Making the transition from traditional school to homeschooling–whether you’ve already started the process or are considering it–is a challenge. But it’s a worthwhile challenge…one that will pay off quickly with a rewarding educational experience. Nevertheless, as with any transition, it can have its ups and downs initially. But here are 1o tips that can help you and your child successfully make the transition to homeschooling from traditional school.
1. Understand What Homeschooling Is…and Isn’t
To clear up any possible misconceptions, homeschooling is NOT what students endured during the spring of 2020 and the 2020-21 school year. That should be considered something along the lines of “school at home.” But “school at home” and homeschooling are much different. Homeschooling uses curriculum and lessons that are designed specifically for home education. While homeschooling encourages students to work independently, it doesn’t involve students being given assignments and simply leaving them to their own devices.
Homeschooling can take on many forms–online self-paced study, live classes that feature an experienced teacher leading a virtual classroom of students from around the world, traditional textbook learning, blended online and textbook education, and lessons that are personalized to each student’s learning style and strengths. There is no cookie-cutter approach to learning or skill-and-drill method of instruction as is often the case in traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms. Students who homeschool have the freedom and flexibility to fully learn a concept before moving on to the next topic. This leads to academic success, which builds confidence and creates a lifelong love of learning.
2. Know Your State Laws
Before you transition to homeschooling, it’s important to check your state’s laws and regulations when it comes to homeschooling. While homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, each state’s regulations vary. Some states (such as Pennsylvania, Vermont, New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts) are quite strict with their homeschool regulations, which means you’ll likely have to contact your local school district prior to homeschooling and submit progress reports and evaluations throughout the year. Other states (like New Jersey, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, and Missouri) are very homeschool-friendly and hardly have any actual requirements for a family to homeschool. Check out our Homeschool Laws and Resources by State page to see what’s required where you live. Or visit the Home School Defense Legal Association’s (HSLDA) website for more information.
3. Follow Your Own Schedule…Not a School Schedule
One of the benefits of homeschooling? It can be done practically anywhere and anytime. There’s no need for a 7:30 to 2:30 school day anymore. School can now be from 9 to 12 and then 3 to 5. Or you can start your day at noon. Your child can homeschool for three hours one day and an hour the next day. As long as your student is learning, ignore the clock on the wall and the smartwatch on your wrist. Do what works best for you and your child. That said…
4. Stay Reasonably Structured and Organized
Yes, homeschooling provides plenty of freedom and flexibility–but a little structure is usually a good thing. While your days may vary when it comes to hours spent teaching and learning, you should have an overall plan of what your child needs to learn and in what order. Of course, should something arise, you can always change those plans. But it’s a good idea to have a routine so your child knows what to do on a daily basis. Many kids who transition to homeschooling from traditional school do need a schedule or routine to stay on course and feel comfortable.
5. Go Your Own Way
Maybe you know some families that homeschool. Perhaps you’ve seen homeschooling families on TV (plug for our favorite reality show family and Bridgeway partner, Karen Derrico and her TLC show, Doubling Down with the Derricos). Pro tip: Don’t try and do what they do. Sure, other homeschool families likely have plenty of great advice on how to homeschool their child. But the key phrase is their child. Their child is not your child, which means your child probably doesn’t learn the same way or have the same strengths and interests as their child. You need to homeschool the way that works best for your child and your child alone. Does that mean you should ignore any experienced homeschooler who wants to offer some tips? Absolutely not! Any information is good to have at your disposal–but remember that homeschooling looks different for every child.
6. Drown Out the Noise
Fact: Homeschooling increased by 30% between the 2019-20 and 2021-22 school years. Yes, some of that was driven by the pandemic. But several thousands of families who started homeschooling during the pandemic have continued to do so because of its many benefits.
Another fact: Despite its increasing popularity and acceptance around the world, many homeschool naysayers and detractors remain. They’ll present you with the same laundry list of reasons why you shouldn’t homeschool–your child won’t be able to socialize, you don’t know how to teach, it’s only for Christian conservative families, etc. What they won’t tell about are the myriad benefits of homeschooling–freedom, flexibility, a high-quality education, the fact that homeschoolers regularly achieve higher scores on standardized tests than public school students, and so many more.
It may be challenging at first, but politely acknowledge those naysayers, thank them for their opinion on the matter, and keep on doing what you’re doing. Because, here are some more facts–homeschoolers actually socialize quite a bit, you don’t need teaching experience to homeschool your student (online or offline), and homeschooling for families of every religion, race, and denomination.
7. Keep Their Friends Close
The biggest challenge your child may face throughout the transition to homeschooling is them missing their friends from their old school. Of course, they can make new friends through homeschool groups, co-ops, and extracurricular activities, but try your best to keep their old friends close through playdates, outings, and even public school sports and activities if your local school districts allow homeschoolers to participate. Maintaining their public/private school friends, in addition to making new friends through homeschooling, gives your child the best of both worlds.
8. Don’t Do It Alone
Even the most experienced homeschoolers need support. Families who transition to homeschooling from traditional school certainly need plenty of support. And that’s not a bad thing! There are many reasons homeschool co-ops and support groups exist. Not only do they provide students with important peer interactions, but they also allow homeschooling parents to share ideas, ask questions, and be there for one another. Many of these groups share teaching duties, organize field trips and events, and know where to go for the best curriculum and supplies. But most importantly, they all provide the support that homeschooling families need. So, check out local homeschool groups and co-ops in your area and join!
9. Be Patient
Yes, this is easier said than done. But understanding that during your transition to homeschooling there will be growing pains can help make the transition a bit smoother. You won’t know what you’re doing right away, and that’s OK. Just stay the course, do what you’re comfortable doing, and everything will fall into place. If you try something and it doesn’t work–say an online program or certain curriculum–you can always make a change. As long as your child is learning and enjoying learning, you’re doing your job as a homeschooling parent.
10. Enjoy It All!
Coming from a public or private school, your child is likely used to following a strict schedule, using curriculum chosen by the school district, sitting in a classroom full of students who learn in different ways…but all being taught the same way. It can be stressful for students and their families when they grow frustrated at the pace of the class; sometimes it moves too quickly, sometimes too slowly. But once you transition to homeschooling, you can throw all of that out the window.
Now YOU set the schedule, and YOU choose the curriculum, and YOU teach your child in the way that he or she learns best, and YOU determine when your student is ready to move onto the next lesson. You get to enjoy educational freedom that you likely haven’t experienced, and it’s one of the best things about homeschooling!
If you’re transitioning to homeschooling or have just begun, and you’re looking for an experienced partner to help you with support, recordkeeping, accreditation, live online classes, self-paced online classes, curriculum, and just about anything else homeschool-related, call us today at (800) 863-1474 to speak with an expert homeschool consultant!