This checklist to start homeschooling can be a useful tool in helping you plan a methodical preparation for starting your homeschool.
Usually there’s some compelling reason that brings people to the consideration of homeschooling. But whatever your hopes, dreams, and desires are, they generally have to fit into the parameters of your state’s requirements.
• State Law
On the assumption that few people can pick up and move to another state to find homeschooling requirements that suit them, I’m going to suggest that you start off with the state mandates as you begin your homeschool planning. Check the homeschool laws carefully for information that applies to the following areas:
- Age of School Attendance – This is given as a range and may have a low of age 5 and a high of age 18. Some states specify a grade level that must be completed.
- Number of Days/Hours Required for a School Year – Some states specify days, some specify hours, and some specify both.
- Subjects Required and Grades they Must be Taught in – States offer more or less specificity on this topic. See the article “Homeschool Laws.”
- Assessments Required, such as Standardized Tests – Some states require yearly testing and others have no testing requirement.
- Home School Requirements – This is where the state defines what constitutes a homeschool according to its statues. Such statutes may involve a special Homeschool law, allow homeschools to operate under statutes applying to private schools, so combination of the two,or other regulations.
- Teacher Requirements – This information specifies who is allowed to teach in a homeschool according to state law.
- Student Enrollment Requirements – This information specifies who is allowed to attend a homeschool according to state law. There may be limits on whether people outside a family can attend a family homeschool, either forbidding it entirely or limiting the number of outside attendees.
• Your Goals and Intentions
In light of the parameters imposed by the state, take note of your purposes, plans, and hopes for your homeschool to serve as a guide for your other decisions. For example, is your school definitely just for your own children, or do you want to join forces with one or more other families? Do you have a philosophy or belief system that will guide your instruction and pedagogy, or are you open to a variety of methods?
• Plan Your Homeschool Curriculum and Method of Delivery
Now that you have some idea of what you’re teaching and how, consider who is going to deliver instruction (you? a distance learning institution? a group of parents, of whom you are one?) and what materials (homeschool lesson plans, textbooks, literature, worksheets, activities) will be used to carry out the program. Do some research into the possibilities, and also the costs, in preparation for the next question. If you have any questions about whether these ideas would meet state approval, find out now, before going any further.
• The Money Question
Is your plan realistic in terms of the money available? A budget will help you know. List the costs you’ve uncovered for curriculum and delivery, and add to that the cost of materials needed over and above that, as well as any other school-associated costs and see what it looks like.
• Enroll in a Program or Develop Your Program
Once you’re assured that the costs can be covered, it’s time to enroll in a program or develop a program. Developing a program will include making lesson plans, creating a homeschool schedule of instruction (or time counted towards unschooling, if you’re following that approach).
• Complete the State’s Homeschool Approval Documents, if any
If your state requires submission of your program, you can now do that. After you hear back, make any necessary changes or revisions.
• Set up Your School
Organize the main space(s) that you will be using for schooling. Give attention to lighting, work areas, storage, noise level, seating, access to a computer (or possibly television, if the instruction is delivered on DVD). Included in this process is locating and/or purchasing materials and other resources you may need, including textbooks.