Homeschooling 101



A step-by-step guide to teaching your child at home.


Homeschooling can seem so daunting. Almost everyone’s reaction when I tell them I homeschool is: “I could NEVER do that!”

Honestly, that was also my reaction for several years before we decided to homeschool, so I get it. But it really is not as terrifying as it seems.

Homeschooling can be whatever you make it. Some families do spend hours at the family table every day completing workbooks. But that is only one way to homeschool. Other families do not complete any formal schoolwork at all. They let life and life experience do the teaching. It’s referred to as “unschooling.”

And then there is everything in between. So, if you are one of those parents who dreads sending your kids to school, but you worry that homeschooling is just too difficult or that you are not qualified, please keep an open mind and read on.

OK, I’m glad you’re still here. First let’s tackle some common myths about homeschooling:


A local homeschool group participates in an Easter egg hunt at Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls.

Myth 1:

I cannot socialize my child without school

This is a very popular misconception about homeschooling. However, homeschooled kids are some of the most social people I have ever met!

Here in the Hudson Valley, there are so many homeschoolers and homeschool groups. We are constantly getting together with different groups for different reasons. There are co-ops that meet weekly, groups that just do trips together, art groups, Lego groups, Minecraft groups, homeschool girl scouts, sports groups, book clubs — you name it and there is a homeschool group for that interest somewhere in the Hudson Valley.

If large groups are not your thing, there are plenty of homeschoolers out there looking to get together for play dates or other activities on a smaller scale.

“My son socializes all the time,” says Holly Tarson, a homeschool mom from Red Hook. “Sometimes it’s with one or two friends and sometimes it’s in groups. He's active with people other than me every day. And he’s learning to be social with all kinds of people of all different ages, which is what socializing looks like when we grow up.” 


Holly Tarson and her son, Peter, investigate a new video camera.

READ MORE: Homeschool help

Myth 2:

I am not qualified to teach my child

I hear this a lot and guess what? Yes, you are!

Why is it that we feel qualified to raise an infant, take care of his every need, teach that child to walk, talk and learn all about the world, but once that child reaches school age we feel incompetent? I think it’s because school is what we know. So fear of homeschooling is just fear of the unknown. And that’s OK.

Want to know a secret about homeschool parents? We’re not all super geniuses or people with teaching degrees. Many of us are regular moms and dads like you. When we get to a topic that we do not know much about, we learn it right alongside our children.

“Essentially we use each day as a learning experience,” says Arlene Figueroa, a homeschooling mom of three from Mahopac. “We connect our world through conversations and hands-on learning.”

Figueroa turns every day experiences into opportunities to learn.

“Even the most basic trip to the supermarket can spark conversation around farming, transportation, labor, economics, healthy food choices, unit prices, you name it,” she says. “The dots are there and you just have to connect them! Questioning even the smallest decisions we make each day can be of such value for teaching our children.”


Arlene Figueroa visits the aquarium with her family.

Read more: Homeschooling mom shares her experience 

Getting started

Step 1: Submit your letter of intent

When you finally decide to homeschool, whether it is over the summer, during the holiday break or over a weekend, you need to write a letter of intent to your school district. The letter simply states that you intend to homeschool your child for the 2014-2015 school year (or whatever year you do it). Usually it is sent to the superintendent’s office.

Step 2: Filling out the required paperwork

Your school district is required by New York state law to acknowledge your letter of intent and send you the necessary paperwork. This includes writing an Individualized Home Instruction Plan, four quarterly reports and either a narrative or testing for the end of the year. Yes, I know it all sounds scary, but let’s walk through it.

An IHIP basically spells out what you will teach for the year. You can list different curriculums that you bought and the books that you will read, you can look at the New York State standards for the grade level and use that, or you can just simply put what you will be teaching. It usually is made up of eight curricular areas such as math, reading, writing, history, geography, visual arts or physical education.

Part of the IHIP includes when you will be sending in your quarterly reports. You get to decide when they get sent to the district. I usually follow a similar schedule to school report cards, but you can do whatever you want.

Quarterly reports are kind of like report cards. You need to briefly describe what you taught that quarter and how well your child accomplished those items. So, for example, you could write in first grade math: “We covered single- and double-digit addition and subtraction, recognizing patterns (such as AB, AABB), telling time using an analog clock to the hour and half hour, and greater than versus less than.” And then give a letter grade (A, B+) or a percentage of material learned (50 percent learned) or a number grade (85). That is it. But it should be based on your own IHIP.

Final narrative or testing has to be done at the end of the school year. In New York state, you have to use standardized testing every other year between 4th and 8th grades. Many people only test in 5th and 7th grades. There are many tests on the market that you can purchase cheap and administer yourself. You also have the option of hiring someone to test your child.

A narrative is basically a summary of everything you covered this year, how your child did, what is still left to be completed, what websites, books or other materials you used, and any trips or activities you participated in that help achieve those goals

Step 3: Figure out your school year

Now, it’s all up to you and your children what you are going to learn, how you are going to learn it and what your schedule will look like. Let the fun begin! Interested in building bridges? Do a lesson on that. Interested in chemistry? Spend a month doing just that. Interested in writing poetry? Go for it. The possibilities are endless!

So, if you feel school is just not the right fit for you and your family, then give homeschooling a try. It’s really not that daunting, and you might just love it like we do!

Kelly Auriemmo is a homeschool mom and blogger who works and lives in Dutchess County.

Online resources:

 New York Home Educators' Network is a secular group that provides information on regulations, rules and local support groups. Nyhen.org

Loving Education at Home is a Christian organization that provides information on New York state regulations.

Home School Legal Defense Association is a legal rights group that advocates for homeschooling parents and requires a paid membership.

• Check out Facebook or Yahoo groups, or ask at your local library to find groups of homeschoolers in your area.

Read more: Balancing your homeschooled student's life