Next Steps – Get Started With Homeschooling
A little bit of advance preparation can help you get started with homeschooling.
The Legal Side Of Homeschooling
We recommend joining the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. By itself, HSLDA is not focused on teaching you how to homeschool. Instead, they focus on helping you to ensure your homeschool is in compliance with the homeschooling laws in your state.
Some states are very homeschool friendly and some counties are very homeschool friendly. Some jurisdictions are not friendly at all. HSLDA will answer your questions about homeschooling laws in your state. They will also defend your right to homeschool if you find yourself being questioned by authorities related to your homeschool. Sometimes this is a letter from HSLDA reminding a jurisdiction what the law actually says. Sometimes it means providing legal representation in formal hearings or court. HSLDA has also invested decades working with local homeschool groups, lobbying legislatures, parliaments and congress for commonsense reforms to homeschooling laws across the US and around the world.
We don’t recommend asking the local school board about homeschooling laws. As noted, some are great, others see homeschoolers as a threat and money walking out the door. More than a few have intentionally misrepresented the law, some simply don’t understand the law. Others have told parents it would prevent their children from getting a diploma or attending college. The truth is, homeschoolers are welcomed at practically every institution of higher learning including all of the Ivy League Schools and the US Military Academies.
Homeschooling Support Structures
Seek out a local homeschool group. Ask friends or acquaintances from church or from work that are already homeschooling. They can probably help you find a group that fits your situation and style. In urban areas you may have several choices. In rural areas you may only have one or two.
A local group can help ease the way into homeschooling. They often have inside information on local school board attitudes toward homeschooling. You may have opportunities to try out a variety of curricula since parents often have leftovers that they may be willing to share. You’ll hear lots of pointers, tips and tricks. How to deal with the local school board, for instance. Another example would be businesses or organizations that are homeschool friendly.
Many of the parents have made the same mistakes that you may make and it can be helpful to know that they can be overcome. Sometimes its just nice to know, you’re not the only one who ever did THAT, and that THAT is just a bump in the road.
You’ll also find many homeschool groups become strong communities. One or two days each week they meet, serve a potluck lunch, the kids get to play together or study together. The parents, usually moms, get to talk strategy or just catch-up.
Some homeschool groups are more structured. They plan group outings, group/units studies and even regular instruction for some subjects. It can also mean diplomas are issued in the name of the homeschool group.
In the end, homeschool groups range the entire span of each of these. After all, they are parent driven groups. As children grow-up and new children/parents come, the groups themselves often evolve. Once you get the confidence that joining a group can help develop, you can be a part of that growth.
You can also become a part of that group of experienced homeschool hands that welcomes and mentors the next generation of homeschool parents.
Homeschooling With Style
Consider what “style” of homeschooling fits your style. Of course, no choice is permanent and many homeschooling parents try different styles before settling on one. They also create their own blend, their own style.
Broadly the different styles of homeschooling are:
- Structured Homeschooling
Structured homeschooling can best be described as “school at home.” It likely has a set curricula, books, tables or desks that students work at, a set schedule when school begins and ends each day and so on. What sets it apart from public school is that parents have near complete control over the decisions on curricula and schedule. (Some states dictate calendars.) For many parents having the structure helps keep things on track, and meeting preset goals helps drive their sense of accomplishment. That can really boost a new homeschoolers confidence. Conversely, for some the rigidity can be difficult and missed goals can make it seem like you aren’t being successful.
- Relaxed Homeschooling
Relaxed homeschooling usually means the schedules are loose or may not exist, the materials may be a blend of several packages or unit studies. School work may be at the table one day, one the porch another day and just about where ever the family happens to be on any other day.
- Unschooling as a Homeschool
In some ways Unschooling might be described as Extremely Relaxed Homeschooling. Others would describe it as child led learning. The idea is simple. Kids tend to be quite curious and often develop lifelong interests in particular fields at an early age. An unschooling parent acts more as a guide or facilitator. They assist their child as the child engages with and develops these interests. Some unschoolers do still have certain subjects that are slightly more structured, like reading or math. This helps their child to use these skills to further explore their interests. They often try to incorporate learning these skills into everyday life experiences. That might involve Bible Studies, helping with the family budget, balancing a check book, grocery shopping or using a recipe book to make dinner. That can mean learning without schooling or unschooling.
None of these Styles are wrong or right. Most homeschooling families have elements of each in their approach. It is probably the case that most new homeschoolers start with Structured Homeschooling. It’s comfortable because it most closely resembles the system they are familiar with. Over time, with growing confidence, they may become more relaxed in their approach.
Within each style there are a variety of methods and curricula available. As a result, you might get discouraged with a “style” when the issue is really the curricula or the method. You might find it difficult to teach a structured curricula at a desk and yet completely manageable on the front porch with more frequent breaks, for instance.
How do you get started with homeschooling? Don’t be afraid to do what works for you.