When I started homeschooling, I deeply wished for a one-stop place to find all the homeschool help that I needed to get started and thrive with my boys. After talking with many homeschool mamas and answering F.A.Q.s, I put together this Homeschool 101 page to help other homeschoolers find what they need to enjoy their homeschooling adventures.
This page is a work in progress-just like me 😉 I will continue to add and update this page as I learn more about this whole homeschool gig. Please feel free to leave recommendations or ideas that could benefit other homeschool families in the comments area. By no means do I know everything nor had the opportunity to test out different stuff! Therefore, I welcome your input and gladly share links to resources that I’ve found to be helpful.
You’ll find this page broken down into sections that I believe to be helpful for interested and new homeschoolers, as well as homeschool families that need a boost or tweak here or there. Also, I provide links to recommended sites and resources that were invaluable to me along our journey. It is my hope that you find the answers you need as well to cultivate a relaxed and enjoyable homeschool experience for your family.
- Is Homeschooling Right for Us? This area is for you if you’re interested in homeschooling and in the exploration phase.
- Pros & Cons of Homeschooling
- Types of Homeschooling
- Styles of Homeschooling
- Fabulous Facebook Groups for Homeschool Encouragement, Support, & Information
- Homeschool Podcasts to Help You Learn More & Grow
- Getting Started with Homeschooling
- Curriculum: Where to Find Recommendations & Awesome Sites to Fit Your Needs
- Supplies & Resources to Help You Rock Your Homeschool
- Conventions & Conventions: In-Person & Online
- Homeschool 101 with Littles
- Should I Homeschool My Toddler?
- Homeschool Preschool: When to Start, What to Do, & How to Do It
- Managing Little Ones in a Multiple Age Homeschool
- Transitioning from Public School to Homeschooling
- What You Need to Know for a Successful Transition
- Deschooling: Could Our Family Benefit?
- Homeschool 101: The Middle School Years
- Homeschool 101: The High School Years (Yes, You Can Do It!)
- F.A.Q.s: Helps for Your More Specific Needs
Homeschool 101 Important Reminder & A Virtual Hug
Before you dive into all of this information, please remember this: It’s okay to feel what you’re feeling and think what you’re thinking. As you dip into homeschool styles and curricula, you will get overwhelmed. It will seem new and scary and make you second guess yourself.
All of that is normal. And a good thing. Because it means that you’re truly considering this big step for your family and all of its consequences. You’re acting out of love and wanting to do what is best for your family.
And whether you decide to homeschool or not, it’s all good. Nothing is written in stone. Go with your gut and reevaluate as needed.
Your kids are very lucky to have you in their corner 🙂
Is Homeschooling Right for Us?
You may be wondering if homeschooling is the right choice for your family. This question is super important to ask yourself and family members. Homeschooling has its pros and cons so it’s vital that you talk over this major decision with your loved ones.
In our Rock Your Homeschool! Facebook Group, we get a ton of posts with variations of this question: Is Homeschooling Right for Us? Ultimately, you are the only one who can answer this question. But, you’re in a great spot to find information that can help you learn more about it 🙂
You might be pregnant, have a newborn baby, little ones, or toddlers scampering about your home. Or perhaps preschool or Kindergarten is approaching and you’re just not sure what direction to go? Or maybe you’re where my family was and have a few kids in public school with younger siblings coming up close behind?
All of these situations seem vastly different and, yet they aren’t. Because at the center of those situations is one question: should we homeschool?
Look at these Pros & Cons shared by 41 homeschool experts. Homeschoolers from different backgrounds and in different situations. We all had doubts and still battle fears. But, when we weighed the pros and cons, we decided that it was worth a shot.
My friend, Emily of Table Life Blog, offers this amazing advice and tips on how to start homeschooling.
Mom Loves Best shares this awesome Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Your Kids. Check it out for helpful tips and things to think about as you start your homeschool journey.
Belinda of Live Life with Your Kids shares this free printable and tips on getting to know your child before you start (and during) your homeschool journey.
Types & Styles of Homeschooling
Homeschool types and styles overlap.
Two types of homeschooling that are often mentioned include:
- Traditional: Follows a more traditional school schedule, from about August to June, or the public school calendar for their area.
- Year-Round: Homeschool happens all year. This type varies. Some year-round homeschoolers do some sort of school every day. Others may have a more erratic schedule and do a few days one week and then skip another. Some homeschool families homeschool for 6 weeks and then take a week break.
Also, some families have a preference for Christian or Secular curriculum. I share some commonly recommended sites for these types of homeschooling below.
Homeschool Styles & Approaches:
Our homeschool style has evolved into a relaxed, eclectic approach that works well for our family. We include bits and pieces from almost all of these styles. Some homeschoolers prefer a more “purist” approach. I say, whatever works for you and your family 😉
You can find out more information about each style and approach by clicking on the links. My friend, Kelly of Fearless Homeschooling, offers a free workshop on homeschool styles, too. If you know of additional sites that could benefit new/interested homeschoolers, please leave in the comment area and I will update when possible.
- Traditional: Basically replicating school at home. Homeschoolers that choose this path often find comfort in the schedule, knowing that kids are “keeping up” with peers at school, and matching their own educational experiences.
- Charter or Cyber School: When a homeschool family uses curriculum and staff from an outside service. Can depend on where you live and what options are available to you. For example, in our state (PA) cyber schools are readily available. Students get all books and laptops plus online instruction. Students must also take state-mandated exams.
- Charlotte Mason: You can find a brief overview of Charlotte Mason Homeschooling here. Often abbreviated CM. Some great places to find more information, resources, and curriculum include:
- Classical: Learn about Classical Education at The Well-Trained Mind.
- Waldorf: Learn about this homeschool approach at Waldorf-Inspired Homeschooling.
- Unschooling: My favorite place to find out about Unschooling is Unschool Rules.
- Montessori: You can learn about the Montessori approach here.
- Roadschooling: Does the idea of taking your homeschool on the road sound appealing? Find out about roadschooling here.
- Homeschooling with Unit Studies: Find out about the unit study approach for homeschooling here.
- Project-Based: Discover if Project-Based homeschooling is right for your family.
There are other types of homeschooling. Relaxed. Eclectic. Hybrid. I share these terms so you have a familiarity with them and can do a bit of research should you find one intriguing.
Fabulous Facebook Groups for Homeschool Community, Encouragement, & Support
Some of the best places to ask questions and find support are Facebook Groups. You can find your tribe and know you’re not alone in this journey.
Here’s a curated ultimate list of homeschool facebook groups to check out.
Rock Your Homeschool! Facebook Group: I encourage you to join our FB group. Awesome group of homeschool ladies who share the ups and downs and all arounds of homeschooling.
Homeschool Podcasts to Help You Learn More
Pop in a pair of earbuds and soak up all this awesomeness! Here’s a curated list of homeschool podcasts for you to learn from and enjoy. And here are 101 Reasons Homeschool Podcasts Can Boost Your Day!
Getting Started with Homeschooling
Now that you’ve made the decision to start homeschooling, there are a few steps you need to take. You must look into the legal requirements for your state/area. Also, you’ll need some resources to get started.
Make sure you get a legit start to your homeschooling. Follow the requirements for your area. And depending on where you live, it really might not be that hard!
I live in one of the most highly regulated states-Pennsylvania. The requirements almost scared me off of homeschooling. Luckily, I have a dear friend who held my hand and walked me through it, showing me that it wasn’t so bad. If I can do it, so can you 🙂
HSLDA: The Homeschool Legal Defense Association is my go-to place for information about the legal requirements for homeschooling. You can learn about the homeschool laws for your state here.
Ask Pauline: I find and use a lot of the information and resources on this site for PA homeschooling. Printable forms for affidavit, attendance, objectives, and more. Plus, what you need in your homeschool portfolio and how to put it together!
Curriculum: Where to Find Recommendations & Awesome Sites to Fit Your Needs
Your curriculum choices depend on a few things, like:
- Homeschool Style/Approach
- Ages & Stages
- Personal & Spiritual Beliefs (Are you okay with online learning? Do you prefer Christian- or Secular-based?)
Tip: When asking for homeschool curriculum recommendations in a group or to friends, include the following information:
- Age(s) of the kids using the materials
- Your homeschool style/approach
- Christian-, Secular-, or no preference
- Do you want hands-on, online, interactive, independent, printables, structured, etc.?
This type of information will help other homeschoolers provide relevant suggestions and narrow down your decision-making process.
You can check out recommendations and reviews of homeschool curriculum options on sites like:
Some awesome places to find and buy homeschool curriculum include:
Christian Curriculum Providers:
Alpha Omega (includes Monarch, Switched-On Schoolhouse, LifePac, Horizons)
Secular Curriculum Providers:
My friend, Nadine at Up Above the Rowan Tree, shares this awesome Ultimate Guide to Secular Homeschool Curriculum.
Timberdoodle (Non-religious kits)
Homeschool Conventions & Conferences
Homeschool conventions and conferences are excellent ways to learn more about homeschool approaches and curriculum. If you can’t make it in person to an event, new online conferences are popping up that you can conveniently watch in your home.
Homeschool Supplies & Resources
In homeschool circles, it’s often joked that you can’t live without a laminator or comb-binder machine. And you may find that you need or want these supplies. But, my #1 tip for homeschool supplies is to keep it simple and build. (Read: don’t go out and buy all the things!)
You can get a free printable list of suggested homeschool supplies here!
Click here for my list of recommended resources for homeschooling.
Homeschool 101 with Littles
One of the most frequent questions that I’m asked is how to homeschool with littles. Sometimes, that means how to get homeschooling done with older kids while little kids are getting into everything. Others want to know when to start homeschool preschool and how to do it.
Should I Homeschool My Toddler?
You know your kids best. And you also might be feeling a bit of pressure to start teaching your little one.
My advice: don’t fall into the parent comparison trap. It might not always feel like it, but your toddler will be growing up fast enough. There’s no need to push academics at this point.
You don’t need homeschool toddler curriculum.
So, what do you need? Books, toys, the great outdoors. Lots of play and time to interact with you. Music, arts and crafts supplies. And love 🙂
Homeschool Preschool: When to Start, What to Do, & How to Do It
*see above 🙂
I also believe that kids flourish when the preschool years are full of play, books, and toys. Hands-on activities provide opportunities to practice and develop fine motor skills. Lots of indoor and outdoor play to build gross motor skills.
If you’d like to incorporate more structure into your homeschool preschool day, I recommend checking out these resources:
Preschool Math at Home by Kate Snow
Managing Little Ones in a Multiple Age Homeschool
Oh, how I know the trials and tribulations of trying to maintain your sanity while homeschooling with little ones underfoot!
When we started homeschooling my two older boys, I was pregnant and running after a toddler.
Here are my tips for making the most out of this busy yet blessed time:
- Keep It Simple
- Supplies and materials in one location, organized as best as possible.
- Baskets. You can store books, tops, and materials in different baskets. Baskets are easy to carry around, room to room. *I don’t recommend a rolling cart when you have littles-too easy for them to get into, topple over, etc.
- Baby Carrier. I used a variety of baby carriers and loved how I could stay mobile and hands-free.
- Cardboard Box
- Be Prepared with Quiet Activities
- Special Fun Box. Keep safe toys and objects in a container that only comes out for homeschool time.
- Use Nap Time!
- Include your little ones in your homeschool activities whenever possible!
- Have Special Homeschool Time with your little ones. This time can be simple, like reading a few books and singing a song. Make a big deal out of this time and your littles will feel special 🙂
Transitioning from Public School to Homeschooling
Are you making the change from public school to homeschool? That’s what our family did and it was the best decision for us!
You probably have a lot of questions and wonder where to begin. Plus, fears and doubts about how you can swing this lifestyle.
Totally gotcha. The decision to move from a socially acceptable public school life to a different homeschool life is big and scary.
You may wonder about socialization, keeping up with peers, and how you’ll actually get stuff done around the house.
You’ll need to remind yourself about a gazillion times that it’s a period of transition-for all of your family members. There will be moments of terror and chaos. And there will be moments of connection and joy.
You’ll find your homeschool groove. It’s all part of the process 😉
What You Need for a Successful Transition from Public School to Homeschool
In my experience, you need four things for a successful transition.
- Legal: You gotta be legit. Make sure to go through the proper steps of withdrawing your kids and turning in the necessary paperwork to state your intention to homeschool. Check out homeschool laws for your state at HSLDA.
- Keep It Simple: You’re going to feel like you need to replicate school at home. And worry if you’re kids are getting behind or missing out. You do NOT need to replicate the stress and pressure of school at home. Less is more 🙂
- Realistic Expectations: You may be super excited to do fun games and activities with your kids. They may need time to get used to it. Your kids also might struggle with making up their own minds after being told what to do in school. Keep an open mind and be ready to pivot when necessary.
- Patience: This change will have its ups and downs. One day, your kids may be relieved to be at home. Another day, they may wake up crying for their friends. It’s hard not to take it personally but try to be strong and know it’s just part of the process, not about you.
Deschooling: Could Our Family Benefit?
Are you and your kids enmeshed in public school type of thinking? If so, you could benefit from a period of deschooling. My Deschooling 101: For a Peaceful Transition from Public School to Homeschool can help!
Homeschool 101: The Middle School Years
Oy vey! If you’re homeschooling a tween or teen, you know the roller coaster ride of hormones and attitudes!
You may be wondering what happened to your sweet child that used to cuddle and hang on every word you said. And you feel like you’re dealing with a young version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
As my grandfather wisely advises, “This too shall pass.”
You can homeschool the middle school years. You may need a larger supply of chocolate and the beverage of your choice. But, you can do it!
For my homeschool middle school questions and needs, I pop over to Education Possible.
Homeschool 101: The High School Years
Yes, you can homeschool high school. For realz!
You don’t have to be able to teach Calc II or pass AP Physics. That’s what outsourcing if for!
I was scared out of my pants to homeschool the high school years. I had so many people tell me it wasn’t possible. How could I do Chemistry at home? Or a foreign language?
You may be getting similar questions. Just let them all glide like water off a duck’s back 😉
Check out these sites and resources and know that you got this!
F.A.Q.s: Helps for Your More Specific Needs
Before I answer these questions, please remember that ultimately, you need to be the one to make these decisions. You know your life, family, and kids best.
Can I work and homeschool?
Yes, with planning, organization, and help. There are many factors that can affect if you can successfully work and homeschool. And there are only so many hours in one day.
I know many people say that you can do it all. Well, you can. If you have some good systems in place and everyone is on the same page 😉
You will need to be able to use your time wisely, efficiently plan, and have your homeschool materials well-organized. Also, consider outsourcing where you need it. For example, using an online homeschool option for a few subjects or all. Outsourcing includes home management and meal prep.
I know many moms who work and homeschool (myself included). It’s a tough gig. But, you can do it. The biggest thing is keeping your why in front of you and time management.
If you have questions about homeschooling and working, pop over to the Facebook group The Working Homeschool Mom Club
I know you said not to worry about homeschooling preschool. But I do! How can I be doing enough if my child is mostly playing? I really don’t want them to get behind.
There’s nothing wrong with doing some preschool work with your child at home. Structured lessons are fine. Just make sure to pay attention to your child’s reactions and interest. If your child is enthusiastic and willing, go for it! If they keep picking up toys or ask to cuddle with a book, put aside the lessons and go with the flow.
When you follow your child’s lead in the homeschool preschool years, there really is no “getting behind”.
I don’t know where to get started with homeschool planning! What should I do?
Planning is one of my very favorite things to do! Yet, I even get overwhelmed with homeschool planning for five boys.
My friend, Pam Barnhill, has amazing resources to help you figure out the best ways to plan for your homeschool. Pam explains the basics and then dives deep into different ways to plan your day, week, and year. You’ll realize that you don’t have to stick with traditional planning methods after checking out these planning styles and forms!
Ugh! I can never find what I need. What should I do about homeschool organization?
While homeschool organization is definitely not one of my fortes, I will advise this: keep it simple. Oh, and color code your kids whenever possible!
For all things homeschool organization, I’ll refer you to Mystie Winckler at Simply Convivial. She has awesome tips and resources to help you get started and stay organized.
Focus is such a big problem in our homeschool! Getting and keeping my kids’ attention is a struggle. And, although I hate to admit it, I get distracted by the dishes or Facebook. Help!
Don’t let distractions get you down! I know how frustrating it can be when you’re reading aloud and your kids seem to be in their own little worlds.
Kids are kids. And it may seem like they’re not paying attention but they’re actually soaking stuff up like a sponge. Before you blow your top, ask your kids a few questions about the story or lesson to see if they were following along.
When you just need to get lessons done but you’re kids aren’t having it, I encourage you to hit the pause button yourself. Ask yourself a few questions like:
- What’s the rush?
- Does this work “have” to get done now?
- Am I being a good role model of focusing? (Or am I sneaking peeks at my phone?)
Then, ask your kids a few questions like:
- What’s going on? Are you hungry? Thirsty? Tired?
- Is this material boring? What can we do to make it more fun and interesting?
- Would you like to do something with your hands while I’m reading? Grab some building blocks or playdough!
If you find electronics or screens distracting during your homeschool time, put them away. Turn them off. The world will keep spinning and you’ll feel better about your homeschool 🙂
Dust bunnies or dishes get you distracted? My advice is to go ahead and tackle them so you can get on with your homeschool work. If that’s not a possibility, put on your blinders. Just ignore. Because, believe me, they aren’t going anywhere! (Unless you found a homeschool fairy godmother?)
Get more tips on being a fun & focused mom in my free guide HERE!
What do I do when my kids aren’t motivated?
Do you have a kid or two who drags their feet when it’s time to start homeschooling? Instead of making it a battle, sit down and talk to them about what’s going on. Ask some open-ended questions (when yes or no just doesn’t cut it) like:
- How are you sleeping?
- What would you rather be doing instead of starting homeschool?
- What can you do to make sure you have time to ____ before starting homeschool?
- How can I help you make the transition to starting school? 5-minute warning? Playing music? Lighting a candle?
If your child is resistant to a particular subject or two, again talk to them about it. What is their frustration? How can it be better? Would it help to change the time of doing it or location?
Is your child overwhelmed and not sure where to start? Work with your child to break down the day or subject into manageable chunks. You can even list steps to help them know where to begin and what needs to happen in order to be considered complete.
Also, check your own expectations. Do you want your kids to be more independent but they’re waiting for you to do the work with them? Are you assigning too much work for one day and your kids are overwhelmed? It’s important to keep realistic expectations for our kids based on their ages and stages.
I have a feeling that my child is gifted and I’m afraid I’m not doing enough to help him. Can I still homeschool? What should I do?
Yes, you can still homeschool 🙂 I encourage you to join the Facebook group Raising Poppies for an amazing community of parents raising and educating gifted/2e (twice exceptional) kids.
Also, my friend, Cindy West of Our Journey Westward, has an incredible book called Homeschooling Gifted Kids that I highly encourage you to get!
I’m really confused. My 7-year-old still isn’t reading. Should I have her tested? I get all sorts of advice, from just wait until she’s ready to panic.
Ah, the pressure on parents for their kids to be hitting certain milestones according to peers! As always, you know your child best. If you’re concerned that there could be an issue, then definitely consult an expert.
From my own experiences (and chats with friends), some kids really do need more time to learn how to read. My older two boys caught on quickly and were reading chapter books before Kindergarten. I tried everything I could with my now 10-year-old and nothing was working.
When I backed off and let him discover books based on his interests, he went from barely reading BOB books to breezing through chapter books in a day.
Also, no matter what, keep reading aloud to your kids! That time is so precious and such wonderful opportunities to connect. Even when you child begins to read (because they will!), they’ll appreciate this time with you and all those silly voices you do 🙂
SOS! I feel like I’m losing my mind! Things keep falling through the cracks and I can’t seem to get anything done. I feel like I’m either wasting time or not doing enough.
Time management as a homeschooler can be such a tough struggle! Not only do you have the demands of home life with chores and errands, but you have the responsibility of educating your kids in that same home.
As a busy homeschool soccer mom of five boys, I truly understand this battle. I’ve found the following things to be most helpful:
- Keep things simple. And I mean everything. Meals, laundry, errands.
- Combine subjects whenever you can. Your younger kids can handle it and will soak up so much information. And your older kids will benefit from learning patience and how to explain concepts in different ways.
- Use lists. On index cards or post-it notes and keep those lists in one spot that you can easily reference throughout your day.
- Use a planner. Paper or digital. Whatever you will actually use and enjoy.
- Relax expectations. Your home is a place of learning and creativity. And you’ll be in it a lot, learning and eating and playing. Crumbs and spills happen. But, so do precious memories!
- Learn to say no. You don’t have to do all the things. And it’s important to set boundaries with your homeschool time!
- Get creative in how you define and track learning. A trip to the grocery store counts as math, socialization, and writing. Audiobooks in the car, nature walks, even baking yummy muffins for poetry teatime.
I truly hope that the information and resources provided on this Homeschool 101 page help you on your homeschooling journey. If you have any questions or would like to see a link added to this page, please email Amy at [email protected]
Best wishes and ROCK YOUR HOMESCHOOL!