How To Start Homeschooling: Short & Long Term Guide

If you’ve landed here I assume that you want to learn how to homeschool! Well the good news is that setting your child up for homeschooling can be done relatively quickly. Children are natural learners and you’ll be surprised what your children can learn without you even teaching them. However, initial enthusiasm can get you by for probably a few days, maybe even a month but you will need to add some structure and tick a few legal boxes to get ready to homeschool.

All four of my children were homeschooled and have now gone to university and are working.  Some of the information you’ll read here took me 20 years of homeschooling to discover.

Don’t expect to absorb all this information on how to homeschool in one sitting. Why not bookmark this page for your future reference?

How to start homeschooling

A Few Ideas On How To Homeschool

It is often hard to filter information when you first begin to look into how to start homeschooling. You wonder:

I used to think you needed to know all your options on how to start homeschooling before you began. After helping over 5000 families get started with homeschooling, my views have changed. I still believe in giving choice for newbies like you but I now recommend using a pre-planned homeschool program to help you get “the show on the road”. Then you can start learning on the job, and after your confidence builds then you can start to tweak your curriculum to suit your needs.

Ten Tips For Newbies Starting Homeschooling

  1. Determine your motives for homeschooling. This will affect so many of your choices.
  2. Investigate homeschool methods. This will affect your curriculum choice and save money in the long run.
  3. Network with other homeschoolers. Get to know real life homeschoolers. Go to homeschooling events. Try inviting another homeschool family over you might connect with and find out what they do. Make some connections.
  4. Make a simple start. Follow a basic guide at first for your homeschooling curriculum. As you get a feel for homeschooling you will become more comfortable with what you are doing and you can make changes along the way.
  5. Get to know how you like to teach and how your child learns. This will help you choose a curriculum in the future.
  6. Don’t worry about socialisation. Your children will be well socialised without the negative aspect of peer pressure and group think.
  7. Don’t rush off and buy everything recommended. Get samples when possible. Resist the temptation to purchase your curriculum from the newsagent or book store. There are many homeschooling resources that will suit your needs better.
  8. Be prepared to make some sacrifices. Homeschooling takes a considerable commitment for it to work, especially in the early days.
  9. Try to take your focus off academics and on to establishing good habits and close family relationships. Academics will fall into place. Homeschooling is not school at home – it is a lifestyle.
  10. Watch out for rubbish homeschool advice. Pray for wisdom!
Emergency Homeschooling

How To Start Homeschooling: Short Term

When I got my first emergency how to start homeschooling enquiry because of Corona Virus, I didn’t pay much attention – it seemed like it wasn’t something we needed to worry about in Australia. But then I got another emergency homeschool email and then another. And then four radio stations called for an interview and then a TV station. They were all asking me the same thing, “How do you homeschool?”

I’ve spoken to so many people who unexpectedly found themselves needing to know how to start homeschooling that I’ve condensed my message into what I think are the essentials.

So this is for parents who find themselves suddenly homeschooling who want to know how to do homeschool in the short term.

If you are thinking of homeschooling in the long term then our How To Homeschool section is a better place to start.

How Do You Homeschool If You Are Not A Teacher?

Now I get it, we’re not all teachers and homeschooling was never on your radar but it’s actually quite easy to pull together a few resources to get emergency homeschooling up and running.

One of the core values at My Homeschool is to make homeschooling easier. And this definitely applies to emergency homeschooling. I know you don’t want to spend hours on the internet looking for age appropriate homeschool resources and you probably don’t want to go out and buy a whole lot of textbooks either.

So the best thing to do is to get the basic set up and add some enriching activities

Set Up A Homeschool Schedule

Even if you are only how to do homeschooling for a couple of weeks or months it is still a good idea to set up some sort of homeschool schedule. Lessons in the morning and afternoon free is a good homeschool habit to begin if you can.

How To Get Lessons Happening

In primary school, math and English are the two subjects that take up most of the curriculum (about 50% of the allocated time). So these are the two areas that you need to focus on when short term homeschooling. Thankfully these subjects are quite easy to teach, and you don’t need a lot of resources to do it.

In high school the principles are the similar. Math , English and Science and then the other subjects.

How To Start Homeschooling Maths

If your child has come home from school and has a math workbook that they are already using, and they want to keep using that, then that is probably the best option. It will make it easier for back to school transition. However sometimes that is not an option because you may lack confidence teaching the topic or you don’t have access to that resource.

Here are some options.

  • Math Online is very homeschool friendly.  It follows the Australian Curriculum, has a built in tutor and you submit the answers to record and mark you progress. We’ve used this in our homeschool for many years. There are other online options but many of their incentives to study actually become a big distraction for your child. These distractions can extend the lesson and make them unproductive.
  • Looking for a free option. MEP Math is a British free math program that homeschoolers use and like.
  • You can also include some drill in timetables and skip counting (counting by 2s, or 5s or 7). These are great for mental math. You don’t need a textbook for this.

In primary you only need to keep the math lessons short and sweet. A half hour per day is usually enough if it’s productive.

How Do You Do Homeschool English?

For English (also called language arts) it includes spelling, grammar, handwriting, reading and writing. But when you are emergency homeschooling you don’t want five separate textbooks. So here are some simple options on starting homeschool lessons with some easily accessible resources that won’t cost you a fortune:

  1. Homeschool using books – I know right! How easy. Books have built in teachers – the authors. Get your children to read their own books and read aloud a book to your child (if you can). Get them to write about what they read or tell you. We call this narration.. Here is an example from a written narration from an Australian history book. Now I’d encourage you to choose good books that are a little challenging.  Classic books are excellent for this. If you are isolated for a period and don’t have access to a library, think about online readers. Archive.org has a comprehensive selection and they have a very readable format for their online books.If they need extra incentives, set some reading requirements like a chapter a day or a few pages (this will depend on their current reading ability). Get a booklist going and add all the books your child is reading. This will be a concrete record of learning and you can show the teacher when they finish short term homeschooling.
  1. Do some copywork and/or dictation – these are effective and easy ways to make daily writing happen. Copywork & dictation have many advantages including modelling correct punctuation, grammar, spelling and handwriting practise.

You can just pull a book out of the bookshelf and ask them to copy it. Poetry, Scripture, prose are all good options. You can download a handwriting font as a guide. For children over 10 years old, you can also do dictation. There is no need to do spelling lists. When you’re homeschooling, it is much more one-on-one and copywork and dictation should be sufficient.

  1. Get Them Writing Everyday

For all the other English lessons you can just focus on getting your children writing. They don’t need to have comprehension assignments where they answer a bunch of questions from a boring textbook. Get them writing about things that matter, things that they are reading about and things that interest them. Now some kids will need no prompting, but others will need a little encouragement to do this.

One of the hurdles all new homeschooling parents have, whether it’s short or long term homeschooling, is knowing what is appropriate for your child. And it has been my experience that most new homeschooling parents have unrealistic expectations of what is right for their child’s level.

So What About All The Other Subjects?

In homeschooling you quickly learn that subjects can easily be merged together to make lessons more efficient and less time consuming. An English lesson can also be a science, history or geography lessons. It can even be an art lesson. And so that is why we encourage the reading of books on a wide range of subjects. Inspire your child to read fiction and non-fiction. We have tonnes of booklists on different topics that may interest your child.

You don’t actually need any other textbooks. You can teach most the other key learning areas using books and documentaries. And for science and geography add in some nature study and nature journaling field trips. Because when you can’t go out in crowds and you need to be isolated, you can usually still find a place for an interesting nature walk.

How To Start Homeschooling With Natural Learning

Natural learning is commonly practiced in homeschooling. (It is quite different to the unschooling homeschooling ideology). When encouraging natural learning at home you let your children discover and learn according to their own natural interests. Of course, this is within reason (they might decide they want to go to the moon next week) but you give flexibility and trust the process of self-directed learning.

If you are emergency homeschooling, then this might be a time for your child to set up some sort of a project that will occupy their time. For my children natural learning included: cooking up a storm/yummy mess, teaching themselves art, making their own website and blogs, hair styling techniques, (which has now become a business), nail art painting projects, making a Lego movie, sewing, learning the guitar, and photography. You’ll find they can get quite passionate about these projects.

Conversation learning is BIG in homeschooling. And it is often the way we help our children understand many things. Getting in the habit of explaining ideas, encouraging them to ask questions are all on the spot lessons that don’t take preparation. And you’ll be surprised how much your child retains if they actually want to know the answer.

How To Do Homeschool Tests and Assessments

Now I know if you’ve just come out of school you are probably addicted to worksheets and guided lessons (I know that’s an assumption and excuse the generalisation if that isn’t you) but the exciting news is – you don’t actually need worksheets to prove your child learnt something! Some of you don’t believe me – I know!

If you are looking for some friendly homeschool exams Charlotte Mason had some great ideas.

There are many other proofs you can have when you homeschool and because you are not mass teaching you can do a few other things that are much more enjoyable for the child and you get to assess on the spot if what you hoped they are learning is actually sinking in.

Ask Them

Ask them to tell you what they know. If they are reading a book get them to retell what it was about. Ask them about the documentary. If they are older than 10, you could ask them to write about what they have learnt. This is actually harder to do than you think but with practise your children get much better at it. In home schooling we call this narration.

Make A Notebook

Have your child make a notebook of what they are learning. It doesn’t need to be a diary. (I’ve found diaries are a little intimidating. Blank days or insignificant entries can lead to discouragement). However, a notebook of learning (they can date it if they want) will help them record what they have learnt in a creative way.

Try This Way of Testing

Do you want to know how to do homeschool testing without worksheets and exam booklets. Look into Charlotte Mason’s exam ideas.  She has a very simple method for helping parents set up an exam to assess what children are absorbing from lessons.

The Emergency Homeschooling Routine

Suddenly having the kids not at school certainly throws a spanner into our regular routine. Consequently, you probably don’t have the time to allocate a big chunk of your day to the task of emergency homeschooling. It doesn’t seem feasible that you can provide supervised teaching for the whole time that a school does. You might be working from home, or you might be sending your kids off to Grandmas, or you may just be caught up in the reason you find yourself emergency homeschooling. But the issue is, your kids still need to be educated! And if they will be home for an extended period of time, it is wise to set up some strategies.

The good news is, the academic part of homeschooling can be done in a short period of time (it makes a lot of parents wonder what actually happens at school). You’ll be pleased to know you probably only need to allocate 2 hours a day to homeschooling, maybe even less for your Kindy and First grader. Your children can have some concentrated academics and then they can have some time for natural learning, reading books, exploring nature, practising new bike tricks or teaching the dog a new skill.

And a quick tip on screen time that we found worked in our home. We had a ban on non-educational screen time in school hours. That meant no playing computer games or vegging out in front of TV. This sets a boundary that will help your children look for other options—let’s face it for many kids screen time is an option that is hard to resist.

If they are off to Grandmas (or someone’s place to homeschool) you can just arm them with a book, some math and some English. It’s just for a short period so you don’t need to make it too complex.

Emergency homeschooling does bring its dilemmas. But homeschooling is a rich and wonderful experience. I wish you all well through this journey and I hope when your children are safely back in school, you’ll be able to look back and enjoy the positive aspects of homeschooling, even short term homeschooling was a necessity.

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