Planning Your First Year of Homeschooling

You’ve taught your little one his alphabet.  You’ve made sensory bins, explored with play dough, and even made a light table.  Now it’s that time for your little one to venture to Kindergarten — but instead of sending them to school, you’ve decided to try homeschooling for a few years.
But where do you start?
What curriculum do you have to follow?  How many “days” of school do you do?  Do you have to do standardized testing, complete a portfolio, or something else?  What if you aren’t adequate?
All of these questions are common first-year homeschooling questions.  To help out those “new to homeschooling” parents, I’ve created a list of some things to consider when you are planning out your first year of homeschooling.
Planning Your First Year of Homeschooling

1.  Know your state’s guidelines.

Every state is different, with entirely different regulations. Check with your local state department of education to find out how to declare you are homeschooling, how many days and hours in a day you need to complete, and what you need to do/submit at the end of the year  for testing, grades, and attendance.

2.  Keep curriculum simple.

My first year homeschooling, I knew my son would become an art aficionado, learn to play the piano, be reading at least 2 years ahead of where he should be, and would be able to identify every country around the world.  I had big plans on what we would study and learn.  Boy, were my expectations off!  Not a single one of the these goals were met, and I’m not sure they ever will be.  In addition, I had spent hundreds of dollars buying curriculum.  I even bought 5 different reading programs for that year!
What I learned from that first year was to keep it simple.  Just focus on the basics – reading, writing, and arithmetic. Does this mean you shouldn’t teach history, science, or music?  Well, that’s up to your family.  We did talk about history and science, but it was based upon on our field trip adventures and questions my son asked.  For instance, he would mention that he wanted to learn why the sky was blue.  From that one question, we studied the different types of clouds, talked about the stratosphere, and even started learning about space exploration.  We visited science centers and planetariums.  We checked out books on these subjects.  He learned quite a bit from that one question, but it wasn’t in a “curriculum.”  We spent the bulk of our days learning the basics, and then spent the extra time going down the rabbit holes of my son’s own interests.

3. Make time for playdates.

My son is an only child.  Because of this, he loves to play with other kids.  In fact, what kid doesn’t enjoy playing with other kids?  Unfortunately, homeschooling doesn’t have a set “recess” time with friends every day.   Instead, I’ve learned that I have to be intentional about building in playtime with friends.
Some ways that we’ve learned to incorporate playing with other kids into our schedule include:
  • participating in co-ops and tutorials
  • setting weekly park dates with friends
  • going on field trips with other familes
  • attending fine arts classes
  • playing sports
  • being active in weekly religious (church/synagogue/mosque) activities for kids
  • attending story time or other activities for kids at our local library

4.  Find a great support system.

No matter how well-organized you are, how well you plan out the day, or how amazing an activity looks on Pinterest, you’ll still have bad days.  Whether the kids aren’t cooperating or you just didn’t get enough sleep because the baby cried all night, it’s imperative that you keep a support line of friends that you can lean on. Find a group of friends — both veteran homeschoolers as well as those who have kids the same age as yours.  Don’t be afraid to talk with them about the problems you are having.  Despite what your friends may tell you (or what you see online), everyone has days — or sometimes even weeks — when school didn’t go as planned.  Your friends will be there to help you though those times.  Many times, they will give you the best advice that will help you through that situation.

5.  Stop worrying about what everyone is saying.

Even though I’m a former teacher, my family was not supportive of my husband and I’s decision to homeschool.  We’re starting our third year of homeschooling, and even though they think I’m doing an amazing job; they still think I don’t need to be homeschooling.  In fact, I guarantee, there will be people who will doubt YOU and your decision, your curriculum choices, and your abilities.  Regardless of whether you have a teaching background or just a high school diploma, I believe that if you feel you should be homeschooling, then you should!  Only you know what’s best for you and your family… don’t worry about what the others say!  There will always be naysayers.  Take it from someone who is in the trenches with you… they don’t go away with more years of experience.  Learn to believe in yourself and your abilities.  You can do it! 
Remember, keep it fun.  Keep it simple.  It’s homeschooling… it doesn’t have to “look” like public school in order for your kids to be learning!
So, please share with me!  Have you decided to homeschool this year?  Are you excited?  Fearful?  What’s on your plans for your first year of homeschooling?


  1. I’ll comment, I don’t see any others (although I wish I did! HA!) My oldest will be 4 in October. I had been toying with the idea of home-schooling since he was born, but it wasn’t until I put him in pre-school in January this year that I felt not only it would be good for him, but that he NEEDs that extra-attention he’s not going to get in a public school. My husband and I have been debating about it for months now and agreed that I would home pre-school him starting this fall as sort of a trial. I’ll be honest, I’ve had my doubts- even with full support from both my mother-in-law and my own mother, and even spent time looking into what it would take to enroll him in our local public pre-school this year. My heart is pulling me to keep him home, and I know its the right thing to do for us- even with that fear in the back of my head. So, I asked my son to help me pick out some posters and decorations and we worked together to turn his playroom into the “school room.” We started ‘school’ this week and he’s is just blowing me away. Not even 4 years old yet and writing his letters, recognizes and can write out his whole first name without me prompting him to. We’ve already had so many good discussions and are thoroughly enjoying ourselves playing school! I’m feeling better and more confident and my husband is even impressed 🙂

    • I’m so happy for you! That is a lot like our first year. My husband and I agreed that I would do a trial run, and now neither of us can imagine not homeschooling. I’m so glad you are both having fun learning. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I hope you’ll let us know how it continues to go. Happy homeschooling!

  2. Heather Justice says

    My sister has been homeschooling her two boys ( 9 & 12) for 3 years now. My two youngest children (7 & 10) are struggling with separation anxiety (the younger for her third year now). My sister is encouraging me to let her help me homeschool them too! My two older children are in high school and doing just fine. I am seriously thinking about trying it for the remainder of the year, but I am a little scared.

    • Heather – it is a little intimidating to pull kids out when they have already been in public school. I pulled my son out in 6th grade (he was 11) and it took us a year of getting to know our own rhythm before I felt really confident. Even so, within weeks I could see the change in my son’s confidence and his ability to adapt without conflict. I knew it was worth it almost right away. He relaxed and wanted to do well on the projects I gave him. He also started to really enjoy reading good books. I handed him Arabian Nights and he ate it up then he wanted more. He was never interested in reading the readers the school gave him.

      It was honestly the best choice I ever made. He needed the time at home the most of all of my children and he just started at the local highschool as a Junior and is doing really well. He is confident and has a great grasp of many study habits that I only wish I had in highschool!

      Trust your gut. You know your children better than anyone else possibly could. If you are a believer, offer it up to prayer for a few weeks and see what God opens up. And always, many blessings and positive thoughts go your way in whatever you choose!

      Val – (contributing writer for ICL and homeschooler for 7 years)

  3. I homeschooled my oldest for one year to help get get caught up to the difference in public school when we moved. It was fantastic and she did excellent. My ONLY regret is that I sent her back to PS and my younger boys. Now we have moved again and have decided it is time to homeschool again and this time for good!

  4. Kristi huemoller says

    We have been considering homeschooling 3 of our 6 for awhile now. 2 are really struggling in school and my 5yr old will begin kinder in the fall but is incredibly advanced and very hyperactive. I worry about being organized and prepared enough for 3 different grade levels and maintaining a normal fun day for a 2yo and currently 4mo old (they’ll be 3yo and nearly 1yo in the fall). I have no idea where to begin. We’re thinking a trial run this summer would be a good test drive…. thoughts?

  5. I have a daughter that will be going into third grade next year, and a son who will be starting kindergarten. Since starting public school I have seen a decline in my daughters self-esteem as well as her ability to remain calm and handle disputes without yelling and calling names. My son is a very quiet child who prefers to play on his own and I am afraid that he will be a target for bullies when he starts public school. My husband works second shift so my daughter rarely sees her dad, except on his days off. I detest the common core stuff that NY state has started. I have many reasons to consider home schooling, but I am still scared to take that leap. I am not organized in the least little bit. I feel like I would do more harm than good when it came to teaching my kids. I am afraid they would miss out on experiences that other kids would have.

  6. Tracey Bubb says

    Hi, my daughter is currently in grade 1, and doing well academically, but due to othe issues that arise and do not seem to be attended to, as well as living in a remote area, I will be home schooling her from our third term(South Africa)…I am nervous!! But have found a good home-schooling programme and have joined so many home schooling groups on-line, be it that they are not South African, but I believe home schooling is the same all over. While I am very nervous about whether I will be adequate and well-equipped enough, I am looking forward to this challenge ahead, I also believe it will be the best thing for my daughter. Thanks for your blog…it has already helped me!

  7. brittney says

    Im with you! I hate the common core cirriculum. It is all drill and kill. Im homeschooling our 5 year old and 3 year old. Im not using a cirriculum (it is kindergarten after all) but i never know if im doing too much or too little. Are they learning what they need to know. We all have gaps.

  8. My husband and I decided to homeschool our 10 yr old son thru middle school. He is Autistic. Conventional classroom has been a huge distraction. I don’t believe he has been learning enough. He failed 3 subjects this year and they don’t hold him back. We are enrolled in Connections Academy. I am nervous about it. But I believe it will be great for my son.

  9. Christina says

    I am about 95% sure I will be homeschooling my three children (6, 5, and 2 1/2) and 100% sure I want to do it. We put our eldest son in ps for kindergarten last year and it was an epic fail, due to behavior issues and his willfulness, as the principle put it. I was also concerned with bullying, but it never got that far. He lasted a total of 4 days. It was just awful. I felt like a complete failure as a parent. I know he wasn’t getting the hands on attention he needed, especially since his teacher and principle came right out and told me with 15 kids, they didn’t have time for him that way. I was furious at they way I was spoken to and slapped on the hand for my discipline strategies. It was disgusting how the PS system sets kids up for failure today. So in the end, here we are at the homeschooling/public school crossroad again. We gave our eldest the test of time and just feel he will do his best if home schooled, as will the others. My son and his siblings are all very intelligent children and have no learning disabilities, just need a little more one on one. I am a nervous wreck, worried I will fail and make an even bigger mess where they will fall even further behind. I am concerned with curriculum and how to teach three very different children at different ages all together. I have so many fears that I just have no idea where to even start. I am incredibly overwhelmed. Any advice?

  10. I’ve had some really bad experiences with my children’s schools as of late and after my daughter was assaulted and nothing done about it, everyone in my family was all in favor of homeschooling. I have twin girls that will be six next month and we’ve decided to keep them in kindergarten for another year because we don’t feel they are quite ready for first grade though. We’ve been having a lot of fun so far. Even though we’ll be using the public school/home school program for our area, we hope to be off of it in a year or two. My dad is still having problems with accepting me home schooling but after showing him some of our projects and sending him pictures of the kids doing their work and activities, he’s finally coming around. I’m also a college student so everyone that comes in contact with the kids on a regular basis is helping out with the homeschooling, even if it is just a simple quiz.

  11. Wow! Im so beyond excited… afraid and feeling refreshed. Im beginning to slip into the lovely dress of the lady, wife, mother, trainer upper of my children that the Lord has given me the talent to be! I dont want to waste it! Im in need of much prayer and direction. Am totally leaning on him!

  12. I love how real this was. Thank you for your guidance. You hit the nail on the head and answered the questions I couldn’t even put into words. Thanks again