Quick Start Guide
The three questions we hear most often from those new to homeschooling are:
1. Is it legal?
2. When can I start?
3. What about curriculum?
The most basic information is that homeschooling is legal in New Jersey, you may start at any time during the year, and you may create your own learning plan and/or use a set curriculum.
The homeschooling statute, N.J.S.A. 18A:38-25, requires “every parent, guardian or other person having custody and control of a child between six and 16 to ensure that such child regularly attends the public schools of the district or a day school in which there is given instruction equivalent to that provided in the public schools for children of similar grades and attainments or to receive equivalent instruction elsewhere than at school.” The phrase “equivalent instruction elsewhere than at school” is what allows us to homeschool as we see fit in New Jersey.
Here’s what you need to do:
If you are withdrawing a child or children from school(s), you should notify the school(s), either using withdrawal forms they provide for the purpose or writing a simple statement that you are withdrawing your child to homeschool. See our Legal FAQ for more detailed information.
If you never enrolled your child(ren) in a school, you don’t need to notify the local district. Some school districts, however, don’t understand this. If someone demands that you either enroll your child(ren) in school, or ‘prove’ that they are being educated, write a simple notification letter that states that your children are being educated at home. See the FAQ page for a sample notification letter.
There is no right or wrong time to begin to homeschool. Homeschoolers are not limited to following the calendar of the public schools.Education is the goal, and it may follow many different paths.
If your child has never been in school but is now 6 years old, you are legally considered to be providing an equivalent education. This may just be a continuation of what you have been doing all along–using your child(ren)’s natural curiosity about the world around them as a springboard to deeper explorations and learning. This may mean that you want to add more formal teaching methods. Basing the education of your children at home means that you get to individualize how you homeschool.
If your child has been in a brick-and-mortar school and homeschooling is a change to the status quo,consider focusing on your reasons for basing the education of your child(ren) at home. If you’re trying to get away from specific issues at school, consider what you and your child(ren) want to change and how. In this situation, taking time to decompress and think through positive goals could be more useful than jumping into a specific curriculum.The longer a child has been enrolled in institutionalized schooling, the more likely that s/he needs time off from authoritarian rules and structured curriculum. Our What is Homeschooling? page includes information on“Decompression” and “Deschooling” which may be needed before substantial learning can begin.
Learning Plan or Curriculum?
As a homeschooler, you get to decide how to provide that “equivalent education”. You are free to follow the best path(s) for your child(ren) and to change paths as needed.
So how do you figure out which path is right for you?
If you know what your collective goals are but aren’t sure how to attain them, reading and talking with others can help you explore options then narrow down choices. Our Books about Homeschooling and Support Group pages may provide you with useful information. Librarians and libraries are often good resources, both for finding out more about how to homeschool, andthen finding resources to pursue it. Search online for articles about homeschooling. Consider the exploration as part of the education process for you and your child(ren).
Your child(ren) may have goals they want to pursue. These goals may be traditional or unusual or anything in between. For some families, letting children choose their educational direction can be liberating. Self-determination with parental support can encourage children to learn more. Other children may thrive with more structure and/or guidance. If you have more than one child, each may need a different approach. Ask questions of your children and of yourself. Take time to figure out how you want to proceed.
Keep learning as you go. Make changes as you and your children learn and grow. Don’t expect to be perfect from the start, or even years into the process. Accept that there is a learning curve for parents as well as children who pursue learning based at home and that sometimes missteps can lead to intriguing new paths.
Most importantly, find ways to relax and enjoy your family. Calm and self-confidence make just about anything easier, homeschooling included. Have patience with yourself and your child(ren). Love, respect, openness to learning, and a willingness to experiment can lead to a joyful way of life. Choosing to base your child(ren)’s education at home can make that joy easier to attain.
For now, welcome to the world of homeschooling. We hope you enjoy the journey. Explore this website and it’s links. Like New Jersey Homeschool Association on Facebook and use the Facebook page to ask questions. If you prefer, you can contact us through Facebook. Please note that New Jersey Homeschool Association is run by volunteers, so we can’t promise to respond immediately, but we will address questions as time permits.