5 of the best-kept secrets for new homeschoolers

Written by Kara S. Anderson

There are many things that I wish had known when I started homeschooling.

I was so excited, but so confused. I felt like I had to pick a philosophy and stick with it, even if parts of it didn’t work. I felt like I had to start in pre-school, and I put a ton of pressure on myself to recreate a school-like environment at home, even though I also had a tiny baby to care for.

So today, I wanted to share some of the things that I have learned. These are some of the homeschooling “secrets” that I wish people would have shared with me.

I hope this post gives you a bit of a head-start, and maybe helps you feel a little less pressure. Deep breath! You’ve got this, homeschool mama!

  1. You don’t have to start school at age 3

I always suggest that new homeschoolers check out the laws specific to their state, but in most states, you are not required to start “school” until age 6 or even 7.

Now, I know that sounds a little scary – what are you supposed to do? Just prop your kid in front of Sesame Street for the first 6 years? 

No way!! There is so much fun, educational stuff you can do together (including watching Sesame Street!). You can read together and do art projects and cook and play. You can count and learn colors and work on life skills and go to the library and on field trips.

But it’s kind of nice to know that you don’t have to keep records, or make yourself nuts trying to do it all during the early years, right?

(P.S. If you do want a simple, nurturing curriculum for the preschool years, Five in a Row and Oak Meadow were our favorites.)

2. You don’t have to join a co-op

One of my big quests when we started homeschooling was to find a co-op or group. I wanted us to be part of something – I wanted insta-friends.

But what I’ve learned, from years of being in co-ops that have started and then spontaneously imploded time and time again, is that co-ops aren’t necessarily a built-in solution to anything. Sometimes, they can be wonderful. Sometimes, they are a big bag of unnecessary drama and commitment.

So what can you do instead? Make friends.

3. You don’t need homeschool ID cards


BUT, they can be nice if you want to get discounts for homeschoolers! Stores like Barnes and Noble offer teacher discounts to homeschoolers, and some museums will offer discounts or free teacher admission.

It’s pretty simple to create your own cards at home and laminate them. If you need more paperwork than that to prove that you homeschool, a few options include copies of the paperwork you submitted to the school district (if that’s a requirement in your state), tax returns (if you receive homeschool credit in your state), copies of co-op registration paperwork or even attendance sheets.

Ask the store, museum, etc., exactly what is required, but keep in mind that people don’t always know how homeschooling works. I was once asked at a store to submit a school ID number, and had to work my way through a few folks until I got to a manager who called their corporate office to confirm that that wasn’t needed for homeschooling families!

Just being Andersons.

4. You do not have to define yourself by anyone else’s standards

When homeschoolers get started, there can be a lot of pressure to pick a particular philosophy or education method – Waldorf, Classical, Montessori, Unschooling, Charlotte Mason, etc.

Know that you absolutely don’t have to pick one type of education or stick with the one you started with. Purists will say you do, and may even be critical if you question parts of the method.

But most of the happiest homeschoolers I know are the ones who do things their way – taking what works for them from one or more methods and leaving the rest behind.

After all, one of the biggest benefits of homeschooling is being able to give your kids a personalized education, right?!

5. You need to plan for change

“Don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.” ~ Aubrey De Graf

It is so OK to switch gears and try new things. It’s OK to take breaks, and change your mind!

In fact, plan for this. Please don’t start this year and never take time to consider things again until your kids graduate.

For instance, I find it valuable to stop a few times a year and consider how I want my homeschool to feel. I think this is as helpful for new homeschoolers as it is for those of us planning our 11th year! 

So remember – be kind to yourself, and try to take things one step at a time. Before you know it, you’ll have tweens and teens, and those early years will be sweet memories!

What ‘secrets’ would you share with a new homeschooler?

If you found this post helpful, subscribe via email here to receive Jamie’s FREE ebook, Secrets of a Successful Homeschool Mom!

About Kara Anderson

Kara is a freelance writer and homeschooling mom, with a goal of encouraging fellow mamas in real-life homeschooling. She also's the happy co-host of The Homeschool Sisters podcast. Grab her free ebook: 7 Secrets the Happiest Homeschool Moms Know here.


  1. I love this! So wise and encouraging, even for someone 5 years in. Especially the last point: we so desperately want to make the right decisions from the very beginning, it can be paralyzing. But now I tell new homeschool moms, “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! You just have to pick something. That’s the only way you’ll learn your family’s unique style. And your particular child’s unique style.”

    So much of homeschooling (and life) is trial and error, being willing to dive in and take risks, then learn lessons and move on. I’m a recovering perfectionist myself, and the older I get the more I’m trying to view this whole process as a fun adventure rather than a pass/fail performance.
    Julie’s latest post: the master bedroom is finished and reflections on our house addition.

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