When Is the Right Time To Homeschool

When is the right time to homeschool Some families have a philosophical plan to homeschool the moment they hold their newborn in their arms. Others come to homeschooling through a process of elimination – a desire for something better – or even as a “least worst” case scenario. While in their head, these families think about homeschooling, their heart keeps asking, “When is the right time to homeschool – now after a vacation break or after this school year ends?”

As a principal of a California charter school that specializes in homeschooling, I meet with all kinds of families all year for a variety of reasons. In the late fall, I often see “least worst” case scenario families every day. In early November, I spent time with a family whose second grader with Autism was on his third teacher of the year. The family was desperate to find some stability, a structure and a routine that would work for their son without the constant shuffle of teachers bringing chaos to their lives. Homeschooling was not their first choice, by far, but they were coming to it out of necessity.

But how do you know if you’re truly ready to jump in and homeschool? Here are some questions to ask yourself.

Why are you considering homeschooling?

  • What are the situations at school that are leading you to consider homeschooling?
  • Is there a mismatch between student-teacher personalities? Curriculum? No friends?

When I talk to families, I often find they’re trying to resolve one small situation at a traditional school by making a gigantic change. If it’s just one component or part of traditional school that isn’t working, try to resolve the situation at school first by meeting with the teacher, meeting with administration or working out a partial homeschooling solution. Homeschooling is not something to jump into because of one frustrating little component at a traditional school. Consider homeschooling when you’ve exhausted all options or when your family is ready for a drastic change to shake things up.

How does your child feel about the idea?

  • Do you have a healthy relationship with your child? If not, are you willing and able to build a healthy relationship with your child?
  • Is your child curious about the idea or open to exploring?

There was one 4th grader who literally threw himself to the ground sobbing and kicking and screaming at the mere suggestion of homeschooling. Once the initial mortification passed, he calmed and we talked the idea through. It was then that he realized he had been asking to homeschool over the last several months . . . just without calling it that. He wanted to move at his own pace, have freedom to lay on the floor, to rearrange the schedule and to spend more time outside and on hobbies. If you have a reluctant kiddo, allow the stereotypical shock of the word “homeschool” to wear off and then talk about what their education might look like.

Are you aware of the requirements for your state?

  • What are the legal requirements for your state?
  • What are the options available for homeschoolers?

Each state has a different set of rules on what makes homeschooling legal for their residents. It’s important to know what the options are and what you may be giving up by choosing to homeschool. If you live in Idaho or Alaska, you’ll find yourself fortunate enough to be free of state homeschool oversight. Most states do not require homeschool parents to have any minimal educational credentials, but states like New Mexico require parents to have a minimum of a high school diploma. States, such as Florida, require a one-time notification; whereas other states, such as Arkansas, require annual notification of a family’s intent to continue to homeschool. In states such as Pennsylvania, you have to provide test results on a regular basis, whereas in nearby Virginia a parent can opt between providing test results or engaging in a portfolio review in order to demonstrate you are in compliance with state law.

Who will be your support system?

When is the right time to homeschool
  • Who can take your kids for the day when you get jury duty? (Yes, in most states homeschoolers still must complete jury duty, if summoned!)
  • Who can meet you for coffee or a park day when you’re ready to toss in the homeschool towel?

When people talk to me about considering homeschooling, I always ask about a support system. These don’t have to be people who are in complete support of you homeschooling, but just your emergency backup team. Once you begin homeschooling, you can build up your support system with other homeschoolers you meet. However, just knowing that you have one or two people who have your back will make for a much smoother start.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll feel more confident, more prepared and ready to take on the adventure of homeschooling. There will be plenty of time to research curriculum and find extracurricular resources, so walk away from the chat boards and Pinterest.

Once you’ve committed to homeschooling, spend some time getting to know your child as a student. Take the first few weeks to explore and get to know each other in a different way by learning new things together. This is the perfect opportunity to learn a craft together like knitting or have your child teach you something new like how to build houses in Minecraft.

After three to four weeks homeschooling, plan to set goals, look at curriculum and develop lessons that meet your child’s needs. In the meantime, enjoy the time with your child and in your new homeschooling journey.


Tracy Chatters

Tracy Chatters is a California charter school principal, teacher and a homeschooler with more than 16 years experience in education. Her primary focus is helping families find educational solutions for children who do not fit in a traditional box. When she’s not working, Tracy enjoys traveling, spending time with her family, reading and baking.