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How to Get Started Homeschooling

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How to Get Started Homeschooling

Homeschooling get started

We hope you enjoy this second article in our new series on homeschooling in Alabama. If you missed the first article you can read it, by clicking here.

You’re thinking about homeschooling your kid (or your just curious) and you want to know: how does this homeschooling thing work – technically, psychologically, and emotionally? What are the laws? Where do I get a curriculum and what curriculum do I even use? Do I need to test my kid? What about The S Word (socialization). How do I deal with family members who think it’s a bad idea? How do I keep from going Absolutely Insane? It seems overwhelming, but if you take it easy on yourself, and your kid, you won’t drown. I pinky promise!

This article will deal more with the technical aspects of how to start homeschooling in Alabama – legalities and curricula – because there’s really not enough space to go into all the other stuff right now. Seriously, they are articles unto themselves!

Legalities

Let’s start with what’s legally required of you by the State of Alabama.* You’ll be surprised at how easy this part is, really. State Code can be found here, and a summary of the State requirements can be found here. Basically, the law says:

  • Your child must be enrolled in school between the ages of 7 and 17.
  • You must complete 180 days of instruction and are advised to keep a record of the days attended.
  • There are no required subjects or standardized tests.

That’s it. The first three are pretty straight forward.


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You can search the internet for Alabama Church Schools and find everything from those that dictate curriculum, require a statement of faith, and require records and testing to ones that are totally hands-off, no requirements, you’re-on-your-own-just-call-us-if-you-need-legal-assistance. Whichever you choose, you must file paperwork with your local school board stating that you’re homeschooling.

Curriculum

If you go with a Church School that dictates curriculum, then you have this all worked out, right? Just remember, if what you’ve signed up for doesn’t work, you still have options. (I’m just putting that out there).

Now, if you’ve decided to do your own thing, there’s a wealth (read mind-boggling, nail-bitting amount) of information on the internet concerning homeschool curricula, methods, and teaching philosophies. A few methods you may run across are classical/trivium, Waldorf, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Sonlight, Time4Learning, unschooling, and unit studies. And that’s a very short list! The list really does go on (and on and on) and there are curricula to be found for all of them (well, except perhaps unschooling).

Rolypoly Hunting

This is where you might get frustrated or even dissuaded. Or, your head might explode. Just know that we’ve all been there. Seek advice from others in local or virtual homeschool groups. Ask tons of questions. Research, research, research. The one thing you’ll probably read from several sources (well, except those trying to sell you a particular curriculum) is, “DON’T PICK A CURRICULUM THE FIRST YEAR!”

Which I ignored, by the way.

If you’re a Type A personality (or have those tendencies) you will balk at this advice. But, trust me on this. Give yourself at least the first part of the school year to figure out your kid’s learning style and what subjects they really like or in which they excel (if you don’t already know). There’s so much free stuff out there, you can easily fill 4-5 months (or your whole homeschool program) with experimentation. And don’t worry– your kid will still be learning. And you’ll be learning about what jives with them and with you as well. It’s a win-win.

In the end, you really don’t need a formal curriculum per se. Personally, I need one because I need structure and a bit of formality (and I’ve just recently realized this. See, homeschool is for the whole family!), so I rely on a method I like and an author I trust (so far, so good). But your mileage may vary.

See Also


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Besides researching your little heart out, I also recommend not getting wrapped up in a schedule. And by this I mean: don’t break out the spreadsheet software and color code all your subjects for each day with X amount of minutes devoted to each subject and outlining exactly what will be covered in those minutes. Don’t schedule in breaks and lunch in green. This is not fun. This is not as productive as it seems. This is really not why you’re homeschooling, is it? My child sensed my need to finish stuff and she applied the brakes. Hard. Kids can smell your desperation to complete a task on time and to a particular level of satisfaction. Oh, you already know this? Great! Where were you when I did all those silly spreadsheets?

The Open Book

Homeschooling is really an open book. With the law as general as it is in Alabama (and I respect that totally!), you’re given a lot of freedom to do what you want when it comes to teaching your child. You can be a formal or informal as you wish. You just have to follow what few laws there are and you’re set.

Being free to choose your own curriculum is kinda scary at first, but it’s actually quite liberating because you can tailor *everything* to fit your child, your family’s schedule, and your threshold for patience (no, it’s not all wine and roses).

So, to review:

  • Church School Laws: Know them
  • Curriculum and methods:
    • Lots of them, do your research, try out what you think your child (and you) might like
    • Take it easy at first and find what works
    • Don’t think you have to schedule everything.

    *Please read and become familiar with the law yourself. I am not a legal expert and I don’t play one on television. Laws can change and you need to be aware of how these laws affect your family.

    Looking for more topics about homeschooling, specifically in Huntsville & Madison County? See all the posts in this series HERE.

View Comments (14)
  • Good advice to people just starting out! I felt overwhelmed when we pulled our daughter out of public school almost two years ago, but it gets easier once you are past the “OMG, what have I done?” phase. People should also know that “church” is a pretty broad term when it comes to cover schools, and lots of people homeschool for academic reasons rather than religious ones.

  • I have a question. My son will be seven in January 2015, so should I go ahead and get a cover school starting in August 2014?

    Also, I am thinking about participating in a co-op, but it will not act as a cover school for us. I am wanting a cover school that is cheap and mostly hands-off. The list that you provided didn’t seem to have any that met that description.
    Can I use one that is online? Is that legal in Alabama?

    Thanks for the help!

  • Hello, I’m just now getting ready to home school my daughter after wanting to do so for many years. She’s now going into the 7th grade and this is the year. I’m very over-whelmed as I’m sure many parents are at first, but I’m just really not sure where to start. Like, what’s the best church? Is that better, cheaper, or easier than doing it on your own? What’s the best curriculum? Will she have to test for certain subjects at the end of the year? Will she have to test for certain subjects to get into college? Wow, there’s so much to this. But my heart is set on it. And I believe it’s the best thing for her. She’s just sort of being pushed through the system and each year she just falls more behind and they keep placing her in the grade ahead. Any advice would be wonderful.

    • Hi, Joey… I understand! It is very overwhelming. I’ll try to answer your questions as best I can!

      Start with reading some of the other posts about homeschooling here on Rocket City Mom… 🙂

      Church schools, for the most part (there are exceptions), do not dictate your child’s course of study. That is left up to the parents as the child’s main educator. Some Church schools (also called cover schools) are totally hands off — you pay them a fee to legally cover you and you’re totally on your own. Some offer classes. Some (and I’m sorry, but I’m not familiar with which ones) have you keep records and have their own requirements. Here’s a good resource: http://www.leapingfromthebox.com/hs/alhschurchcoverstatewide.html Also, there are these questions to consider when choosing a “school”: http://www.leapingfromthebox.com/hs/questionnaire.html

      Curriculum. Oh, that’s The Big Question. It really depends on your child and her goals. You can go pre-packaged (some popular ones are Calvert, SonLight, Oak Meadow, BookShark, and Time4Learning [online]). You can mix and match subjects and tailor your child’s education. You can unschool. You might even consider taking a few months off to “reset” (in homeschool-speak this is called “deschooling”). This may help: https://www.rocketcitymom.com/the-c-word/ Plus, there are many resources around town for homeschoolers: several co-ops (both religious and secular) and classes — https://www.rocketcitymom.com/top-5-places-for-homeschoolers-to-take-classes/

      The State of Alabama does not require testing. That is left to the parents to decide. All you are required to do *by the State* is log attendance; however, all Church Schools have different requirements. You could pick one that requires that you test and grade everything just like away school.

      You should consult with your Church/cover School regarding college requirements. My understanding is, starting with 9th grade, you have to keep solid records of your kid’s work and progress.

      In the end, you have a LOT of freedom to do what you and your child want and need to do.

      Good luck, and if you have more questions, please post them here.

      • Thank you so much! I’m really excited. I ended up finding a hands-off school and I’ve decided not to buy any curriculum for the first year, but rather use free internet services, library, etc. You’re blog here is what got me the most excited, because with all of the information out there, I just didn’t know where to start or what to do. So thanks again!

  • my son is only turning 3 next month but i have been looking into homeschooling him in the future and wanted to get a head start. im glad ive done so because im so lost as to where to even start ect. im sure a lot are in my shoes so my question is

    are there meet ups or classes or seminars that a first time homeschool mom can go to to learn how to get the process rolling and to learn where to go for ideas learning tools ect.

    • The short answer is yes! I would start by looking over all the articles we have about homeschooling here – they are bound to lead you to a variety of groups to ask your questions. There are also lots of private Facebook Groups you can join to chat with other homeschooling families. Many cover schools host an Open House or FAQ session for first-timers.

  • Hi, I am thinking about home schooling my son. However, I would like for him to not miss out on the things that would give him social recreation such as field trips and regular school functions also, I would be open to arrangements that would allow him to attend regular classes a couple time a week; as I am only planning to home school the first one or two years (he is 5) , so I want to gradually be able to introduce him to the public school system/setting; are you aware of any such set-ups that we could look into?

    • Hi Tarsha – You do have options when homeschooling in the Huntsville area. Many cover schools also offer classes and field trips. There are also several local Facebook Groups that coordinate field trips for homeschool families to a variety of organizations & performances throughout the year. Many places like the Space & Rocket center, Burritt On the Mountain, Artnasium, and more offer homeschooling classes where your elementary student can socialize and work in groups with other students. We put ALL this info together in one place here: https://www.rocketcitymom.com/homeschooling-resources-in-huntsville/

      I hope it’s helpful!

    • Luckily, the laws have been updated since this article was written, and it is no longer required to have a cover school in Alabama 🙂

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