Homeschooling 101: The Basics of How to Get Started

Updated: Dec 28, 2021

The thought of homeschooling for many parents can be extremely daunting. Where do you start, what are the laws, how do you figure out where your child is at academically, what curriculum do you use, or do you use curriculum at all, and are you even qualified to teach your child? These are all questions that parents ask themselves. Finding the answers may be easier than you think.

Homeschooling Information: Start Here

As with all things in life, the first step is to make the decision. After that, you need to know where to look for the information you need. Each state has different regulations and requirements for parents who homeschool their children. When starting to explore if this is the right option for your family, there many resources out there for you.

  1. A simple google search of your state’s homeschool regulations will get you started.

  2. You can also go to your state’s website to search for homeschool regulations.

  3. Homeschool Legal Defense Association.

Knowing what regulations and requirements you must follow and what rights you have as a parent and educator are key to being successful at homeschooling. It may be intimidating at first but many agree that it is easier than it seems!

HSLDA is a homeschool advocacy organization that fights to advance and protect the freedom to homeschool. They offer legal protection, educational support, and strength in the community. They offer memberships that provide discounts to families for museums, office supply stores, hotels, etc. They also provide legal help and advice from a qualified attorney licensed to practice law in your state.

Curriculum Information

Once you have become familiar with your state’s regulations, the next step is to decide how you would like to educate your child. There is an overwhelming amount of curriculum available to homeschoolers. One easy way to help eliminate some of these options is to look at the 4 main types of curricula or education options:

  • secular

  • non-secular

  • accredited

  • non-accredited.

The difference between secular and non-secular curriculum is that secular curriculum offers a religious perspective to your child’s education while non-secular does not. A secular curriculum can be found for most major religions, so if you belong to a specific religion, this is something that you can use to tailor your child’s education to align with your personal beliefs.

A non-secular curriculum is going to offer an educational experience that does not focus on religion at all but could potentially contain world views that you may or may not agree with.

Accredited Vs. Non-Accredited Curriculum

The difference between accredited and non-accredited is that the accredited curriculum has been approved by an outside agency for use in schools that either meet or exceed a set of standards decided by the accrediting board. When it comes to homeschooling, there is typically no need for a curriculum that is accredited.

The only time a homeschool parent would really need to consider an accredited curriculum would be if they intended on putting their child back into a public high school. Even then, it is not required for re-enrollment, but it can make that process easier for the transfer of course credits. The other reason would be if your student plans on pursuing NCAA sports in college where more extensive documentation may be required. For more information on accreditation, read this article.

The next step to choosing the curriculum that works best for you and your child is to determine what level they are at academically. If you are starting out homeschooling your child at a young age, this is easy, but if you are removing your child from a public or private school, you may not know.

There is online assessment and placements tests that you can have your child take to determine what education level they are at. These work well for assessing your child’s strong and weak areas. You may find that your child excels in mathematics but struggles with reading. Having this information will allow you to tailor your child’s education to their specific needs.

Most curriculums offer their material as either an entire grade package or as separate subjects, so you have the option of custom building a curriculum that works for your child. The other thing you can do to customize your child’s education is to mix and match the different curriculum. It’s important to remember too, that if you try a particular curriculum and it doesn’t work, you don’t have to continue using that one. You have the option of switching it out for something else. Keep in mind though that some states have strict reporting requirements so be sure to know what your state requirements are.

Some parents choose to not use any curriculum when homeschooling. This type of informal education is known by many in the homeschool community as unschooling. This form of education is growing in popularity as more and more parents take control of their children's education. Unschooling is the concept of letting children learn through the life experiences of play, chores, personal interests, curiosity, books, and exploring the natural world.

Qualification Myth

The biggest struggle for a lot of parents is overcoming the question of whether they are qualified to teach their children. As parents, we tend to forget that we are our children's first teachers. We teach them how to eat, dress, learn their alphabet, count, and identify shapes, among many other things.

Our children are naturally inclined to learn from us as they've been doing this their whole life. That connection we have with our children and the ability to teach them doesn't go away when they become school-aged. As your child's educator, you are not required to have every answer or be an expert in the subjects you are teaching. They will learn that from the curriculum they are learning, or by other means if you are unschooling. While most states have no qualification requirements, there are several that do. In this article, you will find a simple breakdown of the requirements by state.

Homeschooling is a big decision and not one that should be taken lightly. There are rules and regulations that must be followed and many different options to consider with regards to curriculum. We also must overcome our own personal setbacks and society's misconceptions about homeschooling. Homeschooling can be one of the most amazing and fulfilling experiences and journeys that you and your child go on together.

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