The decision to homeschool is not something to be taken lightly. As with any major life decision, much thought, research, and prayer should go into it. Homeschooling is more than just an educational choice; it is a lifestyle choice. It requires conviction, planning, preparation, and dedication.
Here are 8 things to consider when getting started homeschooling.
1. Read and Research as Much as You Can
Search the internet, read books and magazines, and talk with current homeschoolers. Learn about the different homeschooling styles and methods, as well as the different learning styles. Read from a variety of authors to gain a bigger view of the differing ways to homeschool. You may find that one style fits you and your family the best, or you may find that a combination of styles is a better fit. This is a process and you will find your own teaching niche over time- be patient.
2. Set Goals for Your Homeschool
- Prayerfully consider where your child is now and where you’d like them to be.
- Think beyond just academics and include areas such as spiritual, physical, social, character, manners, sports, etc.
- Create and write down long term goals. These types of goals look at the bigger picture. What do you want your child to have learned when they are ready to leave your home? What about over the next 2-3 years?
- Create and write down short term goals. These can include goals for the upcoming school year as well as goals per semester or month.
- Include goals for yourself as well as your family.
3. Choose Your Materials or Curriculum
- Keep your goals in mind when choosing curriculum. Make sure what you are considering lines up with the goals you set.
- Attend state homeschool conventions or curriculum fairs.
- Talk to other homeschoolers to find out what they have used and why it did or did not work for them. Remember: a “great curriculum” isn’t great if it doesn’t work for you or your family, so be sure to ask specifics as to what they liked and did not like about it.
- Go to used books sales.
- Check out your local library.
- Determine your child’s learning style (auditory, visual, kinesthetic, etc.). Learning styles are not always clearly evident in younger children. It is best to use all of the learning styles when teaching in the younger years. As children get older, they will use all the styles to some degree, but will usually develop a more dominant style of learning.
- What will work for you and your family? (If it’s a great curriculum but it doesn’t make sense to you, it won’t work!)
- If it isn’t working, don’t be afraid to change.
4. Create a Space and Purchase Supplies
- Your space does not need to look like a school! For some families it is a room dedicated to homeschooling whereas other families use the kitchen table and a closet or book shelf. Be creative with what you have!
- Have a place for everything. Your school time will not run smoothly if you can’t find the book or materials you need.
- School supplies: paper, markers, pens, pencils, rulers, and any additional supplies suggested for your curriculum
- Storage solutions: bins, plastic totes or drawers, book shelves, etc.
- Record keeping supplies such as binders, files, boxes, etc.
5. Create a Schedule
Georgia law requires 180 days of instruction per school year with each day consisting of at least 4.5 hours. Additionally, parents are required to teach at least the following subjects: math, reading, language arts, science, and social studies. From there, you, the parent or guardian, have the flexibility to decide your teaching schedule. Planning ahead is the key to a more productive school year. Be sure to plan in a longer scope such as a school year calendar, as well as in a more detailed scope such as a daily or weekly schedule including subjects and outside activities.
School Year Calendar
You have 12 months to complete your 180 days. How will you do this? Be creative and do what works for your family. What days/ holidays do you know you need or want to take off? Work around it from there. Here are some different ideas to help get you started. You are not limited to these ideas. Be creative!
- School for 9 weeks, then take a week or two off with longer breaks for Christmas and summer.
- Work 3 weeks on and 1 week off
- Work similar to a 9-month school schedule
Daily/ Weekly Schedule
After you have figured out your school year calendar, also think about your weekly/daily schedule. How will you structure your teaching time each day? What activities do you have on a regular basis to account for in your schedule such as piano, sports, etc?
Keep in mind that the law requires you must teach specific subjects, but there is flexibility in how and when you do that. As an example, for the younger years you can teach the foundational subjects such as bible, reading, language arts, and math every day, and then rotate when you teach your other subjects such as science, social studies, art, and music. Below are some examples of how you could schedule your days. Use these as a springboard to start creating a schedule that works for you and your child.
- Work Monday through Thursday and leave Fridays for field trips, park days, nature studies, etc.
- Alternate some subjects on different days. For example: Do Bible, Reading, Language Arts, and Math every day. Do Social Studies Monday through Tuesday and then do Science Wednesday through Friday each week.
- Consider what time of day your child does work better. If your child struggles with Math, you may want to do it earlier in the day while they are still fresh. Alternatively, you may not want it to be the first subject of the day which could cause lack of motivation to start.
- Alternate harder and easier subjects throughout the day to give a better balance to the work load.
- Allow time for breaks for meals and for free play for the younger children or some other form of physical activity for older children.
6. Make Lesson Plans
Once you have set some goals, narrowed down what books or curricula you are going to use, and set a tentative schedule, you will need to make some lesson plans. In a nutshell, these are some form of written plan for the order of what you will teach for each subject. The detail and structure for doing this will vary from family to family. For some subjects, like math, you may simply have to plan out a tentative pace for completing the work over the school year. For other subjects, like science, you may decide on different units you would like to study and for how long.
Some homeschool parents like to write down in detail what they will teach on each day and tweak it as needed. For others, they prefer to plug along at the student’s pace, following the book until they are done. There are numerous ways to create lesson plans, but it is recommend to write them down somewhere. It can be on a Calendar, in a lesson plan book, spreadsheet, Word Document, homeschool software, etc. In general, your homeschool days will run smoother and be more productive if you plan ahead.
7. Keep Good Records
We recommend keeping all documents throughout your child’s school career and even recommend giving them to your adult child when they leave home.
- Keep required homeschool documents in one place for each student. This includes, but is not limited to the following:
- Declaration of Intent
- Annual Summary
- Standardized Testing
- Keep each student’s completed work in one place. There are many different ways to do this. Some families use 3-ring binders for each school year. Others use a file box to archive each student’s work at the end of a school year. How you store their work isn’t as important as doing it. You especially want to retain examples of your student’s work from high school. Some colleges will ask for a portfolio of your student’s work.
8. Get Support
- Join GHEA. As part of our services to Georgia homeschoolers, we offer this website, free phone/email counseling, a quarterly newsletter magazine, and various workshops and events.
- Find a local support group or other homeschool moms/families who can encourage you along the way.
- Join HSLDA. We encourage all Georgians to join Home School Legal Defense Association to help protect the rights of all homeschoolers in Georgia, throughout the United States, and internationally.