Hi, I’m Tabitha, and I started homeschooling my son in 2014. I’ve been very vocal about switching to homeschooling – and my reasons for it – both on my blog and in person to friends, family and acquaintances. Now I’ve become the “go to” person in my network when someone has questions. Sometimes potential homeschoolers approach me apprehensively – like homeschooling is an invite-only secret society. It’s not. It’s okay to ask questions!
Let’s assume you’ve decided homeschooling is right for you. You may be asking yourself, how do I get started homeschooling?
1. Find out your state laws on homeschooling.
You can start looking into your state’s homeschooling laws here. Legal requirements range from no state regulations (in 11 states including Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri) to low and moderate regulations on up to states with high regulations (5 states including New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts).
Don’t let the regulations deter you. You can homeschool in all 50 states. Just make sure you know what it legally required by your state to get started.
Search your library to see what books on homeschooling are available. When you’re selecting books on homeschooling, take a minute to look at the author’s biography and make sure it’s written by a veteran homeschooler.
3. Reach out to other homeschoolers.
If you know people who homeschool, that’s great! Reach out to them.
If you don’t, search Facebook for homeschool groups. You can find online groups where homeschool moms ask questions, get advice, and chat. I’m in several groups and everyone is very helpful! So join a group and start asking your questions.
You can also use Facebook to connect to local homeschool groups that organize field trips, play dates, etc. Finding local support is great!
4. Find your curriculum.
There are tons of great resources to help you find a course of study that matches your child’s abilities, struggles, learning style as well as your family’s budget, lifestyle and beliefs. Many, including myself, use Cathy Duffy’s 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. Cathy Duffy is like a guru of homeschooling.
5. If your state requires it, find a cover school.
This is something homeschoolers in every state need, except for the 11 states that have no state regulations. Cover schools and co-ops are two different things. Let me explain.
For the regulated states, all children of a certain age must be “enrolled in school.” This means registered with a public school, private school or a “cover school.” These can also be called “church schools” or “umbrella schools.”
You pay a fee to enroll your child in a cover school to complete the requirement of having your child enrolled in school. They send a proof of enrollment to your local school board.
Cover schools can be elaborate – organizing field trips and events; some require parent meetings and curriculum approval and a “statement of faith” (for church schools) and quarterly attendance/grade sheets. Some offer record keeping (for transcripts) classes, group meetings and electives. The more a cover school offers or requires, the more expensive it will be.
Cover schools can also be basic and only require a small fee (ours is $25/year) and it provides your proof of enrollment. It really depends on what you want in a cover school.
6. Decide if a co-op (homeschool co-operative) is right for you.
We have a basic cover school but we also live very close to a wonderful co-op. Since I have only one child I knew we needed to get out of the house once a week and be around other kids (not that that’s the only time we get out of the house – we have church, karate and soccer – but I wanted to meet other homeschool families too).
A homeschool co-operative is a group of homeschooling families that get together and teach classes for their kids. Every parent pitches in. Maybe you know how to sew but you’re terrible at math. You can teach sewing to a small group while your child learns math from another parent. Or if you love babies, you can help in the nursery with the littlest ones so their parents can teach classes.
We’ve done two semesters at co-op so far and my son has taken core things like math and reading as well as fun things like building projects and a LEGO class! Our co-op charges a nominal fee per semester (this covers the cost of using the building we meet in) and classes have supply fees mostly in the $5 to $15 range but some of them are higher depending on what’s needed.
Co-op isn’t for everyone. My sister-in-law doesn’t do co-op. She has three schooling at home, two in preschool and a baby. She doesn’t have time. But for us, it’s great, my son has fun and we’ve made new friends.
7. Decide when you’re going to start and pick a date to “un-enroll” your children from public school. Decide if you need to do some “de-schooling.”
Yes, it is okay to start homeschooling mid-year! If you don’t want to finish out a bad year at public school – don’t! If you’re worried that it’s going to take a few weeks to get your ducks in a row it’s ok to go ahead and take your kids out of school. You may want to spend a few weeks “de-schooling” before you start curriculum. You don’t necessarily have to take them out of school on Friday and start homeschooling on Monday. Especially if they’re having a negative experience at school (bullying, struggling with grades, behavioral problems, anxiety, stress, etc). The first thing you want to do is show them school and learning doesn’t have to be negative or stressful.
What is “de-schooling?” It gives your child time to relax and unwind and see learning from a new perspective – without the bullies around, without worrying about grades, and without stress. Take a trip to the library and let your child read books they’re interested in. Work on a project that interests your child – art, science experiments, bird watching, and bug collecting. Field trips are good too – zoo, museums, local historical sites, nature centers. Don’t push the educational aspects of these things, just let your child explore. There will be plenty of time to re-visit these places with notebook in hand to “learn.”
8. Do it!
If you’ve taken steps one through seven, the final step should be easy. Now you just have to jump in and do it!
About the All-Star
Tabitha is a homeschooling mom and deal blogger at Saving Toward A Better Life. When she started “saving toward a better life” – both the blog and the real life application of the concept – her idea of a better life was to stop being a family dependent on two incomes. With a baby boy about to turn one she already knew she wanted to homeschool. She just had to make staying home a reality. And she did. Tabitha blogs about deals and saving money but also about homeschooling, natural living and more. Follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram!