Everyone’s homeschool journey is different. Some start homeschooling in kindergarten, while others make the transition from public (or private) school into homeschool when they’re much older – say, in middle school or high school.
We’ve compiled a list of common things to look for at each age, along with some helpful resources and suggestions:
Kindergarten through preschool (ages 0-4)
Things to look for: A lot of “learning” will take place just through play and physical exercise. Your children will be learning such things as the alphabet, numbers, shapes and patterns, etc. Many homeschool families (especially the veterans!) will not sweat the small stuff in this phase.
Practical suggestions: Rather than spend money on programs that promise to give your child an academic head start, simply take the time to enjoy your kids and involve them in practical, hands-on activities. In fact, many homeschoolers debate the usefulness of a structured, classroom-type structure at this point. See more in our blog post about homeschooling (or not homeschooling) preschool.
Helpful resources: HSLDA’s preschool/elementary list is a great springboard for newbies.
Elementary school (ages 4-11)
Things to look for: Here things start to get interesting! Your kids are more and more aware (and able to articulate) new thoughts, concepts, insights and experiences all around them. They may also assert more of their independence to you and your ways of thinking.
Practical suggestions: Find out your child’s learning style, as well as the different types (or flavors) of homeschooling. See what works best for your family. If you have children already in public school, you should officially withdraw them before homeschooling (we have sample letters you can use in our Start Homeschooling section).
Helpful resources: HSLDA’s preschool/elementary list continues with some excellent advice for these years before middle school. We also recommend Cathy Duffy’s “101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.”
Middle school (ages 11-15)
Things to look for: It’s perfectly normal at this point to feel some trepidation about homeschooling – even if you’ve been doing it for a while! As your kids grow and start questioning everything, including your own authority as a teacher, you may find yourself second-guessing yourself too. But take heart – you are still the best authority (and expert) on your children’s learning!
Practical suggestions: Know your strengths and limitations as a teacher. If you can’t teach music, for instance, look for a homeschool co-op, enrichment program or local music store that does.
It’s OK not to have all the answers at this point. Rather, focus on cultivating your child’s love for learning, general knowledge, basic skills (reading, writing, arithmetic), and character.
Helpful resources: HSLDA has a wealth of middle school articles and materials to get you started in this stage of schooling.
High school (ages 15-18)
Things to look for: This can be the most challenging – as well as the most rewarding – part of your homeschool journey. Sometimes parents can feel overwhelmed at the idea of homeschooling their teenagers, especially if they’ve experienced school only in a classroom setting until now. However, it’s not only possible, but also highly recommended!
Just like at any other stage, homeschooling can help your teen build stronger family ties, boost academic skills, combat peer pressure, explore work/service opportunities, and much more.
Practical suggestions: Now more than ever, your role as a teacher isn’t to handhold your students, but prepare them for a lifetime of success. You’ll likely be balancing a host of things beyond the classroom: e.g. extracurricular activities, driver’s ed, college prep, transcripts, and possibly work or service experience.
It may be a crazy journey at times, but we guarantee it will be worth it!
This post was originally published in August 2015. It has been updated for timeliness and comprehensiveness.
Questions? Feel free to contact us about any homeschool-related questions you have.