How To: Start Homeschooling (Part 1)

Okay, so you’re thinking about homeschooling your child. Where do you begin?? Well, for starters we need to take a look at what options are available.

Homeschooling curricula run the gamut from online classes where the students log in for lessons and grading…to packages that provide all the books and direction for parents to follow step by step…to organized frameworks that the parent plugs their own choice of books into…all the way to something called ‘unschooling’, where learning is child directed and topical. I’ll put a list below of some major programs or web sites you can look at for examples of each.

Here are the first few steps you should take (see below for explanations/links):

  • order the Rainbow Resource catalog
  • locate a local homeschool group to join or at least visit
  • look at the various methods available to see where you and your child fit
  • choose one or two methods that appeal to you and try to look at examples of the materials

Is there a right and wrong choice of program to use? Of course there is. But it’s not what you might be thinking right now.

The right choice is the one that works for you and your child. There are people out there who will encourage you to believe that one method is superior to all others. That’s just plain wrong.

I know of one mom who was totally sold on the unschooling approach. When you check those sites, you’ll see claims that setting a child at a desk with a workbook is harmful. (I’ll share my observations on this in a future post.) So this mom was all into unit studies and creative efforts to teach her son things in a real world context. She really worked hard at it.

What did the boy want to do? Worksheets. He liked the structure of learning that way. She laughed and adapted. Wise woman.

Okay. I listed some steps above. Here are the explanations:

Rainbow Resource Center Catalog

Order the catalog from the their web site asap (it takes a while to come in the mail.) I’ll warn you right now: it’s huge…like over 1000 pages.

Wait wait! Before you run away or decide not to get it let me tell you why it’s so good. Almost every product they sell has either a detailed description or review written by a homeschooler who’s used it. You can also access these descriptions through the website. Rainbow has low prices and friendly customer service reps.

Local Homeschool Groups

Most groups are glad to help with advice and support as you work your way through this process since they’ve already been through it. If I were starting out with no clue where to look, I’d enter my city, state, and the word ‘homeschool’ into a Google search box to see what came up. Oh, I’m assuming you’re an American with that statement. If not, enter terms for your area. If groups exist near you, chances are they’re listed online somewhere so you can find them. Good luck!

Research Various Methods

The following is by no means a complete listing of web sites that discuss homeschooling. This is just to get you started. I tried to strike a balance between Christian and secular options. There are also many books on the market (or at your local library) on homeschooling. I’ve never read any of them, mainly because I was suffering from information overload.

Online programs

Package Curricula

Framework/Philosophies – I’m listing keywords here in addition to sites because there are too many choices to list.


Once you’ve chosen your top one or two methods, try to take a look at the materials or plans. Publishers often have sample lessons online. Rainbow Resource and also will show pages if the author has given permission. Sometimes your local library may have the books. Finally, local homeschoolers who follow that method may be willing to show you what they’re using.

That should keep you busy for a while. Next post we’ll discuss legal requirements and how to find them, along with other online resources that may be of interest.

Earnest Parenting: tips for creating a successful homeschooling.

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22 Responses to “How To: Start Homeschooling (Part 1)”

  1. Cindy says:

    This is a great intro post to Homeschooling. We want to homeschool and are pretty sold on The Well Trained Mind/ Classical Approach. I love their boards! Thank you for the details and websites to the other approaches. I’m definitely going to check them out.

    Take care,


  2. Hi Amy,
    I’m a colleague in Blog Mastermind AND Homeschooling. I wish you the very best in both endeavors. My boys are 11 and 9 and we will start our fifth year of official homeschooling in three and a half weeks! For the first year, I don’t feel ready. Sigh. I’ve subscribed to your feed.


  3. I think your advice to find a Homeschooling community to join is spot on. It’s important to network and meet other parents going through the same situations. The very act of sharing your best techniques (and also commiserating when the going gets tough!) makes everyone better at what they do.

  4. Prismas Basalticos says:

    This post is a great help for those who are planning to enroll their children on home schooling. But me, I wanted my children to go to school so they can interact with other students and make new friends. Thanks for the advise anyway.
    -M from Mexico

  5. Amy says:

    M from Mexico

    When I first began to homeschool I believed that it was the “right” choice for all families. My apologies to anyone I spoke with about the issue at that time in my life!

    Since then I’ve grown up a great deal and have come to realize that there is no one right schooling choice for all families. Different needs and situations have a huge impact on what will work in each household.

    There are even families I know that I believe should not homeschool; public school was a much better choice for them. I know other children who would hate staying home all day. They prefer the school setting. I say more power to them. My boys have stated repeatedly that they want to be at home. Should they change their minds, I will let them go reluctantly.

    That said, I disagree strongly that socialization is reduced for children who have school at home. Consider for a moment: how much time in public school do children actually spend socializing? 7 hours per day? I hope not! They should be spending the majority of their time on lessons and assignments. If someone considers an entire school day as social time, then I would humbly suggest they re-evaluate what their children are doing all day.

    Let’s say for argument’s sake that a child socializes at school between classes, on recess, at lunch, and going to and from school. In my opinion, 2 hours a day is a good estimate of how much time a child might spend on those activities.

    My boys and I sat down one day this summer and counted how many children they spend time with socializing for 4 hours or more per week. For fun, we added the limitation that the children on the list had to be within two years of their age. It took about 3 minutes to come up with 30 different children that they see. That was before they joined the football team, playing 2 hours a day with 15 other boys for the past 3 months.

    Granted, 4 hours per week is much less than 2 hours per day. I agree that my boys spend less time with other children than our neighbors do for example. We do have a very good balance of home and public life, and I for one am pleased with how the boys are developing. In addition, they’re much less exposed to negative examples of behavior so that’s a plus. 🙂

    This still brings me back to where we started: it’s an individual choice and parents are to be respected for doing their best in their own individual situations.

  6. I have never even considered home schooling before but after reading this it has given me some ideas to think about

  7. Matt says:

    I have a friend that home schools his children which I think is great. The only thing that I find some people not doing which is emensly important is the fact that they need to have plenty of social interaction with other children. IE church groups or community activities or if you have lots of friends with kids there own age. Thats really the only thing that ever slightly bothers me with home schooling.

  8. Amy says:

    Matt, thanks for taking the time to comment. 🙂 I may have heard the “social interaction” concern a time or two already, lol. See comment above for a few more thoughts on that and where my family is personally with it.

    I still believe that the personality of the family is part of the equation. There are some people that are more social than others. Is it really fair to expect everyone to maintain the ‘social butterfly’ level of existence?

    On top of that, consider for a moment the intensely over-scheduled nature of families (at least in the US) nowadays. We go and go and go like crazy, wearing ourselves out in the process. Is it truly valid to criticize others for not making the same choices?

    I think that there may some wisdom in being cautious about making judgments in these cases.

  9. Val Garner says:

    Great article, and great comments Amy.

    I homeschooled my youngest son from 8th grade through graduation. My only regret is that I didn’t homeschool both my kids all the way through, although to be honest in their younger years, I’m not sure it would have been healthy for a variety of reasons. My son totally thrived, and we had to get very creative in homeschool to find what worked for him.

    I want to add another valuable resource I used, They were awesome! It’s a real, brick and mortar high school in ME, but part of their services is offering high school level documentation for homeschoolers. When a student graduates, they get a real high school diploma just like they had attended physically the high school, regardless of the state you live in. For college they provide all documentation needed. My son went on to a trade school and they were efficient in getting necessary paperwork through, and it was so nice not having to battle documentation issues after high school. The teacher assigned to our case was also a valuable resource to me and gave me lots of creative ideas for when I got stuck.

  10. Amy says:

    Val, thanks! I think we do the best we can at the time, and that looking back with regret over decisions we cannot change serves little purpose. Don’t beat yourself up.

    Do you have to be a Maine resident to take advantage of It sounds like a fabulous resource. Thanks for sharing it!!!

  11. social networking philippines says:

    Re: How To: Start Homeschooling
    This is very good advice for those parent who wants to practiced homeschooling to their children but I some of the parents want to get their children to school as it builds confidence in social life.

  12. seo services company says:

    for starting a day school what is the procedure to follow.It needs any permission from the government .

  13. Susan B says:

    Going on year ten in homeschooling here.

    I had never intended to homeschool honestly. It just wasn’t something that I had thought about. But when my son ended up repeating second grade three times I started to get worried. He was bright, brilliant even in math and music but had a very hard time with words. He was finally diagnosed as a gifted dyslexic and there was just no place for him to thrive in the public school system. I tried putting him in a very well known private school for learning disabilities but I’m pretty sure they are heavily subsidized by a pharmaceutical company. They INSISTED I put my child on Ritalin even tho he isn’t ADD or ADHD. When I found out over 98% percent of the children there were on some kind of drug for learning, I knew I had to get radical.

    So enter homeschooling. I started out buying a curriclulum, and a white board and a school desk and and and. Over the last ten years and four boys what I have learned is: Teach them reading, writing and math and let them teach themselves the rest! We still use Saxon for math but the writing assignments change per child depending on their needs and learning styles. And READ READ READ. No Tv or cable in our home (yes I hear the gasps) but I do allow movies on occasion. Every six months we look at their progress and they pick three electives to go with basic math and language arts. My nine year old is learning classical guitar, art history and polish (I really like the rosetta stone software) My six year old chose cooking, recorder and Russian. My just turned two year old insists on getting out his crayons and paper and doing his ‘work’ also.

    How did things turn out with the problem gifted dyslexic?

    He graduated high school at age 14 (despite three years in second grade in public school) and is now 18 and finishing his last year in college.

    • Amy says:

      We use Saxon for math, read a decent amount, but haven’t completely mastered the writing yet. I think the public schools teach it backwards anyhow, so I’m trying not to worry about comparing with that plan. We’re just working on relaxing the schedule a bit around here…each boy has several subjects. I still want to do them all, but just discussed today the possibility of slowing down slightly and allowing ourselves to work into the summer more. I originally tried to match the public school schedule so that the boys would be free the same time that their friends are.

      The difficulty with that is I measure a school year based on how much content is taught, while the schools measure by how many minutes the kids are present. No way to balance that out! Maybe I can give up trying.

      Interestingly, we disliked Rosetta Stone. Can you believe it? The older boys had Spanish and tried it for several months but didn’t feel like they were learning anything. They do better with more structure. I’ve thought about PowerGlide, but they switched to an online class format and we want to go at a slower speed. The boys are doing Latin and Spanish and we’re going through one level in each over two years. So, we just bumble along on our own. 🙂

  14. Kwirk says:

    I’m now thinking about homeschooling my two kids but still hesitating whether i should do it, coz there arise a problem of their socialization with another kids..

  15. Hmm, I never realized there were online resources just for homeschooling, thanks for the info! We were considering homeschooling our daughter since we both actually work from home and it seems to make sense. Time for some more research!

  16. Anne Gregor says:

    One advantage of homeschooling is, you can be innovative in your way of teaching your child. You have the freedom to incorporate your own ideas and techniques in the teaching method.


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