How to Get Started Homeschooling

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 keep a record of the days attended.
  • There are no required subjects or standardized tests.
  • You’re required to register with a Church School *OR* hire/be a Private (State certified) Tutor.

That’s it. The first three are pretty straight forward. The fourth one means you’re legally required to enroll in a Church School (or you can even establish your own if you so desire, but do so knowing the law) which will, in the most basic sense, serve as legal cover protecting you from being arrested if truant officers (for some reason) question why you’re kid isn’t “in school.” It’s not like they’re going to hassle you, but you must have legal cover.

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 and you’re doing so with Church School X.


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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.


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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.

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?


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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.