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This article is part of our Homeschooling Guide, sponsored by Oak Meadow. Find more helpful information for homeschooling families here.

Don't forget to enter our giveaway for a complete homeschool curriculum package from Oak Meadow!

Making the decision to teach your children at home can be a very exciting one. Whether your kids are just starting their schooling, or are moving from a public or private school to start this new educational journey, some planning will help ensure success for you and your kids.

Here are 5 steps to get started on the right foot.


1. Know the Laws

Every country and US state has different laws concerning homeschooling. If you're a US resident you'll want to look up your state's rules before you do anything else. States can vary widely as to requirements and regulations.

Start by going to the Coalition for Responsible Home Education's page on homeschool laws. You'll find a map that shows the level of regulation for each state, and on the sidebar you can click through to any state for a complete rundown of what you need to know.

Another great source of information is the Homeschool Laws page from the Home School Legal Defense Association. The have an easy to use map and a breakdown of laws for every state as well.

Both sites are also wonderful sources of additional information for those new to homeschooliing. If you're outside the US, a quick search on Google will help you locate the information you need.


2. Find Support

No matter the age(s) of your children, support is one of the most vital elements for any successful homeschool journey. You'll want to check and see if there are homeschool groups in your local area that you can join. These groups can provide moral support, as well as shared learning opportunities, curriculum swaps, play time with peers and more. Meetup.com, Facebook and your local paper or community website are great places to look for groups in your area.

You may also want to consider online support, and you can start by heading over to Mothering's Homeschool Forums where you'll find many new and experienced homeschool parents. Mothering also offers a forum for connecting with parents in your area where you may find homeschool groups.


3. Consider Your Style

There are as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschooling families, and no one method provides the perfect solution for everyone. Some parents model their home education courses after a traditional classroom, others move as far away from that structure as possible.

Think about your family's needs, your available time for teaching and what you want to accomplish most in your educational efforts. Be flexible and willing to try new things, or make changes as you see fit, and you'll have a much easier time.

You certainly don't need to subscribe to a specific style of home education to be successful, but it helps to take some time to understand various established approaches if you're just starting out.

Here are a few of the most popular methods. Many parents combine elements from these approaches and others to create their own style. Find more about homeschooling styles here.

School-at-Home

Homeschooling.com, which is a great resource for parents, defines school-at-home as "the style most often portrayed in the media because it is so easy to understand and can be accompanied by a photo of children studying around the kitchen table. This is also the most expensive method and the style with the highest burnout rate. Most families who follow the school-at-home approach purchase a boxed curriculum that comes with textbooks, study schedules, grades, and record keeping." Find more definitions from them here.

Unschooling

An educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. Unschooling students learn through their natural life experiences including play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction.

Internet Schooling

The use of online curriculum, established schools and resources to provide home instruction. With the ever growing availability of internet based teaching and learning resources, the options are endless and help parents expand on their own abilities and perspective to give children a global perspective. There are online public schools, private schools and institutions that provide full distance learning opportunities to homeschoolers.


4. Research Curriculum Options

There are an astounding amount of curriculum options for homeschool families today -- from free online courses to expensive complete curriculum packages, or those courses that focus on a singe subject. Some families choose to forgo a curriculum altogether in favor of a more relaxed approach to learning, and others choose to purchase complete sets that provide everything you need to teach your children. Most find themselves somewhere in between, piecing together curricula, local and online resources, hands on activities and play.

Many new parents choose to purchase a complete schooling option, and later add and remove things as they feel comfortable. Oak Meadow, who has been kind enough to sponsor our guide this year, provides a wonderful homeschool curriculum for naturally minded parents, as well as a school. Find all of the details here.

Check our forums for feedback on the many other options available or visit the curriculum review section on The Homeschool Mom. This site is an excellent place to discover just about everything you could need to get started with home education.

Here are 5 free places we often turn to for free courses:
  • Khan Academy - mostly for older students, but they have an excellent math series for all grades with videos, fun short challenges and a point system
  • Coursera - again, mostly for older learners, but there are so many courses you won't want to miss it
  • Your Local Library - in addition to the obvious (free books!) most libraries offer free online learning resources and subscriptions for students. Check your library's website for information.
  • Starfall - This is an excellent free learning resource for young learners, with even more activities for a small fee
  • E-Learning - a complete online, free curriculum for elementary and middle school


5. Set Reasonable Goals

It's important to remember that homeschooling requires flexibility and adjustments. Set goals for your family that you truly feel comfortable with. It is OK to start out slow and add more work as you get used to teaching, take a break for a day or two, or allow natural learning opportunities in addition to structured instruction. Each parent and child is different, and finding a balance that works, while avoiding stress, will help everyone succeed.

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