Back To School Homeschool Edition: 12 Essential Tips for New and Returning Homeschoolers

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We always talk about the Back to School season from the perspective of parents whose kids attend school in a brick-and-mortar building Monday-Friday. However, many families, like ours, have foregone the traditional path for homeschooling. 

According to the National Home Education Research Institute, approximately 3.135 million school-age (K-12) were homeschooled in the United States during the 2021-2022 school year. These numbers are nearly double what they were prior to the pandemic. Since the pandemic, there has been an even greater surge in Black homeschoolers. The 2021 Census “found that the number of black homeschoolers increased nearly fivefold between the spring and fall of 2020, from 3.3 percent to 16.1 percent. This black homeschooling rate is slightly higher than the approximately 15 percent of black students in the overall K-12 public school population.”

A statistic I’m personally excited about as I’d love to see more fellow black Homeschoolers when I’m out and about with my sons.

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Source: Lisa Jean Francois

That said, homeschoolers need some Back to School love, too! The following list comprises 12 Back to School Homeschool tips for parents new to the homeschool journey and those who are returning. 

  1. Register for Homeschool.

That’s right. You can’t just up and decide to homeschool without approval from your school district. Check out your state’s laws regarding homeschooling, and submit the necessary paperwork to make it official. This includes returning homeschoolers. Every year, returning homeschoolers must re-register with their local school district.

  1. Define Your Homeschooling Philosophy

Before diving into homeschooling, take time to define your homeschooling philosophy and goals. Consider your family’s values, preferred teaching styles, and educational objectives. Are you drawn to a structured curriculum or a more relaxed, child-led approach, like unschooling? Or do you prefer a mix of both? The beauty of homeschooling is that you can make it whatever you want, but it can take some time to develop a homeschool mindset. Many of us begin homeschooling by trying to recreate the traditional homeschool structure. This doesn’t work. Trust me. Understanding your philosophy will guide your decision-making process when selecting resources, curricula, and activities for your unique child.

  1. Create a Dedicated Learning Space

Designate a specific area in your home as the primary learning space. I did not have this last year, but I am creating it before we resume homeschool in mid-September this year. No matter your approach to homeschool, I promise you will want to create your own area for learning. Design this space with your kiddos if you can. A dedicated homeschooling site helps children associate the room with learning, focus, and productivity. Ensure the learning environment has essential supplies, books, and materials. But also make it fun. Make it lively. Make it whatever your kid is into. My kid manages to do his best work when he is distracted by one of his special interests. 

  1. Explore Different Learning Resources

There is a lot of material out there. A lot. And it can be overwhelming and expensive. I spent a ton of money last year testing different options, from online curricula to designing my own, to workbooks, to tossing all of it out and winging it the previous few months. Take your time. Trial and error is perfectly okay. Learning is everywhere. Don’t be afraid to explore different tools, from textbooks and workbooks to online courses, educational apps, and hands-on activities. Tailor the resources to your child’s interests and learning style, incorporating various materials to engage their curiosity. 

Last year we used Mia Academy, supplemented with Minecraft Workbooks, watched a math-themed cartoon called Numberblocks, and printed out various curricula from Etsy. It was messy and all over the place, but it all came together in the end. 

  1. Incorporate Real-World Learning

We try to take two field trips weekly. We even engage in road school. We pack up the car and drive 2-3 hours to a neighboring state and visit their museums and learning centers when we get bored with our own.   Nature walks are some of our best and free field trips. Homeschoolers are eligible for free and discounted passes to museums as well. To take full advantage of the many homeschooler discounts and resources, get your kid a homeschool ID here. Make a point to visit museums, libraries, attend workshops, and participate in community activities. 

  1. Be flexible

Flexibility is one of the significant advantages of homeschooling. Create a schedule that aligns with your family’s routines and preferences. While consistency is essential, remember that homeschooling allows adaptation to accommodate life’s surprises and spontaneous learning opportunities.

  1. Join Homeschooling Networks and Co-ops

Connecting with other homeschooling families through local networks and co-ops can be invaluable. Hop on Facebook and start joining homeschooling groups and pages in your area. They are there. They offer opportunities to join co-ops, attend meet-ups, and help facilitate friendships between the kids. Networking is also good for the parents, allowing us to share ideas, resources, and support. There were several times that I thought I would quit homeschooling, but my Facebook communities swept in and helped me find the resources I needed to move forward. 

  1. Embrace Unstructured Play and Exploration

My first year of homeschooling showed me how unstructured time can be educational. We even practiced fractions while baking cookies. We stumbled upon Numberblocks one day, and my kids love it. So some mornings, Math is watching 3-4 episodes back to back. My kids love this show and learned multiplication and division from watching it. Even my 3-year-old is doing multiplication problems! So don’t be beholden to a firm schedule. Allow ample time for unstructured play, which fosters creativity, problem-solving skills, and emotional development. 

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Source: Lisa Jean Francois

  1. Encourage Self-Directed Learning

Empower your child to take ownership of their education by encouraging self-directed learning. Support their interests and passions, and use this to build a curriculum centered around these interests. Homeschooling becomes much easier when you allow your kids to run much of the show. 

  1. Cultivate a Love for Reading

Nurture a love for reading by incorporating regular reading sessions into your daily routine. We have a family reading “hour.” We all stop what we’re doing and sit down and read for 30 minutes every day. Then we talk about what we read. It’s a great way to make reading a regular part of the day.

  1. Consider Hiring a Homeschool Coach. 

Homeschool coaches are veteran homeschoolers who typically have one or more kids who have successfully graduated through homeschooling. Many are former public school teachers as we l. I found mine on Facebook as she runs a popular page called Shaun The Homeschool Guru, but there are others. One session with Shaun really helped shift my perspective and get things going on the right path. Homeschool coaches or advisors can help you develop lesson ideas, build your curriculum for you, or just be a sounding board. If you can afford it, I think it’s a great investment in helping ease your fears about this journey.

  1. Evaluate Progress and Be Patient

Homeschooling is a journey of growth and learning for both parent and child. Regularly evaluate your child’s progress, but remember that every child learns at their pace. Be patient with yourself and your child, and be open to adjusting your approach as needed.

Embarking on the homeschooling journey offers many exciting opportunities for parents and children, whether as new or returning homeschoolers. By defining your philosophy, creating a fun and cozy learning area, networking with other homeschoolers, and fostering a love for learning, you can craft a homeschooling experience that nurtures your child’s unique potential and creates a lifelong passion for learning. Be flexible and enjoy the journey.