With the current pandemic and the proposed educational models released in most districts, I am fielding a lot of homeschool questions.
First, take one small breath! It does all feel so overwhelming. I felt the same way when I began (and I have a background in teaching).
Once you settle on homeschooling you need to inform the county (if you live in the state of Virginia) you are going to homeschool.
You have three options in the state of Virginia:
The Virginia Home Instruction Statute (file a Notice of Intent to Homeschool with your local superintendent.)
The Certified Tutor Statute (for certified teachers)
The Religious Exemption Statute (for those with a sincere religious objection)
Most parents homeschool under the Home Instruction Statute §22.1-254.1 (B), which states:
“Any parent who moves into a school division or begins home instruction after the school year has begun shall notify the division superintendent of his intentions to provide home instruction as soon as practicable and shall thereafter comply with the requirements of this section within thirty days of such notice.”
If you file under the Virginia Home Instruction Statue, you will need to file an NOI (if you chose one other options please refer to HEAV's website for further guidance). Some counties have forms on their website, but you can mail a NOI (Notice of Intent) to the superintendent of any county. Find out more about your filing options by visiting HEAV. You must inform the county by August 15th.
HEAV has even created a handy form that you can print, fill out and send (or email in some counties). It includes all the information you need to provide by law. You can download it here.
The county does NOT approve homeschooling, you are just informing them of your choice. If you have enrolled children in the school, as a courtesy you can email their current school's office staff and let them know your child will not be attending and you have filed your NOI.
A couple quick notes:
You do NOT need provide a grade level
You do NOT need to provide your child’s birthdate
Yes- you really just list subjects (language arts, math, science, history, PE, music, etc)
Homeschool advocates such as HEAV and HSLDA work tirelessly to keep our freedom to homeschool, so it is strongly encouraged to not give additional information beyond what is required by law.
Whew, you did it! You are now officially a homeschool family! Yay! Take a little breath and let's move forward.
The next step is deciding on curriculum. Consider the following questions when you are looking for curriculum:
Do I want the curriculum to be religious or secular?
Do I want the curriculum to be open and go or am I comfortable with adding to it and prepping?
Do I want a hands-on approach, classical approach, or something entirely different?
Does my child do well with seat work or will they need something that has interactive components?
Do I want my child to learn mostly from me or have access to videos or live streaming?
Cathy Duffy is a highly sought-out resource for curriculum in the homeschool world. Her website is a wealth of help, as you begin to research and narrow things down. Remember that if a piece (or the entire) of the curriculum does not work out, you CAN switch during the year. You are not locked in.
You may want to have your child take a quiz to find out their learning style. Try this one to start!
There are also LOTS of Facebook groups. Find the one for your area and ask questions. Homeschool moms are incredibly willing to help! I use a variety of curriculum to suite my children's needs (you can stick with one publisher or use things from different companies).
Some of my favorite curriculum:
Master Books (especially their science, language arts, apologetics- math also has a hands on approach; some parallels to Charlotte Mason)
Singapore Dimensions math (this is good if you are transitioning back to school after a year in elementary)
Abeka (I prefer their social studies for elementary overall)
BJU Press (social studies and geography are rock solid)
Logic of English (comprehensive program)
Essentials in Writing (terrific for ALL ages)
Apologia Science (great for all levels but especially upper elementary through high school)
The Good and The Beautiful
~Preschool and kindergarten I highly recommend Master Books, The Good and The Beautiful, or Mother Goose Time. ~
My children also take virtual Spanish courses and an in-person Lego Robotics class. Outschool is another great course resource! The possibilities are endless, but you will find the right fit. Some curriculums offer videos and online support (Abeka, Math-U-See, Essentials in Writing, and Master books are just a few that offer this).
The next surge of anxiety usually comes from the task of forming routines and schedules.
I don’t know your children’s ages but as a former public school teacher I’ll say this, do not try and recreate the public school atmosphere and schedule. It’ll take time to get in a groove and that’s okay!
Remember you don’t have to school all day long. Your children will be getting more one-on-one instruction, so the length of time spent on school work is shorter. Take breaks when you need to.
On average, if you school four to five days per week you can expect to spend:
Kindergarten - 1 hour a day (longer if there are crafts and experiments - remember to play A LOT)
First & Second - 90 - 120 minutes per day (again longer for crafts, projects, experiments)
Third - Fifth - 120 - 180 per day on average
Middle School and High School - four to six hours depending on the course load
* The time allotments above can be broken into chunks throughout the day. It does not have to be one large chunk of time.*
We school Monday through Thursday and Friday is a day for fun, catch up, field trips, etc.
we school and take a week or two off every eight weeks (I do light school during the summer).
There are fun online activities, such as, OutSchool, you can take advantage of.
There will be days your kids resist and that’s okay. As a former teacher I will tell you it isn’t all roses in class either, everyone (adult or child) has their off days.
~ Remember to build in fun days, review days, rest days, and mental health days. If your child was in public (or private school) they would have special events, snow days, and field trips. ~
Try to embrace homeschooling for all the wonderful things that it is - the flexibility, the ability to dive into their interests, the one on one time, meeting your kid right where they are, the ability to snuggle on the couch, and fun explorations and field trips and don’t get stuck in just trying to replicate what public school has to offer. Remember the whole world is a classroom. You do not have to be confined to a table or computer. Take school outdoors, on the road, or just to a different room. Learning takes place with and without books present.
You will find yourself tweaking schedules and learning what works best for your family. I strongly encourage parents to step away from distractions as much as possible when formally teaching. I know this is easier said than done, but you will be much less frustrated and waste no time if you can limit distractions. Don't forgot to take brain breaks too!
If you have little ones at home check out my other blog post about keeping them occupied.
Want more? Check out my post about how I turned from a public school teacher to a homeschool mom.
Worried about your preschooler, kindergartener, first grader’s progress? Check out my free checklists!
Questions? Need direction? Send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or fill out the form at the bottom of this page.