The first question is easy to answer in that the laws around homeschooling vary from state to state and to some degree from town to town. Most of this information is easy to find by googling your state and the word "homeschooling". The state of Massachusetts makes homeschooling quite easy and our town is particularly accommodating.
Our first step was to send a Letter of Intent to the Assistant Superintendent of Schools as well as a lesson plan outlining our learning plans for the year. Then I unenrolled Rebecca from school and we were on our way.
Creating the lesson plan was overwhelming at first, so I googled around a bit and saw the huge variety of homeschooling lessons plans that parents have used. Some parents favor a very unstructured "unschooling" approach and others have an extremely structured plan. Our style is somewhere in the middle. I found that going to the Massachusetts Department of Education website was helpful because I was able to see what their standards were and could use that as a jumping off point in creating my own plans.
Because I am a person who loves structure, I knew that I would want to use some workbooks and establish a routine.
I did not want homeschooling to devolve into junking and baking cupcakes every day, though that would be pretty awesome.
Our local Barnes and Noble has a great selection of homeschool curricula to choose from so one day I went to the homeschool section and scooped up every curriculum they offered and looked through them all. I knew that I wanted something engaging and clearly written. I wanted texts which would explain things clearly and logically and which would keep us on track educationally.
I ended up coming home with the Harcourt Family Learning Complete Curriculum.
Rebecca and Lily really enjoy these books. They cover Spelling, Writing, Language Arts, Reading Comprehension and Math. Rebecca uses a separate book for vocabulary which she had been using when she was in school.
Science and History are covered as a family through books, movies and trips to museums. For Lily I also use Brainquest Workbooks. I love Brainquest! I use it to supplement what Lily is learning, particularly with math. Lily loves looking for patterns in math and this book really makes it fun for her. I only wish that they had Brainquest workbooks for fifth grade so Rebecca could enjoy it too.
I am lucky in that both girls love to read and they love it even more now that they don't have to keep a reading log! Reading is a daily activity. I like to let them chose their own books and follow their interests.
Once I explain the materials we use, folks often want to know what an average day looks like. It looks a lot like this.
Rebecca likes to work on her bed. She had a desk in her room but she never ever sat at it. Finally I took it out and put in a dresser.
This was the first page of fractions. She was so happy to be done with long division.
This is her schedule for the week.
What can I say? I like having a plan.
Lily often learns best in her pajamas. I suspect that this is a common trait among homeschoolers.
This is the lesson plan book that I use to keep track of everything we learn each week.
We generally do our work in the morning which leaves the afternoons free for playdates, dance class, Hebrew school, gymnastics and other adventures. A really wonderful aspect of homeschooling is the ability to take a break if someone is sick. In school if the kids miss school they quickly fall behind. If one of us is sick we just pause our learning for a few days until everyone is well.
Homeschooling isn't for everyone. I'd be lying if I told you that there weren't some days that I just wish I could be alone in the house for a few hours catching up on the things that I want to do instead of teaching long division which I could completely live without. Mostly though the benefits outweigh the negatives. As a family we are so much closer than we were and closer than I thought we could be. I never thought that I could do this. I am so grateful that I did.