Valerie L. Sizelove
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Freelance writer, mom of four.
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If you’re considering homeschooling your child, you might wonder how to even begin to accomplish such a feat. You’re hearing about complicated curricula, lesson plans and all kinds of homeschooling styles. It can be a bit overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. You can begin homeschooling your child with confidence after learning a few key things, first.

Know your state’s homeschooling laws and qualifications.

You should become familiar with the homeschooling laws in your state before you begin. Homeschooling practices are monitored and regulated in different manners across the country, varying by state. While some states have high regulation requiring lots of documentation from parents, others don’t require parents to report on their homeschooling practices at all.

A few states require parents to undergo background checks, and some others require parents to hold a high school degree before teaching at home. Some require specific subjects to be taught, while others require students to take performance exams.

Explore homeschooling communities in your area.

For homeschooling encouragement, support and social opportunities, your family might like to join a homeschooling community in your area. These groups offer social activities for homeschooled children and parents alike. There are extracurricular possibilities, emotional support from other homeschoolers and academic advice available via these communities. You might be teaching your children from home, but you’re not alone in your homeschooling adventure.

Decide on an approach and curriculum.

Each child is different — whether they prefer spending time outdoors or like to keep their nose buried in a book. Their learning and intelligence levels run across a broad spectrum. There is no “one-size-fits-all” curriculum program. That might even be why you decided to homeschool in the first place. Programs come in all kinds of formats covering endless topics. There are learning options for visual learners, locomotive learners or auditory learners. It's also possible to teach special needs education at home. Make sure the curriculum you choose is aligned with any requirements set by your state.

Create an agenda and plan, plan, plan!

Homeschool success relies on careful and in-depth planning. Start by setting some goals for the school year. Reflect on the previous school year — what was learned, what worked for your child and what didn’t. Come up with learning goals to work toward throughout the year, so you and your child have an end goal in sight to help you stay motivated.

After that, break down large goals into smaller, workable chunks. Plan what you want to accomplish each month, each week and each day. Create a road map to get from where you are now to where you want to be at the end of the year. Finally, make sure your lesson planning also lines up with your base goals.

Helpful tips and tricks:

1. Set measurable goals.

Make sure the goals you set for your student and yourself as an educator are trackable, so you can feel good about progress and notice areas where extra work is needed.

2. Use multiple teaching styles.

The beauty in teaching from home is that you can include whichever strategies you want. By experiencing lots of teaching styles, your child will have more opportunities to learn in a way that’s ideal for them.

3. Make it fun.

Perhaps you’re homeschooling to escape the traditional classroom setting. Did it occur to you that you’ll now have the power to make learning fun? Kids learn more when they’re having fun, and you’re free to do what you want in the comfort of your own home.

4. Stay connected with others.

Keep continued contact with other homeschooling families through community homeschooling organizations, events and friends. School may keep you home a lot, so take every possible advantage to get your family out of the house and socializing.

5. Prepare financially.

When you consider the cost of curriculum programs, supplies, field trips and other learning experiences, homeschooling really isn’t that cheap. Many families further suffer financially due to one parent staying home without income. Plan your finances to ensure the process goes smoothly.

6. Take it one step at a time.

Those who are brand new to homeschooling might see so much information that they want to try it all. Parents sometimes get carried away planning intricate lesson plans and activities, which result in the opposite of the desired effect, further boring kids who are uninterested. Parents are only left with wasted effort. Take the homeschooling process just one step at a time, beginning with only a basic framework. You can tinker with it over time, adding and removing materials, adjusting methods and becoming more specialized.

Homeschooling FAQs

Can you start homeschooling at any time?

Some parents wonder if there’s a specific time of year they should choose to start homeschooling. Luckily, you can begin homeschooling your child at any time of year, even if it falls within the school year. In most states, you’re required to give the school some type of notice that your student will be withdrawing to homeschool. It might be an easier transition for you and your child during a usual transition time, like summer break or winter break.

Is it hard to homeschool?

There’s no easy answer to this question. The truth is that for most, homeschooling probably is hard. It partially depends on the parent’s teaching experience and the child’s willingness to learn. Younger children are easier to homeschool because they’re not as adjusted to the traditional methods of school that older children have already learned.  The potential benefits your family experiences as a result of your hard effort will make it all worthwhile.

How much does it cost to homeschool?

The cost of homeschooling depends on the types of materials you choose, which means you’re in control of the cost. For an idea, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) estimates that the average homeschooling parent spends $300 to $600 per year on each child’s curriculum, activities and materials. Some programs can even run in the $400 to $1,500 range. Financially conscious families can also choose to buy used curriculum materials, rent them, borrow from the library or even create their own.

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Valerie Sizelove is a freelance writer of blog posts, career guides and more. Her specialties lie in writing about mental health, administration and parenting. When she's not writing up a storm, you might find Valerie cooking a huge dinner for her family of 6 or tinkering around in her amateur vegetable garden. Books are pretty good, too. You can find her on LinkedIn and Facebook. 

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