Sometimes the hardest part of starting something new is knowing when the right time is to start. In this article you will learn our top tips to help you find the best time to start homeschooling.
Have you ever wondered, “When can I start homeschooling?” If the desire to start homeschooling your children has been placed on your heart, but you are unsure when is a good time to start, I have some ideas to help you take that next step.
While it might feel like you must wait for certain things such as the time of year, your child’s current school, or your family circumstances to change before you can begin to homeschool, this is simply untrue. When you have made the decision to homeschool, the best time to start is right now. Why? Because you have already started homeschooling a long time ago, and maybe didn’t realize. Let me explain.
From Day One
Did you realize you have been homeschooling your children since day one? From the moment you met your tiny little bundles, you have been their primary teacher. All those smiles you gave her were one day reciprocated. Every time you spoke to him, he babbled until an audible word was made. Even with wobbly legs, you encouraged her to take those first steps. You were there. You witnessed. You encouraged. You modeled. While these milestones are huge, there are even more.
As your baby grows, he will become more interested in the world around him. Parents naturally support this curiosity by showing their children new things. Whether it is new foods or new places, it is really fun to take a brand new human being somewhere for the first time to witness their reaction. Parents will spend a lot of money just to take their very young children to places that they may not remember long term, but these moments will collectively help your children begin to process their environment and their place within it.
You probably have surrounded your child with educational toys and books filled with typical information such as learning the alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, animals, and religious text. You have probably read nursery rhymes to him and sang silly songs that have helped to strengthen his vocabulary and give him an understanding of how stories work. If you have taken walks around your neighborhood or spent time at the park exploring nature, you have been homeschooling all along.
You see, this is the foundational stuff that has begun your child’s educational journey. You started it. While every child can be curious all on her own, it takes support and resources to nurture those interests. You were the one that observed her in her element relishing in some sort of activity or toy that brought her joy and you made sure she had time to explore this excitement. Without you, your children’s early learning moments would have been pretty shallow. You, the one who has known them since the beginning and who knows them best, have provided them with the tools for discovery.
When to Make it Official
If you have been doing this all along, then when is the best time to start “officially” homeschooling? For parents with young children who have not hit compulsory age – meaning the age your state law requires your child to attend school or homeschool – the answer is simple – you don’t have to start. Do not feel obligated to begin anything with your child that even remotely resembles typical school instruction. Your little one will thrive in playing and exploring their world and until he is ready to begin more formal academics, it is best not to rush into teaching him to read, work on math problems, or begin handwriting practice.
Once your child is at the compulsory age for your state, you will need to make it official. This simply means that if there is paperwork, such as a homeschool notification, that you need to submit to your school district in order to meet state homeschool regulations, this is the time to do it. Every state has different homeschool regulations, therefore it is important that you are well acquainted with homeschool requirements for your state. You can contact a local homeschool group or HSLDA for more information regarding the exact legal requirements for your state and when those are needed.
Do not submit any official homeschool notification to your school district until you have to. Again this is determined by your child’s age and what the state has deemed as the compulsory age for attending school or homeschool. Doing anything above and beyond what is required by the state creates confusion for both the school districts and those trying to comply. Homeschoolers can come across administrators who are misinformed on current state law simply because of their experience dealing with homeschoolers who are not following it exactly.
Once you have made it official with the state, ease in to your homeschooling journey with your young child. Five, six, and seven-year-olds do not need to have a heavy, full day workload. Far from it! Actual instruction or book work can take a very minimal amount of time, depending on what curriculum you choose and how many children you are educating. Keep enjoying play time, exploration, and diving into interests that bring delight and learning opportunities.
When Your Child is Somewhere Else
If you have sent your child to public or private school and now have a desire to homeschool, you don’t need to wait. Some people feel obligated to finish out the school year or wait until an extended break. You do not need to do this. Trust me, I waited to homeschool my daughters until they finished their first grade year at a public school. I really regret waiting. We could have avoided so many stressful moments.
If you have decided to pull your child out of school, you probably have a good reason for doing so. Many people decide to do this because they are not satisfied with their child’s school experience. If this is the same for you, then consider whether keeping them in that environment is helpful, healthy, or even safe. Depending on your circumstances, you may need to get your child home as soon as possible. You are free to do that whenever you want.
Like mentioned above, you will need to follow your state laws to ensure that you are complying with homeschool regulations. Know these before contacting your school district. It can become upsetting for a nervous parent, who has finally made the decision to homeschool, to have a school administrator demand the parent jump through unnecessary hoops that are not legal at all. Be confident that you know the law before contacting the school district so you can make for a seamless transition.
Once you have pulled your child out of public or private school, now you can take a break. What? Shouldn’t you start homeschooling right away? Well, not exactly. At least not exactly how you are imagining. After your child’s experience in school, it is a good idea to do something known as “deschooling”.
Deschooling is a simple term used to describe a transition period between when a child leaves a school and begins homeschooling. It is best that families take time to distance children and parents alike from the experience of a structured school environment. Children develop a lot of routines and habits of thinking from their time in a public or private school and this can cause some tension when what they think is school is not what they are experiencing at home.
Families who don’t take a break may find that they start to replicate school at home which was exactly what they didn’t want. Children may think that mom is “doing it wrong” if she doesn’t teach spelling like their previous teacher taught spelling. It can be frustrating for everyone if comparisons are constantly being made, especially if kids are referring to their previous school as “real school”. Their understanding of education is limited to their experience, but deschooling helps to broaden their awareness of what it means to learn.
Think of it like a gap year between high school graduation and the start of college. During a gap year, a student takes a year off to learn more about what they enjoy doing and experiences a bit of real life before diving back into school. Deschooling is kind of like this. While most families may not need a year to deschool, it can take time to mend any type of negativity that was experienced by the child in a school setting. It also can take time for everyone to begin to see that real learning is happening all around them and is not just experienced in a brick and mortar institution.
There are so many beneficial experiences you can provide your child that will equate to learning. Depending on the ages of your children, you can create a plan of discovery, enjoyment, and education that doesn’t feel at all like school, but your kids will be learning and thriving all the same. Take advantage of local museums, zoos, libraries, homeschool events, theaters, parks, civic groups, and clubs that your child may be interested in. Read a lot of books. Watch movies and talk about them. Get outside in nature, a lot. You will be so surprised how much your kiddo will grow during this transition time. When you both fall into a rhythm where you see a change in their attitude and desire to learn, you know you are ready to begin formal academics.
Get Started Slowly
When you are considering subjects like language arts, science, and math, you will need to think about things like your teaching style, your child’s learning strengths and challenges, and how this works into selecting the right curriculum or educational plan of action. There is a lot to consider when it comes to discovering what is right for your child and your family’s situation as well as what resources are important to invest in. However, when it comes to timing, it is best to do this slowly.
Just like deschooling, it takes time to find a rhythm with your home when it comes to homeschooling. Everyone will be new at this experience. If no one has ever homeschooled before (including parents), then you are all learning as you go. Don’t rush into major homeschooling decisions that will cost frustration and money. While it is true, there can be some trial and error when it comes to finding the right homeschool products, you don’t have to make an enormous investment into anything until you are sure.
Start off with the basics. Reading, writing, and math are basically the top three subjects that people should focus on particularly for younger child and older children who are still weak in these subjects. In my family, we make bible study a priority as well. Whatever your priority subjects are, start with those. Roll out new curriculum slowly. Depending on when you begin schooling, you can do in different ways.
Whenever you begin to homeschool whether after deschooling or with a younger child, start with one new subject and work on that for a week. Both of you will need time to get into the hang of how it works and what is expected daily. Just do that and give yourselves time to adjust. If all is going well after a week, then add in something new the next week. A slow roll out helps everyone to not feel overwhelmed and makes the transition into daily book work easier on everyone.
Are you ready to begin homeschooling? Now is the time. You can do this. You have been mulling this over for a while, haven’t you? Listen, I know that it is scary to think about putting your children’s education in your hands, but you were made to do this. No one knows those kiddos better than you. No one cares about their education and growth more than you.
Once you do, ease into your new homeschooling life. This isn’t a race to get all things done before graduation. You will be amazed at how quickly enriching life experiences will help your child to grow in knowledge and wisdom. Enjoy the time spent together. The best time to start homeschooling is now.
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