a child learns : getting started with homeschooling


IMG_0767 {Recently found Johanna picking up cursive again.  She found cursive pages I had printed off a while back and the laminated cursive alphabet and she was totally engaged for an entire afternoon.}

Recently my inbox has been full with interested mothers and their homeschooling questions.  Many of you are committed to trying it; others are curious.  Either way I'm so grateful to be able to offer my advice and experience because it seriously has been one of the most important decisions I've made in my life.

What style of homeschooling do I choose?

What do all of my state's requirements mean?

Where do I begin??


One of the reasons I love homeschooling is because we can change, add to, take from, and always be a living, moving, learning entity as a family.  With homeschooling, you don't have to stick with whatever mode of homeschooling you started with.  You can change things based on your circumstances, children's personalities and needs, etc.


Explore your homeschooling options and implement what works best.  Modify as needed. 

When exploring all of the options of how-to with homeschooling it can be overwhelming.  Some of the most popular approaches are these five: Classical, Eclectic, Unit Studies, Charlotte Mason, and Unschooling.  Here's a brief synopsis of the five.  From these many approaches stem like Waldorf, Montessori, Cyber, etc.

Study up on each approach and style and ponder what you'd like to try out.  Remember, this doesn't have to be set in stone.  Ever.  Just pick something that speaks to you and explore it to death.  Find books, blogs, websites, local support groups or co-ops.  And just start.

Remember: You can also do a combo of things you like from different approaches.  I'd definitely say we are unschoolers but I've read so much on Montessori and Waldorf approaches that both approaches trickle into our homeschooling approach.  We've added "Project Time" into our week after I read the book [amazon_link id="1475239068" target="_blank" ]Project Based Homeschooling[/amazon_link] because it was exactly what we were needing at the moment.  Go ahead and pull in what you want and leave out the rest.

Also, life's circumstances can easily alter your homeschooling approach.  Maybe a new baby has come into your home, weeks of sickness linger in your home, or you have week long visitors.  This is your homeschooling life so own it.  If things are crazy for a season in your life, lighten up your days, your approach, and expectations.  You'll jump back into your game and routine soon enough.  Let your children see and feel the natural changes that occur in a family and let them ride it out with you without the stress playing "catch up."


Don't fear "The State."

I can't tell you how many hours I've wasted of my life worrying about the "scary" PA state requirements for my child to homeschool.  What if they  deny how we homeschool?  What if Caroline is forced to go to public school because I dropped the "state requirements" ball?  What if, what if, what if...

Don't even waste your breathe.  First off, let me start by saying that I live in one of the strictest homeschooling states.  (Here are the 8 strictest states.)  That just means that unlike many states that require very little from you as the parent (bless you, you wonderful parents!) I have to turn in  stuff at the end of the year.  It used to terrify me but now I see that it honestly takes some preparing, compiling, and organizing out of my year.  That's it.  


For example, here are my requirements living in PA:

  • Turn in annual "objectives" for your child once they turn eight years old.  The more general, the better.  I sit down one morning and make bullet points of the things Caroline is interested in that we will dive into, including improvement of reading, writing, mathematics that she's grasping, etc.  The school board just wants to see you have some game plan and even with unschooling and not following a curriculum it is easy to fill out objectives for a school year covering all of the typical subjects.  You'd have to be dead to not cover every topic naturally and regularly with unschooling/homeschooling.
  • Annual affidavit submitted after child turns eight.  Pretty much signing here and there and making sure your child is healthy.
  • Submit annual portfolio after child turns eight.  This is a compilation (either basic or complex) of sample writings, activities, field trip stubs, artwork, worksheets, etc., that shows the child's work for a year.  The school board just wants to see progression within a year, no matter your homeschooling approach or where your child begins.  (More ideas of submitting the portfolio in another post.)
  • Testing for grades 3, 5, and 8.  Out state gives us a list of national tests to choose from, you buy it, have your child practice before the test, take it, and submit the graded test to the school board.  Caroline just took her first test this year and although Caroline detested the practice test (okay, we're talking Common Core here-- the questions were awful and I even struggled with what was being asked) she aced the test!
  • Meet with an evaluator to "evaluate" that your child is getting a substantial education.  This sounds daunting but isn't, especially if you can find an evaluator that is familiar with your approach to homeschooling.  If you live in PA and need an evaluator I highly recommend the amazing Jessica Allen.   She creates a wonderful, relaxed environment for meeting with you and your child and really gets to know your child and what've become/learned within a year.

That's it.  Don't fear the state.  Homeschool the way you love and do what your state requires.  No worrying or fearing.


Needing material to read?  Start here: 

  1. [amazon_image id="0465025994" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]Free to Learn[/amazon_image]  This books really introduces you to how a child learns and has always learned before the advent of public schooling.  It will open your eyes to the great power within a child to seek out and fulfill the innate desire to understand and know about the world around them.  Highly recommended General Homeschooling and Unschooling read.
  2. [amazon_link id="0471349607" target="_blank" ]Guerilla Learning[/amazon_link] Great book about giving your child the opportunity to learn through real life.  Great book for General Homeschooling and Public Schooling families that want to enhance their child's education and experiences.
  3. [amazon_image id="1600651070" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]Well Adjusted Child[/amazon_image]  A general but needed book on the incredible positives of socialization in homeschooling.  Good book for General Homeschooling.
  4. [amazon_image id="1475239068" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]Project-Based Homeschooling[/amazon_image] A great practical book about setting up the environment and helping you child seek out and find what he/she is passionate about and being their mentor through their education.  Great book for General Homeschooling and Unschooling families.
  5. [amazon_link id="0865714487" target="_blank" ]Dumbing us Down[/amazon_link]  [amazon_image id="0865716692" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ][amazon_link id="0865716692" target="_blank" ]weapons of mass instruction[/amazon_link][/amazon_image]  Unbelievable books great for helping you make the choice to homeschool and try a different way of educating your child.  John Taylor Gatto's books will give you the knowledge and strength to withstand any neigh-sayers.  Imperative reads for General Homeschooling and Public Schooling families wondering if school is the best thing for their child.


See my more thorough homeschooling reading list  here.



Other important resources:

  • AskPauline.com is a Pennsylvania homeschooling site with detailed answers to every question you may have.  Odds are you don't live in my state but I live in one of the strictest homeschooling states.  (Here are the 8 strictest states.)  Search online for your state's homeschooling website and you will find answers to all of your specific questions.
  • HSLDA--pretty much the law and lawyers that advocate for homeschooling across the United States.  It is a great place to find basic questions answered and can be a great place to have a hefty organization on your back if you ever need it.
  • Join your area's homeschooling organization online.  When we decided to homeschool Caroline years ago Bobby was insistent that I join the area homeschooling group so I would have encouragement and find friendship for me and my kids in this new journey.  I am so glad I did.  We've made friends that we plan activities with during the homeschooling day, have adults and kids that are like minded to our decision to homeschool, and are involved with many of the homeschooling activities that are organized through the group.  And it is only a $22 annual cost to us.

how to start homeschooling (1)

Leave a comment below if you have a question about getting started with homeschooling.  I'd love to answer.


Other posts from A Child Learns series:

a child learns: in the car

a child learns: why I unschool

a child learns: socialization pt. 2

a child learns: socialization pt. 1 

a child learns: owning your life / planning

a child learns: owning your life / dreaming

a child learns: trust yourself

a child learns: trust children

a child learns: the decision 

a child learns: the series


the sleepy time gal