Beginning Homeschool Tips and Resources

The 2019/2020 school year was our first full year homeschooling. We had no idea how that decision would prepare us for the 2020 spring school closures. We pulled our children from public school with a middle-schooler, an elementary student, and preschoolers. We’re still figuring this homeschooling gig out but wanted to share some important things we learned along the way.

  1. FIRST you will need to decide if you’re doing virtual school which is distance learning from the public or private school your children are already enrolled in or some other distance learning program or homeschool where you choose your own curriculum. Both of these happen at home, but one is considered homeschool and the other is virtual and whichever you choose requires different types of communication with your school district.
    1. If you plan to keep your children enrolled in their current school system and have them return on site in the future, virtual schooling would be advisable, so they stay connected to that particular curriculum.
    2. If you aren’t sure about having them return or want to give homeschooling a try, I will include information below and dedicate another post about how to choose curriculum.
  2. You will need to let your local supervisor know of your decision either way. Since we’re located in Virginia, I will include links from our state on how to go about this. Know your state’s rules and check out the Homeschool Legal Defense Association for support and information.
  3. It is important to note that when you contact your local supervisor you are not asking for permission to homeschool, since that is your right as a parent. What you are submitting is your “Notice of Intent” (NOI.) Here is a link for details on going about submitting your NOI in Virginia.
  4. Don’t expect it to look like a day in the classroom. I know this sounds cliché, but seriously, let go of the school classroom expectations and let home school become what works best for your family. I spent the past year researching homeschool methods and the “Charlotte Mason” method with some “Unschooling” works best for our family, but we also incorporate some Classical as well. It takes a while to figure out what works best for your family and each individual learner, but don’t give up! Once you figure it out, homeschooling can be the best experience you can have together! (More in another blog post about our journey.)

    Sometimes homeschooling is baking or cooking together. Here we are making French macaroons.
  5. Here’s a great link to learn more about the most-used styles of homeschooling. I’ve listed them below, but this link gives greater detail about each method.
    1. Traditional
    2. Classical
    3. Charlotte Mason
    4. Unit Studies
    5. Eclectic
    6. Unschooling
  6. Homeschooling can be secular or religious and can really be neither. There is rigid evangelical Christian curriculum to rigid secular, but a lot of it falls somewhere in between. We choose to use a mixture of curriculum that includes religious education and some without. We also choose to present multiple points of view, so our children learn about and respect others while learning to form and defend their own values and beliefs.
  7. While I plan to dedicate an entire post to choosing curriculum, a great place to start is by reading reviews from the Homeschool Review Crew. To read reviews of curriculum our family has used, click the “Homeschool Related Reviews” tab on our website. I still have multiple reviews forthcoming and again will dedicate a whole post to curriculum choices and what works best for our family. We also have a few affiliate links of resources we utilize at the bottom of this post.
  8. You CAN have a dedicated homeschool room or area, but you don’t HAVE too! We sit at the kitchen table, snuggle on the couch, read in bed, etc. When the world is your classroom, you don’t have to stress about having a dedicated room. (But the teacher in me would still love one for fun.) 🙂

    Preschool art in the kitchen.
  9. Saying “I could never home school” without giving it a full two years isn’t giving it a fair shot. My wise seasoned homeschool friend always told me it would take a least a year to “deschool” and learn homeschool. She was SO right. If you choose homeschool over virtual school, don’t be surprised if you need a second year to feel like you’re getting the hang of it.
  10. Knowing your child(ren)’s personalities and understanding their learning styles is the key to successfully homeschooling. Read more about different types of learners here. Just within our family group we have MULTIPLE learning styles and different types of smart. Understanding that became the sanity to our homeschool and the wings that helped each learner soar!
    Learning looks like TRAVEL!
    Learning looks like lots of outdoor time and activities.

    Learning looks like playing in and helping with gardening.
  11. Coops can be great, but they are optional. So far we have found that we’re busy enough without adding coops to our schedule per our children’s request. We are members of Valley Home Educators (for local folks) and do participate in some of their activities. They’re a great resource and have a website and Facebook page where you can connect.
  12. REACH OUT! Whether you’re struggling with a routine, a curriculum choice, a particular child, how to balance home life and school and perhaps even work, there are people ready to support you. For Virginia friends, connect with and join their Facebook community, “Homeschooling in Virginia.” There are many parents there who work and homeschool, homeschool children with special needs, homeschool multiple children, homeschool a single child, are dual enrolled in public or private school and homeschool, religious and non-religious, etc. I’m sure there are like groups for all states/regions.

While this list is far from expansive, we hope these resources will help give you the confidence to get started and to believe you CAN homeschool. Please comment with questions and your own tips and resources. While we don’t have nearly all the answers, we’re here to learn together and to support you in your own journey. As parents we CAN ABSOLUTELY stir our children’s imaginations and creativity and help them live into their full potential.

Journeying Together,

The Harlows

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