Whatever your reason for homeschooling — the safety of your children, local schools are just not opening up this fall, a child’s special needs education requirements are not being met in the traditional classroom setting or any other reason — it’s not an easy undertaking. After all, your child’s entire education rests in your hands (and even if you do receive some resources from the local school, you can’t rely solely on those to get you through an entire year of classes).
But don’t feel overwhelmed. Thousands of families across the country homeschool every year, without any help from the local school districts or a degree in childhood education, and you can, too.
It’s just a matter of finding out what works best for you and your children while achieving the desired results — smart, happy, well-adjusted and well-rounded kids equipped for adulthood.
The Many Benefits of Homeschooling
Once you decide to homeschool, you will inevitably get people questioning your decision and whether or not it’s right for your child. However, you can come back to those naysayers with some of the many benefits of homeschooling, including:
- All of the one-on-one attention your child will receive through homeschooling
- All of the ways you’ll be able to tailor your child’s education to their specific needs/interests
- The deeper relationships you’ll be able to form with your family through homeschooling
- The flexibility your child will have to go to museums, travel and enjoy other extracurricular activities
Before you can begin purchasing textbooks and writing out lesson plans, you need to nail down your approach to homeschooling (but don’t feel like you have to get this right from the get-go — you can try a few approaches before settling on the one that works best for your family).
There are several different methods of homeschooling or schools of thought about what kind of homeschooling works best.
Traditional homeschooling is very similar to a conventional schoolroom setting. There are textbooks and tests, worksheets and homework.
Traditional homeschoolers often buy their entire curricula for the school year from one of the many brands catering to traditional homeschooling. The brands usually give you not only your textbooks and teacher guides but lesson plans for the year as well, so all you have to do is simply follow their instructions specific for your child’s grade level.
You’ll find that many of the traditional homeschool curricula brands out there cater to families homeschooling for religious purposes.
Many families like the traditional homeschooling method because, once a child reaches a certain age, it is very hands-off for the parent. All a parent needs to do is provide a middle schooler or high schooler with their lesson plan for the week and, if the child is capable, they can simply follow the lesson plan without any extra instruction (the parent would still need to grade papers, tests, etc., however).
On the flip side, some parents find traditional homeschooling to be ill-suited for children who struggle with structure or children who learn more easily through experiences than through reading a textbook or watching an instructional video.
Unschooling can also be referred to as child-led learning. Unschooling allows children to learn at their own pace, and to learn about what they’re interested in as an individual.
Unschooling doesn’t necessarily require curricula, but Unschoolers provide their children with a wide range of resources to learn what they want, with what they want, including lots of books, arts and sciences materials. Unschoolers frequently incorporate outdoor time and travel into their children’s lives.
Unschooling is often an enjoyable, positive and overall appropriate experience for children who are naturally curious, inquisitive and apt to learn on their own. However, it does require quite a lot of parental involvement, as parents have to ensure that the child learns what they need for life in the real world, without forcing it onto them. A lot of creativity is needed (for example, how do you encourage a child to pick up math skills on their own, if they’re more of an art person?) and may not fit your child’s learning style.
An easy mistake is to confuse the term “Unschooling” for “Deschooling.” While Unschooling is a specific homeschool method, Deschooling refers to the process most homeschoolers go through while transitioning away from the classroom model they were used to.
Classical schooling is preferred by parents with children who have very strong reading and writing skills, who foresee themselves using those skills for the majority of their lives.
The classical method focuses highly on reading, history, writing, poetry and languages, and, as you might guess, on classical literature. The method often uses the reading of these texts to teach other topics, including social studies, the sciences and more.
While required topics such as math are still included in the child’s education, the focus isn’t largely on STEM topics.
The Charlotte Mason Method
The Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling was created by Charlotte Mason in the late 1800s and focuses on education as a lifestyle. The method splits educational activities into short bursts over the course of a child’s day, every day, versus cramming seven hours of schooling into Mondays through Fridays.
Education focuses on experiences, versus textbook reading, and often includes getting out of the house and out into nature and society.
While there aren’t curriculum options created by Charlotte Mason, there have been many curriculum options formed around the Charlotte Mason method, guiding parents who feel this lifestyle version of education might suit their child well.
The Unit Studies Method
The unit studies method of homeschooling combines all of the required subjects into one learning experience, versus breaking each subject into its own experience the way public schools might.
For the unit studies method, parents will create a lesson plan based on a theme, and then incorporate all of the subjects around that theme. Many parents pick a theme their child already enjoys, so as to keep them interested. For example, one might pick the child’s favorite book series as a theme, and then make curriculum choices around it.
On one side, if implemented successfully, the unit studies method keeps a child engaged and learning, and the combining of subjects can strengthen areas where your child is weak. However, the unit studies method isn’t always easy to implement successfully, as it requires a lot of creativity and planning on the part of the parent, to ensure all of the child’s educational needs are met.
Misconceptions About Homeschooling
Just like anything unfamiliar, homeschooling comes with a lot of misconceptions, such as…
My child will miss out on valuable social skills if we homeschool.
Not true. Most homeschooling families make sure to engage their children in community activities that allow for regular socialization, whether that’s via a homeschool co-op with other families, educational activities outside of the home or participation in a religious community. Think of this as the homeschool equivalent to a public school field trip.
While, during the current COVID-19 pandemic, it might be more difficult to participate in these group activities, you can still give your kids the social interaction they need via Zoom playdates, live online lessons and other activities.
I’m not qualified to teach my child.
So become qualified. That doesn’t mean that you need to go out and get a new degree in education. But it does mean that you need to read up on the materials you’re going to be teaching and know how to answer those hard questions your child comes up with — and if you don’t know the answers, how to help them find the answers.
You’ll find that you learn as much as your child does, and with the right resources, including curricula, your lack of an education degree will not harm your child’s schooling experience in the slightest.
Homeschooling is free/a lot of money.
Misconceptions differ here. Some think that homeschooling is totally free, making it more cost-effective than sending your child to a private school. In contrast, others believe that homeschooling is very costly, as you have to outfit your home with all the resources a traditional school offers.
The truth is, most homeschoolers do spend some money, but not an extravagant amount. Of course, you can do homeschooling either way. There are plenty of free resources, as well as plenty of expensive ones.
A mix of the two are usually adequate for your child’s needs.
Homeschooling is illegal.
Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states. Each state does have its own individual requirements, however. You’ll want to check out your state laws, but don’t worry — most of the requirements are relatively simple, such as the teaching parent must have their high school degree.
Homeschoolers won’t do well in a traditional college setting.
On the contrary, many homeschooled students thrive in the college setting because the college setting is nothing like the public high school setting. Yes, you have professors and textbooks and tests, but you also won’t have teachers hounding you to turn in assignments, or anyone to roll you out of bed in the morning and send you to class.
Homeschoolers are often well-equipped to deal with the independence and high level of responsibility that college courses require.
Homeschooling will require me to give up my job.
That’s not always the case, and, in many instances, homeschooling can give you the freedom to work for yourself or start your own business. Many homeschooling parents work part-time from home or begin building their own businesses from home, thanks to the flexibility homeschooling offers (especially when homeschooling older children who don’t need quite the same level of supervision).
Top Tips for Homeschooling
There are a few things you can do to make sure your homeschooling endeavor is as successful as possible.
Find other homeschooling parents in your area and lean on them for support, ideas, tips and advice. Whether it’s a Facebook group, a Twitter group DM or anything in-between, try to find a place where you can celebrate one another’s successes and help one another through your various grievances (because not every homeschooling day is an easy one!).
No matter which “style” of homeschooling you choose, you still need to be flexible. Your child will have days where they just can’t get that much done (we all have them!); don’t punish them for it. You may need to rearrange your school day to fit your child’s needs, and that’s okay! The school work will get done.
Make it Fun
Homeschooling can be fun for both parents and kids, and it should be. Go to a museum together. Read books together. Play together. Everything can be a learning opportunity, even the most fun activities.
Don’t Compare Your School Experience to Your Child’s
Homeschooling most often looks very, very different from the experience you may have had in a traditional school setting. Your child may not need eight hours to complete their work. They might want to do their math lesson in their pajamas while eating pancakes. Don’t compare your experience to theirs and then make a judgment off of it — as long as your child is learning what they need to learn, it’s all okay.
Remember That There’s an Adjustment Period
When your child has been in public school for the majority of their life, there will be an adjustment period when it comes to starting homeschooling, for both of you.
Remember that, and don’t feel bad if you start out a little rough. You’ll get into the swing of things and find your routine sooner rather than later. Just don’t give up immediately the first time you have a bad day or something goes wrong (or your child fails a test!).
Likewise, don’t push too hard, too quickly, even if things are going wonderfully. You don’t want you or your child to suffer from burnout.
Ready to Start Homeschooling?
It can be overwhelming for new homeschoolers to start their home-based education without the support of a traditional school system.
Regardless of your reasons for homeschooling, the experience can be a beneficial one to your entire family, whether you’re just starting out teaching your five year old their ABC’s, or you’re pouring over chemistry textbooks with your high schooler. All it takes is some patience, determination and a commitment to giving your child the tools to succeed.
You may also be interested in: The 18 Best STEM Activities For Kids At Home
Five Tips for Happy Homeschooling:
- Find support
- Be flexible
- Make it fun
- Don’t compare your school experience to your child’s
- Remember there’s an adjustment period