Maybe your child's teacher or school is making life miserable for your family. Maybe you are thinking your kindergartner isn't really ready for the daily schedule. Or maybe your child is a square peg trying to fit into a round hole, with little success.
Or, maybe you are like I was and are just intrigued by homeschooling but have no idea how to make the first step.
Here's your first step.
Since your child is already enrolled in the school system, you need to let them know you are planning to homeschool. You can't just drop out and hide. And you can't call in sick for the rest of the year. Even if you just plan to "try it out", you need to follow protocol or risk being charged with truancy.
Write a letter that states your plans to homeschool your child beginning immediately (include the date). Keep a copy of that letter and send it certified mail, return receipt. After you have done this, it is usually up to the school system to follow up with any additional questions. If your child has an IEP with the school, expect that you may be contacted sooner, perhaps even by phone, to discuss your plans.
Remember, homeschooling is legal in all fifty states, but, there is no one homeschooling law: some states are known to be very "lenient" with homeschoolers, others require more documentation. Learn your state's laws so that you can anticipate what kinds of things your school system may ask for, but also learn what things your school system is not legally allowed to demand. To get started, go to Google and search "homeschooling in (your state's name)". I've attached a few links to get you started. Please note that some links will send you to specific homeschooling groups that may be affiliated with a religion but their general information looks pretty sound.
Another great resource that you shouldn't ignore are other homeschooling families. When I was first starting out, I had no idea that anyone in my area homeschooled but have since met dozens of families like mine. If you can't pick up the phone or email someone you know, look for local message boards that can put you in touch with people who can help walk you through the first steps.
In Massachusetts, we have an active Yahoo! Group called the Massachusetts Home Learning Association. Before you ask a question though, search the archives to see if your specific question has already been asked. And, check out their "Links" for info on how to get started. We also have many regional groups that have put me in touch with people in my immediate area.
Those first few days
One big mistake some people make is that they think they need to be 100% ready to start teaching from day one. Chances are your "50% ready" is a good place to start. Most homeschooling veterans will talk of "deschooling", a period of transition where you both get used to your "new normal" and discover how your "homeschool" will work best for you all. Dig out board games, puzzles, books, crafts and leave them out for your child, and you, to discover. Cook together. Take long walks or visit museums during the regular school day. Go to the library. Find other homeschoolers and make plans to get together.
Use this time to put together a plan and to gather resources. I know very few, if any, people who buy one "soup-t0-nuts" curriculum---most of us build our own curriculum using things we have in house along with programs from outside sources. One great resource to have in hand is the Rainbow Resource catalog. If nothing else, it makes a great doorstop and will put an end to any fears you have about not being able to find enough material in a certain subject.
My favorite resources
My favorite resource are those homeschoolers with older kids who have assured me that I'm "doing it right" and have told me to stop hyperventilating. These people are online writing blogs. They are in my town and state. It may take a little bit of effort to find them, but do it. Even if you aren't the kind of person to email a stranger, I have yet to meet a homeschooling parent who isn't willing to help a newbie out.
But, be realistic
The optimist in me used to chirp, "anyone with a library card can homeschool!".
I've since changed my tune.
Homeschooling takes sacrifice and work. There are times I am beyond ready to flag down the first yellow school bus I see. I've spent loads of money on curriculum that I don't use or need. And, no, the school or state will not reimburse you for the money you spend to educate your own child (at least not here in Massachusetts).
I am not "so patient" or "so smart" or "so" anything. But, I do like being around my kids. I love learning with them. I hate the MCAS. And I really hate rushing to get my kids out of the house early in the morning.
For us, this is enough. Maybe your reasons will be enough for you too.
If any homeschoolers would like to chime in with their experiences, especially in states outside of our home state of Massachusetts, I'd love to hear from you.