A Quick Start Guide to Homeschool Planning for Beginners

Planning to homeschool but don't know where to start? Grab this free printable checklist and get organized.

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If you would have told me in 2019 that I would be planning to homeschool, I would have laughed.

If you would have told me in January 2020, when some issues started becoming apparent at my children's school, I would have smiled, and said "maybe, but probably not."

If you would have told me in April 2020, after schools had shut down and I saw how my boys were thriving by learning at home, I would have said "Yes! But I have no idea where to start."

Choosing to homeschool has been a roller coaster ride for sure. While the pandemic was the final push for our family, it wasn't the only factor in our decision to homeschool. We decided that this would be our choice for the next school year, and as soon as we were sure I dove right into planning. 

I'm a planner, and having a plan in place is a great way for me to manage my anxiety about the unknown.

Now that we are approaching our third year of homeschooling, I feel like we are "veterans" ready to help families who are still grappling with their school choices.

I'm not here to convince you that homeschooling is the right choice for your family. I am guessing that if you're reading this, you've already weighed your options and decided that it is.

I'm here to give you the benefit of my several months of homeschool planning head start, and give you a step by step guide to planning your homeschool year when you never thought you would be a homeschooler.

Your Quick Start Guide to Homeschooling Planning

Keep in mind, I'm not a veteran homeschooler. I jumped into this new adventure just a few months ago, so I know exactly what it is like trying to navigate this journey in the midst of so much uncertainty. But in those months, I've spent countless hours researching and planning, and I hope my experience helps your family get started as well.

Need help as you go? Grab my FREE printable checklist below! You'll also join my email community to stay up to date with planning recommendations and more.

Step One: Give Yourself Grace

I have heard from so many parents with worries about the coming school year. We're all worried. 

We worry about making the best choice for our family.

We worry about our kids falling behind.

We worry about balancing academics and social well being, in the midst of a global pandemic.

So the very first thing I want to tell you is this: give yourself grace in this journey.

Again, it's not my job to tell you to homeschool, or to use distance learning, or to send your kids to school. I want to help you navigate the decision that you've already made, or to give you some practical advice to help you make a decision.

But no matter what your kids do this year, I want YOU to do THIS.

Give yourself grace. Just the fact that you are here reading this means that you are invested in your child's future.

None of us have ever parented through a global pandemic. There is no "right answer."

What I want you to focus on is doing the best you can with the circumstance that you are in right now. 

With that in mind, let's walk through the steps you need to do to get started with homeschooling this year.

Step Two: Make it Legal

Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, however, requirements in each state vary wildly.

This section only covers homeschooling in the United States. Residents of other countries, or U.S. citizens living abroad need to consult the laws of their area.

Some states require formal schooling to begin at age 5. Some require it at age 7.

Some states have little to no oversight, while others have very specific requirements.

It is absolutely imperative that you learn the regulations in your state before you do anything else.

I recommend going straight to the source - your state or county's Department of Education website. They will have all of the most current regulations laid out for you. Make sure that you note any deadlines, forms, or other documentation that is required before beginning your homeschool journey.

Step Three: Get to Know Your Kids' Learning Style

I knew that we would be homeschooling by early April, so I took the opportunity to spend our last few weeks of "distance learning" getting to know my children's learning styles. This sounds daunting, but it's a lot less complicated than you think.

When you are thrust into homeschooling, you'll be bombarded with information about specific education styles. Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, Classical... it all seems overwhelming.

I suggest that you ignore the formal classifications (for now, while you are getting your feet wet) and focus on how your kids like to learn.

Do they prefer books or videos?
Are they engaged with online lessons?
Do they like crafts or hands on activities?

Need help? Try this super simple learning style quiz from Scholastic.

Pay attention to the activities that they prefer to get a sense of what type of learning would work best for them.

Step Four: Consider Your Family Style

One of the amazing things about homeschooling is that learning becomes a part of your entire family, not just something that your kids do from 9-3 Monday through Friday. That's why your family culture should play a large part in your homeschooling decisions.

What does this mean?

First, the big one. Do you want to include religion in your homeschool? Many homeschool curricula have religious teachings or leanings, so you need to decide if this is something you want to embrace or avoid, and make your choices accordingly.

Beyond religion, think about the values that are important to your family. Is it important for you that your children learn non-whitewashed history? Do you want them to be exposed to diverse voices and experiences? If so, you need to make an effort to choose topics of study and curricula that amplify a wide variety of authors, creators, and subjects.

You may also want to consider your family's relationship with nature as you choose your course of study. Are you an all-season, outdoor loving family? Or more of a tech-friendly, indoor bunch? No matter what your family dynamic, you can customize your homeschool experience to fit YOU.

Step 5: Start Researching Curriculum

I'm not going to lie. This is the hard part. I have spent hours (and more money than I'd like to admit) researching homeschool curriculum. There are SO MANY OPTIONS and it feels like an endless rabbit hole once you get started.

I'm not going to recommend a specific curriculum here. What I am going to do is tell you to use the information that you pulled together in the previous steps to help you evaluate your choices.

So as you are browsing the endless possibilities of homeschool curriculum choices, keep these things in mind:

1. What are my state requirements? Does this curriculum allow me to meet them?

2. How do my kids like to learn? Will this curriculum engage them where they are?

3. Does this curriculum fit our family culture? Are my family's religious, cultural, and social needs being met?

Once you've narrowed down your choices based on these questions, then try some samples! Nearly every curriculum offers free sample lessons. Try a few out with your kids to see what engages and interests them before you buy.

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