How to get started homeschooling…

I’ve had so many questions on this that I’ve decided to go ahead and do a post. But before I go on, please realize I am by no means a homeschooling guru, more like a crazy lady with a camera, okay?

So…the short/common answer here is that you have to figure out what works best for YOU and your kids. Each family is different, and each child within your family can be different.

In response to that, I’ve had a lot of questions from newbie homeschoolers saying that the above answer doesn’t really help them out any! So, with that said, I thought I’d do my best to at least give you a starting place so that you can naturally shift towards what works for you!

So, grab a cup of coffee, or a Valium maybe (just kidding! hee, hee), try not to get overwhelmed, and I’ll tell you how we got started…

  • Pray! Pray for wisdom and direction, for what God has in mind for your homeschool and for your children. He has a master plan for each one of them and only through constant prayer can you tackle the directive to ““Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Prov 22:6. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
  • Focus on the Family has a wonderful Homeschooling Article to help you get things in perspective before you start. Don’t forget to visit some of the links on their sidebar, they have information on planning, curriculum, High School and help for single parents.
  • Teaching Styles: There are several different teaching styles you can read more about online. Personally, I’m much more traditional/eclectic in my homeschooling approach, so I typically use Abeka. Eclectic just means that we gather different curricula for different subjects as needed. And still other people do a more relaxed approach all together called “Unschooling”. I think the best advice here is to start with what you feel “comfortable” with and then be flexible. As you go through a curriculum, if something’s just not working, just search for other options until you find what works best for you and your child.
  • Learning Styles: There are the basic 3; Visual (learn through seeing), Auditory (learn through hearing), Kinesthetic (Learn through moving, doing & touching).
  • Curriculum Reviews: One good place to start is Homeschool Reviews, here you can search for curriculum and read tons of reviews from people who have already tried it.

Some Christian Based Curriculum to get you started (along with my 2 cents):

  • Abeka – traditional, solid academics, but not too exciting, worksheet based mostly. Scheduled for you, ie: Monday do this, Tuesday do this…
  • BJU Press – BJU is another fairly traditional curriculum, but with a slight bent towards the Charlotte Mason approach. There are several opportunities for discussion with their reading which I love, and many fun activities to go along with each lesson. All of the subject themes correlate well with each other as well, so it’s a nice all around unit study. I also like that the grades tend to go together fairly well, so I’m able to combine subjects teaching both for my older kids at one time.  The only thing I don’t like about BJU is their phonics program. They build their entire phonics around a family of people; Miss Long (long vowel), Miss Silent (silent vowel), Mr and Mrs Short (short vowel and consonant team)…you get the idea. My kids didn’t quite “get” the concept of this and asked why i wasn’t just telling them the rules instead. So we dropped the phonics, but really do like BJU otherwise.
  • All About Spelling – I LOVE this program! I really can’t say enough about it! While it’s called  a “spelling” curriculum, it really is a phonics curriculum at the same time. They do a fabulous job of teaching spelling and phonics rules and I’ve noticed a marked improvement int he reading and writing of my kids after starting this curriculum!
  • Sonlight: Classical based curriculum which is basically learning through reading. I believe they suggest Horizons Math which I haven’t used. (Note: They are more expensive due to quantity of books you must purchase) Schedule: I believe they give you a schedule, and then you can pick from a 4 or 5 day week to choose from.
  • Tapestry Of Grace: Unit study history curriculum, looks really fun, but doesn’t include math, spelling, language/grammar or science. I’ve considered this carefully, and honestly the Teacher Manual can be overwhelming at first glance, but I’ve heard once you get into it, its fun. Schedule: They give you a list of what to accomplish in a week and you organize how and what you want to do. This means it is very labor intensive on your part, not necessarily something I’d recommend right out of the chute.
  • Math U See: Good math program with colorful blocks to aid in the visualization of math concepts. We’ve had great success with this math program.
  • Saxon Math: I have a love/hate relationship with Saxon right now. I hate the teacher’s manual and sorting through the pages of lessons. They are laid out as a conversation you’ll have with your student. While this may be good in classroom settings, it is very hard to spend 2 hours a day per student on math. I’m slowly learning how to sift through the lessons so I can teach what is important without driving myself crazy.
  • Teaching Textbooks: An online math program. Lessons are taught by an instructor and then your student completes the lessons online. Scores are recorded and lessons move along at a pace that works for your student. I’ve heard some reviews on this saying that students were behind in math later when transferring to a public school, so you may want to research that for yourself. This program is great for those struggling in math, the instructors present the material very well.

Homeschool Legal Info:

For legal information visit HSLDA to find out about homeschooling requirements in your state.

More Homeschool Help:

  • Local Support: Visit Homeschool.com and search for a local homeschooling group in your area, along with tons of other homeschooling info! Local groups are all over the place! I find our group very helpful as well as encouraging on days when things aren’t going quite as planned! They also provide opportunities for co-op’s and other fun activities for your children such as geography & science fairs, spelling bees, presentation days, holiday parties and more!
  • Internet: There are literally tons of homeschooling blogs out there! Chances are if you’ve found mine, you already know this. Search for what you’re looking for, someone out there will have ideas and suggestions to get you started! See my sidebar for all my favorite blogs and websites!

Some Extra Online fun:

  • www.starfall.com
  • www.powerspeak.com (We use this for Spanish, its really fun!)
  • www.scholastic.com (They have fun educational games for your kids to play). Actually, just look on my left sidebar scroll down a bit and I list all my favorite websites and blogs!
  • Literacy Center: early learning
  • I’m sure there are tons more, if you know of a great site, leave a comment and I’ll add it to the list!

Our Homeschool:

  • My Setup: I think that the workbox system is really the way to go if you have multiple children at different levels, its been a LIFESAVER for us over here! I really am not sure how I would ever organize it all without the boxes! I do have a printable for my workboxes that I fill out each week, just so filling the boxes is quick and so I don’t miss things, you can read about our setup here: The Workbox System
  • OUR curriculum: Personally, I’m much more traditional in my homeschooling approach, meaning I teach based on what they’d be learning in school, so I typically use Abeka for our core studies. Once I started using the workboxes, I was forced to put in “FUN” items along with the standard worksheets and I think that’s really helped make it more exciting. I also mix in My Father’s World for History/Geography, since I think they have more ‘fun’ type activities in their curriculum. I use Math U See as well, to try and give our kids more ‘hands on’ and visual help with math. I think as we go through a curriculum, if something’s just not working, then I search for other options. Every family is different, so do what works best for YOU!
  • Planning: Another thing that really helped us out this year, was planning. I got the workboxes set up, figured out curriculum, then went through and filled out my spreadsheet so I was ahead of the game. That way I was prepared for specific crafts/activities and not skipping things because I didn’t have supplies!
  • The workbox system: Really I can’t say enough about this system, especially when teaching multiple children! You can READ MY REVIEW of it here as well as how our school is setup.
  • Schooling multiple levels: I think that for multi-level teaching unit studies are a good way to go, we do this type of thing for History and Bible study. Basically that means that I’m teaching everyone the same thing at the same time for those 2 subjects, but they may have different expectations for any work involved. For everything else I really try to stay on grade-level with my children as I believe there are some skills can’t be blended in like that.
  • My Style: One thing I finally figured out after 4 years, is that MY teaching style (meaning what I’m most comfortable with) is just as important as my kids learning styles (with the exception of special needs children)! If I’m happy and excited about what I’m teaching, they tend to receive it much better! There are several types of curriculum, some give you a general set of things to do each week and you organize how/when you do it, others say on Monday do this, on Tuesday do this, some even tell you what to say! I’m better with the latter of the two, if I had to take time to organize when/how we did things I’d probably go overboard, I’d just rather have them tell me what to do each day! But again, that’s just me, your goal is to figure out what works for you!

Well, there you have it, my 2 or 3 cents worth of homeschooling advice! Take it with a grain of salt, because after a couple years in you will probably have your own opinions to share! :o)

33 Comments

  • Christy March 6, 2010 at 3:41 am

    Thanks so much for this. I have been homeschooling my 4 year old but am going to start doing some things with my 3 year old next year and I am a bit nervous about juggling both of them. I also am wondering if he can do the A Beka program that she just did this year – it's intense! I know you have a boy so I like following along with what he's up to, wondering what mine will be doing in the future. Oh, and we are using Heart of Dakota next year, along with A Beka and Saxon and the Reason for Handwriting/Spelling. I am excited – HOD is very hands on and Bible based! I like A Beka for phonics, but it can be very boring!

    Reply
  • Sippy Cup Central Mom March 6, 2010 at 5:13 am

    We have been homeschooling just shy of a year and it's always good to read a how to- just to keep you grounded. Thanks for this. We have been using Five in a Row. KarenSippy Cup Central

    Reply
  • Shelby March 6, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Awesome! As a new homeschooling momma, I really do appreciate you taking the time to write all this out. I guess so far, I am eclectic. We use Sonlight but we are only on P3/4. I love it so far but I am certainly going to need some more structure once they get older. I am going to look into the workboxes. Sounds right up my alley!Thanks again!

    Reply
  • Cheri Little March 6, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Wow – what great information! We have been homeschooling for 7 months now and love it! I use Sonlight and am very happy with it. I do add in other things as well, but Sonlight with Saxon Math and Handwriting without tears is definately our core for our kindergarten year. I use all your preschool items for my 3 year old as well and organize using workboxes (couldn't live without them!).I was just going to mention that Sonlight does give a schedule for each day to follow. You can even choose between a 4 day week and a 5 day week, and it is all scheduled out for you!Thanks!

    Reply
  • Chris March 7, 2010 at 5:10 am

    this is great… ill read your post thoroughly since we are going to homeschool starting june 🙂

    Reply
  • Caroline (Frogmum) March 7, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Great post ~ another couple of links for you that we enjoy online (extra online fun) :www.poissonrouge.com ~ perfect for tinies & non-readers, but some stuff still fun for my 8yo!)www.tutpup.com ~ free maths & spelling practice (BRLLIANT)www.moshimonsters.com ~ fun AND educational :Dwww.educationcity.com ~ requires subsciption, but totally awesome! I pay for ALL of my children and have done for YEARS now – it is SO worth the money :DThere are some pretty neat games on http://www.armorgames.com too particularly in the 'puzzles' section ~ great for older kids, but watch out for the more violent ones!Well – you did ask :D!!

    Reply
  • Christine March 7, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    Very kind of you to type all this out.

    Reply
  • Mozi Esmé March 13, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Great overview! We are definitely proceeding towards homeschooling, and there is SO MUCH out there…

    Reply
  • Lois of ChrisitanChildren.info March 16, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Just a little 2 more penniesTapestry of Grace unit study curriculum rocks! We used it 2+ years and only stopped when I was in middl of a twin pregnancy and I couldn't chase the books anymore. It is a classical living books kinda curr like sonlight. I do find it very good if u r hmeschooling older UG, Dialectic (middle school) and HS kids. I used the TOG with story of the worlds audio tapes when they meshed. Story of the world is a good option that WAS EASY TO TEACH. We used both together b/c TOG HAD BETTER ONLINE support and was meatier for my older kids.That was my pennies in the bucket. Thanks for this good overview!

    Reply
  • Confessions Of A Homeschooler March 16, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    LOIS: thanks for the comments on TOG, I have several friends using it, and I know they like it a lot. Everyone mentioned a learning curve for the teacher, but once they figured it all out, they love it!Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
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