You want to homeschool your child, but you aren’t sure you are smart enough. Do you have the right training and knowledge? Is it possible for me?
Yes, you can homeschool no matter what your background is. You do not have to know everything to homeschool. It is possible for you to do this and be successful without any formal training.
You now know you can do it, but what exactly are the requirements? Though almost any parent can homeschool, there are a few things you should know. And it’s going to depend on where you live. The HSDA has a list of what is required for each state. Make sure you look your state requirements up on your own states site to be sure you are compliant.
Homeschooling was not always legal. It wasn’t until 1993 that homeschooling became legal in all 50 states. Each state is allowed to come up with their own laws and requirements governing homeschooling. Some states have highly regulated restrictions, while others have very few. It all depends on which state you live in.
There are many regulations that each state has to address. They range from age of schooling to the requirements of the person teaching the student.
States with the least restrictions include Alaska, Idaho, Michigan, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, and Connecticut. States with the most regulation are Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
Today, an estimated 3.3% of school aged children are homeschooled. This number is an approximation since some states do not require any type of reporting if you choose to homeschool your child.
There are 11 states that do not require you to notify them of your intent to homeschool. In those states, it is still a good ideal to withdraw a student that was previously enrolled to avoid problems with truancy. The states that do not require a notification are AK, CT, ID, IA, IL, IN, MI, MO, NJ, OK, TX.
A one-time notice of intent is required in 11 states. They are AL, AZ, FL, HI, KS, ME, NC, NH, NV, OR, UT
An annual notice is required in the remaining 28 states. They are AR, CA, CO, DE, GA, KY, LA, MD, MA, MN, MS, MT, NE, NM, NY, ND, OH, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY.
The states that require a notice of intent filed will want it filed within a set number of days before the start of the school year. Some states require it to be filed with the state department of education, while other states allow it to be filed with your local school district.
Education Requirement of the Parent
States vary on the individual requirements of the person teaching the student. Some states do not have any requirements for the person teaching, while others require the person to have a high school diploma or GED.
In California and Kansas, the parent must be deemed competent or capable. But there are not laws defining what this means and officials cannot make this decision. This basically equates to no requirement.
Georgia, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia require a parent to have a high school diploma or equivalent to teach.
Washington takes it a step further requiring that one of four of the following are met:
- Parent has earned 45 quarter units of college credit.
- The parent has attended a qualifying home-based teaching course.
- A certified teacher must supervise you and meet with your child for one hour a week.
- Or the superintendent deems that you are qualified.
Total Hours/Days Requirements
Not all states have a set number of hours or days that are required for homeschooling. States that require a set number of hours and days for the student to be taught will want attendance records sent in each year. The recommendation is usually 3 to 4 hours a day for around 180 days per school year. You can choose when the hours are and days of the week you want to teach.
Depending on the state you live in, you may be required to teach certain core subjects. Some states request you to send in an intended list of subjects at the beginning of the school year. And some states have no requirements on what a parent teaches at all. This means you can teach your student any subject or area you want.
If your state does not require certain subjects to be taught, but does require testing, you may want to make sure you are teaching at least what they will be tested on. This will keep your child on level and keep the school from interfering in the future.
If testing is required, most states will not allow a student to fall below a certain level before requiring the student to enroll in public schooling. Again, make sure to teach your student according to the test standards, if testing is required.
In Tennessee, you must test at the 5th, 7th, and 9th grade levels if you choose to homeschool as an independent home school. If you choose to have your child enrolled in a Church related umbrella school, your testing is dependent upon that schools’ requirements. Some of these umbrella schools do not require any testing. The umbrella schools usually take care of your notice of intent with the state as well.
Finding Out How Your Child Learns
One thing you need to focus on when you make the decision to homeschool your child is the format for your schooling. Children learn things differently and at different paces.
A way to find out the best way your child learns is to ask them. If they are not sure or you are not sure, try the method that sounds the best to you. If it works, then great keep at it and build on it. If it doesn’t work, just change things until you find a fit.
Some parents will start more structured with their homeschooling and become more relaxed as time goes on. Certain students will require or may even prefer more structure to their schooling. While others may choose a more relaxed, learn at your own pace, approach.
You can teach from books and workbooks, sign your child up for an online curriculum or hire a private teacher or have another parent that homeschools teach your child.
So many methods and resources are available for homeschooling these days. You just have to find the method that works for you and your family. The good thing about homeschooling is the ability to change and adapt your methods to fit your child.
When I Started Out
Starting out with my child was overwhelming at first. I was excited, yet scared. I didn’t want to fail him. It was a new adventure for me and really not something I had ever planned on doing. But he was failing in the public-school system.
It was not the curriculum, but the fact that his learning style and mental state was not adapting to this type of schooling. And the school system he was in did not have the resources to adapt to or help him. He fell into the sink or swim category and was drowning.
Once I made the decision to do it, I admit that I had tunnel vision. I grew up in the public-school system style of learning. So, I decided that is how homeschooling worked. I bought school books in each subject, workbooks, made lesson plans based off the books, etc.
We quickly learned that he did not like being taught by me. I may be a little strict. School has always been very important to me. Needless to say, it did not work. I don’t know why I thought it would with the fact it wasn’t working in the actual classroom.
I set out on the research journey. Determined to find something that would work for him.
Giving up was not an option. It took some time, but we eventually found what worked for him. The world is turning more and more to digital learning and that is what worked best for him. He wanted to do it online at his own pace. We tried multiple platforms until we found the one that fit his learning style.
Persistence is the key. Stick with it and know that it is okay if something isn’t working for your child. Just tweak things a little until you find the solution for you and your child. Once you find the style that works for your family, your child will thrive.
Getting Started with Homeschooling
First thing to do once you start thinking about homeschooling is to find out your state requirements. If your child is or has been enrolled in public school, it is a good idea to withdraw them from their school. Even if it isn’t required in your state, it will save you from future problems that may arise with the school board or truancy.
Once you have taken care of all the state requirements, all that is required is to start. Decide the structure you will use. Will you be teaching the student personally? Will they work from books at their own pace? Or will you choose an online curriculum for your child? Choose the curriculum and tools you will use to teach them.
After you have the curriculum chosen, you need to decide on a schedule. Setting a schedule will help you and your child stay on task. Is school going to be in the morning upon awakening, after lunch, or in the evening with small breaks. Is it going to be in time blocks throughout the day, allowing for big breaks?
Whatever schedule you decide, try to stick to it as much as possible. Getting into a routine will help to keep your day running smoothly.
If you work full time, like I did, making a schedule will help get schooling done each day. I set up time blocks for my child to work on his subjects at set times. Once the time was up, he would stop and take a break before starting on the next subject.
He stayed with his grandmother while I worked, so I made sure they had a copy of his schedule. Even though he had a set time schedule, he was able to work at his own pace. This helped reduce his stress by not requiring him to have a certain amount done in any set amount of time. He was working from an online curriculum that allowed him to do however many lessons he could get done during each time block.
What Do I Need to Make Homeschooling Successful?
The short answer, patience. The long answer, patience and determination.
To be successful, you will need to find what works for your family. It may take time to develop a strategy that works. Again, the key is persistence. Just because one thing is not effective, does not mean they all will be ineffective.
Don’t get set on one way of doing things and force it to work. You need to be flexible. The last thing you want to do is force your child to adapt. They will begin to rebel and dislike homeschooling. All your efforts will be for nothing. You both have to find a compromise to make it work.
You can have all the tools in the world and still be unsuccessful. You have to have the right mindset to make it work. Stay positive and keep working at it until you find the right combination. If something fails and you give up, it ends right there. Instead keep your head up and move on to the next thing.
Input from your child can make your job a lot easier. If they already know what works best for them, start there. We know they don’t always know what’s best for them, but at least give them a chance to voice their opinion.
Do I Need Supplies?
This question goes back to deciding the structure of your home school. If you are going to teach from books, you will need to obtain them. You can usually find school books in bookstores and online. You can even find used ones to save you a lot of money. We had a used bookstore in our city where I was able to find many books to teach from and work out of. You are going to want to buy workbooks new, so you don’t have some of the information already filled out or ripped out.
If you are going to develop the curriculum and assignments yourself, a lesson planner would be a good tool to use. I used one to organize my sons’ lessons; and I made him a copy so he knew what he was responsible for each day. If he ever had extra time, he could move on to the next day’s assignments.
You probably want to get the essentials like paper and pencil. These can be used whether they are working out of a book or online. If you are using an online curriculum, the student will still want to have paper to work things out on or take notes. A calculator would probably be a good investment for either, too.
How Much Time Will I Need to Devote Each Day?
Time that you will need to devote each day will rely on your preference and your states requirements. My state requires 4 hours a day for a total of 180 days during the school year. I was able to split that up however we needed. If he needed a day off, we could just add a little time to other days.
When I was teaching him with my own curriculum, I had to spend extra time making lesson plans for the week and grading papers. Making his lesson plans took maybe an extra 30 minutes to an hour each week. Grading depended on the work assigned. If you assign a lot of work, you will spend a lot of time grading.
You also have to take into account whether you are going to have to learn the material as well. You may have to teach the lesson to your student, grade their assignment, or help them on any questions they have. This can add anywhere from a few hours or more to your week.
If your child will be doing everything through an online curriculum, you still need to set aside time to go over anything they need help on or anything you see they are struggling with when you look over their grades.
To shorten the time needed, you could work with your child and learn information together. This time will count toward instructional time.
If your state does not have requirements, then it is totally up to you. The amount of time is dependent on how long it takes you to teach it and your child to learn it. If you can get everything done in a couple hours a day, then go for it. Just make sure your child has a good grasp of each lesson before moving on.
You can also take field trips to museums, aquariums, the park, etc. to provide your lesson for the day. This is a fun way to learn and get your hours in.
How Much Money Will It Cost Me?
The amount homeschooling will cost depends on your preferences. If you buy the books, workbooks, supplies, it will vary based on the curriculum you are providing.
There are schools that you can buy curriculums from that cost thousands of dollars. There are some programs that you can buy online through amazon and other places starting at $100. Or you can buy used books, like I did, and spend about $30 on books, $30 on workbooks, and a few bucks for paper and pencils.
If you choose the online route, it will depend again on the curriculum you choose. There are full online curriculums that range from $20 a month to thousands of dollars a semester.
It all comes down to what your goals are. If you develop the curriculum yourself, it will likely be cheaper but will take you more time than just buying one already made. The cost of the curriculums will vary based on what you get. You can find some really good affordable curriculums if you do your research.
If you want something that is all inclusive, accredited, and has extra bells and whistles, you are going to have to shell out some money. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this option. If you have the budget for it, do it. It will still benefit your child and give you more time to spend on other things instead of researching all the different options out there. And believe me, there are lots of them out there.