How do I start home schooling?

Home schooling is something that many people talk about, but few people have any idea just where to start.  It may seem like home schooling is just too difficult or complicated, or takes too much time.  It can also seem overwhelming – you may often ask the question, “How do I start home schooling my children?”

start home schooling

If you want to home school but are not sure where to begin, here are some tips that may help.

Just How Do You Start Home Schooling?

Talk to other home schooling families.

This does not sound as difficult as it seems. A quick search on the internet for homeschooling groups will often bring up a variety within your area.  Social media is awash with homeschooling groups who will happily help those who may be interested to start home schooling.  Talk to a variety of home schoolers, so that you can see how home schooling works for different lifestyles and family groups.

When my husband and I first contemplated homeschooling, we contacted the local home school group.  We were quickly invited to attend their weekly get-together.  This was the perfect opportunity to meet face-to-face with local home schoolers and find out first-hand how they manage and co-ordinate their home schools.

Look online for tutorials and literature.

The internet is filled with homeschooling parents who write blog posts about their homeschooling methods and schedules. Spend some time reading these posts, watching videos or visiting forums.  There are plenty of e-books that discuss the topic of getting started with home schooling.  Many of these ebooks are available to download for free.

Familiarise yourself with your local laws and requirements.

Your local department of education should be able to help you in this regard.
Most Education departments require some sort of official statement declaring that your child will be home schooled in the upcoming year.  In Victoria (Australia) where we live, we are required to register our children in November for the following school year.

If you are planning to start home schooling from Prep (Kinder) grade, you will need to find out at what age that occurs.  In Victoria, children must be five (5) years of age by 30 April of the year they start school.

In Australia, age and registration requirements differ from state to state, so it is important that you are aware of what applies in your area.

Join home schooling organisations like groups, co-ops and online communities.

There is usually a “main” group to which most home schoolers in your community will belong, and you can find out when you talk to them. Many of these groups will be easily found with an internet search.

These groups meet on a regular basis and are a great source of support for parents.  They also provide an opportunity for children to participate in group activities with other home schooled children.

start home schoolingAlthough when we looked to start home schooling, we approached our regional group, we decided not to participate in their weekly get-togethers.  Logistically, it would have meant considerable travel every week, and with a younger child to consider, we felt it just wasn’t for us.

Instead, we have found a number of home schooling families who live in our local town and we get together on a monthly basis for bushwalks and craft activities.  We found that this better suited our homeschooling style and there was less pressure on our family unit.

Choose a curriculum that is right for your child.

I have to say that this is probably the most stressful part for would-be home schoolers. When we started, I had a few ideas in mind, but really wasn’t sure where to begin.  I had thought that I’d just buy some textbooks and sit down to work through them.  Thankfully I didn’t get so far as to spend a heap of money on textbooks as I now know it would have been money wasted.

start home schooling

Trust me, it does not have to be stressful.  Think about what makes your child “tick”.  If your child enjoys stories and reading, there are curricula that are based on children’s classic literature.  There are also more “traditional” types of curricula that are fairly structured.  Some curricula are based on social studies and geography; others on reading.
After only a few months I discovered my daughter learned better from more visual/creative work, than just filling out textbooks.  I started looking for curriculum ideas that enabled her to incorporate drawing into each subject.

Most importantly, do some research.  Talk to other home schooling parents, and don’t worry if you don’t pick the “perfect” curriculum right off the bat.  You can always change.  It’s a good idea to start small and maybe avoid purchasing a big, expensive curriculum right away.  The internet is full of websites offering free downloads of work sheets and curriculum ideas.  Start with these as a gauge of your child’s area of interest and learning style.

Keep lessons short – particularly in the early years.

Some home schoolers may disagree with me on this point. In my experience, my children show far greater interest in a subject when I make the lessons shorter.  I have found that after 20 minutes my children start to lose concentration and once this happens, learning just seems to stop.

Keep good records of your child’s schooling.

Get some kind of system set up – it does not have to be elaborate; even file folders in a box will do. Or you can get an entire system of computer software to track your child’s progress.

How you keep your records will be affected by your state laws, because different states have different requirements for tracking a child’s progress.  Some areas require a portfolio, which is a collection of your child’s work in various subjects, and others require standardised testing.  Some states give you a choice.  In Victoria, we are not required to complete any formal documentation of homeschooling progress.  The onus is placed onto the parent when they register their child to start home schooling.  Parents agree to cover all the key learning areas required by our state law.  Other states in Australia require formal planning documentation and proof of completion along with a home visit by the state education department.

Although I’m not required to keep formal documentation, I have decided to keep records of yearly and weekly planning schedules.  Each term I also write up a small report that details all areas my child covered that term.  At some stage I’m sure that more detailed reporting will be necessary in my state.  So I guess I’m just preparing myself for when that time comes.

Last but not least, set up an area where your schooling will take place.

This can be the kitchen table, or a special chair, or an entire room. It’s a good idea to have a set time and area in the house where you do your home schooling. It helps set the mood and enhance concentration when the time and place are somewhat scheduled.

home_schooling_maps1For our family school is all done at the kitchen table.  When we first started, I wanted to have a separate home schooling room.  I had set up a small room that was close to our family area, but in reality quite separate.  Unfortunately this created a lot of stress as I had a younger child who had not yet started home school.  She quickly became restless if she was forced to stay in the home schooling room.  In the end I decided that sanity needed to prevail and I shifted our “classroom” to the kitchen table.  By doing this, it enabled my younger child to come and go from “school” as she pleased.  Our living and family areas are now covered with all forms of educational adornments, from maps of Australia & the world, to number & alphabet posters, not to mention the pile of boxes that contain our school work.  All in all, it has meant that school life for us has become less stressful and a lot more family orientated.

What ever you decide, don’t let the thought of home schooling your children become overwhelming.  Take a breath, do some research and ask around.  Our family has certainly not regretted the decision to home school our children.

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Looking for resources?

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