Quick Disclaimer: Nothing on this site is meant to be legal advice. Nothing on this site is meant to recommend any particular curricula, group or organization, unless otherwise stated. Recommendations as stated are not sponsored and are based on my own experiences as a homeschool mom. These steps are based on making your transition to homeschooling your child easier. If you need legal advice you will need to contact an attorney.
As you embark on this new journey in parenting you might be feeling anxious, nervous and really unsure how this homeschool thing is really going to work. Some of the questions you might be asking yourself: How do you know what curricula to buy? How do you know what level to pick? How do you let the school know? How do you schedule your day or make a lesson plan? Are you qualified to teach your child fractions, grammar and spelling? What if you don’t buy the right material? What if your kids don’t listen to you? Am I going to make my kid a wierdo? What if? What if? What if? Let’s not forget about, WHAT ABOUT SOCIALIZATION?
The first step to take on this homeschooling journey is to relax, take a deep breath and tell yourself, “I got this”. You got this. Let me let you in on a little secret, you can decide how complicated or how simple you want to make your daily life, your homeschool day. I recommend simple, with lots of hands on learning activities and lots of breaks and field trips.
Pick a homeschooling option and notify the school if needed. Homeschool Iowa (formerly NICHE) has great explanations of how each option in Iowa works. You can visit their website at https://homeschooliowa.org/.
Homeschool Iowa also has a membership “portal” that has many templates for all of the different options including school letters. There is an annual membership fee due January of each year (although you can join at anytime and renew in January). I would recommend a membership. Homeschool Iowa is an advocate for homeschooling and has a presence at our State Capitol.
I would like to speak to notifying the school real quick. There are options that don’t require school notification. If you are deciding to homeschool after registering your child for public school, if you are deciding to homeschool partially through the school year or choosing to homeschool after your child has attended public school in previous years, I WOULD HIGHLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU NOTIFY THE SCHOOL IN WRITING THAT YOU WILL BE HOMESCHOOLING, even if your option does not require it.
Let me tell you why. In our County our school districts refer truancy to the County Attorney. Our former County Attorney was very much ANTI HOMESCHOOLING based on her posts on her now closed Facebook Page. Further, the County Attorney in our county has chose to prosecute truancy, with the police checking in at your door step. So yes, you might not be required but I would send a quick email. Further, there may be additional paperwork required to file with the school. I DO NOT BELIEVE YOU SHOULD FILL OUT PAPERWORK THE SCHOOL WANTS UNLESS IT IS REQUIRED BY LAW. But I do think to save yourself a knock on the door and charges to fight (right or wrong) a quick email or letter to the school superintendent and the principal will save you an added headache.
Okay, now lets take a deep breath and move on to Step 3.
Next you need to find your starting point and along with that is what curricula to use. Bring on the worry. What subjects do I need to cover? Do I buy a box set? Do I put my own together? Do I write my own curricula? How much does it cost?
If your children are in grammar school you will want to focus on language arts (grammar, spelling and writing), reading and math.
If your child is in middle school you will want to focus on language arts (spelling writing and grammar), reading, math, social studies, science and maybe some logic and a foreign language.
If your child is in High School, check out Homeschooling High School by Homeschool Iowa. This is not a bridge I have crossed so I have little advice to give.
There are many many options available for curricula and I am confident that you will find one that works for your child. And let’s be honest your first choice may not work and your second choice might not work and that is okay. The beauty of homeschooling is that you have these options and you have the choice of what works for your child.
I do want to caution you. You might be quick to head down to Walmart or Target to buy workbooks in each subject. Let me tell you, not all curricula is created equal. Some of it is pure crap. And not all kids do well with workbooks. (You can look into what type of learners you have at The Homeschool Legal Defense Association’s online test at What’s My Child’s Learning Preference? )
Some of the learning materials available are written as supplements for summer learning, not a full year of learning. Some of the material is good and some ” not so much”. And you had better believe there will be a new supply of “not so much” this fall. Homeschooling is a market, and Covid 19 has created an increase in demand for homeschool materials. There is money to be made in this industry, so be wary of companies looking to make money off of new homeschool families.
Try to start with time tested quality proven material. If you are unsure of your abilities, there are a lot of scripted curricula. Teacher’s guides that tell you exactly what to do and what to say made for the homeschooler and homeschooling families.
Once you have picked what you will be using, next you will need to figure out what grade levels to order your curricula. Many of the publishers’ websites have placement tests for their material. Don’t worry about grade levels as much as finding your starting point.
If your child is behind their grade level, no worries you will have him caught up in no time. The important thing is to start where your child is and move forward from there.
You will have one on one teaching time with your child and I assure you, you will be amazed at how fast he learns. You will have him all caught up in no time. Hang in there. Don’t be discouraged. The beauty of homeschooling is you start where your child is and go from there.
Another, thing I would like to point out, your child might not be the genius you believe him to be. Be prepared. You might have a very bright child, but genius, likely not. As, a cub scout leader, 4-H Clover Kid leader, Odyssey of the Mind Coach, German Club coordinator, field trip chaperone, I have come into contact with many a bright homeschooler. I have only come across one that I thought…wow…and he was on the Autistic Spectrum. Oh and there is that one family of geniuses. I am sure you know that family. The one where everyone is super awkward mostly due to the quantum physics they are navigating in their minds as you are trying to hold a conversation with them.
Where to Buy
If only there were a local homeschool used book store (don’t think I haven’t considered starting one). So many times in our earlier years of homeschooling I really wanted to flip through curriculum to see if it would work for us. It is possible to do this at a homeschool conference where publishers send representatives to show their material.
If you are part of a Homeschool Assistance Program through your school district there might be a library of material that you can review and use.
If you join a co-op you can organize a book sale.
Facebook has many used curriculum homeschool groups. I buy much of my material used on Facebook.
Surprisingly, Amazon sells homeschool books along with used books by other sellers through amazon.
Christianbooks.com has a variety of homeschool materials.
Rainbow Resources is another online homeschool bookstore.
Now you have decided to homeschool, picked your homeschool option for Iowa, filed any paperwork required, picked your curricula and level to start. Next is putting together your plan.
Many curicula have a schedule in place. Some are two days, three days, four days and five days. It just depends on the curriculum and how you want to implement it into educating your child.
You can see our schedule for 6th grade here. As you can see we don’t do every subject every day.
Every school year we ease into homeschool. I try to avoid the out right rebellion each year. This is normal, my son is practically feral by the end of summer. Your children might also be anxious and nervous about this new adventure in your lives. Remember that you set the tone and mood for your homeschool just as you do for your home.
You may choose to have a school room or you may decide to use the entire house. Some ideas to help curb some of the anxiety of child and mom alike are routines, just being mom and not a schoolmarm and creating a nice learning environment.
Routines are good but you can always switch it up a bit, like math outside today or taking your grammar and spelling to the park with a picnic lunch. There won’t be too many distractions, most kids your child’s age will be in school.
Don’t try to be a teacher and a mom or wear different hats. Just be mom. You can sit on the couch and teach. You can lay on the living room floor and teach. If you teach from a book your children can flip through it with you or sit across the kitchen table from you. And it is okay to read the scripted language to your children.
Create nice learning spaces. Light a candle and/or play classical music in the background. When the weather turns bake cookies and homemade bread. Read by the fire.
Do lots and lots of hands on learning, art and drawing and experiments. Try to look at homeschooling as a lifestyle. It all takes a little practice and time for both of you to adjust to how this will look each day. I would recommend not turning your home into a school but adding a little school into your home life.
It Is Okay
It is okay to plan two weeks at a time and make adjustments. It is okay if you don’t get everything done. Just pick up where you left off the day before and change your plan (easy to do two weeks at a time). It is okay if your house is a mess. It is okay if you take a day off. It is okay if you homeschool four days a week. And it is okay if choose to send your kids back to school next year.
Now on to the real meat and potatoes of homeschooling, how to deal with the naysayer and SOCIALIZATION. 🙂
Don’t you worry, new homeschool mom (or Dad). I have you covered.
Lets start with socialization: Yes, if you lock yourself and your child away AND never leave the house AND don’t allow interaction with siblings, cousins or friends AND chain them to their beds at night AND keep them from eating AND keep them from bathing AND keep all that is good and right in the world away from your children…THEY WILL BE SOCIALLY STUNTED AND LIKELY WILL HAVE A VERY DIFFICULT TIME UPON ENTERING ADULTHOOD. But people who do that are not homeschoolers they are abusers and likely are mentally ill.
There are so many ways to make sure your children are active with people and children of all ages. And if you don’t have opportunities in your area…make them. There are 4H clubs, chess clubs, lego clubs, language clubs, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, The American Heritage Girls, Pathfinders, Awana, Keepers of the Faith, Frontier Girls and Sunday school and church activities. There are co-ops and art classes, there are groups and clubs for all interests, there are city organized sports and drama clubs and choir. You might have to seek them or create them but the opportunities to “socialize” are abundant.
Now on to the Naysayers:
The disapproving neighbor or acquaintance: If any negativity or disapproval is given kindly smile and remove yourself from the discussion. I have never been asked one single question from a disapproving acquaintance. In 6 years homeschooling I have only been told what they think and told what I NEED to do? “YOU NEED TO GET THE BOY IN SCHOOL?” “HE NEEDS TO BE IN SCHOOL?” Maybe if a question had been asked a discussion could be had. So I just smile and move on. I don’t have time for people to tell me how to live my life, I have a house to run, a child to educate and a life to live.
The disapproving Grandparent, Parent or friend: Share with them and be honest. You can share that you believe that at this time this is what is right for your child. Yes you are nervous and concerned. Tell them that you are praying that God send down his holy spirit to guide and protect you. Ask them to pray for you and your children. Ask them to pray that God bless you and your homeschool. If the Holy Spirit has put it on your heart to homeschool be sure to share that as well. Then kindly smile and leave the conversation.
I will tell you right now that the love and prayer that you pour into your homeschool and your children will bare the most amazing fruit and the naysayers will be silenced. Usually, by around 5th grade.
You got this! You can do this! Pour your love into your children and when you struggle pray for guidance. We all have good days and bad days and it is okay on a bad day to pack a lunch and go on a hike. Do a little bird watching. You can get back to it tomorrow.
If you are interested in what we have done in the past you can find that here.
Another great article to read by Archer Homeschool Academy. “So, we decided to homeschool…NOW WHAT?”