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How to Homeschool – A Quick Start Guide for Desperate Parents

How to Homeschool - A Quick Start Guide for Desperate Parents

(Last Updated on March 12, 2024)

It’s August…. The END of August…. 

If you’re being thrown into homeschooling unexpectedly, this might be the moment you start to panic. 

Or, it might be when the panic you’ve felt rising for months turns into full-blown freaking out. 

As a friend of mine says to lighten the mood when her kids are stressed out, “don’t worry… sausages!” 

Take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay.

If you’re doing public school at home or looking for quick tips to survive temporary homeschooling, check out this post.

But if you’re not sure how to begin homeschooling and you don’t have the luxury of time to figure it all out, this post is for you! Here are 5 easy steps to follow to get started educating your kids at home.

(There may be affiliate links in this post – click here to learn more. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

How to Homeschool – A Quick Start Guide

Step 1: Pray & Brainstorm About Your Homeschool

Before you get distracted comparing Latin programs you’re unsure you even need (maybe that was just me), stop and take an hour to focus your efforts so you don’t waste time and energy.

Pray about your kids’ education and ask God for guidance. Write down why you’re homeschooling and write down a few goals for the year. Think about the pros and cons of home education that pertain to your situation. Determine next steps to address the “cons” and minimize their impact.

For more details on this step, check out these posts:

First things First: Pray! on aqua fence background with yellow flowers in vase
The Most Important Question to Answer Before Homeschooling title on question mark background

Step 2: Homeschool Legally

When it comes to homeschooling in the USA, every state handles the legal aspects differently. Some require registration or meetings with certified teachers, some require testing, and others require a certain set of subjects to be covered. 

If your kids were previously enrolled in a public or private school, a withdrawal letter might be needed. Compulsory attendance ages and the number of school days required also vary by state.

Don’t try to guess or go by what your well-meaning friend told you! Check out your state requirements yourself. My go-to favorite resource for confirming our legal homeschool responsibilities is Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).

Step 3: Start Networking in Homeschool Circles

Do whatever it takes (within reason, of course) to find your homeschooling tribe. If you know other homeschoolers, start there. Ask them about the groups and co-ops in your area. If you don’t know anyone to ask, check with your library, park district, or church for leads. 

Search online for homeschooling in your town or state and you’re sure to find a group who can help you get connected. Online groups and forums are also a great support and other homeschool parents are a wealth of information. 

At The Homeschool Mom website you can find a lengthy list of groups in every state (plus a lot of other info) to get you started.

Step 4: Narrow Down Your Homeschooling Methods

There are as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschooling families. The freedom to tailor almost every aspect of education to your kids’ individual needs is awesome… but totally overwhelming! (I talk a lot about this freedom, plus the other key benefits to educating at home, in my book, Think About Homeschooling: What It Is, What It Isn’t, & Why It Works. I suppose I’m biased, but I’d highly recommend checking it out, especially if you’re newer to homeschooling or overwhelmed by the thought of it!)

Research approaches to education and homeschooling methods to open your eyes to different ways of doing things – especially if all you’ve only ever known is the traditional school system.  

My advice here, though, is make sure you did Step 1 before you try Step 4. Give serious thought to your kids’ and your own personality, strengths, weaknesses, academic needs, and learning styles and pray for guidance. Armed with all this information, you’ll more easily be able to narrow down methods and approaches to education that resonate with you.

Once you’re ready to research, check out this website for more about the most popular homeschooling methods. But, remember, you don’t HAVE to choose an existing approach. And your homeschool will be unique even if you do!

Step 5: Choose Your Homeschooling Curricula 

Warning!! This is the step that can really get time-consuming if you let it. There are thousands upon thousands of homeschooling curricula and resources out there. 

If you’ve done Steps 1 and 4 you will have some goals and maybe an approach to education that will help you narrow down your choices. Being able to search for, say, “elementary, mastery-based, homeschool math curriculum for struggling learners” will get you where you’re going a lot faster than a super-general search for “math curriculum.”

Using something like this Course of Study, prioritize the most critical subjects and start researching one subject at a time. If you’re completely unsure where to begin or where to find curricula, use a site like Cathy Duffy Reviews and look at her “top picks” in each subject. 

If you have a few ideas narrowed down, ask around in your homeschooling circles for pros and cons about your choices. The product descriptions at Rainbow Resource online homeschooling store are very helpful. Their customer service team members (phone or live chat) are also incredibly knowledgable if you need help deciding between a few options.

For more details on how to select homeschooling curricula and resources, check out Strategies for Buying Homeschool Curriculum: A Grocery Store Analogy

Strategies for Buying Homeschool Curriculum title on grocery aisle background

See? Easy-Peasy! 5 simple steps! Now you’re ready! Right?

Okay, I know it’s unlikely you went from “freaking out” to “totally got this” in one blog post. But, seriously, if you work through these steps you’ll be equipped for Day 1 of homeschooling. And your experiences on Day 1 will help you with Day 2 and so on. 

Just like parenting, you’ll learn by doing. 

I know I did! True, I had years to research before we started. But whether your homeschool journey starts abruptly or not, at some point you’ll just need to start.  

In this post I share more about my own experience when we began homeschooling. And this Day in the Life post gives a snapshot of our homeschool more recently.

If you’re feeling ill-equipped, you’re not alone. But the cliché is right — God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips those He calls. 

For more motivation, find out what the Essential Trait of Successful Homeschoolers is (Spoiler Alert: Don’t worry, you already have the essential trait!). And check out Thinking of Homeschooling? You Can Do It! to be encouraged because, whether you feel like it or not, you CAN homeschool successfully!

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How to Homeschool - A Quick Start Guide for Desperate Parents