Are you considering homeschooling your child? It can be a great option for many families, but it's not right for everyone. Here are some things to consider before you decide to homeschool your child. Homeschooling has become a popular choice for parents in recent years.
There are many benefits to homeschooling your child, such as allowing them more freedom to learn at their own pace, customising their education to match their interests and abilities, and giving them more one-on-one attention than they would receive in a traditional school setting. However, homeschooling is not the right choice for everyone – it's important to weigh the pros and cons before carefully deciding.
Steps To Homeschool Success
Research Your Homeschool Options
Begin any time, whether your child is a toddler or already has several years of elementary school under her belt. Some parents find the end of one school year is a good time to start their research because it gives them enough time to investigate the details and start by autumn. Subscribe to magazines such as Homeschooling Today, visit the library, read books, and talk to people who homeschool — contact or join a local homeschool organisation. Educating yourself about the various routes you can take is the best way to define why you are making this decision and what you hope homeschooling will accomplish for your family. Don't get frustrated if you don't understand everything you read or hear.
Investigate Your State's Homeschooling Requirements
Homeschooling rules and regulations vary widely from state to state. In New York, for example, parents must file an annual declaration of intent with the local superintendent by July 1 or 14 days before starting to homeschool, as well as an individualised home instruction plan. New York parents must also maintain attendance records, submit quarterly reports, and conduct standardised tests. You can find detailed information on your state's laws at You Can Home School.
Join A Local Homeschooling Group
Meeting homeschoolers in your area will net you valuable information. Here you'll find other families who can answer questions, let you review their at-home teaching habits, and show you how homeschooling works for them. In addition, you can learn about age-appropriate activities your children may want to participate in, such as sports, tutoring, or small clubs that suit your child's interests. Finally, during weekly meetings, parents may teach a subject such as a foreign language or a science lab to a group of students.
Decide On Homeschool Curriculum
you can purchase curricula through mail-order catalogues or online stores, including Scholastic's Teacher Store (you'll need to register to buy). They vary from traditional textbooks and workbooks covering reading, writing, and arithmetic to more individualised approaches guided by a child's interests. State conventions and curriculum fairs, held several times each year, also showcase a variety of homeschooling publications and products.
Create Your Homeschooling Space
Will you be conducting classes at the kitchen table? Do you need a blackboard or a desk? How about empty wall space to post schedules, calendars, and completed work? Is there a computer nearby that's connected to the Internet? Get organised by purchasing storage cabinets and bookshelves for holding textbooks and workbooks. Baskets are also useful for keeping loose supplies under control.
Set Specific Homeschooling Goals
Since homeschoolers proceed at their own pace, it's important to consider what you want to accomplish, especially in the first year. Academics are important when you set short- and long-term goals, but they are not the only component of a child's education. For example, how will your child get physical activity? When will he socialise with other children? Consider the importance of extracurricular activities such as music classes or Boy Scouts.
Network with other parents — homeschooling and not — to find the best activities. Also, check local community centres, houses of worship, and newspaper advertisements and listings.
Define A Homeschooling Schedule
Create a plan to meet the goals you've outlined. While a schedule makes some people feel hemmed in, it helps, especially in the beginning, to be organised and have a mission, says Dobson. Purchase a plan book and consider how you want to break up your child's academic schedule and each subject you want to work on. Consider how you want to break up your learning week by week too. Make time for field trips and visits to the library. And remember, flexibility is one of the key appeals of homeschooling. You can always adapt your schedule to your child's changing needs.
Watch Out For Common Homeschooling Pitfalls
Homeschoolers say three issues often stymie beginners. First: feeling isolated. Make sure you've followed the advice in Step 3 and joined a support group. It's not just for the kids, although socialisation is critical for them. Homeschooling parents need to connect with like-minded adults too.
Another potential problem is committing to a curriculum too early. Dobson notes that some new homeschoolers purchase an expensive packaged curriculum right away, only to find that it doesn't suit their child's learning style. So experiment for a while before you plunk down a lot of cash.
Finally, know that you'll need to learn as you go. Adjusting to the freedom and flexibility of homeschooling is a challenge. There are so many ways to approach your task. Remember that you'll be defining — and constantly redefining — yourself as you go.
Make Accommodations For Working While Homeschooling
If you are a single working parent or both parents work full-time, your homeschool method may need custom-tailored to your family dynamic. However, it is possible, so don't feel discouraged. Homeschooling while working takes creativity and juggling, but you can still homeschool your children if you feel it's right for your family.
Make Accommodations For Homeschooling A Child With Special Needs
Suppose you have a child with special needs, "how" you homeschool is going to look different for your family. However, homeschooling is an excellent option for children with special needs. Certain states extend special needs help to homeschooling families, so be sure to check with your state's Department of Education parameters when looking into how to homeschool. Without state help, though, there are other great resources for special needs families. I encourage you to connect with local homeschool support groups, related Facebook groups, and your local library for resources.
Locate local activities and nearby homeschoolers
One of the most important things you can do to successfully homeschool is to get hooked into a community of homeschoolers. Whether your homeschool community is online, where you find encouragement and support in a virtual environment, or in-person and allows you to participate in field trips, co-ops, classes, and outings, avoiding isolation is key to homeschool success. In addition, because local homeschoolers are often helpful for understanding homeschool regulations, getting connected early can help reduce anxiety for new homeschoolers.
Explore Available Homeschooling Methods
One of the best things about homeschooling is that you don't have to recreate school at home; in most cases, you shouldn't recreate school at home. You have the freedom to allow your children to learn in ways that aren't possible in an institutional setting, so learn more about what might work best for your family. Consider how your children learn. Home is not school and does not need the same structure. There are many homeschooling methods; take some time to look into how each works.
While you are exploring, take the opportunity for your children and yourself to go through a deschooling period before you jump into homeschooling, especially if your child was previously in public school. There is an adjustment period that a child (and often the parent) goes through when leaving school and beginning homeschooling.
To fully benefit from homeschooling, a child must accept the school culture as the norm. It is deschooling, and it is a crucial part of beginning homeschooling after a period spent in a classroom. This period is a great time to explore the homeschooling methods and learning styles if you haven't already done so.
Yup, this is a scary step! But you can do it. Once you've decided to homeschool, make sure you withdraw your child from any school districts they are currently enrolled in to avoid truancy charges.
And remember that you can pretty much always change your mind. If it doesn't work out, congratulate yourself for trying and re-enrol your child in traditional school.
Frequently Asked Questions
Homeschooling your child is a personal choice and is not employment. Therefore, parents do not get paid to homeschool their children. However, in some states, families may receive a tax credit, deduction, or even a stipend if homeschooling under an umbrella school (like a charter school).
Some start homeschooling in kindergarten, while others make the transition from public (or private) school into homeschool when they're much older – say, in middle school or high school.
How many hours a day do you have to homeschool? Most home school parents find that they can effectively homeschool their children in around 2-3 hours each day for 3-5 days each week.
Homeschooling allows parents to choose the curriculum and how they teach it. Non-traditional learning has been proven to be a better education system for children.
The good news is that homeschoolers go to college for all concerned parties. And not only do they go, but they also graduate at a rate higher than that of traditionally educated students.
Ask Yourself If It's Right For You
Some parents hear the word "homeschooling" and scoff, "Oh, I could never do that!" when in reality, they don't have the confidence or experience (or frankly know what's involved).
Parents are natural educators for their kids, even without formal teaching degrees. Still, it does take a certain amount of dedication, commitment, and patience to homeschool.
On the other hand, you may be overestimating your ability to teach your child at home. Work long or unpredictable hours, can't provide your child with a safe, supervised home environment during the day, or rely on much-needed school services (like special education classes or free lunch programs). As a result, homeschooling may not be the right fit.
Talk To Others
It's a good idea to talk to experienced homeschooling parents before deciding for yourself. Reading about homeschooling online isn't the same as chatting with a real person who's been doing it in their own home for years. Ask them to share honestly:
- How they plan their homeschool year
- Their most and least favourite parts of homeschooling
- What curriculum do they use
- Where they go for advice and support
Then, if you haven't already, talk to your spouse or partner if you have one. In most cases, one parent handles the majority of the homeschooling, but it's hard to do it without the ongoing support of the other parent.
You should also talk to your kids; though you're the parent and have the final say, homeschooling will be significantly more difficult if your kids can't get on board with the plan. Asking them how they feel about it and their concerns—and working together on addressing those concerns—will make homeschooling a more positive experience.
There may be extended family members you want to discuss your plans with as well, but fair warning: People tend to have strong opinions about homeschooling even if they don't know that much about it. It can easily deter you even if it's the right choice.
If a trusted friend or family member's input is important, you can have an honest conversation. Sometimes, though, it's best to make the decision with your spouse or partner and then ask for support—not opinions—from others.
Plan Your Homeschool Schedule
Homeschool schedules can be rigid or flexible, traditional or unique. It can be hard to know upfront what will work best for your family, so plan for making changes as you go along. One of the benefits of homeschooling is the ability to go with the flow, but creating a schedule keeps you better organised and helps your kids know what to expect.
However, the amount of time you spend homeschooling and when that time occurs during the day is nowhere near as important as how well your kids are learning at home.
Resist the temptation to think you're not "doing enough" homeschool; in a school setting, most kids only spend a couple of hours a day, at the most, on direct instruction (little kids even less). If your first grader homeschools for an hour every day, that's probably all they need—especially if they're happily learning during that time.
If you're putting together your curriculum, check out the core standards for each subject by grade level to get a baseline idea of what your child may need to learn this year. They may already know some things, or you may need to start from the beginning. It's OK if your child doesn't meet every single goal, but knowing what most third graders learn in a year of social studies, for example, will help you create a year-long learning plan for your child.
Since this is your first year homeschooling, be gentle with yourself! Rather than set firm goalposts for everything you think you need to accomplish, here are some good goals to work toward:
- Plan to be flexible.
- Plan to become an expert at how your child learns best.
- Plan to evaluate your child's "success" in new and different ways.
- Plan to get comfortable making changes adapting to the reality of your homeschool life.
And don't forget to ask your child what they would like to learn! The best way to get your child engaged in homeschooling is to make them a part of the planning. A kid who loves the act of learning will never get tired of asking questions and seeking out the answers—and homeschooling is a great way to foster that positive relationship.
Once you and your family have chosen to do it, the only way to learn to homeschool is by actually doing it—so just get started! You may feel like you're pretty bad at it at first, but you will get better. And your kids, who aren't used to viewing you as a teacher, will need some time to adjust, too.
At What Age Should I Start Homeschooling My Child?
There's no right age to start homeschooling a child. Whether now is the best time to start homeschooling depends on your family and, specifically, the needs of each child. For example, suppose your child is suffering in a public or private school environment, and you are confident homeschooling will help them succeed or thrive. In that case, it doesn't matter if you start in kindergarten or halfway through eleventh grade. But, on the other hand, if you believe your children will be more successful if they go through the elementary grades in a public or private school before starting to homeschool, then that can work just as well.
Your child will thrive in the hands of a caring parent or teacher, provided they are given plenty of time to learn and grow. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for homeschooling your children; it's different for every family. Follow along for all of the tips and advice you need to get started today!