Welcome to the Beginner’s Guide to Secular Homeschooling!
Hello there! You’re interested in secular homeschooling? I’d love to help you out!
This is either really exciting, really scary and tedious, or all of the above. You might be homeschooling because you were homeschooled yourself and want to give your children that same memorable experience. Maybe you didn’t enjoy the traditional school system as a child. Maybe you’ve found yourself in this position for a totally random or accidental reason. Whatever your reasons, you belong here.
Just for you, we have made this quick-and-easy springboard to assist you in your beginning journey through this crazy new world.
Learn Your Local Homeschooling Laws
Homeschooling is 100% legal in all 50 states in the U.S. Don’t ever let anyone tell you differently!
I’ve seen people attempt to manipulate newbies into believing that they couldn’t legally homeschool for [insert bizarre reason here], whether intentionally or not. This is simply not true! Even military families can homeschool! In fact, military homeschoolers are on the rise.
However, each state may hold different requirements and it is definitely your job to know what they are. Here is where you can go check out your state’s information on the topic. (Here is an article of interest for you awesome Canadian homeschoolers!)
Get Acquainted With Secular Homeschooling Lingo
You probably know most of the lingo already because I’m sure you didn’t just NOW decide to homeschool your child. Or maybe you did, it’s none of my business. I’m a seat-of-my-pants-er myself. Here’s a full terms and definitions page!
Practice the Art of Deschooling! (If You’re Leaving Traditional School.)
Deschooling is the transitional time period while going from traditional schooling and into homeschooling. It is a free ticket to chill out. Relax. Read books that are fun and don’t require book reports. Practice cooking. Watch Netflix documentaries. Explore the library. Go on a lot of hikes. Find your new home rhythm. Observe your child’s interests. Play around with ideas for your new homeschooling lifestyle.
A documentary once told me that it takes one month of deschooling per year that a child was in traditional school. Obviously, this is just a rough suggestion. You take the time that you need, whether that means less time or more time. Parents truly need this deschooling time, probably more than their child.
Discover Your Child’s (and Your Own) Learning Styles
Here is a learning-style quiz from a trusted resource (Scholastic!) to help you pinpoint your child’s learning style. Is she/he mostly a looker, listener, or doer? What about you? Knowing both learning styles will be really helpful in knowing how you do and do not want to approach your educational activities.
Research Secular Homeschooling Models and Philosophies
There are so many choices out there that your head may spin! You do not need to try everything right away. You do not need to research everything right away. Just find what inspires you.
Skim through a couple of different books and see what sets off that brain bulb. Some models or philosophies to explore would be Waldorf, Montessori, Reggio Emelia, forest schooling, boxed curriculum, unschooling, classical, Charlotte Mason, world schooling, unit studies, and Eclectic.
Find a Secular Homeschooling Support Group Near You
I would recommend searching for local homeschool resource centers (public-run or secular-specific) because they are an incredible and invaluable community for homeschoolers, even if you aren’t enrolled.
Also check out private Facebook groups! They have been a helpful resource for me.
Discover the World of Co-Ops
What is a co-op? A co-op is a group that gathers together regularly for a specified purpose.
My 2nd-born has been attending a pre-school co-op where the goal has been to practice ABCs and counting. At our center, we also have co-ops for forest schooling, geography, sewing, and Lego. 4-H and Girls Scouts are both good examples of what a co-op is as well. Meetup may have some options near you!
Alternatively, you can start your own co-op and build your own community!
Get to Know Where You Live
It took me 7 years of living where I do to really dig in and start exploring the area. I recommend you grab a notebook and a laptop to begin researching all about where your family is nested. Are you close to famous buildings, national forests, museums, or parks? What do you live near in the way of zoos, aquariums, wildlife centers, or reptile museums? Does your city have a recreation center or library? What kind of hiking or river-tubing opportunities are there? Is there a special day of the month to get into museums for free? Does your library offer promotional opportunities like free museum tickets? Are there year-long memberships to any of your local resources?
Get WELL acquainted because the world is your classroom, my friend!
Tell the Stereotypes and Naysayers to Shove It
Have you heard that homeschoolers are weird and unsocialized? Well, okay, maybe that myth has been thoroughly dispelled.
I promise, however, that you will hear it from every single concerned family member, friend, and grocery checkout lady that finds the time to question you. I’ve learned by now to simply respond with an appropriate yes or no instead of trying to explain everything in detail.
Reassure your close family that homeschooling is legal in today’s day and age. Your children will not have to stay hidden inside all day away from prying eyes. It’s the good new days.
There are more resources now – more homeschool classes, groups, co-ops, and clubs. We have the internet. Remind them that their view of socialization might be a little outdated, though, you appreciate their concern. You may be ridiculed for your decision to homeschool but if you know you are making the right choice then you OWN it.
Don’t be rude. Don’t be the holier-than-thou homeschooling family. Just be confident and happy with your choices. Isn’t that what life is all about?
Plan Around Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers
This is a fun one, yes? I was lucky enough to experience homeschooling with a baby AND preschooler this last year. There is a world full of tips and tricks for parents in this predicament and I intend to unearth as much of that as possible. Mostly for me.
My general advice is to prepare to do your most intensive work while the baby sleeps and keep lots of sticker books, cutting activities, Play-Dough, and coloring books on hand for your preschooler. Remember, school never has to be on a traditional school schedule. We’ve done lessons at night more than once!
Create Your Dream Homeschool (Ha!)
Most of the time it seems that the beginner’s big homeschool visualization is unrealistic to what will actually work for them as homeschoolers. So many people visualize a traditional school-at-home type of model with the desks, charts, grade book, and whiteboard.
Maybe you have an unrealistic-for-you mental image of a school day gathering around the classroom table in a room full of books and wall charts, wearing rompers, and diligently nature-journaling. (I glance over at my children cutting up computer paper bits to glue to their forehead while sitting on the kitchen floor in their underwear…)
I don’t say this to discourage you from your dreams or even to say that these beautiful images we long to replicate are lies. (Posed, maybe…) I say this to guide you from comparison visualization to genuine visualization. While you are deschooling, discovering learning styles, finding what resources you have near you, and experimenting with philosophies, think about how you realistically would like to set up your homeschooling environment.
While it’s fun to find inspiration in how other families homeschool, remember that their “voice” is autobiographical. It might not work for you. It might not be possible for you. Create your own version of a beautiful and inspiring homeschool life, something that you may not discover until you’ve been practicing for a while.
You will almost definitely change how things are done within a month. Maybe again after another month and then six months. Then you’ll change how it all works for your second year. It is such a process.
It’s all about the process, not the product! Enjoy!