How to Start Homeschooling
- Evaluate and Pray. Why do you want to homeschool your children? Do you love spending time with them, encouraging and experiencing new things together? Do you have a heart to gently train your children in the way they should go? Be honest with yourself. If the answer is no, then don’t do it!!! Seriously! With God’s help, you can figure out a solution for all the other reasons. If the answer is yes, then pray about whether this is God’s decision for your family. Your husband must first give his blessing. He may be wary or critical, most family members are, but you must be in agreement on this. Homeschooling is a job and a commitment to your children in addition to all of your other family responsibilities. You may have to live on one income, you may not always have a clean house, or you may have times of loneliness. However in return, you will find purpose and you will grow closer to your children and you will experience their lives in a way that you never imagined.
- Join a local support group. Surround yourself with the tools to succeed. Most family members will be your biggest critics; they may not be your support system. A support group will keep you updated on homeschooling laws and curriculum, will provide opportunities for field trips and events like the Spelling Bee or the Science Fair, is a place to get answers to your questions and it will help you feel encouraged when you want to give up. Many families join several support groups, stay on the sidelines and pick and choose from each group what they will participate in. We encourage you to choose one group as your home group and become fully involved. Participate and serve wherever possible and reach out to get to know the other families. Being part of a community gives you the strength to continue. You receive from a support group exactly what you put into it.
- Know the Florida state law on homeschooling and comply completely. We have a homeschool advocate in Tallahassee who reads every word of every education law to ensure our homeschooling rights are protected. We appreciate her diligent work in keeping Florida’s requirements minimal. Non-compliance of the law will only lead to further restrictions and more government involvement in homeschooling. We protect each other by doing what is required. You can read the Florida state law here http://www.hslda.org/laws/analysis/Florida.pdf
- File your Letter of Intent to Homeschool: If your child is age 6 to 16 on February 1st, you must file a one-time Letter of Intent to Homeschool with your county school board within 30 days of beginning your home education program. You will not receive a letter of acceptance from the school board, therefore we strongly advise that you keep a copy of your letter, mail the original “Return Receipt Requested”, staple the returned receipt to the letter, and file it with your records. See our Homeschool Forms for a printable sample. If you decide you can no longer homeschool, you must file a Letter of Termination.
- Choose your curriculum. The curriculum choices are staggering. At this point, don’t bother to read books about your child’s learning style as this will come in due time, but rather consider the way you would like to teach. Do you love lots of literature or prefer to teach straight from a textbook? Do you like to do hands on activities or do you prefer a clean workbook? These sorts of questions should help narrow down some of the choices. Pray, research online, ask homeschooling friends for suggestions, then jump in and make a decision. At the end of the year re-evaluate what worked and what didn’t. By this time you will have a better idea of what your family needs, and can start evaluating their individual learning styles and education methods. As you grow in experience you will feel more secure about choosing curriculum. It is important to know that the best curriculum does not have to be the priciest. There are wonderful choices available very inexpensive or even free. We have prepared a list of common Homeschool Resources and Free Curriculum.
- Prepare a lesson plan. He who fails to plan, plans to fail. Take the time to write out what you want each of your children to accomplish. Be specific; for example: “Read pages 8-15 in Charlotte’s Web”, “Math pg. 10, problems 1-25”. For How to Write A Simple Lesson Plan visit DonnaYoung.org. If you are new to teaching and feel overwhelmed by trying to teach so many subjects, start slow by adequately planning and teaching the basics: Bible time, reading, writing and arithmetic. When you feel more confident you can start adding in other subjects like science, history, or art. Remember not every subject needs to be taught every day. A lesson plan can be written for an entire year, a month, every two weeks or weekly. If you decide to write your plans weekly, it will be easier to adjust if something comes up during the week, but you must set aside planning time every week. If you decide to plan for the entire year, you will still need to set aside a small amount of time each week for adjustments. Do not be a slave to your lesson plan, it is to be used as a guideline to help keep you on track. Children will get sick, your parents may need help, your child may have trouble understanding a concept, all these are reasons to slow down and adjust the plan. Remember that the well-being of your family is the number one priority. Florida law does not require a minimum amount of days or weeks that you must homeschool.
- Begin teaching. This is where you pull up your big-girl panties and dive right in, even if you don’t feel fully prepared. None of us ever feels prepared enough. A word of warning: the rough days will outnumber the good days, but pray continuously and STAY THE COURSE. If you have consulted the Lord and your husband on this decision then let no condemnation that comes your way derail you from doing what you know is right. Know your natural personality and diligently work to improve it as a teacher. If you are naturally relaxed and easy going, you might continuously put off school lessons for field trips and experiences or if you tend to be more strict and organized, you might need to relax and add some fun to the week.
- Keep a portfolio. Once you begin homeschooling, you are required by Florida law to maintain a portfolio for each child. A portfolio may be done in any manner that you choose, but it must consist of the following:
A log of educational activities that is made contemporaneously with the instruction, designating by title any reading materials used; and samples of any writings, worksheets, workbooks, or creative materials used or developed by the child. For more instruction on how to prepare a portfolio, please visit our webpage.
- Schedule a teacher evaluation or a standardized test. Upon completion of the school year, your child must be evaluated by a certified teacher. This can be done through personal evaluation or by scheduling a standardized test. The certified teacher will give you a letter of completion to mail to your county school board. This letter is due 12 months after you submitted your Letter of Intent. Again, you should send this letter “Return Receipt Requested” and keep copies for your records. You will only hear from the school board if there is a problem. Never send your child’s test scores to the school board. This is NOT required by Florida Law and over-zealousness may lead to more stringent requirements for everybody. For a list of certified teachers or information about standardized testing, contact your local support group.
- Rejoice, rest and begin planning for next year. You made it through your first year and have some solid experience under your belt! Take a time of rest and enjoy just being a family or get caught up on the pile of things that had to wait. When you are ready, reflect on the past year. What went well and what would you like to change? Now might be the time to do some summer reading on learning styles and educational methods. We strongly suggest you continue to cover your homeschooling decisions in prayer and let God lead. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Prov 3:5-6 Who wants to waste time following the crooked path?