Get Started Homeschooling: Keep it Legal

Are you ready to jump in to homeschooling?

Awesome! You have to know that as soon as someone asks me a question about how to begin homeschooling, I am inwardly jumping up and down. I feel strongly that homeschooling your children is a great way to build your relationship with your children. It is truly difficult (I won’t lie) but such a rewarding difficult. Nowadays, homeschooling can also help you keep your children healthy and well. This is especially true during a time when there is a global pandemic.

So then the question is probably going to be “how do I get started homeschooling?” Here are my tips for the first steps to getting set up as a legal homeschool for the coming year, including how to find your state’s homeschool laws, the required homeschool subjects, and homeschool tracking requirements.

Check Your State Homeschooling Laws

The first thing you have to do is determine what you must do based on your state laws. This is a simple check at the database at the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) to see what the laws in your state are.

Keep in mind that because of the COVID-19 situation, some states are modifying requirements to ease the burden on schools and parents. I am not a legal adivsor, and I’d highly recommend you join HSLDA if you live in a highly regulated state and need legal guidance and assistance.

For example, in my state, Illinois, there is very little regulation. I’m considered a private school. State law requires that my children over age 6 are taught in English in six specific subjects (more to come on this). That’s it!

On the other hand, other states have different options and registration may be required. Some states require may assessements by educational professionals, or a submission of an end of year portfolio. They may specify a certain number of days a year or hours.

Make sure you study what you need to do to make sure your plans met the bare minimum. Remember, I am not a legal advisor.

Homeschool the Required Subjects

The next question everyone has is how to teach each subject! The next few days I’ll be discussing some of the issues specific to each subject, and where to find the types of curriculum you are looking for.

Keep in mind that daily life often times provides learning opportunities. I give a few suggestions below, and I can circle back around to it in each subject as I discuss them in the next few days.

In Illinois, our required subjects are specified as language arts, math, biological and physical science, social sciences, fine arts, and physical development and health. Those will be the ones I intend to focus on discussing during a “how to” in the next few days, with another day for extras such as foreign language and logic.

Homeschool the Required Days and Hours

Homeschooling a child at home does not require sitting at a desk for long periods of time. Homeschooling at home will not, then, take as long as an entire school day. Here are the reasonable amounts of time I suggest for sit-down work at each age. Note that these are maximum time suggestions, and are not intended to be continuous. Stop and have breaks in between subjects or when breaks are needed.

AgeDaily Seatwork Time (max)
PreK15-30 minutes
Kindergarten30 minutes
130-45 minutes
21 hour
31 hour 30 minutes
42 hours
52 hours 30 minutes
63 hours
7-83-4 hours
High School (9-12)4-6 hours

So, what do you do if your state requires 180 days or a few hundred hours? It may seem impossible. The key is to remember that the times I give above are for suggested seatwork.

In other words, you have all the rest of the time to play games, read books, go on nature walks, cook recipes, and otherwise learn while not sitting down at a desk. Make your homeschool hands-on. Whether in first grade or sixth, kids need to learn in ways other than sitting down, drilling, and finishing worksheets.

My bottom line is this: please, don’t try to force a kindergartner to do so much seatwork that they cry! It is not healthy or necessary. Children learn through play.

And trust me when I say that it’s a lot easier than it sounds, because every-day life can count as school hours for very young ones. Going grocery shopping can count as school hours (math, social science). A road trip can count as school time (calculate cost per mile, or listen to an audiobook, or learn about the landmarks outside of the window). There is a way to make the state requirements happen without forcing your children to sit at a desk doing worksheeets for hours each day.

Keep Track of Your Homeschooling

As also mentioned, there are some states that require testing, assessments, or portfolios. Even if it is not required in your states, keep a record of what you have done so you can look back.

Here are some of the things we do to keep track of what we do:

  • My daughter records videos of herself reviewing information she has learned.
  • We write what we’ve learned in notebooks.
  • We keep our old math workbooks to show progress
  • I write dates on handwriting and story pages.
  • My oldest child records things he has learned in chronological order on an online (private) blog.
  • I keep a physical chart with subjects for the week and write down each day what we do that counts for the subject (and then I keep these for the year.)
  • My oldest keeps a running OneNote document open with a record of what he has down each day and how long it has taken him.
  • Some people keep key items from the year collected in a binder as a portfolio of student work.

I hope these initial tips help you get started.

Keep your homeschool legal by checking up on state laws. Don’t worry; it is easy to get started!

More in This Series

There is a lot more you may want to know about geting started homeschooling! Below are specific “how to” concepts I intend to address.

Go to the first post in this how to get started homeschooling series.

Have another “how to homeschool” question? Contact me and I’ll write about it too. Send me an email if you have specific questions, or ask me directly on my Facebook page.

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