field trips that your kids can anticipate. It will be better for you if they are excited! Don't shy away from reward programs, class parties, movie days, etc. They break up the monotony.
So here is a brief summary of what I think are the important steps. Now I can refer all those inquisitive family and friends to one place. If you homeschool, what would you add to the list?