How do I start homeschooling my child?
More and more of you are asking questions about schooling at home in this season. We know that the sudden shift to distance learning was hard and many of us are contemplating our options during these uncertain times.
Luckily, we have choices when it comes to our kids’ education! You might be curious about different options, outside of traditional school if you are thinking how to start homeschooling today and, like we’re so fond of saying over here at Plano Moms: We’ve got you.
We hope that you find some helpful tips and tricks in this Quick Start Guide to Schooling at Home During a Pandemic!
First, let’s tackle this…
School at Home: What It Isn’t
Homeschooling isn’t public schooling. That may seem obvious, but it’s a really big idea to sit with. Likewise, Schooling at Home in conjunction with public or private school isn’t the same as being in a classroom. Expecting your children to behave like they are in a school environment at home sets everyone up for failure. Home is home.
Homeschooling isn’t an isolated experience. In a “normal” time, many of your homeschooling friends are, in fact, rarely home. They, too, have had to adjust the way they are schooling their children. Gone are the days of PE classes, co-op opportunities and the hours at the park with friends that so many homeschoolers include in their days. It’s important to remember that “Crisis Schooling” is new to everyone. There are countless Facebook support groups, virtual class offerings and practical information out there for families embarking on schooling from home for the first time. You don’t have to go at it alone!
School at Home: What It Is
Homeschool is, truly, what you make of it. You get a front row seat to your kids’ learning and it can be so magical. It can also be frustrating, exhausting and scary. You feel the weight of providing a good, complete education. There are days when the kids make you CRAZY and moments where you question everything. It’s normal.
Contemplating homeschooling is a chance to explore your family’s priorities and values. It’s an opportunity to involve yourself with your childrens’ learning in new and exciting ways. There’s no one right way to do it – each family is unique.
Schooling at Home, similarly, can be what you make it. Here, too, you’re getting a front row seat to your kids’ learning. And the same sentiments hold true: it can be frustrating, exhausting and scary. You feel the weight of facilitating a good, complete education. There are days when the kids make you CRAZY and moments where you question everything. It’s normal. (Are you sensing a pattern here?)
True, you’ll potentially be bound by Zoom meeting times and work packets, and each district, each school and each class might require something different from you and your learner. But you still have the opportunity to decide how it FEELS in YOUR home.
Okay, but you might be wondering…how does homeschooling work, exactly? How do I start homeschooling my child? How many hours a day do you have to homeschool? How much does it cost?
Where to Start if You Want to Homeschool
Let’s take a look at how to homeschool in Texas.
From a legal standpoint, here in Texas, withdrawing your kids from the public school system is a very simple process. The Texas Homeschool Coalition states:
“You are not legally required to register with your local school district or receive their permission to homeschool, but according to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) policy you must officially withdraw your child(ren) from public school if they are already enrolled by sending a letter of intent.
The date that you will begin homeschooling is now required by the TEA in order to withdraw a child from public school. It is important to make certain that your students are withdrawn before homeschooling begins and that homeschooling begins as soon as your student is withdrawn in order to avoid the public school counting your student as absent and potentially filing truancy charges.”
Your family may have some other unique situations to consider, such as custody arrangements, or special education. The Texas Homeschool Coalition is a great resource
If you’re considering homeschooling as a temporary choice, be sure to familiarize yourself with re-enrollment requirements for your particular school district.
Next up, you’ll want to know what’s required of you. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA):
“In Texas, homeschools are considered private schools. To legally homeschool, you will need to follow these requirements:
1. Teach the required subjects.
The required subjects are:
- Spelling and grammar, and
- A course in good citizenship
Although science and history are not required by state law, any college your student applies to will require them for admittance, so you’ll want to make sure to teach those too.
2. Use a written curriculum.
The private school law as interpreted by the Texas Supreme Court requires that you use some form of written curriculum (online programs meet this requirement) and that you operate your homeschool in a “bona fide” manner.” (https://hslda.org/post/how-to-comply-with-texas-s-homeschool-law)
Whether you’re planning to jump into homeschooling or are just hoping to make schooling at home less stressful, spend a little time thinking about what kind of home learning environment you want to have! This is the time to reflect on your family’s priorities. Include your kids in the discussion! Find out what they love about school! A common answer: recess of course! Don’t dismiss it…one of the benefits of homeschooling is time for extra play! But try to dig deeper. Discover their favorite subjects. If they’ve had a teacher they loved, find out what it was about the way that teacher taught that resonated with your child. Does your family value STEM? Does reading great books bring you joy? Maybe your family would spend hours outside, given the opportunity. Perhaps you see value in unstructured time to explore interests.
If you just Google “How to Homeschool” you might find yourself quickly overwhelmed. What in the world is an “UNSCHOOLER?” and who is this Charlotte Mason character? There’s a long list of “types” of homeschooling and can be hard to see what might be the best fit.
And while you DO NOT need to put a label on yourselves as a homeschooling family, identifying your educational values and goals can be very helpful when you’re narrowing down curriculum options. This guide from homeeducator.com is a great place to familiarize yourself with the types of homeschooling you might encounter
If you love a good online quiz, here are three fun quizzes to narrow down your homeschool style!
Homeschool Schedules vs Routines
A LOT of sample schedules and homeschool timelines started floating around the world wide web at the beginning of the Pandemic. This is a very personal, do-what-works-for-your-family thing! Some families need a very structured schedule. But if your kids push back against that, try a more flexible routine instead. One BIG thing to note: generally speaking (especially for elementary students) homeschooling can take way less than the 8am-3pm school day. Don’t expect yourself to need to be teaching 7 hours a day, or for your kids to be at the table that long either.
BREAK THE RULES! Home isn’t a classroom! Who says math has to be done at the kitchen table? Take your times table memorization to the trampoline. Write sight words on cards, hide them around your house and go on a Sight Word Hunt! And when all else fails – read out loud! Even if you have older kids, reading out loud is a great way to re-engage with the material and reconnect as a family. Reading their assigned books out loud to your kids is such a lovely, gentle way of saying “We’re in this together.”
Many homeschool parents find it helpful to have a homeschool planner. For some, it’s a simple planner where they jot down notes about what was done that day and for others it’s a full blown scheduler. Do what suits your family and – as always – be ready to be flexible if something isn’t working for you!
*A special note about working from home while homeschooling/schooling at home: do what works for you!
If that means schooling during the evening or on the weekend, that’s okay! Free yourself from the idea that learning has to happen Monday through Friday at specific times of day. You might find that your kids are THRILLED to have Monday off while you handle your biggest workload day, that getting to work on that project with Dad in the evening is special time together, or that doing assigned reading at bedtime makes sense. It is possible, but you’ll have to think outside the box.
Homeschool Curriculum Choices
Is it free to be homeschooled?
No matter how many times a new homeschooler hears the words “Don’t buy too much right away,” it can be hard to resist filling up your Amazon cart with great materials, or diving head first into a curriculum that just sounds perfect. Spoiler alert: there’s no such thing as a perfect curriculum, you will buy something that’s a complete fail and the only sure thing is that you’ll need to be flexible enough to change course if something you’re doing isn’t working.
So, you’ve thought a bit about what you want your learning environment to feel like, and you’ve considered your kids’ learning styles….now what? Below, you’ll find a handful of suggestions for popular “All in One” curriculums, with costs varying from free on upwards. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and includes both secular and religious options.
IF YOU LOVE GREAT BOOKS consider Build Your Library
IF YOU CRAVE DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION consider Torchlight
Generally speaking, you’ll find that a lot of “All in One” curriculum options don’t include math. Some common math curriculum choices include:
Of course, there are plenty of other subject specific curriculum options, too! Cathy Duffy Reviews is a fantastic resource for comparing and evaluating your choices!
Part Time Options
Not sure you’re ready to jump into the deep end? Consider a “University Model” school, where students go to class a couple times a week. We have several options for this type of collaborative schooling in the DFW area, including Plano’s Coram Deo Academy and McKinney’s Ovation Academy of Performing Arts
The Fun Stuff
One of the best parts about learning at home is the time and freedom to explore your kids’ individual interests! Let your gymnast discover the physics of her favorite sport. Does your teen dream of being a chef? Learning from home gives him the time to practice his skills (and bonus: dinner is ready!) Deep dive into fairy tales, skilled trades, Minecraft, turtles, you name it!
Use the library and Pinterest. There’s an Outschool.com class for just about everything. YouTube is brimming with free art instruction videos from channels like Kids Art Hub. Hoffman Academy offers free online piano lessons
“Gameschooling” is a phenomenal way to enrich learning, whether you’re full on homeschooling or not! Games can provide endless chances to support your child’s education, from math and spelling, to science and history! My Little Poppies and The Waldock Way both offer great information on Gameschooling!
Letters from Afar is a fun and creative way to bring geography to life for kids of all ages.
There’s so much fun to explore, if you stay open to it!
You Aren’t Alone
Support is everywhere, if you’re looking for it! DFW is home to so many wonderful groups of homeschooling families! The Facebook group Homeschool Friends of North Texas is a great place to start:
Our area is FULL of different Co-Ops, too, that can bring wonderful enrichment to your home education experience! Many local co-ops offer homeschool programs and classes, as well as social opportunities!
You Can Do It
It boils down to this… you can do it.
Yes, you. You can make the big leap and homeschool.
Yes, you. You can handle the challenge of distance learning and collaborating with your child’s teachers.
You can do it.
If there’s one final thought to leave you with it’s this: prioritize your relationships with your kids. Navigating life during a Pandemic is new to us all. We’re all making mistakes and adjustments and trying our best. Let home be home. Let it be a place to explore and grow outside of a classroom. Collaborate with your children, include them: kids are people, too.
“What matters: being open to the varying abilities of our kids and standing with them as they grow. All we have are love and trying.” Julie Bogart, The Brave Learner: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschool, Learning, and Life
“All we have are love and trying.” You’ve got this, friend.
Melissa Buck is a mom of 2 and wife to 1, and lives in Plano. She’s a Homeschooling Mom and proud to share her tips!