Getting Started Info
Thinking about homeschooling or still finding your way through your first year or 2 of this adventure?
I'm located in Minnesota. If you're homeschooling in another state, you should be able to find your state's requirements and options by getting in touch with a statewide homeschool group in your area or checking on the Homeschool Legal Defense Assoc website and looking up your state.
Here are some resources to help you get started. Also check out the resource page for articles on recordkeeping, testing options, creative curriculum ideas, different styles of homeschooling and more. Welcome to the homeschooling community! If you're interested, I also offer a free 30-min coaching session for newbie homeschoolers. Email me to set something up.
Click here to read through Frequently Asked Questions about homeschooling.
Different Approaches and Many Options
As you join the homeschooling community you will hear a lot of talk about curriculum and teaching approaches. Some families do 'school at home' with boxed curriculum for each grade, some use a Waldorf or Montessori style of homeschooling, and you'll hear others talk about Charlotte Mason. There are also 'unschoolers' and those who like unit studies. Ecclectic homeschoolers pick and choose from a variety of approaches. There are even families who have their kids at home, but use online curriculum through charter school programs like K-12.
In many communities, you'll find homeschool co-ops and support groups. These groups can offer group classes or parent support and resources. Some meet in a local church or library or other community space. Groups can be religiously oriented or secular in nature. Homeschoolers also make use of programs like Community Education and Parks & Rec to supplement their home studies. Online you'll find discussion groups, facebook groups, and experience sharing blogs.
Whatever path feels right for your homeschooling adventure, know that you have many many options and it's ok to change it up from year to year. You can find a good selection of books about homeschooling and different approaches at your library, secondhand book store or online. Doing some reading will help you find the resources and materials that capture your interest and lead the way.
Always keep in mind that you want the approach and materials that fire the imagination and encourage that sense of discovery that make learning fun. Try not to spend a large amount of money for any curriculum or program before you're able to truly look it over (check with other homeschoolers who use that program) to assess that it's the right fit for you and your kids. Also be sure you understand the return policy.
Homeschooling conferences can be exciting and informative, but they can also be distracting and overwhelming. The vendor area can be an opportunity to hold the curriculum in your hands and get a look at it, but the sales reps can push 'special offers' that coax you into a purchase without feeling you've fully explored any alternatives. Keep your wits about you, or commit ahead of time to just window shop the vendor tables and not make any impulsive purchases.
Keep in mind that it can take 3 yrs of homeschooling to feel like you have your sea legs in this new community. Don't be surprised if it takes the first year just to feel like you've found a rhythm that works for you. There's no ONE right way to homeschool. There's very much an 'experimental' feel to those first months. And that's ok.
Record keeping and documentation
In Minnesota, we are required to provide instruction in Communication Skills (reading and writing), Math, Science, Social Studies, Health & Physical Education. There is no requirement to cover each topic every day or even every week. We are to complete reporting paperwork each fall with our home school district for children who are 7 yrs old or older on Oct 1 of that school year. Once a child turns 17, there is no further reporting that must be done. We don't have to keep a calendar or detailed lesson plans, but it's helpful to have documentation to show instruction was given in each of the required areas. Book lists, work samples, pictures of projects, art work, programs from plays, course descriptions for any outside classes will all provide the necessary proof if it's requested by the district. Portfolios are a great way to keep records organized. See my article on portfolios on the resource page. Mn also has tax deductions for homeschooling expenses, so records must be kept to support these deductions. Mn also has an annual testing requirement (with a nationally norm-referenced academic achievement test) and we need to keep proof of testing in our records. We are not required to submit test scores to anyone. The scores are for our own use in evaluating progress and planning our next steps. If you aren't in Mn, your state may have similar or very different requirements. Be sure you have complete information on your state statutes that cover homeschooling so you can be sure to keep the necessary documentation. If you have trouble finding a reliable source of information for your state, let me know and I can help you pin down the details. If you're a MN homeschooler, see the special section specific to MN on my Resource page.