While homeschooling may not be the right choice for everyone, for those who have embraced the call to provide parent-led, home-based education, a starting point is essential. Initially, homeschooling may appear as a strange, intimidating, and daunting leap into uncharted territory, often carrying a certain stigma in society. The first year can be particularly challenging, especially if you are transitioning your children from public or private school settings. Unlike children who have never experienced the public school system, these students need time to decompress from the traditional routine. Additionally, parents require time to assess their homeschooling style, goals, and curriculum.
For those embarking on this journey, here’s a crash course! In Arizona, homeschoolers enjoy more educational freedom than many other states. It’s important to note that while keeping records of your student’s progress is a good idea, standardized testing and reporting are not required in the state of Arizona.
Step 1: Familiarize Yourself with the State’s Laws
The Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS §15-802) grant parents the right to homeschool their children as long as they provide instruction in essential subjects such as reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies, and science. Furthermore, instruction must be in the English language. It’s important to understand that while there are various education options outside the public school system, homeschooling in Arizona is legally defined as parent-led education. It is distinct from other educational options, such as virtual or charter schools and ESA (Empowerment Scholarship Account) contract students.
Step 2: Withdraw Your Child
Once you’ve determined your homeschooling status in Arizona, the next step is to complete some paperwork. If you’re withdrawing your children from a public or private school, you’ll need to draft a letter to the school principal, expressing your intent to withdraw. You will also need to send in the affidavit provided by the state to the Superintendent. This affidavit is required for “every child between the age of six and sixteen.” It’s important to note that you’ll need a notary and a birth certificate to complete this form.
Step 3: Decompress or De-school
After you’ve withdrawn your child, allow them some time to decompress. This is crucial for a successful start to your homeschooling journey. Skipping this step can hinder a smooth transition. Decompression, or de-schooling, is the process of giving your child time to relax and unwind. Imagine it as a break between jobs. Just as you wouldn’t immediately start a new job without some downtime, your child needs a break to avoid becoming overwhelmed. Allow at least two weeks without formal schooling. Let your child rest, focus on nutrition, organize their space, interact with family members, and distance themselves from thoughts about traditional school. Use this time to help them let go of any learned behaviors and attitudes from the public school system.
Step 4: Evaluate Your Child, Goals, and Learning Styles
Your decision to homeschool your child was likely driven by your desire to be actively involved in their education. During the decompression phase, evaluate your child further. Being away from home for extended periods due to traditional schooling might have resulted in unnoticed behaviors. Pay attention if they appear tired, needy, easily frustrated, or overzealous. Take this time to understand your child’s needs, especially if they’ve been longing for more interaction and closeness. You can use this period to reconnect, catch up on sleep, and assess your child’s progress. By the end of this phase, you should have a better understanding of curriculums and the structure you want for your homeschool.
Homeschooling isn’t one-size-fits-all; there’s no universal benchmark. Students aren’t compared to their peers, and teachers aren’t focused on teaching to standardized tests. Take the time to set concrete goals for your child’s education. If you’re starting mid-year, you may need to evaluate your child’s starting point at home. Consider your child’s learning style and preferences. How do they learn best—through doing, listening, or watching? Are they creative, logical, or both? You also need to consider your family’s schedule, work, and extracurricular activities.
Step 5: Establish a Curriculum and Teaching Style
Homeschooling offers a wide range of curricula. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by choices. In line with your evaluations, consider your teaching style. This style should align with your family’s needs and goals. Homeschooling comes in various styles, from classical to project-based. Research the different types and select the one that fits your family best. Choose your curriculum based on your teaching style. Remember, homeschooling can combine several styles to create a personalized approach to your child’s education.
Step 6: Create a Homeschooling Space
While it’s tempting to recreate a smaller version of your child’s former classroom, it’s not necessary. This approach can be expensive and lead to burnout. Instead, focus on creating a central location for all your school supplies, curriculum, and books. Your home and the world around you are the classroom now. Designate a place where children can easily access educational materials: pens, crayons, scissors, paper, glue, and lots of books. This organization will make homeschooling more manageable, as children will know where to find their materials, reducing interruptions during the learning process.
Step 7: Explore Homeschool Support Groups or Co-ops
Thankfully, Arizona boasts several homeschooling co-ops. Some meet regularly, while others are primarily for graduation. Finding a co-op that suits your family may take some time, but the sense of community is invaluable for your children’s social development. When searching for a homeschool community, look for one that aligns with your family’s values. While not all families within the co-op may share the same homeschooling style, many may be like-minded, making it easy to form friendships and family relationships. Social media can be a valuable tool in this search. However, some of the most exclusive co-ops are recommended through word of mouth, so it’s crucial to conduct thorough research.
Step 8: Enjoy the Journey and Remember the Calling
Stay adaptable. As your children’s needs change, be ready to adapt with them. After all, many of us chose homeschooling to avoid the confines of traditional education. Homeschooling is a personal approach to education that grows with your child and highlights their interests. Regardless of your reasons for homeschooling, trust your instincts, answer the call, and have faith that you’re making the best choice for your child. Stand firm in your convictions.
Embarking on a homeschooling journey can be both rewarding and challenging, but with commitment and a clear plan, you’ll create a nurturing and effective learning environment for your child.
Brittany Stewart, an accomplished writer and educator, draws inspiration from her 23-year marriage and upbringing near Lake Tahoe in Verdi, Nevada, now residing in Tucson, Arizona. With her Bachelor’s degree in Education, emphasizing Native American Literature and Journalism, Brittany is a multifaceted professional who is also a Licensed Massage Therapist. She is deeply involved in Tucson’s homeschooling community, leading a homeschool group, teaching dance, and offering art classes. She and her family have a homestead in Southern Arizona, where her husband hunts and she tends to the garden, emphasizing the importance of God and family in her life while continually seeking adventure through her travels.