How to Start Homeschooling (With Success!): A guest blog by Cynthia + Justine
Many people we meet and speak with through our community would love to start homeschooling, but often they feel overwhelmed or unsure about where to start. While we know homeschooling won’t be for everyone, we do believe anyone can homeschool with success with the right support. And that’s where we come in! In this post, we have broken down our top 5 tips and steps to help you get started homeschooling with success.
But remember: Much like parenting, there is no way to do everything perfectly―so don’t feel like you have to have everything perfectly planned out before you start. Begin slowly, and be ready to make a few mistakes and adjustments along the way. (And for the entirety of your homeschool experience―we all do it!) Finally, remember that we are here to be your online community, supporting you along the road ahead.
So…where do we start? At the beginning!
#1: Become familiar with the homeschooling laws in your area.
It’s important to know and understand Virginia homeschooling laws before you get started. Begin by reading Virginia’s official government websites to understand your rights and responsibilities as a home educator. (We’ve linked it below!) Additionally, VAHomeschooler’s website also provides details and support for understanding the laws. Their Facebook group also is helpful if you have questions about your county’s application of the state laws or any issues with withdrawing your children from public school. So be sure to join that support group!
#2: Know your homeschool ‘why‘.
Interest in homeschooling has grown by leaps and bounds in the last decade. There are about 3.1 million homeschoolers in the United States. But making the decision to homeschool is different for every family. It’s important to know and clearly identify what you want out of homeschooling and why it’s the right choice for your family. As we say often, know your homeschool ‘why‘. You may have decided to opt out of your previous school choice, but it’s also just as important to opt in to homeschooling and all of its unique benefits.
Homeschooling provides you with many freedoms you don’t find in traditional schooling routes, so identifying exactly what you want out of this educational choice will help you and your child find joy in the process. For example, do you want to support your child’s natural abilities or interests? Do you want to foster a lifelong love of learning? Do you want to make time for travel and family experiences?
It can be difficult to know every possibility, so we encourage you to learn about some of what is available to you by learning and reading about education and homeschooling. Below, we share six books that we recommend for homeschooling families to read as they begin to explore their options. Additionally, we recommend that you join local homeschool groups to learn about extracurricular programs and field trips available in your area. Finding a community can help you to learn how others are making a success of homeschooling.
#3: Unlearn what you think it means to learn.
Also called “deschooling,” retraining our brains about what learning means and how it looks is often an ongoing process throughout your entire homeschooling and parenting journey. Many of us come into home educating equating learning with a traditional school experience, including classrooms, desks, tests, and homework. As homeschoolers, we need to clearly re-define learning for what it really is: a lifetime-long process that includes play, experimentation, and curiosity.
Redefining learning is essential to homeschooling because a swath of scientific and psychological studies have proven that true learning actually looks different then what so many of us are used to. If we don’t retrain our brains to this new understanding, not only are we typically met with frustration and disappointment, we also lose out on wonderful opportunities to expand our child’s educational experiences. We’ve written about deschooling often in previous blog posts and we’ve linked them below for anyone who would like to learn more.
#4: Get to know your child’s learning style.
The most beautiful part of homeschooling is the connection you will make with your child while you learn about them, including their interests and what makes them unique. Unlike a traditional school environment that will focus on herding children to reach abstract milestones, you will be able to meet your child where they are all while focusing on connection.
This is one of the hardest parts of homeschooling for some grownups because it doesn’t come with a formula. You are being asked to sit back, observe, and get to know your child in a whole new way, without a clear identifier of success or failure. How does your child like to learn new things? What happens when they struggle? How do they cope with disappointment or getting things wrong? Where do they naturally thrive? Knowing these things about our child will help us to create a learning environment where they can feel heard and valued―and where they find the most success.
Remember, you are the boss of your homeschool! You get to curate an atmosphere in your home that makes your child feel safe and smart.
What do you do while you are getting to know your child’s learning style? Read together, visit museums and landmarks near your home, play games, and bake your favorite recipes. It sounds simplistic, but working together and exploring in these ways will teach you a lot and give your child a chance to decompress from a (possibly stressful) previous school environment and regain their natural curiosity. Engage them in conversations while you read and watch educational material to truly draw out how they learn best and what they enjoy most.
#5: Facilitate your child’s learning.
As a homeschool parent, you will be the trainer, the tour guide, the teacher, the modeler, the explainer, the researcher, the coordinator, and the playmate. This new role is an extension of your role as parent. It doesn’t mean you have to know everything―it means you get to figure everything out together.
Being a facilitator means you will at times choose curriculum, classes, and resources to meet your child’s educational goals, but start slow. In the beginning, don’t spend a ton of money on everything that is recommended to you―what works for one family may or may not work for you. When looking for curriculum, look for something that provides the flexibility to support what you have learned about your child and their learning styles. Look for programs that support science-backed learning strategies. And look for programs that support you as the grownup teaching and facilitating the learning experiences.
Cynthia Holt is the mom of three boys, ages 20, 18, and 5. She started homeschooling in 2007 and has over 15 years of homeschooling experience. Justine LoMonaco started homeschooling in 2019 and is the mom of two adorable girls (with one more on the way.) Justine has worked in journalism and marketing for several brands supporting women and parents through a variety of challenges. Together, they are the co-founders of the Learn + Live Letter, a hands-on, play-based, faith-neutral unit study program for children ages 3-12. Our flexible program is designed to help you bring joy back to learning while providing you with empowering guidance and support.
Opinions expressed by individual writers in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the Board of Directors of The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, nor do they represent an official position of VaHomeschoolers. Writers’ views are their own, and readers are encouraged to research and explore homeschooling issues to their own satisfaction.
Virginia’s Official Website with homeschooling law: https://vahomeschoolers.org/guide/laws-policies
Deschooling articles by The Learn + Live Letter:
6 books that can help boost your confidence as a home educator