Are you thinking about homeschooling? I’m sharing tips for how to start homeschooling plus a few of our favorite programs and resources.
We started homeschooling in 2019 somewhat by choice. We bought our first home which was in a new school district. My husband and I weren’t thrilled about the elementary school options in our area so we decided to give it a try. T was in the second half of her 3rd grade year. We had no idea what we were doing when we started. With advice from friends and doing some research online, we chose a curriculum and got started.
The first curriculum we tried out was our state curriculum, Florida Virtual School (FLVS). While it was a great curriculum there was an immense amount of busy work built-in. T was constantly in front of the computer or doing projects. We stuck with FLVS for the rest of third grade and started fourth grade in the summer with them until I could find a better option for us.
How to Start Homeschooling
If you’re unsure how to start homeschooling but want to give it a try, I highly suggest it. It’s been the best decision we’ve made for T. She’s learning so much and isn’t bogged down with busy work. She’s able to sleep in and is so much more rested in the mornings. Here’s a few things to keep in mind if you’re wanting to get your kids started with homeschool.
1. Look into your state’s requirements
Florida homeschooling guidelines aren’t as strict as other states. You can find them here. They require that children be withdrawn from whichever school they are currently attending and a Letter of Intent be filed with your school district. Some counties will provide a letter template. If not, you can write your own letter stating that you plan on homeschooling. The letter must include your child’s name, birthday, and address.
We filed as soon as we withdrew Tatiana out of school. Some counties take 2-4 weeks to process the letters so you’ll want to file as soon as possible.
You can find more info here about writing a letter of intent.
2. Find out what your homeschool style is
It took us trial and error to figure out our homeschool style. Traditional textbook learning wasn’t for us. We ended up with a mix of online learning and hands-on supplemental activities. Before getting starting you can take a quiz to find what style will work best for you and your kids.
3. Choose a curriculum
Once you’ve filed your letter of intent, you should choose a curriculum. We originally started with FLVS then switched to traditional textbooks that I used to create my own curriculum. Once I got pregnant with Trevor, things got a little harder to manage. Eventually we switched to Time4Learning. We’ve been using it for almost a full year now and love it so much.
When choosing a curriculum, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind:
- Does it meet your county/state requirements?
- Does it help your child learn the way they need to?
- Is it interactive?
- What features are offered?
- Are there supplemental resources like worksheets available?
- What subjects does the curriculum cover?
- Are electives an option?
3. Develop a schedule
Once you’ve picked a curriculum and figured out your child’s learning style you’ll want to set a schedule. We have school Monday-Friday just like they typical school setup. Our hours are different though. We typically start our school day around 10am and end anywhere between 1-2pm. This includes 15 minute brain breaks in between each subject and lunch. Kids tap out of learning at around 4 hours per day. That’s the amount of time they can focus for and still learn efficiently. We try to keep that in mind when we’re homeschooling. A sample schedule that we used when we first started can be found here.
4. Keep a homeschool portfolio
A portfolio is essential to your homeschool journey. It will allow you to keep track of your child’s progress. We use a large 3-ring binder as our portfolio. There are tons of options you could use including keeping documents in a Google Drive folder. Here’s what your portfolio should include:
- A reading log (Download a reading log template here)
- An activity log with field trips, school activities, trips to the grocery store, projects, baking cookies, etc. Pretty much any activity where you can incorporate learning can be included. (Download an activity log template here)
- Completed worksheets, writing samples, or projects completed by your child.
As a rule of thumb, we typically keep 2-3 pieces of completed work for each subject every month in a 3-ring binder with dividers. Each page is dated.
5. Join a homeschool co-op
This is totally optional but it’s a really great idea. A co-op is a group of homeschool families that get together to do lessons, field trips, PE, etc. The groups allow your kids to still have social interaction with other children. If you’re not interested in this option that’s okay too. We’re not currently a part of a co-op but we have a group of homeschool friends that we meet for play dates and field trips from time to time.
6. Schedule your evaluation
In Florida, homeschool students must have an evaluation once a year. This is where your portfolio comes in hand. Every year you’ll use your child’s portfolio so their progress can be evaluated by a licensed professional and submitted to your school district. Some states require more frequent evaluations and have different requirements so you’ll want to check them before starting.
Free Homeschooling Resources
We love using Spelling City for spelling. They offer fun games that help the kids with learning the words.
Khan Academy is a non-profit that offers free curriculums for subjects like math, language arts, and history. It’s based on Common Core concepts so you’ll want to keep that in mind. One of our favorite offerings they have is Pixar in a Box, a curriculum that takes you behind the scenes of how Pixar characters are created.
Ambleside Online is a free homeschool curriculum that’s based on the Charlotte Mason theories and incorporates the Bible.
Clarendon Learning has lesson plans and curriculums for every core subject. If you’re creating your own custom curriculum for your child this is a great resource to use.
Created by moms for families who never thought homeschooling could be possible for them for a number of reasons. You have the option to buy the curriculum workbooks for your kids or print them all FOR FREE.
We love love love Duolingo. It’s a free online program where kids can learn foreign languages.
Our Favorite Paid Resources and Programs
They allow you to print out up to 10 worksheets per month for free. After that they have a membership program you can sign up to for additional printouts every month. If you’re looking for supplemental resources to help your kids practice concepts I highly suggest education.com.
We love Flocabulary! If your kids retain information by listening to songs and music then you’ll definitely want to subscribe to Flocabulary. For only $10/month it’s a great supplementary resource for the lessons their learning daily.
We use Time4Learning as our main curriculum. We pay $20/month for Tatiana and they have everything already laid out for us. All we have to do is make Tatiana’s schedule and she’s ready to go. They provide printable resources like worksheets to supplement the material she’s learning.
Download your free reading log here and activity log template here.
If you’re looking for tips on how to create a homeschool schedule, I’ve got some tips for you here.
Photos by Emma Anne Photography