Imagine a school where your kid gets a real-life, hands-on math lesson with individualized instruction, followed by a flexible time frame to work on a class presentation. They get consistent feedback from their teacher on their progress, and their grades are shooting through the roof!
And what if that school was right in your own home? You may have your own ideas about what homeschooling is like, but it’s time for a new perspective! Homeschooling is back and more relevant than ever.
Maybe you’re considering homeschooling as an option for your kids right now, but you’re not sure where to start. Or maybe you’re just curious about how it works. Whatever your current situation is, this bird’s-eye view of homeschooling will give you the info you need to take the next best step for your family.
What Is Homeschooling?
You’ve likely heard a lot about homeschooling lately. While it’s always been a thing, the COVID-19 pandemic gave homeschooling a major popularity boost. To put things into perspective, before COVID, around 2.5 million U.S. children in grades K–12 were being homeschooled. Just one year later, that number has nearly doubled.1
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Essentially, homeschooling is parent-directed education from the comfort of your own home. Families might choose to homeschool their kids for lots of reasons, but freedom is usually at the top of the list. By teaching from home, parents have the freedom to choose their own curriculum, customize their school schedule to fit their family’s needs, and even take learning on the road (that’s why homeschooling is so popular with young artists and actors!).
Some families use homeschool tutors or attend classes (co-ops) with other homeschoolers, but ultimately, the student’s education is the parents’ responsibility. That might feel intimidating, but hang tight while we dig a little deeper.
The Benefits of Homeschooling
Public school, private school, homeschool, charter school—the education options are endless these days! If you’re trying to decide whether homeschool or public school is better, here are some of the most common benefits to homeschooling.
Homeschooling provides flexibility.
Since homeschool parents are the teacher, principal and superintendent all at the same time, they have the freedom to create their own school experience for their kids. They can choose the curriculum and customize their school schedule to best meet the needs of their family. If they want to take a long trip in the middle of the school year, they can rearrange their schedule—or even take their schoolwork with them!
Your homeschooling pace is customizable.
Homeschool students get to learn at their own pace. They might fly through the math lesson on telling time but need another week to understand fractions. You have the freedom to slow down or let them work ahead (sometimes even into the next grade level) if they’re consistently nailing their lessons. This is partly why 78% of homeschoolers score significantly higher on standardized tests!2
Homeschooling allows for learning outside the classroom.
Homeschooling doesn’t just happen in the home, and it usually doesn’t look anything like school. Parents have much more freedom to work outside, go on field trips, travel and teach beyond a classroom. They have more flexibility and fewer funding or transportation issues that a larger class might have. Everyday outings turn into unexpected lessons when you learn to think like a teacher!
Homeschooling lets you individualize the education.
Homeschooling allows you to vary the teaching material depending on your child’s interests and their preferred learning style. Does your daughter love astronomy? You can spend more time on the solar system during science class. Does your son especially enjoy working with his hands? You can add physical, hands-on activities into your lessons (like using building blocks to do a math problem or sidewalk chalk to write his spelling words). Is your child into computer games? Set up the online program Xtra Math to help them with their math facts.
The Drawbacks of Homeschooling
Because every family is so unique, schooling that works great for one family might not work for another. Here are some of the drawbacks to homeschooling.
Homeschooling relies on parent responsibility.
While students are able to self-pace and work independently a lot of the time, the teaching responsibility ultimately falls on the parents. This means it’s the parents’ job to make sure their kids are on track with state standards and ready for graduation.
The good news is, there are lots of helpful resources and curricula to guide you through this process. You wouldn’t be the first parent to feel imposter syndrome about teaching your child. But you can do this! You can find complete lessons for individual subjects or all-in-one K–12 curriculum. Some ambitious parents even choose to create their own curriculum!
The cost of homeschooling falls on the parent.
Since the government doesn’t fund homeschool programs, the cost of homeschooling is typically left to the parents as well. This means you’ll have to budget to cover the cost of your curriculum, extracurricular activities, field trips or outings, and any extra supplies you’d want for your lessons.
But don’t worry, there are some great ways to save on materials—like using library cards, finding used homeschool curriculum, or joining a co-op to share resources and split costs with other families! By saving money that would normally be spent on high school tuition, you might even end up with a chunk of change to put towards their college education. Spare your student the stress of student loan debt!
Homeschooling requires a lifestyle change.
For most families who are used to sending their kids to traditional school, homeschooling can be a huge lifestyle change. One parent has to stay home instead of going to work every day, kids have to find other ways to meet friends, students aren’t involved in the same school-sponsored activities that their peers are attending, and siblings and parents spend way more time together, just to name a few examples.
But there are plenty of ways to meet other homeschool families in your community—like co-ops, sports leagues and group classes. Sometimes, public schools even allow local homeschoolers to join in on their extracurricular activities. And if you’re worried your kids might fall behind socially, don’t be! Most homeschoolers perform significantly better when it comes to social, emotional and psychological development.3 This includes family cohesion, how they interact with their peers, their participation in the community, their leadership skills, and their self-esteem.
Homeschooling is a big time commitment.
Homeschool parents naturally have less time for themselves because of their new role as head teacher. Instead of sending kids to school in the morning and picking them up in the afternoon, homeschool parents sacrifice a lot of their own free time day to day by teaching their kids from home.
To help with this, try carving out an hour before your kids wake up to get some prep work done and feel ready for the day. Or become a meal-prepping master so you have more time in your evenings that’s normally spent making dinner. Find the routine that works best for your family and stick with it! If you have multiple kids to teach, try combining subjects that aren’t necessarily age-specific. For example, all of your students might study the same piece of literature, art or time period and then do their own age-appropriate projects.
How to Start Homeschooling
So, let’s say that after weighing the pros and cons and doing your research, you decide homeschool is the right choice. Your family’s on board and you’re ready to get started. What now?
First of all, take a deep breath. There are lots of resources and options to sort through, so don’t get overwhelmed. Homeschooling is all about starting small and figuring things out as you go. And to help you get the ball rolling, here are your first few action steps:
- Find your local homeschool requirements.
- Figure out how your students learn best.
- Decide how you prefer to teach.
- Choose a curriculum.
- Create a schedule.
- Enjoy the process!
At this point, maybe you’re thinking, Am I even qualified to teach my kids at home? You’re not the first parent to question their own ability (or sanity)! But the good news is, you don’t need an education degree to be a homeschool teacher. All you need is some stellar resources and excitement for the year ahead.
And lucky for you, there’s no shortage of resources available to you. Plugging in to a local homeschool group is a great way to get connected with other families and see what curriculum, extracurriculars and co-ops they enjoy. There are tutors, sports teams and online forums specially designed for homeschool families, plus online platforms for specific subjects. You name it—and you can probably find a resource for it. And if you want to teach your high schoolers how to handle money the right way before heading into the real world, our Foundations in Personal Finance curriculum is just the thing!
You know your child best, and you have the freedom to decide how to educate them. But here’s one final word of advice if you choose homeschooling: Start simple. You’ll figure out over time how your student likes to learn and how you like to teach. You can play around with your routine and tweak things as you go. But most importantly, whether you choose to send your child to school or homeschool them, enjoy the process! Education is wild and wonderful and something we should never take for granted.