It may feel like this is a new trend but homeschooling has been around for a while. It started gaining popularity in the 1970’s as an alternative to traditional schooling and is growing in popularity. Currently there are over 2 million children being homeschooled in the US.
Before Covid, parents had time to thoroughly investigate homeschooling before making a decision but with the pandemic, they weren’t given a choice. Although some parents couldn’t wait to send their kids back to school, it opened doors for many others who decided to keep their kids at home.
If you are still on the fence about homeschooling, this article explains everything you need to know.
What is Homeschooling?
Homeschooling is when parents choose to educate their children at home instead of sending them to a traditional public or private school. When homeschooling, parents take full responsibility for the scholastic education of their children.
This may sound overwhelming but as they say, knowledge is power. The more you learn about homeschooling, the less overwhelming it becomes.
The legality of homeschooling varies from country to country and it is your responsibility to understand the legal requirements in your country or state. In some countries, like Germany, it is illegal to homeschool. In the US homeschooling is legal in all 50 states (but with varying degrees of requirements in the various states).
Why Choose Homeschooling?
Flexibility is one of the top reasons I love homeschooling. I love the fact that we can go on holiday when it suits us (and often when it is cheaper). I love that we can sleep in and snuggle up on a cold rainy day. And did I mention there is no morning rush getting tired bodies ready to go out?
There are so many things that become flexible when you homeschool. You have flexibility in your schedule, the curriculum you choose, the way your kids learn, where they learn and so much more.
The traditional schooling system is not setup for different learning styles. Everyone is expected to learn in the same way. Traditional schools have come a long way and now help students through learning accommodations but this is not always sufficient. Plus often kids feel like there is something wrong with them.
Homeschooling allows you to adapt to your child’s unique learning style. As a parent it is a lot easier to adapt according to each of your children than a teacher with 30 kids in the class will ever be able to do.
Bullying has become a focus in many schools across the world. Many parents choose to homeschool because they were bullied and don’t want their kids to experience the same. Others pull their children from school after the damage was done.
Yes bullying is everywhere, even in the homeschool community but to a far lesser degree. Also, at home and on social outings, you are with your children. So you have the opportunity to engage and teach your kids how to handle the situation. You don’t hear about it after the fact.
For many parents it is important to raise their kids according to their religious beliefs. Public schools are not allowed to teach specific religions and private religious schools are expensive. Homeschooling is a good alternative for people who feel strong about their religious beliefs.
You will find a plethora of curricula based on religious beliefs. Likewise, there are curricula available for secular families too. Although you might need to search a bit harder for them.
Homeschooling means you spend a lot of time with your kids. I was one of those parents who never thought I would be able to be with my kids that much. But it is surprising how things change (for the better) when you have the opportunity to spend time together on activities you choose.
My kids love playing board games. Not only is it a great way to spend family time together, it also presents wonderful learning opportunities. My youngest learned counting, adding, subtraction, investment and reading by playing Monopoly.
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Types of Homeschooling
There are six main types of homeschooling. Some people might follow one type religiously while others mix and match. It all works.
Most people start with this approach as it is the closest to traditional schooling. It is a popular way to ease into homeschooling. Many people eventually venture off to a different form but for some it works and they stick to it.
With a traditional approach you use an all-in-one curriculum covering subjects per grade as you would do in school. This approach is also referred to as a “school-at-home” approach.
This seems to be the preferred choice for most homeschoolers. It is an individualized approach towards each child and each subject.
With an eclectic approach you use a variety of different educational methods and resources based on your child’s unique interests and learning style.
The classical approach is based on a three part process of training the mind. Kids learn through exploring, talking, reading and thinking about subject matters. The overall goal is for children to think for themselves.
This approach has three main stages of learning: Concrete learning (grammar stage), Critical learning (logic stage) and Abstract learning (rhetoric stage).
This approach is based on the teachings of the British author and teacher, Charlotte Mason. She believed in teaching the whole child through learning through imagination.
Charlotte Mason believed in reading out loud high-quality literature that teaches through story telling in an engaging way. She also believed in spending plenty of time outdoors.
Unit studies is great for children with special interests. With this approach you take a specific topic and connect all subjects through this topic.
This allows your child to dive deep into a specific topic and learn all there is about it. Using a topic your child is interested in with exploration and learning from different angles leads to better retention and understanding of subjects.
At the opposite end of the traditional schooling method, is unschooling. This is a child-led approach without any formal setup. Your child is trusted to learn organically.
Learning happens anywhere and everywhere with your child leading the pace and interest. The biggest challenge is usually for parents to let go of the urge to teach and allow their kids to learn.
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Popular Homeschool Curriculum
Choosing a curriculum is overwhelming. It can be hard to choose with so many choices.
You will find Christian based curricula, secular, all in one, unit studies and more. So before you start, decide if you prefer something that has every subject outlined like a traditional school or if you would like something flexible.
Speak to other homeschoolers about their experience and always ask them how long they have used the specific curriculum. Many people love their curriculum but a few months later hate it. Ask the pro’s and cons on each.
No curriculum is perfect and you might even end up mixing and matching. Below are the most popular curricula. This is a good place to start but feel free to explore beyond this list.
BJU Press is a Christian curriculum. They give you the option to use a teacher manual to teach your kids or purchase a package with online video lessons.
Easy Peasy All-In-One
Easy Peasy is a free Christian online program for grades K-12. Although it is free, it is high quality and popular all over the world.
The Good and Beautiful
The Good and Beautiful is a textbook based Christian homeschool program for grades K-12. It also has a selection of free downloadable pdf’s.
Classical Conversations is a Christian based curriculum based on the classical method of education. Most parents using this option, are teaching in homeschool co-ops where families meet a few times a week.
My Father’s World
As the name suggests, My Father’s World is also Christian based. It combines the Classical and Charlotte Mason styles of learning.
Konos is also a Christian Based curriculum. They offer a hands-on learning approach through unit studies.
Ambleside online is a free curriculum based on the Charlotte Mason method of education. It offers free PDF’s but you have to buy the books. Many books can be read free through Project Gutenberg while others will have to be purchased.
Simply Charlotte Mason
SCM is based on the Charlotte Mason method of education. It is Christian based with concise lessons, living books and plenty nature study.
Moving Beyond the Page
Moving Beyond the Page is a secular unit study approach. It is a complete curriculum for creative, hands-on and gifted learners.
Bookshark is a secular, all-in-one literature based curriculum. Levels are based on age instead of grade levels. All materials you need is included in the package.
Other Homeschool Resources
Outside of formal curricula, there are plenty extra resources available. I am listing three of the most popular online resources. Use these as supplementary to your curriculum.
Myths about Homeschooling
Homeschool Kids Don’t Socialize
I have heard many times someone saying they know a homeschooler who is socially awkward and therefore, homeschooling kids don’t know how to socialize. This is a gross generalization and couldn’t be further from the truth.
Homeschoolers socialize through playdates, extracurricular activities, homeschool get-togethers, etc. These types of activities give kids the opportunity to socialize across a wide variety of ages. This often results in better social skills than kids coming from a school setup.
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Homeschooling is Expensive
Homeschooling can be expensive but doesn’t have to be. You can find many free curricula and resources on the internet. You can use library books and make use of specials for outings. If you have more than one kid, you can pass down text books.
The biggest hidden cost would be if one of the parents decide to stop working. The loss of income can be hard to overcome. However with so many options available today, many parents have a side hustle to cover the costs.
Parents Aren’t Qualified to Teach
Parents help their kids with homework after school and by default are supporting teachers. As a parent you don’t need a qualification to do the full teaching.
Kids also become more independent in high school and can often do most of the work on their own. But if for some reason a parent feel they can’t teach a specific subject, there is help available. There are online classes, other parents, co-ops or even a friend that can help.
Homeschoolers Cannot Go to College
Homeschoolers do indeed go to college. According to a study done during 2004 and 2009, homeschoolers had a 15,9% higher graduation rate than graduates from traditional systems. So it is no surprise that colleges often prefer homeschool applications.
There are not separate application forms for colleges and most college will look at SAT scores. If your child know what they want to study, it would be good to do a bit of reverse engineering. Find out what the specific college requirements are and adapt your learning accordingly. Otherwise, be aware of general requirements and make sure you are on track.
Homeschoolers Cannot Partake in Extracurricular Activities
Thankfully, it is easy to find extracurricular activities for homeschoolers. And the best part for homeschoolers is that you are not limited to what the school offers.
Extracurricular activities range from learning new languages, art classes, cooking classes, robotics and coding, sport etc. The list is endless.
What Do You Need for Homeschooling?
What you need will depend on your style of homeschooling. For some it might be a separate room in the house, equipped like a school but sometimes a bag full of supplies will do.
I can guarantee you, you will buy curricula you don’t need. Ask anybody who has been homeschooling for a while, and they will laugh at all the stuff they bought and never used for more than one day.
But it is part of the learning process. You need to find what works for you and your kids. There is a plethora of curricula and resources to choose from. Do your research before you buy but also make peace with spending money on things you might never use.
You will always need basic stationery, regardless of what type of homeschooling you do. Paper, a pen, pencil, eraser, pencil sharpener and ruler is all you need to begin with.
You can always add things like art or science supplies as you find your feet and see what your kids like. Your curriculum usually also have a list of additional resources you will need.
Apart from curriculum and time, a printer will probably be your biggest investment. Although it is possible to homeschool without a printer, it is the one item I wouldn’t go without.
Many online curricula requires you to print the text books and often it is cheaper to print your curriculum rather than to purchase physical books. You also might want to supplement with resources from the internet.
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Some people prefer a formal homeschooling space. If your house is big enough, you can setup an area as your “school”.
Many people though simply use the dining room table. It is not essential to have a specific school room area. This depends entirely on your family needs. It will also change over time as your kids’ needs change.
Setting up a schedule can be overwhelming. It could be easier to start off by following a formal school schedule with formal hours. For some people this works well and they follow this until the kids are finished with school.
But the beauty of homeschooling also lies in having a flexible schedule and learning anytime and everywhere. How strict you are with a schedule will depend on your style and curriculum.
Best Books on Homeschooling
Going against the grain by teaching your kids at home can be daunting. But thankfully there are experts that have done all the hard work for many years and wrote about it. I highly recommend reading one or two of these. They all help you to shift your perspective and calm the nerves about homeschooling.
Here is a list of my favorite books on homeschooling.
The Unschooling Handbook – Mary Griffith
Homeschooling the Early Years – Linda Dobson
The Brave Learner – Julie Bogart
Free to Learn – Peter Gray
Teaching from Rest – Sarah Mackenzie
Dumbing us Down – John Taylor Gatto
How Children Learn – John Holt
Homeschooling is an exciting but scary journey to embark on. But thanks to the internet and pioneers of homeschooling, you will find enough information to keep you busy for years. You don’t need to have all the information before you start. Most of us simply took the plunge and learned along the way.
Thank you for reading and I hope this article helps you with your homeschooling journey and building a stronger life with your kids.