Planning Your First Year of Homeschooling

You’ve taught your little one his alphabet.  You’ve made sensory bins, explored with play dough, and even made a light table.  Now it’s that time for your little one to venture to Kindergarten — but instead of sending them to school, you’ve decided to try homeschooling for a few years.
But where do you start?
What curriculum do you have to follow?  How many “days” of school do you do?  Do you have to do standardized testing, complete a portfolio, or something else?  What if you aren’t adequate?
All of these questions are common first-year homeschooling questions.  To help out those “new to homeschooling” parents, I’ve created a list of some things to consider when you are planning out your first year of homeschooling.
Planning Your First Year of Homeschooling

1.  Know your state’s guidelines.

Every state is different, with entirely different regulations. Check with your local state department of education to find out how to declare you are homeschooling, how many days and hours in a day you need to complete, and what you need to do/submit at the end of the year  for testing, grades, and attendance.

2.  Keep curriculum simple.

My first year homeschooling, I knew my son would become an art aficionado, learn to play the piano, be reading at least 2 years ahead of where he should be, and would be able to identify every country around the world.  I had big plans on what we would study and learn.  Boy, were my expectations off!  Not a single one of the these goals were met, and I’m not sure they ever will be.  In addition, I had spent hundreds of dollars buying curriculum.  I even bought 5 different reading programs for that year!
What I learned from that first year was to keep it simple.  Just focus on the basics – reading, writing, and arithmetic. Does this mean you shouldn’t teach history, science, or music?  Well, that’s up to your family.  We did talk about history and science, but it was based upon on our field trip adventures and questions my son asked.  For instance, he would mention that he wanted to learn why the sky was blue.  From that one question, we studied the different types of clouds, talked about the stratosphere, and even started learning about space exploration.  We visited science centers and planetariums.  We checked out books on these subjects.  He learned quite a bit from that one question, but it wasn’t in a “curriculum.”  We spent the bulk of our days learning the basics, and then spent the extra time going down the rabbit holes of my son’s own interests.

3. Make time for playdates.

My son is an only child.  Because of this, he loves to play with other kids.  In fact, what kid doesn’t enjoy playing with other kids?  Unfortunately, homeschooling doesn’t have a set “recess” time with friends every day.   Instead, I’ve learned that I have to be intentional about building in playtime with friends.
Some ways that we’ve learned to incorporate playing with other kids into our schedule include:
  • participating in co-ops and tutorials
  • setting weekly park dates with friends
  • going on field trips with other familes
  • attending fine arts classes
  • playing sports
  • being active in weekly religious (church/synagogue/mosque) activities for kids
  • attending story time or other activities for kids at our local library

4.  Find a great support system.

No matter how well-organized you are, how well you plan out the day, or how amazing an activity looks on Pinterest, you’ll still have bad days.  Whether the kids aren’t cooperating or you just didn’t get enough sleep because the baby cried all night, it’s imperative that you keep a support line of friends that you can lean on. Find a group of friends — both veteran homeschoolers as well as those who have kids the same age as yours.  Don’t be afraid to talk with them about the problems you are having.  Despite what your friends may tell you (or what you see online), everyone has days — or sometimes even weeks — when school didn’t go as planned.  Your friends will be there to help you though those times.  Many times, they will give you the best advice that will help you through that situation.

5.  Stop worrying about what everyone is saying.

Even though I’m a former teacher, my family was not supportive of my husband and I’s decision to homeschool.  We’re starting our third year of homeschooling, and even though they think I’m doing an amazing job; they still think I don’t need to be homeschooling.  In fact, I guarantee, there will be people who will doubt YOU and your decision, your curriculum choices, and your abilities.  Regardless of whether you have a teaching background or just a high school diploma, I believe that if you feel you should be homeschooling, then you should!  Only you know what’s best for you and your family… don’t worry about what the others say!  There will always be naysayers.  Take it from someone who is in the trenches with you… they don’t go away with more years of experience.  Learn to believe in yourself and your abilities.  You can do it! 
Remember, keep it fun.  Keep it simple.  It’s homeschooling… it doesn’t have to “look” like public school in order for your kids to be learning!
So, please share with me!  Have you decided to homeschool this year?  Are you excited?  Fearful?  What’s on your plans for your first year of homeschooling?
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About Leann

Leann is a homeschooling mama to one, proud wife of a cop, and pet lover of their two dogs and turtles. Her personal blog, The Hands-On Homeschooler, chronicles their homeschooling journey with an overactive 7 year old, while throwing in tidbits about life, reviews, and recipes. Leann is also co-owner of Hip Homeschool Moms, a community for families living the home education lifestyle.


  1. I’ll comment, I don’t see any others (although I wish I did! HA!) My oldest will be 4 in October. I had been toying with the idea of home-schooling since he was born, but it wasn’t until I put him in pre-school in January this year that I felt not only it would be good for him, but that he NEEDs that extra-attention he’s not going to get in a public school. My husband and I have been debating about it for months now and agreed that I would home pre-school him starting this fall as sort of a trial. I’ll be honest, I’ve had my doubts- even with full support from both my mother-in-law and my own mother, and even spent time looking into what it would take to enroll him in our local public pre-school this year. My heart is pulling me to keep him home, and I know its the right thing to do for us- even with that fear in the back of my head. So, I asked my son to help me pick out some posters and decorations and we worked together to turn his playroom into the “school room.” We started ‘school’ this week and he’s is just blowing me away. Not even 4 years old yet and writing his letters, recognizes and can write out his whole first name without me prompting him to. We’ve already had so many good discussions and are thoroughly enjoying ourselves playing school! I’m feeling better and more confident and my husband is even impressed :)

    • I’m so happy for you! That is a lot like our first year. My husband and I agreed that I would do a trial run, and now neither of us can imagine not homeschooling. I’m so glad you are both having fun learning. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I hope you’ll let us know how it continues to go. Happy homeschooling!

  2. Heather Justice says:

    My sister has been homeschooling her two boys ( 9 & 12) for 3 years now. My two youngest children (7 & 10) are struggling with separation anxiety (the younger for her third year now). My sister is encouraging me to let her help me homeschool them too! My two older children are in high school and doing just fine. I am seriously thinking about trying it for the remainder of the year, but I am a little scared.

    • Heather – it is a little intimidating to pull kids out when they have already been in public school. I pulled my son out in 6th grade (he was 11) and it took us a year of getting to know our own rhythm before I felt really confident. Even so, within weeks I could see the change in my son’s confidence and his ability to adapt without conflict. I knew it was worth it almost right away. He relaxed and wanted to do well on the projects I gave him. He also started to really enjoy reading good books. I handed him Arabian Nights and he ate it up then he wanted more. He was never interested in reading the readers the school gave him.

      It was honestly the best choice I ever made. He needed the time at home the most of all of my children and he just started at the local highschool as a Junior and is doing really well. He is confident and has a great grasp of many study habits that I only wish I had in highschool!

      Trust your gut. You know your children better than anyone else possibly could. If you are a believer, offer it up to prayer for a few weeks and see what God opens up. And always, many blessings and positive thoughts go your way in whatever you choose!

      Val – (contributing writer for ICL and homeschooler for 7 years)

  3. I homeschooled my oldest for one year to help get get caught up to the difference in public school when we moved. It was fantastic and she did excellent. My ONLY regret is that I sent her back to PS and my younger boys. Now we have moved again and have decided it is time to homeschool again and this time for good!

  4. Kristi huemoller says:

    We have been considering homeschooling 3 of our 6 for awhile now. 2 are really struggling in school and my 5yr old will begin kinder in the fall but is incredibly advanced and very hyperactive. I worry about being organized and prepared enough for 3 different grade levels and maintaining a normal fun day for a 2yo and currently 4mo old (they’ll be 3yo and nearly 1yo in the fall). I have no idea where to begin. We’re thinking a trial run this summer would be a good test drive…. thoughts?

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