Aug. 31, 2021
After hours of consideration, prayer, and discussion, you decided, “Yes. I’m going to do it. I’m going to homeschool my children.” If this is you, you’re not alone. American homeschooling households have more than doubled since 2020. Why? For many parents, the COVID-19 pandemic provided an opportunity to evaluate what America’s public schools have been teaching their children—and it’s terrifying. Radical sex education, LGBT ideologies, and critical race theory are some of the progressive ideas being pressed upon schoolchildren. After realizing what public schools are including in their curricula, many parents are refusing to sit back and let their children be indoctrinated. But that’s not the only reason parents are deciding to homeschool.
Deuteronomy 6:7 commands parents to teach their children about the Lord. The Bible teaches that parents are to be the chief disciple-makers in their home. This obligation takes on added significance when you consider research from George Barna demonstrating that a person’s worldview starts developing between 15 to 18 months and is set by 13. Homeschooling allows parents to choose curricula grounded in God’s truth.
Homeschooling allows parents freedom over their child’s education. The best structured education is one that meets the needs of each individual child; homeschooling allows parents to tailor the content and method of teaching to best fit their child. You are the expert on your child, and schooling them at home is an incredible opportunity for your child to learn from the teacher who knows them best—you.
Making the decision to homeschool is the first step in a wonderful journey. Those first couple of steps, however, can be overwhelming. But have no fear. Take it one day at a time, and before you know it, you’ll be well on your way as a homeschooling parent. What follows are a few tips to keep in mind as you get started.
Know and Follow the Legal Requirements
The first consideration when getting started with homeschooling is to research your state’s homeschooling laws. Each state has different legal requirements for homeschooling. For example, some states require parents to notify the state of their intent to homeschool and submit their curricula. Some states may even require educational qualifications for homeschooling parents, while others have little or no formal requirements. The Homeschool Legal Defense Agency (HSLDA) has an interactive state map that lists the legal requirements, information on withdrawing from public school, and other resources for each state. Researching your state’s requirements should be done as early as possible, as some states require parents to declare their intent to homeschool by a certain date. Once the decision to homeschool is finalized (in your house and in the eyes of the state), then it’s time to plan the logistics of your new classroom.
Find a Community
One of the most common pieces of advice veteran homeschooling parents give new homeschooling families is to connect with other homeschooling families. These families have been in your shoes and can share their experiences and what they have learned. Ask around and see if there’s a homeschooling family at your church. Join local homeschooling social media groups. Research homeschool groups or co-ops in your area and reach out to them. The Homeschool Mom has a useful search tool to find local homeschool groups in your state. Keep in mind that you don’t have to do this alone. In fact, it’s best not to. Be intentional about building community. Relationships with other families can be one of the most beneficial and rewarding aspects of homeschooling. These families can help you navigate the legal requirements, plan, and give you insider knowledge of local resources or activities. Beyond the sharing of knowledge, connecting with other families establishes a support system and fosters friendships between both parents and children.
Develop a Vision
Now it’s time to dive into the details. How will your day look? First, think broadly and develop a vision. Ask yourself, what do you hope to accomplish by homeschooling? Start with why you decided to homeschool in the first place. Your vision will guide the decisions you make with planning and teaching. Ask yourself, “How does my child best learn?” “What environment is most conducive to learning for my child?” With your answers in mind, think through the best way to organize your school day. Some families choose to use a specific method (or several methods) of homeschooling. There are several different methods of homeschooling. Existing methods can be a helpful resource, but homeschooling also allows parents to organize their days in the way that works best for their family. If one method doesn’t work for your family, then try another. Ultimately, homeschooling is about educating your child in the way that works best for them, so be flexible and willing to try something different. Continuously go back to your “why,” your vision. Let your educational choices flow from that vision.
As a homeschool parent, you have the autonomy to create your own curricula or to outsource. There is a vast amount of homeschool curricula available, including textbooks, teacher-led courses with daily lessons, and classes offered online or in person.
Researching curricula can be overwhelming, as there are so many different options available. Use resources to narrow it down. Ask other families which curriculum they love. Research online. Cathy Duffy Reviews provides reviews of homeschool curriculum and is a great resource to help pare down all the options. HSLDA also has a list of free or inexpensive homeschool curriculum.
Keep in mind—if something isn’t working, you have the power to change it. As a parent, you are the expert on your child. Homeschooling gives you the unique opportunity to customize your child’s learning to challenge them in areas in which they excel and to provide additional support in areas where they may struggle. Know that you don’t need to be constrained by the grade number printed on the cover of a textbook. Choose curricula that will work for your child, in whatever stage they’re in.
Make a Plan for Success
Planning encompasses looking long-term and thinking through the year, as well as daily lesson plans. Set aside time before the school year to plan out the pacing of your year. Setting goals and checkpoints throughout the year is a great way to stay on track. Build in breaks, vacations, and time for field trips. Map out generally where you want to be. Then begin planning your school days. You can plan a month in advance, a week in advance, or even the morning of. Begin by determining how your day-to-day will look. Will you study subjects in the same order each day? Will you dedicate x amount of time to each subject? Or will you go lesson by lesson? Then write out what you hope to accomplish each day and how. Use a planner, calendar, or to-do list with your child. This visually shows them what they will be accomplishing that day.
Something to keep in mind as you plan and begin schooling—give yourself grace. Your home is unique, and your children are each unique. It might take some time to get into a rhythm. Some days they’ll be hyper-focused and accomplish everything on their to-do list by lunch. Other days, they might struggle to get through one lesson. It’s okay. Some days, life lessons are just as important as school lessons. So, take it one day at a time.
Homeschooling isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. There will be days when your home is filled with happiness, your children diligently accomplish their schoolwork, and they love learning. And there will be days when you want nothing more than to stop homeschooling. In those moments, allow grace for yourself and your children. If a negative pattern emerges, try something new. Each child is unique, and what works for one child may not work for another. As their parent, you’re the most qualified person to determine what your child’s needs are and how to meet them.
Remember that homeschooling is a season. Some families homeschool their children through high school. For others, their homeschooling season may only last a year or less. And that’s okay. Embrace this season while you’re in it. You won’t always be able to monitor what your children are learning. Take this opportunity to help build their foundation.
Under your tutelage, your child can learn the precepts of a biblical worldview. Teach them first and foremost about Jesus Christ. Be encouraged that you are practically fulfilling God’s command to parents in Genesis 6:5-7 (ESV), which says: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
Homeschooling is a wonderful opportunity. Pray and ask the Lord if homeschooling is right for your family. Talk with your family. Talk to other homeschooling families. If this is what you’re being called to, then welcome to the beginning of your homeschooling journey.
Abby Ross is digital content editor at Family Research Council. She was homeschooled through high school and is a certified high school English teacher.