What Is Homeschooling?

Homeschooling is becoming increasingly common but is it a good choice for your family? Here’s what you need to know.

a mom homeschooling child

Do you know anyone who homeschools? The odds are that you do.

While homeschooling used to be pretty rare, in the past decade it’s become more mainstream with about 2.5 million kids in the US being homeschooled today. And that number is on the rise.

The reasons for homeschooling vary. Some drivers include:

  • The desire to incorporate religious or cultural views into a child’s education
  • The need to provide consistent education for children who move frequently (such as military families)
  • Simply disagreeing with the educational philosophy of the public or private schools available in the area

According to the NCES, safety and the school environment are also major motivators, with the vast majority of homeschooling families reporting this as a key factor in their decision.

In terms of results, homeschooled students typically score above average on academic achievement tests, including the SAT and ACT, which may also factor into the decision. Students are also more likely to attend and be successful in college.

This might make you wonder if you should homeschool. Well, the answer is, maybe. 

When you first hear about it, homeschooling can sound idyllic. Saying goodby to the morning hustle of “put your shoes on!” in favor of cozy mornings spent snuggling together with a good book.

Before deciding whether or not homeschooling is for you, it’s important to think through the different facets and to really consider whether it’s a good fit for you, your child, and your family.

Is Homeschooling Right For You?

There are a few questions to ask yourself as a parent before embarking on the homeschool journey.

  • Do you have the time to take on the role as lead educator for your child?
  • Do you like being home a lot or would you go stir crazy?
  • Do you have a career that allows you the flexibility to homeschool (or a career that you wouldn’t mind giving up)?
  • If you have multiple children, how would you divide your focus between them?    
  • Do you have a space in your home that would make a good learning environment?  

Is Homeschooling Right For Your Child?

  • If your child is currently in school, do they like it and how would they feel about being homeschooled instead?
  • How social and extroverted is your child?
  • Do they thrive with a lot of outside interaction, or do they do better in small groups or just with you?

What Resources Are Available?

If you think you and your child would thrive with homeschooling, start to look into the resources available in your area.

Are there any homeschool coops close by? These are becoming increasingly common and often offer subjects like science or computer skills to supplement home learning.

Are there social opportunities like a soccer team or scouts that you could enroll your child in?

What Are Your Family goals?

Thinking through your family goals is an important part of any big decision, and definitely plays a role in homeschooling choices.

If you’re considering private school versus homeschool, budget and finances might be a major consideration.

Do you have travel goals as a family or wish to live abroad for a year? Homeschool allows unparalleled flexibility, which is a major reason many families choose this path.

Homeschool Curriculum Options

If you’ve decided that homeschool is indeed something you want to pursue, you can move on to the fun part of choosing a curriculum.

Close your eyes and imagine what an ideal homeschooling day would look like for you. Are you envisioning sitting in a home classroom teaching your kids from a workbook? Are you picturing hiking through the woods together, stopping to read nature poems along the way? Both are legitimate choices and fortunately, there are a variety of curriculums to meet your individual family goals.

Here are a few of the more popular choices:

Traditional Homeschool

Also called “school at home,” traditional homeschool uses the same type of curriculum as public and traditional private schools, simply in a home setting.

Some families use online classes while others teach the subjects themselves.

This method works well for families who want their children to learn the same things as their peers, but does not suit families who want flexibility or more experiential learning.

Classical Method

The Classical Method of education emphasizes educational practices used by the great thinkers of ancient Rome and Greece such as Socratic discussions.

Families who use the classical method sometimes incorporate Greek or Latin and also emphasize the “Great Books,” or great works of literature.

Academically rigorous and quite structured, the Classical method fits families who favor teacher-led over child-led education. It may not be best for families who want more flexibility and experiential learning.

Charlotte Mason

The Charlotte Mason method is based on the idea that we should educate the whole child and expose them to great works of art and literature, rather than encouraging memorization of facts.

There is an emphasis on character, good habits, and learning through story telling.

Charlotte Mason might be a good fit if you value the arts and literature and if you want to be able to simply purchase a curriculum.

This method is traditionally Christian-based and many of the materials include Bible stories which may not be a good fit for some families. There is also less of an emphasis on math than in some other curricula.

Montessori

Montessori is a method of education that generally relies on mixed-age groups of children, but you can certainly apply the child-led hands-on learning concepts in a homeschool setting.

Montessori homeschool families often have a classroom area with shelves of Montessori materials, which can be purchased or created.

The parent chooses materials for math, language, science, sensorial learning, and practical life skills and places them on the shelf. The parent gives the child a lesson on any new materials and then the child is free to choose what to work on each day.

This method is great for families who value hands-on learning, child-led education, and independence. It might be difficult for parents who struggle with relinquishing control as it does take some serious trust in a child’s innate curiosity and desire to learn to allow them to choose what to practice each day. 

Unschooling

Based on the teachings of John Holt, Unschooling is not so much a method as it is a rejection of traditional education methods. It’s generally highly experiential and often unstructured and a child’s education is determined based on their interests, rather than a set curriculum or set of standards.

Each unschooling day will look different. For example, a child might wake up and go for a nature walk, followed by a cooking project, followed by reading a book. A different child might play video games and then try to figure out a new computer programming language. The idea is to trust the child with their own education and offer resources along the way.

Unschooling works well for families who want a highly flexible and individualistic approach to educating their children and who value lots of real-world experience.  

It does not work as well for families who need more structure.

Hybrid Homeschooling

One method that is newer but rapidly growing in popularity is a hybrid model where students attend a sort of part-time school and are homeschooled the rest of the time.  

They might go to school two days a week or only in the mornings.  They might have private tutoring for certain subjects and be taught by their parents the rest of the time.

This model is perfect for families who want to be in charge of their kids’ education, but still want them to have the classic school experience with their peers.  It also works well for families where a parent works part-time and wants to homeschool the part-time.

Seeing all of these methods can seem overwhelming. In reality, many families don’t choose any particular methodology. Instead, they piece together what they like from different curricula and pair this with real world experiences and extracurricular activities to suit their child. It’s also important to remember that deciding to homeschool doesn’t have to be forever! It is a big choice, but certainly not an irrevocable one if you decide that it’s not right for your tot.

If you’re interested in finding out more, the following resources are available:

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