The term “homeschooling” is a bit of a misnomer. While this kind of education is not part of a school, children will spend much of their time away from their home. Their learning experiences may be while traveling, participating in community groups or service projects, and at museums, parks, and historical sites. There are also a few misunderstandings about exactly what homeschooling is, why parents choose it, what it looks like, and the effects it has on children. Today I want to give you a brief overview of all of the different kinds of homeschooling options along with a basic “what to do” if you find yourself considering it. But first lets take a quick look at why one might choose home education for their children.
There are lots of reasons why one would choose to homeschool children. However, The National Household Education Survey (NHES), which is conducted every four years by the U.S Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), says the highest rated reason parents choose to homeschool is the negative environment of their child’s public school. This negative environment includes: bullying, school violence, poor quality education, public education not providing the right kind of knowledge or skills for children, and the fact that homeschooled children score better on state and federal standardized tests. Other reasons include supporting a disable child, educating during a family relocation, or educating children that have rigorous schedules due to being an athlete or performer.
Keep in mind that most home school families are able to get the same amount of academic studies in less time than it would take in traditional school. The rule of thumb is:
Elementary 1-2 hours of school.
Middle 2-3 hours.
High school 3-4 hours.
Let them get plenty of sleep, make sure they get outside and a good amount of reading in each day. Ask them what they want to work on and let them be a part of the planning. Give them chore responsibilities and some cooking responsibilities (a lot of math and chemistry can be done in the kitchen.)
School-at-home/Traditional - This is what is typically envisioned by most when they think of homeschooling. The curriculum is similar to what students in public school use and incorporates a traditional grading system. The curriculum can come from purchased boxed sets that come with textbooks, study schedules, and grades & record keeping. Depending on the organization providing the curriculum it could be secular in nature or religious. This is the most expensive approach to homeschooling. However, online public schools are becoming more prevalent and are at no cost to the parents other than a computer and access to the internet. This school-at-home approach has the highest burn out rate and the lessons are not as much fun for children.
Relaxed/Eclectic homeschooling - This is the most common method for home education. It is a self tailored method that takes bits and pieces from various methods. Children may split their day between structured workbook time and less structured time for hobbies, special projects, or trips.
Unschooling - This is a child lead method also known as natural, interest-led, experienced based, or independent learning. Students will follow their interests and curiosity incorporating traditional “subjects” as they go. Unschooling embraces the understanding that learning happens naturally. This method helps to develop the child’s ability to direct their own learning. Learn more here.
World Schooling - This method is basically the combination of education and travel. World schooling embraces the intrinsic educational value of travel and gives children the opportunity to learn from the world and adventure. There are a few different approaches to this method, some that require homeschooling and some that can be used along side public or private schooling.
Charlotte Mason - An educational philosophy that is three-pronged centered around atmosphere, discipline, and life teaching. Students also show what they know, not by taking tests, but via narration and discussion. You can learn more and follow the curriculum here.
Montessori - This is a student lead educational approach with many resources for creating a space and activities in a particular method that is inline with the Montessori philosophy. This method encourages order, real life skills, independence, and self-motivation. Learn more here.
Classical - Classical education is based on a three-part process of training your mind. The grammar stage (the memorization stage), Logic Stage (The “why” stage), and Rhetoric Stage (Students learn to apply the knowledge gained in the previous two stages). You can learn more here.
Waldorf - Like Montessori and Classical, Waldorf is a method that can be found in an independent school or incorporated in homeshcooling. This method stresses the importance of educating the whole child- body, mind and spirit. In the early grades there is an emphasis on arts and crafts, music and movement, and nature. Older children are taught to develop self-awareness and how to reason things out for themselves. Children in a Waldorf homeschool do not use standard textbooks; instead the children create their own books. Check it out here.
Multiple Intelligences - This is a philosophy often incorporated into various types of methods. It is the understanding that not all people learn in the same way. Many children are taken out of public schools because the linguistic and logical-mathematical approach of most schools is not right for them. For example, they may be a bodily kinesthetic learner who needs to be active to learn. This method takes this into consideration with everything the child learns emphasizing their strengths and tailoring the teaching to their learning style.
What do I need to do legally if I want to home school?
If you’ve decided homeschooling is the way to go for you, and you’ve selected the method you want to use, the question becomes how to get started. Every state has different requirements. The best way to learn what is required of you is to find your statewide homeschooling group or association. From there you’ll be able to find local support groups and learn all the details of what is required of you to home school your children.
• There are 10 states which require nothing in the way of paperwork: Connecticut, New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Alaska, and Idaho.
• There are 15 states which require parents merely to let them know homeschooling is happening: Delaware, Washington D.C., Kentucky, Alabama, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, California, Montana, Arizona, Utah, and Wyoming.
• There are 20 states which require parents to submit test scores, and/or professional evaluation of student progress: Maine, New Hampshire, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii.
• There are 6 states with the highest level of red tape, where parents must provide test scores and/or professional evaluation, plus curriculum approval by the state, teacher qualification of parents, or home visits by state officials: Vermont, New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and North Dakota.
Where do I find resources?
Start with social media groups for home schooling families. I recommend the Secular, Eclectic, Academic (SEA) Honmeschoolers Facebook group, and any local groups you can find. In the fall you can find regional home school expos and conferences to get you set up for the year. You can also find plenty of blogs with ideas, like this one that helps you find documentaries and movies for teaching. Look to your city's recreation department for classes, and don't forget about museums, aquariums, zoos, and working farms. Many of them will offer home school days.
Homeschooling is not right for every family just as public or private school is not best for every family. I encourage families to research all of their options to find what is best for them. In a previous article I breakdown the differences between public and private schools. Check that out here. (and I go into more detail about charter schools here.) Whichever education you pick for your family - based on your preference or your needs - you’ll be able to find a group of people who have made the same choice that can help you navigate the process.