You’ve Decided to Homeschool. Now what? 

August 10, 2020 | by nicole yurko

You’ve decided to homeschool. Now what? After the emotional decision-making process that led you here, the next steps can seem even more overwhelming. What do you do now? What are the legal requirements? Are you completely on your own?

Don’t worry, you’re not. And we have some tips and resources to help you navigate your first steps through these new waters.

Let’s get the legal requirements out of the way. Montana does not have a strict protocol that oversees your homeschool like an umbrella, but there are some things you need to do. First, if your child is 7 years or older, you need to send in a letter of intent (each year) to homeschool for the fiscal year. (Each fiscal year runs from July 1-June 30). This needs to be sent to the superintendent of schools in the county you will be homeschooling in. 

Next, Montana requires you to keep track of attendance and immunization records. (Or to fill out the medical/religious form to opt out of immunizations). These records need to be kept in case you are called upon to present them. 

Next, know the required hours of instruction that must be given to each child. Grades 1-3: 720 hours. Grades 4-12: 1,080.

The beauty of homeschool is that you have the time and freedom to study whatever your child desires. However, know that required subjects in Montana are as follows: English/Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, Science, Health, Arts, and Career Education. 

Finally, make sure your home complies with health and safety regulations so these things do not hinder your learning environment. 

These regulations may seem intense reading them, but if you break it down, you just need to let the county know your child will be homeschooling, keep track of some records, and plan your days/subjects so that the required topics and hours are covered. How you specifically go about covering these subjects is completely up to you! 

This is the fun part! There are so many options for how to approach your homeschooling. Don’t let that overwhelm you, instead look at it as a way to perfectly arrange your learning environment to fit the exact needs of your family! 

Perhaps a good way to start is to have a basic understanding of some possible homeschooling styles/approaches to choose from...

  • Charlotte Mason: based off the belief that the child is a person and we must educate the whole person, not just the mind. 
  • Classical: teaches students how to learn to think for themselves using the trivium approach which is grammar, logic, and rhetoric. 
  • Montessori: views the child as the one who is naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating their learning in a supportive, prepared learning environment. 
  • Unschooling: learning through living and following interests that naturally arise in daily life. 
  • Waldorf: engages the head, heart, and hands- or, thinking, feeling, and doing. 
  • Eclectic: utilizing and integrating multiple approaches and resources. 
  • Reggio Emilia: student-centered and self-guided education in a relationship driven environment.
  • Road/Word Schooling: traveling to different locations and educating based on what the location uniquely provides. 
  • Unit Studies: a time specific overview of a certain topic that utilizes all subjects.

I recommend taking some time to research these possible approaches until you settle on the ones that really beat to your family’s rhythm. Utilize our amazing local library to check out books on each approach. If you have an Instagram account, there is a massive homeschooling community that is beautifully encouraging and supportive. Type in each approach into the search bar on Instagram and you will find an endless supply of accounts dedicated to homeschool and different approaches. These accounts do a wonderful job of highlighting different books and curriculum, as well as giving a, sometimes daily, look into how they are using each resource. 

If you don’t have social media, there are co-op groups in Billings that meet regularly and offer the same support and guidance. Call the Yellowstone Coalition of Home Educators to get plugged in: 406-671-0838. Billings is also home to The Homeschool Cafe if you want to look through resources before you buy. Find this amazing store at 71 25th St. W. Suite 5.

Finally, might we suggest some books that our local library carries to get you started on some in-depth searching for how you want to construct your new homeschool. 

  • Better Together: strengthen your family, simplify your homeschool, and savor the subjects that matter most, by: Pam Barnhill
  • The Read Aloud Family: making meaningful and lasting connections with your kids, by: Sarah Mackenzie
  • The Call of the Wild + Free: reclaiming wonder in your child’s education, by: Ainsley Arment 
  • Re-thinking School: how to take charge of your child’s education, by: Susan Wise Bauer
  • Ten Ways To Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, by: Anthony M. Esolen
  • Honey for a Child’s Heart: the imaginative use of books in family life, by: Gladys Hunt
  • 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum: choosing the right curriculum and approach for your child’s learning style, by: Cathy Duffy

Finally, one last pearl of advice: you are your child’s best teacher. You may not think so, but no one knows your child like you do. If you have decided to homeschool, no one else will have the time to fully give to your children what they need for a beautiful and rich education. And remember, when all else fails and it’s been a rough day, just read lots of books and head outside into nature! Those two activities will give your children a fuller day of learning and development than any curriculum could. Which by the way, reminds me of one last book recommendation (not found at our library but worth the purchase in Montana): There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather, by Linda McGurk.

Happy Homeschooling! Your family will flourish!

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