Homeschooling is an excellent alternative to traditional public school if you want to educate your children at home. Here are some tips on getting started as a homeschooler.
To start homeschooling, follow these steps:
- Research and familiarize yourself with the homeschooling laws and regulations in your state.
- Notify your local school district of your intent to homeschool by submitting a letter of intent, notice of intent, or private school affidavit depending on the state you reside in.
- Provide a curriculum plan to your school district outlining the subjects and materials you will use.
- Keep records of your child’s homeschooling progress and provide them to your school district upon request.
- Meet the state’s requirements for homeschooling, which include providing instruction in specific subjects and meeting certain attendance requirements.
- Register with a homeschooling organization or program if required by your state.
- Follow any additional regulations or laws set by your local school district or state.
- Start homeschooling and keep records of your child’s progress.
- Be aware that some states require annual assessments or testing for homeschooled students.
- Remember that different states have different regulations and procedures. It’s important to check with your state’s Department of Education for specific guidelines.
As an adult, there have probably been times when you wished that your parents had thought of homeschooling before they sent you off to public or private schools. There are many reasons why people choose this option — maybe finances, religious beliefs, or perhaps just wanting their kids educated by someone who knows them well.
Whatever the reason, if you’re considering homeschooling, here are some pointers for ensuring everything goes smoothly from start to finish.
What Is Homeschooling?
If you aren’t familiar with homeschooling, let me briefly explain what it means. As Wikipedia defines, homeschooling (or home education) is “any educational method where students receive most or all of their teaching within one household rather than through attendance at traditional institutions.
Traditional institutions include daycare centers, government-operated preschools/nursery schools, and primary or secondary schools.” While this definition may sound limiting, homeschoolers often cite reasons for doing so that go beyond convenience alone.
Some believe that these methods provide better personal attention, while others feel strongly about keeping curricula consistent throughout each grade level.
Whatever the reasoning behind it, families interested in homeschooling have two main options: complete self-instruction, meaning that every subject taught will take place under the family roof (usually done over several years), or use pre-packaged courses that come directly from teachers, traditionally packaged into course sets along with textbooks and teacher guides.
Complete self-study tends to focus heavily on math, science, history, literature, and language arts, whereas using pre-made packages provides a broad range of subjects generally divided between multiple grades. The decision depends mainly on preference, but whichever route you follow, keep records for legal and tax purposes.
Before we get into specifics, remember that state law does vary quite substantially across America, so check out your state’s Department of Education website to see whether homeschooling is legal in your area.
Homeschool Laws in Your State
The first thing you should do after deciding to educate at home is to contact your county board of education (BOE). Each BOE has jurisdiction over districts within its respective counties. In turn, those district boards oversee individual elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.
It doesn’t matter which city or town you live in; everyone starts at the same point. Contacting the district office is always the easiest way to find out about homeschool laws in your region.
Remember that the rules differ depending on your age group and grade level. For example, 11th graders require less oversight than 6th graders. Also, because of federal funding cuts, many states no longer offer free tutoring services or test preparation resources to help with standardized testing.
Choosing A Curriculum
Now that we understand our rights let’s talk about choosing a curriculum. Most people pick a generic college preparatory program for older students or something geared toward younger children. Whichever group you fall into, research your chosen curriculum thoroughly.
Although it may seem intuitive, selecting a lousy curriculum could cost you money later. Don’t settle simply for whatever textbook matches the title of the grade level you’re looking at. Instead, visit sites like GreatSchools.org, which features reviews on thousands of programs.
Afterward, compare prices from numerous retailers to ensure you get the lowest price without sacrificing quality.
Also, consider online learning platforms like OpenCourseWare, which allows users to access university lectures via YouTube. These videos can easily be shared among friends and family, allowing for easy collaboration. Other great websites include Udacity and Khan Academy, which feature many classes.
Finally, look into distance education opportunities offered by reputable universities themselves. Many colleges have made their entire catalogs accessible online, including materials intended only for students pursuing degrees. MIT even provides degree completion programs entirely online. Although these offerings are legitimate, they won’t necessarily count toward official graduation requirements.
Getting Started With Lesson Planning
Once you arrive at your final choice in curriculum, begin planning lessons. Keep track of deadlines and goals using tools like Google Calendar. Make sure to spend time outside study sessions reviewing concepts covered during class, checking comprehension, helping students fill in missing details, explaining complex topics, and providing clarification whenever necessary.
Of course, having a parent present in person is ideal; technology is the next best thing. Tools like Skype allow you to video chat with classmates at night. And webcams can also work fine for smaller classrooms. Just make sure that everybody involved has reliable internet connections.
While writing lesson plans is helpful, don’t forget to involve your student(s). Ask questions and seek feedback, especially early on, so corrections can be implemented efficiently. Take notes yourself, recording key points, vocabulary words, and definitions used throughout the week. Having a notebook helps immensely in this regard.
Keeping Records For Tax Purposes
You’ll need to keep a strict record of all expenses incurred during your student’s education, regardless of whether the cost was related to the physical classroom environment or an alternative location.
Fortunately, this task is relatively simple, thanks to the internet. Many businesses now offer digital filing systems called eFile, which essentially allow customers to file documents electronically instead of physically printing out receipts and stapling them together.
Upload photos of your student’s notebooks, transcripts, and other forms of documentation onto your computer, create an account, and wait until everything is ready to send in. Once received, the system will automatically sort and organize everything according to type, date, and category.
When starting out, don’t worry too much about spending extra money on expensive software. Online versions exist for nearly every major brand on Earth, including Microsoft Office 365, Google Docs, and Dropbox. All three are relatively inexpensive compared to purchasing similar products offline.