Maybe you’re considering homeschooling as an option for your kids right now, but you’re not sure where to start. Or maybe you’re just curious about how it works. Whatever your current situation is, this bird’s-eye view of homeschooling will give you the info you need to take the next best step for your family.
HOW DOES HOMESCHOOLING WORK?
Homeschooling is an increasingly popular educational alternative in which children learn outside of conventional schools under the general supervision of their parents.
Some homeschooling families operate like small-scale versions of conventional schools, with textbooks and tests and traditional grades. Other families freely adapt ideas from other alternative educational philosophies such as Waldorf, Montessori, Reggio Emilia, or the Sudbury model, while still more give their children considerable control over what is learned and how learning takes place.
Occasionally, some parents choose to supplement their children’s school experience, calling such enrichment "homeschooling." While such an approach can be useful, it is qualitatively different from what we call homeschooling, which is a substitute for, rather than an adjunct to, the conventional school experience.
Define The Schedule
One of the benefits of homeschooling can be the increased flexibility—something you probably need, especially if you are also attempting to do your regular job from home. Still, too much flexibility with no predictable schedule is likely to backfire big-time. In fact, one of the benefits of a traditional school program is the structure. Consistency helps kids stay focused and move seamlessly from one activity to another so they don’t get distracted and sabotage your life for sport. When it comes to crafting your daily schedule, you have options.
Option 1: Follow a Traditional School Schedule
This method basically requires you to model your homeschooling schedule after your child’s usual school schedule. Start your day in the very same way you ordinarily would (get dressed, have breakfast, grab backpacks), then settle into your school space (more on that later) to start the day however your kids would at “real” school. (Hi, morning meeting or first-period science.) Don’t beat yourself up if you end up starting things 20 minutes late, but do your best to stick to set times. Note: Definitely don’t let “morning meeting” take an hour, unless you are prepared to add six more hours to the school day than you planned.
If you’re going to follow your child’s regular school schedule, pull it up (your kid’s teacher would be happy to email it to you) and start making any necessary changes to suit your real life. So, if music is from 10 to 10:40, that might mean watching YouTube videos of African drummers or putting on Taylor Swift and dancing around. The idea behind following the school schedule is that it gives you a ready-made outline and condenses your teaching time. If you have two parents working from home at the moment, you can even trade off from “period” to “period.”
Option 2: Follow a Full-Day Learning Schedule
Some homeschooling parents opt to follow a looser schedule that incorporates blocks of learning time, punctuated by periods of normal home life, from morning ’til night. This method may be more challenging to implement when your child is used to attending regular school, but the gist is that learning happens all the time and you don’t need to explicitly block it out. For example, you might incorporate a science lesson into hands-on lunch prep, or turn bedtime stories into a targeted history lesson. (“Let’s talk about what was going on in the world at the time of Little House on the Prairie.”)
The Benefits of Homeschooling
Public school, private school, homeschool, charter school—the education options are endless these days! If you’re trying to decide whether homeschool or public school is better, here are some of the most common benefits to homeschooling.
Homeschooling provides flexibility.
Since homeschool parents are the teacher, principal and superintendent all at the same time, they have the freedom to create their own school experience for their kids. They can choose the curriculum and customize their school schedule to best meet the needs of their family. If they want to take a long trip in the middle of the school year, they can rearrange their schedule—or even take their schoolwork with them!
Your homeschooling pace is customizable.
Homeschool students get to learn at their own pace. They might fly through the math lesson on telling time but need another week to understand fractions. You have the freedom to slow down or let them work ahead (sometimes even into the next grade level) if they’re consistently nailing their lessons. This is partly why 78% of homeschoolers score significantly higher on standardized tests! 2
Homeschooling allows for learning outside the classroom.
Homeschooling doesn’t just happen in the home, and it usually doesn’t look anything like school. Parents have much more freedom to work outside, go on field trips, travel and teach beyond a classroom. They have more flexibility and fewer funding or transportation issues that a larger class might have. Everyday outings turn into unexpected lessons when you learn to think like a teacher!
Homeschooling lets you individualize the education.
Homeschooling allows you to vary the teaching material depending on your child’s interests and their preferred learning style. Does your daughter love astronomy? You can spend more time on the solar system during science class. Does your son especially enjoy working with his hands? You can add physical, hands-on activities into your lessons (like using building blocks to do a math problem or sidewalk chalk to write his spelling words). Is your child into computer games? Set up the online program Xtra Math to help them with their math facts.
Teaching the Essentials
The goal of every parent is to teach and equip kids to be healthy, well-balanced, happy, productive, self sufficient adults. A good homeschooling parent will home educate with that in mind!
You will need to sit next to your kindergarten and first grade as they are learning for form letters and numbers, read words, and understand math principles. But as they master the basics (in 2nd or 3rd grade) you need to encourage them to be self motivated learners.
A Word From Verywell
Whether you’re currently homeschooling your child or planning to embark on homeschooling in the future, the most important thing you can do to prepare for this educational journey is to familiarize yourself with your state’s laws and regulations regarding homeschooling. This information provides a foundation for how you will pursue homeschooling with your student.
Likewise, you also should research the colleges and universities your student is most interested in attending. Knowing their admission requirements ahead of time can help you tailor your student’s experience accordingly. And as for a diploma, if you plan to issue your own, the HSLDA has several templates that you might find useful.