How to Begin Homeschooling When You Don’t Know What to Do!

Updated 9/30/2022.

Just do it.

You think you want to homeschool, but you’re not ready. You may never be. And if you’re a perfectionist, it’s even worse, because your plans will never be perfect enough. So just do it. Jump in and declare that you are homeschooling and then worry about the rest after you’ve taken your first trip to the park and baked some cookies or whatever you like to do for fun.

Know where to ask for help.

Don’t go to the State Department of Education or local school for your homeschooling information. You want accurate information from a state organization that specializes in your state and supports your desire to homeschool.  Every state organization is going to have easy-to-understand information, and they’ll give it to you for free without scaring you. Your homeschooling friends can help, and if you live in California, I can too.

Your child won’t be behind.

Schools like to perpetuate the myth that a child who misses even a day of school will forever be behind.  Oh, gasp, just think of the important wisdom they might miss . . . not!  It’s convenient for schools to have every child there every day, and they also don’t collect funding for a child if they are absent. So that’s what this is all about. As a homeschooler, you have plenty of time, and it’s ok not to keep regular school hours – in fact, it can be a good thing! You also have a full year to accomplish what you want, so be easy on yourself. Your child won’t fall behind.

Don’t worry about grade level.

As a homeschooler, grade level can be a thing of the past. Let your child be in the same grade as is typical for his age, for purely social reasons. And then teach your child what they need to know, whether it’s below or above grade level. The important thing is that progress is being made, and you’ll enjoy the freedom of not worrying about whether they are ahead or behind, but just that they are learning what is right for them today.

Write your plans for the year in pencil. 

Ok, you don’t really need to use a pencil, but you need to be able to easily change (or erase!) those plans. No one can possibly imagine what their child might need to know 6 months from now!  Make a rough outline if you want (or don’t) but be willing to change often because you’re going to need to adjust. If you are unwilling to bend, you will be miserable, and you’ll also miss some wonderful learning moments!

A few do’s, don’ts, and suggestions.

  1. Don’t assign a book report. If your child loves to write and wants to write an Amazon review or volunteer details about the books, that’s fine. But please don’t think you need to assign a book report just because schools do it. We don’t ask adults to do book reports. It would ruin the story for us. So don’t ask kids to do it!
  2. Read aloud to your child, even if they are older and reading. Reading aloud is a wonderful shared experience. If you look for chapter books that are worth sharing and above their reading level, you will be doing some quality homeschooling. (For more information, see the list of books I read to my son when he was young, CLA’s Pinterest read aloud list, and also some thoughts on why it’s ok for a child to be busy while you read.)
  3. You don’t have to give tests. Same reason as #1 (you wouldn’t want someone testing you every time you learned something or to prove you were really paying attention). Just listen to your child, and you’ll soon know what they understand.
  4. Kids learn a lot while playing, so give them lots of unstructured time.
  5. Get your homeschool ideas from many sources. There’s no one right way to homeschool, so take what you like from different books, speakers, and friends and make it your own.
  6. Be prepared for the inevitable comments from friends and family who may worry about your homeschooling choice (and yes, your children will be socialized and go to college if they choose!).
  7. What does your child want to learn? Ask!

Find a local homeschool group.

Don’t just find a group, go to their weekly park days and field trips, and contribute your great ideas. Get involved. This is your support group, and your kids may need the friends, but so do you! If you don’t like the group (it happens), start your own group and soon parents will hear about it and gladly attend.


Trust that it’s going to be ok. Sure, you’re nervous! And you’re not ready. But you know you can do it. Take it one day at a time.

Karen Taylor’s always homeschooled son attended a local community college after graduating from homeschooling. He transferred to UC Berkeley as a junior, and received a PhD in neuroscience from UCSF.  She shares homeschooling comments and links on Facebook, Pinterest, and this blog.
Here are some more blog posts for new homeschoolers.  Just remember, you can do it! I hope you have a great homeschooling year!