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There are as many variations on homeschooling as there are children. Each family has the flexibility to choose what works for them and sometimes that even varies from child to child with-in a family. That said, I hope these resources help provide a path and support to get you started on your own journey.
The very first thing you need to do when you are thinking about homeschooling or have just decided to homeschool is spend some time in prayer asking God for his guidance and talking with your spouse so that you are both on the same page.
Then, check your state’s laws. Each state has different requirements for starting and annual reporting. In some states you do nothing, some you simply register, and some have testing or portfolio requirements. I will discuss North Carolina’s laws because I homeschool in North Carolina but if you live in another state I encourage you to look up the laws of that state. The HSLDA website is a great place to get information on the laws of each state.
In North Carolina you must register your homeschool with the state once your children reaches compulsory attendance age, which means that you register during the school year your oldest homeschooled child turns 7. In order to register you must hold a high school diploma or equivalent. If all of your children are younger than 7 there are no requirements and you do not need to register or report. You do not register each child in North Carolina so once your homeschool is open any, or all, of you children can attend your homeschool without further registration. Once you have registered your homeschool, you are required to keep attendance, immunization records (or waiver), and complete a nationally standardized achievement test annually. You are required to “operate the school on a regular schedule, excluding reasonable holidays and vacations, during at least nine calendar months of the year.”(NCDNPE) You are also required to notify them when you close your homeschool. There are other recommendations but those are the only requirements in North Carolina.
Once you have registered, you will probably turn your attention to curriculum. One of the most common questions I answer is, “What is the best curriculum?” There is no one right answer to that question. As we mentioned earlier each family and each child is different. There are many wonderful curricula available and before you dive into researching them I highly suggest researching homeschool philosophies and determining which one you lean towards. This in no way means that you need to dogmatically follow one philosophy but by narrowing down your preferences you can narrow down the curriculum choices and help you find one/s that will work well with your family.
Personally, we lean towards what I like to call ‘Charlotte Mason Eclectic’ which basically means that I use some of the ideas and Charlotte Mason methods but I adapt them to meet the needs of my family. I have friends whose children thrive under a classical education and others who prefer a Montessori education, even a couple who ‘unschool’. For more information on the various styles I recommend this post by eclectic homeschool. Based on our preferences, I tend to spend more time looking at resources that align with the Charlotte Mason approach though I keep an open mind to others as well. Once you have found the style/s that aligns best with your family, you can use that information to narrow down curriculum choices.
There are many good programs available and it is important to remember that just because it works for one family does not mean it is the right fit for your family. Honestly I recommend buying used, or at least on sale, whenever possible, especially that first year. In addition to lowering your initial costs, it means that if you need to resell it because it is not a good fit you should be able to get close to what you originally paid for it. I have many reviews here on the blog and the Review Crew also has reviews of hundreds of programs to help you get more information about what is available.
Research philosophies, read reviews, talk to other homeschoolers, and then make your selections. This should help you find curricula that will be a good fit, but most (if not all) of us have purchased curriculum that turned out not to be quite right. This does not mean that homeschool isn’t the right fit nor does it mean you have to settle for a bad year. If a curriculum isn’t working for you I suggest first trying to tweak it to work for you, but if it simply doesn’t work ditch it and move on. Resell it if you can and try something different.
Now that you have prayed, talked to your spouse, followed you state laws, researched philosophies, and chosen a curriculum it is time to make a plan. I am a big proponent of having a flexible plan. A plan gives you a road map to get where you want to go and the flexibility allows you to make it work in real life. Many veteran homeschool parents will tell you that it takes the first two years to really get your feet under you and you still need to be prepared to change as you go through various stages and life events. You can decide to school year round, five days a week, four days a week, on a traditional school schedule, on a modified year round or anything in between as long as it falls with-in the laws of your state you have a great deal of flexibility. We personally tend towards four days a week of ‘book work’ with the fifth for field trips, special events, appointments, or catching up on housework. For more information on how I plan out our year check out my planning post here.
Now that you have a plan you are ready to get started. I highly suggest finding a ‘tribe’ of homeschool parents to help you along this journey. This could be in person through local groups, co-ops, or it could be online. There are many great Facebook groups including Schoolin’ Swag where you can ask questions, share successes, and get encouragement. You may also want to read some encouraging and informational books about homeschooling. You are ready to begin this difficult but completely worthwhile journey. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them or point you in the right direction for assistance.
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