Congratulations on considering homeschooling!  LEAH promotes home education as the Scriptural design for education and we pray you will be blessed as you discover more about this alternative to institutional education.

As promised, common questions and straight forward answers are below!

FIRST THINGS FIRST…

Why do I want to homeschool?
It helps to know what your reasons are, so take a few moments and make a list. Homeschooling is a lifestyle, not just putting a classroom into your home. You’ll find that homeschooling will touch every area of your family’s life.  Defining the purpose behind the decision will help keep you focused as you get started.

What will it cost me?
You will be committing your finances as you purchase your own books, supplies, and pay for various activities such as music lessons and field trips. Oh, there’s no school bus either – you will carpool or drive for all of your activities.

You will be committing your time and energy as you schedule homeschooling into everyday life.  From lesson plans to projects, time spent preparing in advance will keep you focused and intentional.

Also remember that everyone will be in the home most of the time… and your neat orderly home will give way to books, papers, and all the things you will use to teach and enjoy these precious moments with your child.

SO, YOU’VE MADE THE DECISION TO HOMESCHOOL…

The following are some steps to help you get started. These are in no way the only steps or all of the steps, just a starting place. Please know that some of these steps can be skipped.  The goal is to make them fit into your family’s convictions, needs, and purpose for homeschooling.

1. Consider putting together your Philosophy of Education.
This would include your reasons for choosing to homeschool and could also include your vision and goals for your family, be sure to include scripture verses. This can be a very important step to help you avoid becoming discouraged on the more difficult days… and all homeschooling families experience some difficult days at one time or another.  It is very easy to get sidetracked or discouraged when things seem to be going wrong.  Remembering the real reasons you started homeschooling and the vision you have for your family will revitalize your spirit, helping you continue the journey.  NYS LEAH publishes a Regulatory and Informational Manual and there is a section which will assist you in writing a Philosophy of Education including scripture.

2. Get a copy of the New York State Homeschool Regulations. 
Knowing the regulations will keep you from doing more than is required of a homeschooling family.  The manual includes frequently-asked-questions, sample forms, and details written in plain English to assist you with understanding the regulations and completing your required paperwork.  The New York State Education Department website is an additional resource for additional legal information about homeschooling in New York.

3. Visit and explore websites designed for new homeschooling families.
The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has developed a great website for beginners: You Can Homeschool.   Another valuable website to visit is Beginning Homeschooling.

4. Subscribe to homeschooling publications.
Many magazines have been created to help encourage, educate, and engage homeschooling families with products, services, and wisdom from some of today’s prominent homeschool leaders.  Included with LEAH membership is a quarterly magazine, The Messenger, specifically designed for New York’s homeschooling families from Buffalo to Long Island.  In addition, many of the homeschool magazines listed in our Homeschool Links page have sections for new homeschoolers.

Membership with Home School Legal Defense Association will give you an annual subscription to Home School Court Report.

5. Join HSLDA. 
Preferably before you contact your school district to advise of your intent to homeschool, consider activating a membership with the Home School Legal Defense Association. Details about HSLDA can be found at www.hslda.org.   Although you may not personally NEED an attorney today, HSLDA works tirelessly to monitor, protect, and fight for the right of families across America to homeschool. Your financial support through an HSLDA membership helps ensure that resources are available to keep them doing what they do best! 

6. Go to one of the NYS LEAH Home Education Conferences. 
LEAH organizes two major events annually to encourage and inspire homeschooling families across the state.

The Downstate Convention, hosted on Long Island, is facilitated on two separate dates, the first in March and the second in June. The March event features a nationally-recognized keynote speaker and a Vendor Hall while the June event focuses on homeschooling workshops and a Used Curriculum Sale.

The Upstate Conference, hosted in Rochester, is facilitated the last weekend of May.  This event features a nationally-recognized keynote speaker, multiple general session speakers covering a variety of topics, Special Needs sessions, a Teen Track, a Vendor Hall, and a Graduation Ceremony.

Come to one or both of the events to be inspired by the speakers and have an opportunity to see and hold curriculum in person, allowing you to speak with and ask questions of the many businesses who create curriculum and solutions to help you have a successful journey.   Many times you will also receive special conference pricing if you decide to make a purchase during the event.

In addition to the program, you will also find yourself inspired by meeting other homeschoolers with which to exchange ideas and ask questions.   An invaluable opportunity you don’t want to miss. 

7. Choose the right curriculum.
How does your child learn? It may help to know what “learning style” your child is before you decide on a curriculum.   Check out Cathy Duffy’s book, 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum: Choosing the Right Curriculum and Approach for Your Child’s Learning Style.  This resource helps you identify basic styles of learning in brief, understandable forms.

The next question you need to ask is, “What is your style?”  There are different styles of homeschooling from classical to traditional to relaxed schooling.  To learn more about styles of homeschooling, you can visit Homeschool.com for a list of the most popular approaches.  Once you decide on the style that best fits you and your family, you will need to order your curriculum. A quick way to get up to speed on curriculum and resources is by ordering catalogs online or picking them up at a LEAH event. The catalogs are usually free and many have general homeschool information included.  One recommended catalog to consider would be:

8. Decide on your school schedule.
When deciding on a schedule, you can use a typical school year that the public school uses, a year round model to provide more flexibility, or you can even homeschool three months on with one month off. The choice is yours.

See Regulatory Manual for required hours of instruction.

9. Have a plan for your school year.
If you are using a traditional approach, the curriculum you purchase should cover a year’s worth of work. If you’re using a different approach, such as unit studies, more planning will have to be done. Check that you are setting goals and have the means to evaluate if you are reaching your education goals.

10. Get connected with a local LEAH Chapter.
This is by far the best way for you to connect and build lasting relationships with other homeschooling families.  It also provides opportunities for your child to engage in activities outside of the home.

Chapters come in all shapes and sizes. Selecting a group to join will highly depend on what you’re looking to accomplish. A discussion with a LEAH Regional Representative may be very helpful in figuring out the different characteristics and purpose of each local Chapter and how they relate to your goals.

11. Take advantage of available LEAH discounts.
Members of LEAH receive a discount of almost 20% on HSLDA’s annual membership fee and reduced rates to LEAH Annual Upstate Conference.

12. Consider if your child has special needs.
Along with joining a local LEAH Chapter, families educating children with special needs are encouraged to also join the LEAH Chapter, Parents Instructing Challenged Children (PICC) for extra support in that area.  Visit the PICC LEAH Resource page for additional information.

 

ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS…

Where can I get additional information about homeschooling?
Typically, the best information is available from other homeschoolers, the internet, and during conferences.

Do I need to join LEAH or a local Chapter to legally homeschool?
No, you do not. There is no law requiring you to be part of an organization or local Chapter.   That said, it is helpful for connecting with other like-minded families and for sharing ideas.

What about socialization?
Organized field trips can complement a curriculum and provide social time for children and adults. Most LEAH chapters offer social events, including field trips and other activities outside of the home. Families can also participate in academic projects such as science fairs and competitions. Gym classes, ballet, scouts, organized sports, and church involvement all provide additional socialization opportunities.

What am I required to tell the school?
When you are set to begin you will be required to send the district a Letter of Intent to homeschool. Once the district responds, you will be responsible to develop an Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP) for each student, selecting your four dates to send quarterly reports on each of your compulsory-aged children. We strongly suggest getting LEAH’s Regulatory Manual for more information on these documents.

Can I have someone homeschool my child for me?
Well, yes and no. You are the supervisor and must sign the IHIP as the responsible party for the education of your child. You need to plan your child’s education, but you do not personally have to teach it all yourself. There are co-op classes for homeschoolers, clubs, and other options to fulfill requirements. For example, your child can take a community art class or computer class at a local college. Bottom line: You are allowed to delegate some of your child’s education, but you will be responsible for reporting each quarter and for the annual evaluation.

How can I set myself up for success?
Pray fervently. Get involved with other homeschooling families. Make it a lifestyle. Let your child know they are important and this is best for their education. Work hard. Do not become discouraged if the first year set you back, especially if the child has been in an institutional setting. It will take time (maybe a full year) to “undo” the classroom style. Let go of your own preconceived ideas of what “school” should look like.  It’s very likely to be different from where you’ll end up after homeschooling for a few years.

 

God bless you in your homeschool adventures!