How to Begin? I Feel Overwhelmed!
Good planning is the key to any successful road trip. This checklist will give you a basic overview as you prepare for your homeschool journey!
- Read all you can about home education. [See list of suggested resources.]
- Consider subscribing to homeschooling publications. Attend a state convention (or obtain tapes from the workshops, if this is a mid-year decision).
- Read, read, read.
- Attend an HEAV How-to-Begin seminar in your area.
- Check out home-education websites on the Internet. [See resource list for a starting point.]
- Attend a local support-group meeting and ask lots of questions—other parents often love to talk about homeschooling! Most importantly, talk to other homeschoolers to find out what they do, how, and why.
- And read, read, read!
Research the Virginia Homeschool Law
“Yes, Virginia, it is legal to homeschool.” Basically, you should:
- Familiarize yourself with the statutes of the Virginia Code that regulate home education. [See The Law.]
- Comply with either the certified-tutor statute, the religious-exemption statute, or the homeschooling statute.
- Be aware of any deadlines you must meet. For example, under the homeschooling statute, you should file your “Notice of Intent to Provide Home Instruction” with your superintendent of schools by August 15—unless the decision is made after the deadline, in which case you may send it in as soon as practicable; also, you must submit proof of progress by August 1 of the following year.
- Keep copies of any paperwork you send, and it’s a good idea to mail everything “certified; return-receipt requested.” Be sure that any paperwork you submit is free of spelling or grammatical errors (and coffee stains).
Why are you homeschooling? What is your idea of an education?
- Determine where your child is now—academically, spiritually, physically, and emotionally/socially; this is your starting point.
- Set measurable, attainable goals for each child. Discuss with your spouse and your child (if appropriate) how these objectives fit into the “big picture” of his future.
- Set personal and family goals.
- Evaluate activities and curriculum against goals.
By definition, your curriculum is your “course of study.”
- Look through catalogs, magazines, curriculum guides, and books. [Curriculum]
- Talk to other homeschoolers about what worked for them and why, as well as what didn’t work and why.
- Attend state-convention workshops/exhibit halls and local curriculum fairs.
- Go to used-book sales and used-curriculum shops.
- Evaluate your child’s learning styles.
- Decide which method(s) seem to fit your family best at this point in time (you may overlap—methods are not mutually exclusive!).
- Keep evaluating all your choices against those goals you have set for your family and for each child.
- Homeschool resource books.
- Basic home reference materials.
- School supplies such as paper, pencils, pencil sharpener, rulers, pens, notebooks of some sort (and the proverbial red pen!).
- Filing or organizational supplies to keep your paperwork in order.
- Bookshelves and/or storage cabinets—designate “a place for everything.”
- Other necessary items as specified in your curriculum.
Establish a Schedule
Decide on your school year (at least 180 days). For example, we homeschool for eight weeks on, one week off, August through June, taking a four-week break in December and again in July. My reasoning is that I can do anything for eight weeks at a time, and then I have a week to re-group for the next session! Taking only one month off in summer keeps the girls on their toes academically.
- Have at least a framework for academic and character progress during the year.
- Have a family chore schedule in place, or a plan to keep the house manageable.
- Write out daily/weekly plans so you know that your expectations are realistic!
Join Support Organizations
You don’t have to make this trip alone! Consider membership in the national, state, and local organizations that exist to help you. Some suggestions:
- State organizations such as Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV); 804-278-9200
- Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA); 540-338-5600
- Local support groups.
- Specialized support groups, such as those for families of special-needs children, or those based on particular interests such as sports, 4-H, et cetera.
Vicki Bentley, the mother of eight daughters, foster mom of over fifty since 1985, and grandma to fourteen wonderful grandbabies has homeschooled 17 children over the last 15 years, with the strong undergirding of her husband Jim. She led a local support group of over 250 families for 14 years. She has served on the executive board of the Home Educators Association of Virginia and helps to coordinate their annual convention. Vicki has addressed state and national conventions, university teacher organizations, and many mothers’ groups. She is the author of My Homeschool Planner, Everyday Cooking, The Everyday Family Chore System, Home Education 101: A Mentoring Program for New Homeschoolers, High School 101: Blueprint for Success, and other homeschool and homemaking helps. Vicki has a heart for moms, with strong practical wisdom and encouraging words. Her website is EverydayHomemaking.com.
How-to-Begin Homeschooling Webinars
Thinking about homeschooling?
Decided to homeschool, but don’t know where to begin? Maximize your success with practical information from a veteran homeschool parent and teacher who has helped thousands of parents get off to the right start! Get the homeschool information you need right now with these recorded webinars. Watch from the convenience of your own home! Available Webinars:
- Introduction to Homeschooling – FREE!
- How to Begin: What You Really Need to Know!
- Know the Law: Notifying and Testing Demystified
- How to Choose Curriculum
Helpful How-to-Begin Articles
- Basic Info for Virginia Homeschoolers
- What Will It Cost Me?
- Homeschool Success Seminar Series
- Homeschooling Steps
- Beginning After the August 15th Deadline
- The Fourteen Days of Home School
- Suggested Resources
- Suggested Reading