In this article, we’ll explore 15 homeschooling hacks to help you get started on the right foot and set the stage for a successful learning experience.
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homeschooling is on the rise!
According to the National Home Education Research Institute, approximately 3.135 million school-age (K-12) were homeschooled in the United States during the 2021-2022 school year. These numbers are nearly double what they were prior to the pandemic. Since the pandemic, there has been an even greater surge in Black homeschoolers.
The 2021 Census found that the number of black homeschoolers increased nearly fivefold between the spring and fall of 2020, from 3.3 percent to 16.1 percent. This black homeschooling rate is slightly higher than the approximately 15 percent of black students in the overall K-12 public school population.
There are so many reasons why more and more of us are ditching the traditional school model and homeschooling instead. I chose to homeschool because my older son has learning needs I did not feel his school was equipped to fully address. So I took the plunge and here we are.
So how do you Begin Homeschooling?
1. Register for Homeschool
That’s right. You can’t just up and decide to homeschool without approval from your school district. Check out your state’s laws regarding homeschooling, and submit the necessary paperwork to make it official. This includes returning homeschoolers. Every year, returning homeschoolers must re-register with their local school district.
Don’t expect your school district to love the decision, either. From my understanding, if your child was previously enrolled in public school, they’ll lose some funding with your decision. In some instances, you may have a bit of a fight on your hands, but it’s usually rectified with a solid homeschool curriculum you can share with the district. If you’ve never written a curriculum it can seem stressful, but please don’t worry. You can get the whole curriculum dilemma squared away with my next tip.
2. Join your local homeschooling Facebook Groups
I’m in three different local facebook homeschooling groups, and several that are not local. When I was stressed about meeting the requirements we needed from my town to get permission to homeschool, the facebook girlies came through. If you’re in a state group, introduce yourself and your town and ask if anyone in your town is willing to send over their approved homestudy plan. Use this plan as template and you’re good to go. I did this last year and this year. This buys you time to figure out your actual homeschooling plan.
3. Create a Dedicated Learning Space
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Designate a specific area in your home as the primary learning space. I did not have this last year, but as you can see above, I created a learning nook this year. No matter your approach to homeschool, I promise you will want to create your own area for learning. Design this space with your kiddos if you can. A dedicated homeschooling site helps children associate the room with learning, focus, and productivity. Ensure the learning environment has essential supplies, books, and materials. But also make it fun. Make it lively. Make it whatever your kid is into. My kid manages to do his best work when he is distracted by one of his special interests.
4. Explore Different Learning Resources
There is a lot of material out there. A lot. And it can be overwhelming and expensive. I spent a ton of money last year testing different options, from online curricula to designing my own, to workbooks, to tossing all of it out and winging it for a few months. Take your time. Trial and error is perfectly okay. Learning is everywhere. Don’t be afraid to explore different tools, from textbooks and workbooks to online courses, educational apps, and hands-on activities. Tailor the resources to your child’s interests and learning style, incorporating various materials to engage their curiosity. Some online curriculum and resources you can look into include Time 4 Learning, Night Zoo Keeper, Outschool, Mia Academy, and IXL learning.
We also use workbooks and worksheets we grab from our local Dollar Tree. For more in-depth resources, I like Spectrum Workbooks. I’ve also heard great things about the Good and The Beautiful. We just snagged a Bird-themed curriculum from there and look forward to using it for science.
Last year we used Mia Academy, supplemented with Minecraft Workbooks, watched a math-themed cartoon called Numberblocks on Youtube, and printed out various curricula from Etsy. It was messy and all over the place, but it all came together in the end.
5. Incorporate Real-World Learning
We try to take two field trips weekly. We even engage in road school. We pack up the car and drive 2-3 hours to a neighboring state and visit their museums and learning centers when we get bored with our own. Nature walks are some of our best and free field trips. Homeschoolers are eligible for free and discounted passes to museums as well. To take full advantage of the many homeschooler discounts and resources, get your kid a homeschool ID here. Make a point to visit museums, libraries, attend workshops, and participate in community activities.
6. Be flexible
Flexibility is one of the significant advantages of homeschooling. Create a schedule that aligns with your family’s routines and preferences. While consistency is essential, remember that homeschooling allows adaptation to accommodate life’s surprises and spontaneous learning opportunities. Which leads me to my next tip.
7. Consider Deschooling before you begin homeschooling
Before you begin homeschooling I highly recommend Deschooling. Deschooling is a process the parent and child. take a break from formal education structures.
Homeschool is completely different from traditional school so if you try to replicate that system at home it will be frustrating for everyone involved. Trust me! You’ll need to decondition yourself and your child from that mindset. Deschooling involves stepping away from traditional classroom routines and expectations to allow for mental and emotional adjustment.
During this period, you and your kiddos should focus on self-directed learning, exploring personal interests, and adapting to a more flexible and individualized approach to education. Deschooling provides a mental break from the constraints of traditional schooling and helps you embrace a more relaxed, learner-centric mindset before transitioning to homeschooling.
8. Consider Unschooling
I’m in the middle of reading Raising Free People: Unschooling as Liberation and Healing Work. And I’m 99.9% sure we’ll be unschooling for the foreseeable future. My kids and I are neurodivergent and I’ve not found them capable of learning in any traditional fashion. Whenever we try structured work we both end up crying. So, unschooling is looking like the way to go.
Unschooling is an educational philosophy that rejects traditional schooling, emphasizing child-led learning without a set curriculum. It encourages learning through everyday experiences, play, and pursuing individual interests. Unschooling is flexible, allowing your child to explore subjects naturally and at their own pace, fostering a love for learning based on curiosity and passion. I’m going to write a more detailed article on homeschooling, but in the meantime, the link above explains it every well.
9. Consider Gameschooling
If you’ve got a gamer on your hands (board games, computer games, or video games), gameschooling is the way to go. Gameschooling is an educational approach that involves using games as the primary tool for teaching and learning. It aims to make education more engaging and enjoyable by integrating educational games into the curriculum, covering various subjects. The goal is to foster a love for learning, enhance critical thinking, and promote social interaction through fun and interactive games.
I know I’m dating myself here but I learned so much about world geography by playing Oregon Trail back in the 90s, so the same can be done today across any and all subjects. These are some of our favorite gameschooling games, but there are so many to look into here.
10. Join Homeschooling Networks and Co-ops
Connecting with other homeschooling families through local networks and co-ops can be invaluable. In addition to sharing resources like the curriculum templates mentioned above, homeschooling groups on facebook truly do keep us going as homeschooling at times can feel isolating. I was able to join a small community of local homeschoolers after attending a playground meetup for homeschooled kids. There were several times that I thought I would quit homeschooling, but my Facebook communities swept in and helped me find the resources I needed to move forward.
11. Embrace Unstructured Play and Exploration
My first year of homeschooling showed me how unstructured time can be educational. Even if you aren’t going the unschooling route, you can still add some elements of it into your homeschool routine. We’ve practiced fractions while baking cookies. We stumbled upon Numberblocks one day, and my kids love it. So some mornings, Math is watching 3-4 episodes back to back. My kids love this show and learned multiplication and division from watching it. Even my 3-year-old is doing multiplication problems! So don’t be beholden to a firm schedule. Allow ample time for unstructured play, which fosters creativity, problem-solving skills, and emotional development.
12. Encourage Self-Directed Learning
Empower your child to take ownership of their education by encouraging self-directed learning. Support their interests and passions, and use this to build a curriculum centered around these interests. Homeschooling becomes much easier when you allow your kids to run much of the show. Through self-directed learning we learned of my son’s interest in birds and that’s how we stumbled upon our local Audobon society, and the birding curriculum I linked above.
13. Cultivate a Love for Reading
Nurture a love for reading by incorporating regular reading sessions into your daily routine. We have a family reading “hour.” We all stop what we’re doing and sit down and read for 30 minutes every day. Then we talk about what we read. It’s a great way to make reading a regular part of the day.
14. Consider Hiring a Homeschool Coach
Homeschool coaches are veteran homeschoolers who typically have one or more kids who have successfully graduated through homeschooling. Many are former public school teachers as well. I found mine on Facebook as she runs a popular page called Shaun The Homeschool Guru, but there are others.
One session with Shaun really helped shift my perspective and get things going on the right path. Homeschool coaches or advisors can help you develop lesson ideas, build your curriculum for you, or just be a sounding board. If you can afford it, I think it’s a great investment in helping ease your fears about this journey.
15. Evaluate Progress and Be Patient
Homeschooling is a journey of growth and learning for both parent and child. Regularly evaluate your child’s progress, but remember that every child learns at their pace. Be patient with yourself and your child, and be open to adjusting your approach as needed.
Embarking on the homeschooling journey offers many exciting opportunities for parents and children. By defining your philosophy, creating a fun and cozy learning area, networking with other homeschoolers, and fostering a love for learning, you can craft a homeschooling experience that nurtures your child’s unique potential and creates a lifelong passion for learning. Be flexible and enjoy the journey.