General Information - Getting Started in Homeschooling



“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” -- John Cotton Dana

First, learn all you can about homeschooling.

Read What is homeschooling?

Read books about homeschooling:

Not sure yet? Read these:

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto.

Are you sure it won't ruin my kids? HSLDA Website.

Facts and Trends on Homeschooling on the NHERI Web site.

Home Schooling: The Right Choice: An Academic, Historical, Practical, and Legal Perspective by Christopher J. Klicka. ISBN 1929125070. Excellent for those who are not sure whether to homeschool; unfortunately, it's out of print. Buy used by following the link.

The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education by Grace Llewellyn.

Ready to Get Started? Read these:

FREE! How to Get Started in Homeschooling e-book by Cindy Downes. A summary of what is presented here on this web site.

Read the homeschool laws for your state on the Home School Legal Defense Association web site. Be sure to read the “Legal Analysis.”

Oklahoma home educators: Check out Oklahoma Home Educator's Handbook published by OCHEC.

Homeschooling for Dummies by Jennifer Kaufeld. ISBN 0764508881. This is one of my personal favorites. Focuses on the basics, especially on multi-level teaching and unit studies.

The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling (3rd Edition)by Debra Bell. ISBN 0849975751. My other personal favorite. Focuses on the basics and college preparation. Very balanced.

If I Could Do it Over Again - a survey of homeschoolers done by the Erskine Family

Things We Wish We'd Known by Bill & Diana Waring. ISBN 1883002427. Short articles written by homeschool moms with a lot of good advice. A must read for all homeschool parents.

Home Grown Kids: A Practical Handbook for Teaching Your Children at Home by Raymond & Dorothy Moore. ISBN 0849930073. Do you have a struggling learner? You must read this book. This is the book that led to my son's education success.

Learning in Spite of Labels by Joyce Herzog. ISBN 1882514130. Excellent resource for parents of children with learning disabilities.

An Education Philosophy You MUST read... Marva Collins founded the Westside Preparatory School in 1975 in the inner city of Chicago. During the first year, Marva took in learning disabled, problem children and even one child who had been labeled by Chicago public school authorities as borderline retarded. At the end of the first year, every child scored at least five grades higher proving that the previous labels placed on these children were misguided. The CBS program, 60 Minutes, visited her school for the second time in 1996. That little girl who had been labeled as border line retarded, graduated in 1976 from college Summa Cum Laude. It was documented on the 60 Minutes programs in 1996. Marva’s graduates have entered some of the nation’s finest colleges and universities, such as Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, to mention just a few. And, they have become physicians, lawyers, engineers, educators, and entered other professions. Unfortunately, Ms. Collins died in 2015. However, her book is still available on Amazon. I strongly recommend that you read her educational philosophy. It WILL change your thinking about school. Marva Collins' Biography. Her book: Marva Collins' Way.

Join a Support Group:

See Local resources on my web site for support groups in Oklahoma.

Read Homeschool Magazines:

The Informer Magazine. A FREE magazine for home educators in Oklahoma published by OCHEC.

Practical Homeschooling Christian homeschool magazine by Mary Pride.

Homeschooling Today. Christian homeschool magazine.

Homeschool Life Magazine. Secular homeschool magazine. Published quarterly.

Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Christian homeschool magazine.



Plan your school year.

Do these things with your child while you are planning:

Choose a homeschool teaching method

Determine your child’s needs (See Assessment/Testing)

Set goals for the year using Goal Setting Form (pdf document) (Examples: improve reading skills, learn multiplication tables, improve composition skills, work on manners, take piano lessons, learn to type, practice ACT testing, fulfill high school credit, improve work ethics, etc.)

Drill weak areas in math and phonics.

Read library books together, both fiction and nonfiction in all subject areas

Do art and science projects together.

Have your child work on penmanship (elementary) or begin a journal.

Keep track of days spent on this in your daily log as this counts towards your 180 days.

Use your goals for year, Sample Curriculum Plan, and these free planning forms to plan your school year. (Acrobat Reader needed to view pdf documents.):

Curriculum Planning Form

Primary School Planning Form

High School Planning Form

Purchase your curriculum after you have determined their needs and planned your school for the year. (See Curriculum)

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Supplies Needed

You don’t need a schoolroom! Schoolrooms are designed to manage a classroom of students. Many new homeschoolers think they have to go out and purchase a desk, blackboard, and all the other equipment that goes in a traditional classroom because that is how they were taught. Homeschooling is different - that’s why it works. You can homeschool in your living room, in the kitchen, in your backyard, at the supermarket, and in your neighborhood park. (Thomas Edison's schoolroom was in a tree house, in his basement lab, in the kitchen, by the river, and on a train!) All you really need is some very simple supplies:

Textbooks (See Curriculum)

Paper (type depends on age of child)

Notebooks, pencils, pens, scotch tape, stapler, glue sticks, etc.

Art supplies (crayons, markers, paints, brushes, etc.)

A kitchen table is great for doing written work.

A computer is a necessity. (Teach them to type when they are about 8 years old.)

A library card - lots of good stuff in the library and it’s free! A device to play educational videos that you borrow from the library.

TV and other electronic devices, along with apps and the internet, so you can watch educational shows and listen to good music

A nice, comfy sofa to snuggle up with your kids while you read together

Older kids usually want privacy. A well-lit desk in their room would be good for them.

Lots of bookshelves for all those great books you are going to collect for your library!

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Removing Your Child From School

Check your state laws for information about removing your child from school.

In Oklahoma, you may remove your child from school at any time during the school year, but it's best to learn all you can about homeschooling and have a plan first.

If you have chosen to continue educating your child at home and have never placed them in public school, you may notify your local school district, but it is not required by law. However, I recommend that you do so.

If you have already enrolled your child in a public or private school but have now decided to homeschool, we recommend that you write a letter of intent informing the school of this decision. This is not a legal requirement, but it could save you problems with DHS or the truant officer. If you have already been contacted by DHS or are in a joint-custody situation, we strongly recommend that you contact HSLDA or your personal lawyer for legal advise before removing your child from school. Many schools today will help you get started in homeschooling.

A letter of intent can be as simple as a typewritten note stating, “Dear Sir, Please be advised that as of (date), I will be schooling (child's name) at home. If you have any questions, please contact me at (phone). Thank you, (your signature)” Date the letter and make sure that it gets to the right person at your child's school - usually the superintendent. Hand deliver or mail “Return Receipt.”

When should I homeschool and how long should I teach each day?

Check your state laws for information about teaching schedules.

In Oklahoma, most everyone homeschools for 180 days per year. Keep track of days in a log book.

Included in this 180 days are 10 days that we can use for sick days, field trips, or teacher in-service days (include workshops and homeschool conferences here). This is similar to the public school.

Some homeschoolers teach year-round taking longer or more frequent breaks during the year. Others teach from August to May like the schools.

Public schools meet for five hours a day to allow time for students to earn the required number of Carnegie Units for graduation. A Carnegie Unit is the amount of credit given for successful completion of a course which meets 40 minutes per day, five days per week, for at least 36 weeks or the equivalent time within the school year.

This amounts to 900 hours per year. It has been estimated by some educational professionals that out of that 900 hours, approximately 200 hours are spent on one-on-one or on-task teaching. The remainder is spent on all the other things that happen in schools such as correcting papers, recess, lunch breaks, managing classrooms, etc. That is the equivalent of 66 minutes per day! Considering that the average homeschool family teaches one on one approximately 1-1/2 to 3 hours per day, it's not that hard to give the equivalent education in less time. See Sample Homeschool Schedule.

Oklahoma public schools require 23 Carnegie Units for graduation. As a homeschool, you can set your own graduation requirements, just as a private school would do. However, I recommend that you set similar standards, keeping in mind that this can be completed using alternative scheduling and course requirement, such as satisfactory performance on proficiency examinations or the successful completion of curricular units that comprise the equivalency of a unit of work. Most homeschooler achieve more than what is required.

The average amount of time spent on one-on-one instruction in a homeschool varies from 30 minutes/day in preschool to 3 hours/day or more in high school.

The remainder of the day is spent on homework (child working on own), extracurricular activities, character training, spiritual training, creative play, field trips, educational projects, internships, volunteering, and family chores.

Limit entertainment television, video games, access to social media, and text messaging during traditional school hours. Instead, encourage them to find other ways to entertain themselves such as reading on their own, working on art or science projects, etc. I kept a special “school-time activity box” stocked with special art supplies, educational games, etc. that the children could play with during school hours only. This box was off limits at other times which made it a special. Activities like this will help to increase your child´s creativity and ability for self-government.

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How do I know my child is learning everything he needs to know?

NO ONE WILL EVER LEARN EVERYTHING HE OR SHE NEEDS TO KNOW! Learning is a life-long process. What your child needs to learn in school depends upon your child's interests, talents, needs and career goals.

The public schools follow the guidelines from national standards. Private schools establish their own guidelines. Depending upon the state in which you live, your homeschool may or may not be treated as a private school. Check your laws at HSLDA Web site.

If homeschooling is considered a private school in your state, like Oklahoma, you are free to set your own standards.

Some homeschoolers follow their state standards (Oklahoma State Standards) or a scope and sequence (what to teach when) published by textbook companies. Some pick up the book, What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know: Preparing Your Child for a Lifetime of Learning (Core Knowledge Series).

The Checklist is a scope and sequence I created specifically for homeschoolers.

All of the above are good resources to have on hand, but they are not the final word on what your child should be taught. Children should:

  • Be taught to read, write and do basic arithmetic
  • Have a good foundation in American and world history and science
  • Be exposed to the arts
  • Participate in physical activity
  • Learn basic life skills such as personal finance, home and car buying and maintenance, marriage preparation, and child-raising
  • Learn a job skill
  • Learn social skills
  • Have a variety of additional learning experiences that focus on the child's particular needs, interests, talents and career goals.

Here is a basic teaching timeline:

Kindergarten through 6th grade: Teach basic reading, writing, and arithmetic (See 3Rs); introduce your child to history, science, art, music, etc. You can do most of this with library books, hands-on activities, and simple workbooks. Only a few textbooks are needed at these grade levels.

    Continue working on phonics and reading practice until your child reads fluently. (See Reading)

    Continue penmanship until your child writes in both manuscript and cursive. (See Teaching Handwriting)

    Keep in mind the real question is not "What grade is my child in?" but "What basic skills is he lacking." Once you discover what he is lacking, select your curriculum accordingly. For instance, if he is struggling with fractions, work on more problems with fractions. If he has mastered fractions, only require enough practice to review. You do not have to do every problem or even every page.

    As a homeschool family, you can keep your child in the grade level that is appropriate for his age, but use textbooks on, above, or below grade level as needed. This may mean using a 5th grade math book and a 3rd grade reading book for your 4th grade child.

6th -12th: After all basics are mastered, it's time to prepare your child for his desired career: college, trade school, own a business, or go into the military or a ministry.

    Work on improving composition, explore subjects in more depth to help your child discover his interests and skills, and given him specific courses that will help him meet his specific career goals.

    This is also the time to teach him home management skills, family life skills, and to help him to grow spiritually so that he is ready to do what God has called him to do for his family, his community, and his church.

    If he is finishing up high school, make sure he has the courses he needs for graduation and for the college and/or career in which he is interested. (See Teaching High School.)

    Make it a priority to spend time researching and exploring potential career goals during his middle and high school years. (See Career Training for more info.

A great way to keep track of your child's education is The Checklist.

Go to Choosing Curriculum.

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