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New to Homeschooling?

Use our step-by-step guide

to know where to start.

 

Let's Get Started!

Where to start

With all the great information out there about homeschooling, it can be a bit overwhelming knowing where to start. Take a deep breath… you’ve got this! We’ve broken down the process of getting your first year started into 6 steps. Each step below contains a little instruction and a U-Step so you know exactly what you need to do next. We suggest you use a binder as you move through the steps. We call this your Homeschool Directive. It’s a place to store your plan and important documents and records so you can easily reference them when needed.

Homeschooling is a journey and there will be more to learn along the way, but for now, these steps will get you started on that journey! So, just take it step by step and know we’re here to support and cheer you along the way!

 

Homeschool Laws

Your first step is to know what your state requires of homeschoolers. We’re going to help you find those laws, understand the 15 components that homeschool laws cover, and know how to comply with those laws. Start this step.

Educational Statement

Writing an “educational statement” (or “educational philosophy”) sounds much more daunting than it really is. At its core, this statement captures what you believe education is and how it happens. Start this step.

Your Homeschool Entity

As a newbie, you might be tempted to think that you will be doing school at home, but in reality, you are establishing a new school entity. Understanding the difference will help you lay the foundation for your homeschool. Start this step.

Unique Family Make-up

Don’t skip this step! Understanding what makes your family unique (personalities, learning styles, productivity needs, and rhythms) is necessary for making strong decisions for your particular homeschool. Start this step.

School Year Goals

Your homeschool is only as strong as your home, which is why we start setting goals for our homeschool by setting our family goals. With those in place, we can then focus on making goals specific for the school year. Start this step.

Plan & Implement

Choosing the tools you’ll use to support your school year (curriculum, activities, schedules, etc.) can be overwhelming. But, your family’s unique needs and your school year goals will focus those decisions.  Start this step.

Homeschool Laws

We start here not only because it very import that we as homeschooling families are in compliance with our state’s homeschool laws, but also because our state’s homeschooling laws give us a structure for making decisions.

For instance, some states require you to use a specific curriculum or to be under the umbrella of their state-sponsored online program. Knowing this will save you hours of researching curriculum options!

We’ve included in this step a training module from our Homeschool-U membership site called “U & Homeschool Laws.” In this training module, Homeschool-U founder Michele Holmes explains the 15 components of homeschool laws and how they apply to your homeschool.

We encourage you to read your state’s Board of Education document (you can google “[state name] and board of education” to be taken to an electronic version of this document) for yourself to get a sense of the language your state uses when stating their requirements for homeschoolers.

For a summary of your state’s homeschool laws, we recommend checking out Home School Legal Defense.

NOTE: Homeschool Laws and High School Requirements are two different documents. In the Homeschool-U membership site, we have a training for understanding and setting up high school requirements for your homeschool, including creating credits. 

With the current pandemic situation, we have been asked frequently about the legality of one individual homeschooling the child of another individual. Our answer:

First, consult your state’s homeschool laws. If you cannot find any specific wording, we suggest you contact Home School Legal Defense for more help. If it is legal to do so in your state, we suggest you have a document of intent and agreement between all responsible parties (Michele covers this in the training video above).

  U-Step

Look up Your State’s Homeschool Laws

1. Get to know your state’s homeschool laws well so you understand how to stay in compliance throughout the year.

To help you with this step, we created a checklist of the 15 homeschool law components and a worksheet to capture your own state’s homeschool laws. Once you have the worksheet filled out, add it to your Homeschool Directive.

2. If your state requires you to notify your school district of your intent to homeschool, you should submit that as soon as possible.

Educational Statement

Whether you are brand new to homeschooling or have been homeschooling for years, you will get asked the question, “what kind of homeschooler are you?” It’s cousins are “what is your educational philosophy?
and
 “what is your homeschooling method?” 

At the heart of each of these questions is really the question “what do you think about education and how do you let it influence the way you homeschool?” Your answer to this question makes up what we call your Educational Statement. As you begin researching homeschooling, you’ll come across different educational statements on how learning happens best. These educational statements (also called philosophies or methods) answer 11 questions about education (we cover all of these in the Homeschool-U membership site). For now, though, we want you to simply focus on two questions:

1. What do I believe helps a child thrive in their education?

2. What do I think is necessary to help a child learn?

It is important to have a educational statement as it directs many of the choices you’ll make as a home educator regarding curriculum, activities, and schedules. For instance, if you believe that real-life situations helps a child thrive in their education, you’ll choose project-based curriculum and schedule many field trips or other real-life learning activities. If you believe that a school-like environment is necessary for a child to learn, you will want to create that environment in your home.

In the Homeschool-U membership site, we walk you through fleshing out your educational statement by answering the 11 questions about education. We then help you apply this educational statement to making decisions for your homeschool.

  U-Step

Write Your Basic Educational Statement

To have a starting point for making educational decisions for your homeschool, you’ll need to answer these two questions:

1. What do I believe helps a child thrive in their education?

2. What do I think is necessary to help a child learn?

Write your answers down and add them to your Homeschool Directive. 

 

Your Homeschool Entity

Many new homeschoolers make the mistake of thinking they will simply be doing school at home. But, in reality, you’ll be establishing your own school entity that happens to be located inside your home. 

Why this distinction matters:

  • You get to make the rules (within compliance of your state’s homeschool laws). There is great freedom and responsibility with that.
  • You control your start and end dates for your school year. You can make your school year last 6 months, 9 months, or 12 months! It’s up to you.
  • A school day in the public school includes time for classroom management. You will spend significantly less time on formal instruction (textbooks) which frees you up to incorporate unique learning opportunities (field trips, projects, etc.).
  • Education can look like whatever lines up with your educational statement as long as you are teaching the Educational Branches (we cover more the Educational Branches in Step 6).
  • What you decide to do for your homeschool can look different from what another homeschool mom does for her homeschool.

Homeschooling is not about replicating what happens in the public school classroom at the dining room table. It is an opportunity to create a learning environment that fosters growth in your students.

 

In the Homeschool-U membership site, we delve deeper into this concept of establishing your homeschool entity.

  U-Step

Create Your Homeschool Entity

Embrace this concept that you are setting up a homeschool entity not simply doing school at home! You can do this by naming your homeschool. Create a cover page with your name and add it to your Homeschool Directive.

Have fun with this step! Have a naming ceremony with your family. Break out the sparkling grape juice for the kiddos and some bubbly for the parents and toast to your new homeschool entity and its inaugural year.

Unique Family Make-up

Paying attention to your family’s unique make-up is key for making strong decisions for your particular homeschool. Understanding your personalities, learning/teaching styles, productivity needs, rhythms, and routines all make an impact on the goals you set and the tools you select.

Personalities
Is your family made up of introverts or extroverts? A-type or laid-back? Perfectionists or procrastinators. Engineers or creatives? Why this matters: if you have a family of introverts, you wouldn’t sign your family up for an all-day, multi-day co-op. If you have a student who is a creative, you’ll want to structure time into their school day to create. 

Learning Styles & Teaching Styles
Most moms take their kids learning styles (visual, auditory, or textile) into consideration but neglect to think about their own learning styles and, more importantly, their teaching style. Goals and tools that take both of these things into consideration is ideal. Why this matters: If you have a hard time reading out loud, but your child is an auditory learner, you would look for a curriculum that has an audio-component for the instruction.

Productivity Needs
Do you need checklist to be productive? Does your child need to sit at the table to be productive? Do they need you to sit next to them? Why this matters: If your child needs a cleared space to be productive, you will want to have a rule that the school space gets cleared at the end of the day to provide a clear space for the morning.

Rhythms and Routines
Are you a family of early risers? Are you in the car commuting frequently? Do you all sit down to eat dinner together every night at a certain time. Why this matters: If you are all late risers, you might schedule your school day to happen in the afternoon or evening.

In the Homeschool-U membership site, we give you a holistic framework for evaluating your family’s unique make-up and needs, including questionnaires to ask yourself, your spouse, and your children.

  U-Step

Get to Know Your Family Unique Make-up

Take time to think through the following categories as they pertain to your family. Jot down some answers. 

Personalities
Learning Styles & Teaching Styles
Productivity Needs
Rhythms and Routines


Add your notes to your Homeschool Directive
.

School year Goals

When you set goals, you give your school year direction and focus. It allows you to say “no” to the good and “yes” to the best. 

Goals to set for the school year:

  • Family Goals Your homeschool is only as strong as your home. Set goals for your family that take priority throughout the year.
  • Academy Goals What do you hope your students to accomplish or experience by the time they leave your homeschool?
    (For those of you considering homeschooling because of Covid-19, we want to give you permission to make this goal “To provide an education that stands in until the public school system returns to a norm with which we are comfortable.”)
  • School Year Goals – Academy What do you hope for all your students to accomplish or experience this school year?
  • School Year Goals – Student What do you hope for your specific student to accomplish or experience this school year?
    (For those of you considering homeschooling because of Covid-19, this might be as simple as “To be ready to return to the public school system next year.”)

 

In the Homeschool-U membership site, we give you a holistic framework for setting goals and provide worksheets and an online tool to capture your thoughts into one place.

  U-Step

Set Goals

Set goals for the following categories for this year:

Family Goals
Academy Goals
School Year – Academy
School Year – Student

We suggest you use the SMART matrix for goal setting:

S-Specific
M-Measurable
A-Attainable
R-Realistic
T-Time-bound

Write your goals down and add them to your Homeschool Directive.

Plan & Implement

Now that you know your homeschool laws, have written your basic educational statement, embraced your homeschool as its own entity, understand your family’s unique make-up and needs, and have set goals, you are ready to select the tools that will help you make your homeschool year happen.

Educational Branches
As Michele mentioned in the training video about homeschool laws, you are required to teach the Educational Branches:

Language Arts
Mathematics
Physical Science
Social Science
Fine Arts / Electives
Physical Education

While some states give you specific subjects to teach, the majority give you complete control over which subjects you will teach in each of the educational branches and during which grades. This means you will need to decide what subjects you will teach within each Educational Branch. You can google “What a [your student’s grade] should know” or look at your local school’s scope and sequence to get a sense of what others are teaching during that grade.

Curriculum
Choosing curriculum can be overwhelming… there are some fabulous choices. So, here are our tips:

  • Set a budget before you start researching.
  • Understand that you may have to change curriculum during the year. Be sure your budget will allow for that.
  • Select a curriculum that matches your family’s unique make-up and help you meet your school goals.
  • Decide if a box curriculum will help you reach your goals or if selecting materials from different publishers would be best. Note: with a box curriculum, the publisher selects the subjects for that year, creates lesson plans, and provides text and manipulatives from the perspective of their particular educational philosophy.
  • Focus on one Educational Branch at a time when researching curriculum. It’s easy to get lost if you don’t stay focused.

We have listed below (after the U-Step) some sites where curriculum can be purchased and some popular curriculum publishers.

Activities
When considering activities outside the home (co-ops, library programs, sports, art club, etc.) be sure they take your family’s unique make-up and your goals into consideration.

Schedules
Once you have your curriculum and activities selected, we suggest you break things up into 3 month chunks. When you ask, “what do we need to accomplish or experience in the next 3 months to move us closer to our year goals?” it helps focus you and allows for adjustment when life happens.

In the Homeschool-U membership site, we teach you how to make a decision-making filter to make strong decisions for your homeschool. We also discuss how to budget your time, talent, and resources efficiently and effectively. In the membership site, we provide worksheets and excel documents to help you keep track of your resources, create lesson plans, and keep your schedules balanced, stress-free, and achievable.

  U-Step

Plan & Implement

Take the time to decide what tools you will use to help accomplish your school year goals. Once you have those, break your plan up into 3 month chunks you can implement and adjust as needed.

Write down the tools and activities you plan to use and do this year. Include your 3-month implementation plan. Add both of these to your Homeschool Directive.

Where to Buy Curriculum

Curriculum Buying Sites (not an exhaustive list)

abebooks.com

amazon.com

christianbooks.com

homeschoolbuyersco-op.org

hshangout.com/webplus

rainbowresources.com

teacherspayteachers.com

thinkwell.com

timberdoodle.com

Used Curriculum: Search Facebook for homeschool curriculum resale groups. Also, often local co-ops, libraries, and churches hold curriculum resales so keep your eyes open for those. Thrift shops, yard sales, and other homeschool moms are also great resources for used curriculum.

 

Curriculum Publishers/Press (not an exhaustive list)
You can purchase curriculum directly from the publisher/press. We are providing this list as a reference and not a recommendation as we firmly believe the benefit of a particular curriculum is very dependent on the goals of the homeschooling mom for that year and that particular subject. 

Abeka

Blossom & Root

Beautiful Feet

Classical Academic Press

Common Sense Press

Life of Fred Math

Math-U-See

Master Books

Mystery of History

Power House

Our Father’s World

Seton Books

Singapore Math

Son Light

Tapestry of Grace

The Good and the Beautiful

Timberdoodle

Time4Learning

Well-Trained Mind

 

You’re ready!

The work that you’ve done in these 6 steps has laid the foundation for a great year! You only have one thing left to do:

Embrace your homeschool year with clarity and confidence!

 

We’re here for U

If you would like more in-depth training and support, as well as an encouraging community to walk alongside you as you plan, implement, and embrace your homeschool year, then we invite you to join us in the Homeschool-U membership.

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