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A Homeschooling Guide for Parents and Students for 2024

Instead of sending their children to traditional public or private schools, parents choose to educate them at home. Discover more about the homeschooling movement and what it truly entails when parents take on the responsibility of teaching their kids.

Homeschooling means parents take on the role of educating their children at home instead of enrolling them in traditional public or private schools.

The homeschooling movement gained momentum in the 1970s and continues to grow today. According to the National Home Education Research Institute, approximately 6% of school-aged children were homeschooled during the 2021-2022 school year, totaling about 3.1 million students in grades K through 12.

Read on to discover more about homeschooling, including what you need to get started, essential requirements, and valuable tips for success.

Requirements for Homeschooling Your Kids

Homeschooling is permitted in all 50 states and many foreign countries, but the specific requirements vary depending on where you live. Some states have minimal requirements, while others may require portfolio reviews, attendance records, or standardized testing at certain intervals. However, in most areas of the country, parents don’t need to have a formal education degree to homeschool—what’s more important is having the right mindset.

As John Holt, an early advocate of homeschooling and author of the popular book “Teach Your Own,” pointed out, the key ingredient for homeschooling success is simply enjoying your children. He emphasized the importance of genuinely liking their company, their energy, their questions, and their unique personalities. In essence, for most parents who homeschool, the primary requirement is a genuine desire to do so, coupled with a commitment to the educational journey.

Why Do Families Choose Homeschooling?

Families opt for homeschooling for a myriad of reasons, such as:

  • Being unhappy with the available educational choices
  • Wanting more flexibility in scheduling and curriculum
  • Aligning with specific religious or educational beliefs
  • Seeking refuge from issues like bullying, peer pressure, and school violence
  • Valuing the opportunity for stronger parent-child bonds
  • Feeling that their children aren’t thriving in traditional school settings
  • Needing the flexibility to address mental and physical health concerns more effectively

Getting Started with Homeschooling

For families with young children who haven’t experienced traditional schooling, they can kick off a homeschooling journey once their child reaches school age. Then, they’ll need to follow the regulations set by their state.

For parents transitioning kids from traditional school to homeschooling, the process has a few extra steps. They’ll need to draft a withdrawal letter addressed to the school principal or local superintendent, stating their decision to homeschool. Once that’s done, they’ll need to keep up with any specific guidelines provided by their school district.

Making a Homeschool Schedule

Homeschooling families have the flexibility to shape their daily routines according to what works best for them. While some stick to a traditional school-like schedule, starting early in the morning, others blur the lines between “school” and “home.” If a child suddenly gets excited about a science experiment before bedtime, some parents seize the moment, turning it into a spontaneous learning opportunity that becomes part of the day’s lessons.

The choice of educational philosophy greatly influences how homeschooling families structure their days. While many are familiar with the traditional approach of textbooks and standardized testing, homeschoolers have a vast array of educational philosophies to explore. From Waldorf and Montessori to Charlotte Mason and interest-led learning, families can blend different methods to tailor their approach to suit their children’s needs.

You might also be wondering if homeschoolers stick to the public school calendar. Well, in reality, homeschooling families have full control over their school year’s schedule. Some choose to follow the traditional school calendar, while others opt for year-round schooling. And then there are those who take breaks during specific weeks as needed.

Planning a Curriculum for Homeschooling

With more families choosing homeschooling, there’s now a plethora of curricula and resources available. You’ll find catalogs packed with options tailored to different educational philosophies, learning styles, and time commitments.

Typically, homeschoolers cover the standard subjects taught in traditional schools, along with exploring topics that pique their child’s interests. As Ken Robinson, the renowned British author, suggests in his book “The Element,” the focus shouldn’t be on standardizing education but on personalizing it. It’s about nurturing each child’s unique talents and passions in an environment where they’re eager to learn.

Homeschooling allows parents to tailor their teaching approach to match their child’s individual interests, abilities, and learning styles, creating a personalized learning experience.

Homeschooling families often blend subjects like history, literature, and the arts, regardless of grade or age. For instance, kids of different ages might dive into the same historical era together, completing assignments tailored to their abilities.

In subjects like math and reading, parents may opt for one-on-one tutoring to address each child’s unique needs. Meanwhile, other students may tackle independent assignments or enjoy some playtime, depending on their age.

Homeschooling FAQs for Parents

Are homeschooled kids behind compared with public school kids?

One of the perks of homeschooling is that students can advance at their own pace and according to their unique personalities. According to the National Home Education Research Institute, homeschoolers usually outperform public school students by 15 to 25 percentile points on standardized tests, and this trend holds steady across various family backgrounds.

Additionally, homeschoolers tend to excel in social, emotional, and psychological development, often surpassing average scores. This encompasses leadership skills, self-confidence, peer relationships, and more.

Does the state fund any homeschool programs?

Government-funded programs differ greatly from state to state, but for the most part, homeschooling families cover the costs of their children’s education themselves. In some places, families have the option to enroll in state-based programs. In such cases, the state provides funding for certain resources in exchange for the homeschooling family meeting specific requirements to stay in the program.

Is there a network of parents who homeschool?

Homeschooling families usually have a wide range of resources and social networks available to them. Apart from joining co-ops, where families team up for classes, there are also plenty of social activities like lectures, field trips, art classes, music lessons, sports, and playdates.

What happens if the homeschooling parent is sick?

One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is its flexibility. Even if a parent is feeling unwell, they can still ensure that the most important parts of the day’s lessons are covered, even from the comfort of their bed if needed. While group activities that require the direct involvement of the sick parent might be put on hold for the day, they can still oversee any individual tasks their child needs to complete, such as handwriting or reading. In families with two parents, both can pitch in according to their schedules.

Do homeschooled kids receive homework?

In many respects, homeschooling reduces the necessity for traditional homework often assigned by schools, especially for younger kids in elementary school. With fewer students to manage, lessons can often be completed more efficiently during the school day, cutting down on the need for extra work afterward.

As the parent-teacher, who acts as a one-on-one tutor, constantly observes their children’s learning process, they can immediately address any difficulties or progress. This direct oversight allows parents to tailor assignments to meet each child’s needs effectively.

As homeschooled children grow older, they may participate in more conventional classes, providing them with experience in completing typical homework assignments. Some public schools permit homeschoolers to join specific classes of their choice. Additionally, as they advance, homeschooled kids may even enroll in community college courses, starting their college studies ahead of schedule.

How do homeschooled children receive objective grades?

While grades aren’t always necessary in every subject, many families opt to give graded tests, sometimes using computer programs. The homeschooling setup enables children to advance at their own speed until they’ve fully grasped the required materials.

Do homeschooled kids need to take standardized or state-mandated tests?

Some states mandate standardized testing at certain intervals, while others don’t. Some families choose to have their kids tested to ensure academic progress. However, some homeschoolers feel there’s no need for such testing until high school.

How long does homeschooling last?

Families can opt to homeschool until their child graduates and go to college. Some families homeschool their kids all the way through, while others do it for a few years before transitioning them back to traditional schools. Homeschooling has gained recognition from colleges, with even Ivy League universities accepting homeschooled graduates.

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