Help! How Do I Homeschool? A Guide for Iowa Parents

As you face hard decisions about your children’s schooling, perhaps you’re considering homeschooling.

Maybe you’re excited to jump in. Maybe you have doubts and don’t know where to begin. If you’re in Iowa, I’m happy to say that homeschooling is legally quite simple. I will get to the options and laws in just a moment. But first I want to assure you– you can do this!

My favorite thing about homeschool is that it’s very flexible – it takes fewer hours, can be done at any time of the day, and can be tailored to your child’s individuals needs.

Try not to get stressed because you’re “not a teacher.” Teachers are AMAZING, but teaching in a classroom is also much different than teaching your own children 1-on-1. There are fewer transitions and (hopefully) fewer distractions. Additionally, if your child is reading independently, they can do some independent work while you give guidance. This makes it possible for working parents to homeschool their children (assuming their children have somewhere safe to be during the day). For further encouragement that you can do this, check out Suddenly Homeschooling? More Practical Encouragement For You.

Help! How Do I Homeschool? A Guide for Iowa Parents

I’m not pretending this is the perfect option for everyone.

Perhaps there’s no GREAT option for your family, so you’re just trying to figure out what’s BEST. Let me jump into the details you’ll want to consider.

There are five options for homeschooling in Iowa.

They range from independent, private instruction to being part of a Homeschool Assistance Program (HSAP). Independent private instruction involves no initial reporting, but does not allow access to public school services (such as dual enrollment).

Using a HSAP requires filing a CPI Form A (which the HSAP can help with) if your child is of compulsory age. With this option you’re assigned a supervising teacher to meet with throughout the year, sometimes in person (depending on COVID regulations). Through the HSAP you have access to dual enrollment, including AEA services. Enrichment classes are offered, meaning your child has the option of spending time in a classroom with other homeschoolers (again, depending on COVID).

The other three options fall between the above and are best explained at Homeschool Iowa. Essential info includes: you’ll want to notify your school district that you’re homeschooling your child. If you select option 1 or 2, no further paperwork is required. If you select options 3-5, you’ll need to file CPI Form A prior to 9/1/20 or within 14 days of removing your child from their current school.

Please note: Homeschooling high school students is different because there are more requirements to keep track of. I advise speaking with your local school district, HSAP, and/or seasoned homeschool parent to determine if homeschooling your high school student, especially temporarily, is the right choice for your family.

There are at least seven methods of homeschooling.

I find that a little daunting, so I’ll explain the extremes. Unschooling is the most different from traditional. Essentially it’s based on your child’s interests. If your child is interested in nature you might work on language, math, history, science, etc through studying nature. Even if unschooling is not for you, you may consider it if it’d be temporarily beneficial. It may give you some time to reset from all of the stress and to look at your options without feeling in a rush.

Traditional schooling doesn’t need much explanation. It would look the most like public school, but would probably still take less time. Traditional homeschooling might be beneficial for those planning to homeschool temporarily, as it would require the least amount of change from your child’s current experience. I live somewhere between these two extremes, but I definitely like structure and a pre-planned curriculum.

You’ve picked your option and have an idea of what method fits your family. Now it’s time to pick your curriculum.

To me, this is the hardest part. There are countless options and comparing them can become overwhelming. There’s free to expensive, faith-based or secular. If you’re part of a HSAP, they probably offer curriculum to borrow or rent.

My best advice for picking a curriculum is to join a local homeschool Facebook group and start asking questions. A helpful inquiry might look like, “I’m looking for an all-in-one faith-based curriculum that I can use with grades 4 and 7.” Or, “I’m looking for a secular curriculum for a 4th grader who’s advanced in math and behind in reading.” (A lot of homeschoolers are faith-based, so if you’re looking for a secular curriculum you may also want to join a secular homeschool Facebook group.)

You don’t have to do this alone!

There is so much support in Iowa for homeschool families. Depending on COVID and your comfort level there are playdates, homeschool gymnastics, homeschool dance, and probably a homeschool version of most activities. Use any support you can to guide you on this journey. There’s a whole community of homeschoolers ready to help!

For more, check out the following articles:

School Choice Series: Why Homeschooling is Our Choice

The Road Less Traveled: Choosing to Homeschool

Do You Have What It Takes to Homeschool?

Taking the Next Step to Homeschool

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