In 2016, it was estimated that 1.7 million children were being homeschooled in the U.S, roughly 3.3% of all school-aged children.((NHERI: Homeschooling Growing: Multiple Data Points Show Increase 2012 to 2016 and Later)) Although this may not sound like a big portion of the population, the growth rate of homeschooling has been 7 to15% per year for the last two decades.
The burgeoning numbers are not a coincidence. There are tremendous benefits to homeschooling, including one-on-one teaching, adaptability to individual needs and learning styles, a safe learning environment, encouraging learning for knowledge rather than grades, and tailoring a curriculum to the child’s interests.
Is homeschooling something that you have been considering for your family? With all of the tools and resources available for homeschoolers in the 21st century, it may be easier than you think.
How to Homeschool (Getting Started)
After thinking it through, you’ve decided that homeschooling is the right step for you and your family. Now what? Here are the first things you should do to get your homeschooling journey started on the right track.
Figure Out the Laws
Homeschooling is regulated by the state, not the federal government. The first step is to find the current and accurate legal requirements mandated by your state in order to educate your child legally.((CRHE: State by State))
The regulations can vary widely, from strict guidelines to no guidelines at all. However, don’t be overwhelmed by the legal jargon. There are many resources and local communities for homeschooling families that can help you figure out the logistics.
Decide on an Approach
Every child’s needs are different. This is your chance to choose the homeschooling style or combination of styles that best fits your child’s learning style and interests. A brief description of seven different homeschooling methods are listed below.
Often times, purchasing a homeschooling curriculum is done too early in the planning process, resulting in buyer’s remorse.
A curriculum is not always needed for homeschooling, and other types of free or less structured resources are readily available.
Find a Community
Getting connected with a community of homeschoolers is one of the most important parts of building a successful and thriving homeschool environment for your kids.
Look for communities online for virtual support or a local group that you and your kids can interact with. Partnering with others fosters better socialization skills for the students and provides opportunities for field trips, classes, and outings that wouldn’t have otherwise been a part of the homeschooling experience.
7 Different Homeschooling Methods
Also known as Traditional homeschool, School-At-Home uses essentially the same curriculum as the local private or public school but at home.
The lessons can be completed independently, but more commonly, they are administered by a parent or a teacher-facilitated online school.
- Benefits: formal standards, wide selection of curricula, same pace as peers, short-term friendly
- Drawbacks: expensive, inflexible, time consuming, parent can get easily burnt out
- Resources: K12, Time4Learning, Abeka
One of the most popular homeschooling methods used, it borrows educational practices from Ancient Greece and Rome. Subject areas are studied chronologically so that students can understand the consequence of ideas over time.
Socratic dialogue fosters effective discussions and debate to achieve beyond mere comprehension. There is often a strong emphasis on Great Books((Wikipedia: Great Books of the Western World)) as well as Greek and Latin.
- Benefits: well-proven (used for thousands of years), adaptable, focus on logic and critical thinking, systematic and organized, reading is a high priority, language learning (classical or modern), easy to find others to network with
- Drawbacks: less experiential/interactive learning, impracticality of learning classical languages, heavy focus on reading is time consuming and can be overwhelming, inflexibility in framework
- Resources: The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education, Well Trained Mind, What is Classical Education, The Classical Curriculum
3. Unit Studies
Rather than breaking up education into subjects, unit studies approach each topic as a whole, studying it from the perspective of each subject area.
For example, a unit study about animals could include reading books about animals, learning about the classification of animals, figuring out which animals live on which continents, etc. This method is often used as a technique in other more comprehensive educational methodologies.
- Benefits: promotes thinking about concepts as a whole, not monotonous or redundant, student-directed, bolsters weaker subject areas, beneficial for teaching multi-age students
- Drawbacks: incomplete, knowledge gaps, curriculum-dependent
- Resources: Unit Study, Unit Studies, Unit Studies Made Easy, Konos
4. Charlotte Mason
This Christian homeschooling style utilizes shorts periods of study (15-20 minute max for elementary, 45 minute max for high school), along with nature walks and history portfolios.
Students are encouraged to practice observation, memorization, and narration often. With a focus on “living books” (stories with heroes, life lessons, socio-ethical implications), reading plays a big role in this student-paced teaching style.
- Benefits: inexpensive, journaling rather than tests, nature walks, well suited for elementary age, compatible with unit study and classical methods
- Drawbacks: not well suited for middle and high school, little emphasis on math and science, modern material not available
- Resources: A Charlotte Mason Education, A Charlotte Mason Companion, Simply Charlotte Mason, Ambleside Online
Maria Montessori developed this method through working with special needs children in the early 20th century.
With a primary focus on the student setting the pace and indirect instruction from the teacher, this approach includes free movement, large unstructured time blocks (up to 3 hours), multi-grade classes, and individualized learning plans based on interests.
- Benefits: tactile learning style, highly adaptable (special needs, gifted), well-suited for elementary age learning
- Drawbacks: teaching certification required, unstructured, not as effective for middle and high schoolers
- Resources: How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way, American Montessori Society, Living Montessori Now, The Absorbent Mind
Unschooling is a learning model largely based on the work of John Holt.((John Holt: The Foundations of Unschooling)) The teaching style focuses mainly on the students’ interests, putting priority on experiential, activity-based, and learn as you go approaches.
For basic skills such as reading, writing, and math, a systematic technique is employed, but testing and evaluations are typically not utilized. Teachers, in general, play more of a facilitator role.
- Benefits: extremely adaptable, driven by the passion of the students, multi-dimensional learning, embraces each student’s diversity
- Drawbacks: lack of structure, little guidance for parents to follow, potential knowledge gaps, difficult to assess comprehension and progress
- Resources: Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know About Schools and Rediscover Education, Unschool RULES, The Master List of Unschooling Resources
As the most popular method of homeschool, eclectic homeschooling is child-directed, resourceful, and non-curriculum based.
Parents can sample any combination of homeschooling methods and styles or resources. One growing sector of eclectic homeschooling combines part homeschooling with part traditional schooling.
- Benefits: flexible, available resources, adaptable to individual students’ needs and learning styles
- Drawbacks: too many options, combination of incompatible methodologies
- Resources: Eclectic Homeschooling, Think Outside the Classroom: A Practical Approach to Relaxed Homeschooling, The Relaxed Art of Eclectic Homeschooling
How to Facilitate Homeschooling with Technology
One of the reasons homeschooling is more feasible than ever before is due to the accessibility of tools and resources to enhance the learning process.
Email is a tool that has really stood the test of time. Invented in 1972, it is still used today as a primary means of communicating on the Internet.
It is a great way to share assignments, links, and videos between parent and student.
Google Drive offers a multitude of essential programs that can come in handy for homeschoolers, such as Docs, Sheets, Slides, and more.
With its sharing capabilities, easy accessibility, and auto-save ability, it’s easier than ever to organize and complete assignments. It will improve students’ writing and typing skills, as well as eliminate the need for paper.
Google Calendar is an excellent tool for tracking assignment due dates, planning field trips and activities, and developing time management skills.
Rather than invest in physical copies of books, ebooks are a wonderful option for saving money and space. There are plenty of places that offer a free or paid subscription to a wide selection of ebooks:
- International Children’s Digital Library
- Open Library
- World Public Library OverDrive
- Project Gutenberg
- Kindle Unlimited
When a structured curriculum is necessary for teaching a certain topic, an e-course is the way to go.
From watercolors to calculus, there are e-courses available about almost everything. Including different teaching styles that vary from the parents will encourage students to learn in different ways.
The visual and auditory stimulation will also be beneficial in helping students understand and retain the concepts being taught.
Youtube is not just a platform for music videos and cats doing funny things. There are a number of Youtube channels that produce quality educational videos, free of charge.
Creating a playlist of videos for various topics is a great way to supplement a homeschool education.
Homeschooling in the current age looks much different than it did ten years ago. There are more options and more flexibility when it comes to educating kids at home.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the idea of homeschooling your children if it could make a positive impact on your family.