One of the most common questions I receive is:
"What is homeschooling exactly?"
I'll start by explaining why some parents choose this option, and then we'll dive into how it all works.
Parents choose to homeschool their kids for a variety of reasons depending on their ideals or unique family situations.
It might be because their child has special needs, they’re concerned about the safety of schools in their neighborhood, or they think their child would progress faster outside of the country’s school system.
There’s an interesting report published by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) about the main motivations of parents for homeschooling their children.
Participants of the survey were allowed to choose more than one reason.
According to the results, the most common motivation for homeschooling is concern about other schools’ environments. That is, the child’s safety and the presence of negative peer pressure and drugs.
The dissatisfaction of schools’ academic instruction came in 3rd and religious instruction came in 4th.
The “other reasons” that parents gave had something to do with their schedule, finances, family time, or travel. You can see the original table on page 19 of the report.
After looking at more data gathered by the NCES, it looks like the estimated number of homeschooled students in the United States have steadily increased since 1999.
There was a decrease between 2012 and 2016, but because of the current pandemic, the number of homeschoolers might rise again.
We don’t know for sure yet what the lasting effects of the pandemic would be on the education system, but right now, more and more parents are looking to start homeschooling their kids.
So, we made a handy guide to cover the basics of homeschooling.
In this article, you’ll read about a brief background on what homeschooling is and how it started, the most common teaching methods, the benefits of homeschooling, and a few homeschooling tips for those of you who are new to this sort of thing.
What Is Homeschooling?
The concept of homeschooling is simple:
Instead of giving an institution the responsibility to teach your child, you take on that responsibility yourself.
Instead of a school, your home will be their center for learning.
You’ll choose an educational path for them, and you’ll be their leading guide in all aspects of development.
But let’s dig deeper with a brief history lesson:
For most of the past, different cultures educated their kids in their own homes.
Parents would teach the children themselves or send them off to learn from a neighbor, while the wealthier families hired private tutors.
But this changed around the early 1800s when governments made formal education compulsory. That caused homeschooling to decline in the 19th to 20th century, save for a few isolated communities.
Eventually, institutionalized education bred dissatisfaction in several people, and thus paved the way for educational reformists such as Raymond Moore, Dorothy Moore, Ivan Illich, Harold Bennett, and John Holt.
They advocated for homeschooling, especially during a child’s younger years when emotional bonds made at home are critical for long-term development.
Their philosophies when it comes to homeschooling advises against merely bringing what the schools are doing into the home.
Instead, parents should strive for a more natural and experiential way of learning, where the child can pursue knowledge and their interests in whichever form they want.
So, contrary to those who believe that a home education will only isolate children or not prepare them for the real world, the movement to bring back homeschooling was, in fact, started by researchers and education professionals who had children’s physical and mental development in mind.
Those reformists hoped that with homeschooling, children would have more opportunities to realize their potential.
Besides, if you’re scared of whether your child will fall behind if they’re homeschooled, don’t worry.
Homeschoolers can be successful and famous, too. Just look at Thomas Edison, Agatha Christie, and Alexander Graham Bell.
Also, the Jonas brothers.
Types of Homeschooling
When parents first start homeschooling, they usually just replicate what schools do.
But there are actually so many ways to homeschool; you’ll never run out of methods.
These different approaches are called homeschooling styles.
The teaching methods used depend on a variety of factors, the main one being the progress, wellbeing, and enjoyment of your child.
Other factors include:
- Materials - What materials are available or within your budget?
- Structure - Are you doing formal lessons while adhering to a strict schedule or more relaxed but hands-on experiences within the community?
- Teaching Time - How much teaching will you do? Will you handle everything yourself or share your teaching responsibilities with other people such as tutors, online classes, or even private schools that accept part-time students?
That said, it’s not unusual for children to experience more than one teaching approach.
Sometimes, parents switch up homeschooling styles to gauge where their child is more productive.
Some go for a more eclectic approach, combining multiple teaching methods that work best for their family.
Here are some of the most common teaching methods that parents use to homeschool their kids:
This homeschooling style is closest to what your child would experience if they went to a public or private school.
Parents using this teaching method purchase a full curriculum per grade level or subject containing all the materials they’d need, such as books, worksheets, tests, and lesson plans.
Because of that, this approach is one of the more expensive homeschooling options.
On the bright side, your lessons are pretty much prepared, and you can just show up each day ready to teach.
2. Classical Education
The classical education movement has the goal of teaching students to be able to think for themselves.
It’s a language-based way of teaching that has been around since ancient Greece, and it embraces art, drama, history, language studies, literature, and philosophy.
In a classical way of teaching, your children will go through 3 learning stages:
- The grammar stage
- The logic stage
- The rhetoric stage
Collectively, they’re called the trivium.
The grammar stage provides your kids with the foundational knowledge they’d need for learning.
The logic stage is where they begin to be more analytical about things, asking deeper questions and figuring out how all knowledge relates to each other.
Finally, the rhetoric stage combines both grammar and logic so that they can keep learning new things.
After the trivium, they can now learn the quadrivium, which is composed of arithmetic, astronomy, geometry, and music.
Together, the trivium and quadrivium form the 7 liberal arts.
3. Distance Learning
Distance learning is in the mid-point between homeschooling and public school -- kids are enrolled at a public school’s virtual program, but they’re learning at home.
Depending on the program, the way that lessons are taught differ; they might be self-paced or taught by a teacher through live videos.
Some parents have their kids enroll at an online program so that their kids can gain accreditation from a state school.
Some do it because they can’t teach their kids full-time and need help supervising their kids’ learning.
Parents using this method don’t care much for schedules, objectives, or detailed lesson plans.
They just go with the flow.
They might still use a curriculum as a basis, but they’re not too worried about following its plans to the letter.
The point of relaxed homeschooling is that it’s chill and super flexible.
Relaxed homeschoolers believe that by creating a stress-free environment, your child would have more room to grow and develop their creativity.
Also, not pushing your kids to learn significantly reduces their anxiety and makes for an overall positive learning environment.
Unschooling was first thought up by John Holt, and he meant it to be a method of teaching that prioritizes the child’s interests when it comes to learning.
According to him, children are natural learners, that they shouldn’t be pushed into studying because they’ll explore life anyway and learn wherever their interests lead them.
Unschooling is pretty similar to the relaxed homeschooling style.
But where the relaxed teaching method has parental control over what the student learns, unschooling is entirely child-led.
That doesn’t mean that you won’t be involved. It just means that your involvement follows what your child is interested in learning.
6. Unit Studies
Unit Studies is a teaching approach where you take one topic or theme and use it to discuss several subjects like art, history, literature, math, and science.
It’s usually very hands-on rather than just learning through textbooks or worksheets.
For example, Cooking as a theme can teach your kids about multiple subjects:
- Math - measurements and ratios
- Economics - price, availability of ingredients
- Chemistry - heat, how the taste of different ingredients mingle with each other
- Botany and Nutrition - properties of plant-based ingredients, how our bodies process food
- History and Culture - delicacies of places around the world
This method is popular with parents who are homeschooling multiple children.
Discussing just one topic with several kids makes teaching more manageable, and you can also adjust the difficulty level of activities depending on their age.
Is Homeschooling Legal?
Yes, homeschooling is legal in all 50 states.
Although, each state has its own set of laws around homeschooling. You can visit the Home School Legal Defense Association website to check the homeschool laws in your state.
You’ll be able to see what qualifications you need to have, what subjects are mandated by the state, what their assessment requirements are, and other homeschooling regulations.
Outside the USA, homeschooling is also legal in several countries such as Australia, Canada, Chile, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Mexico, and the UK.
In other countries, homeschooling is allowed but highly regulated.
That is, it’s only legal if the homeschooling instruction is under the control of an authorized school, the parent is an accredited teacher, or the child is sick or has a disability.
Other countries, such as Greece, Germany, and Hungary, have made homeschooling illegal.
5 Benefits of Homeschooling
There are numerous benefits to homeschooling.
Not only does it help with academic excellence, it also has benefits on your child’s mental health, physical health, and social development.
And it can be very beneficial for you, too.
Here are a few of homeschooling’s many benefits:
1. Tailored Lessons
Compared to a public or private school setting where one teacher is in charge of 20 or more students, homeschooling can help you focus on your child’s education more.
You can keep track of subjects they’re proficient in or struggling with and adjust accordingly.
You can pause and work on their weaknesses, and you can keep focusing on their strengths.
It’s not quite like that in a traditional class...
Occasionally, a student can ask a teacher for help, but usually, those who understand a lesson will move on while those who can’t keep up will fall behind.
2. Flexibility and Freedom
One of the best things about homeschooling is the flexibility it gives you.
You don’t have to follow schedules or conventions mandated by a school, and you have the freedom to customize what you teach and how you teach them.
This room to adjust your approach to teaching is super beneficial for your child.
Your state’s homeschooling regulations might be stricter compared to others, but in general, you can personalize how you teach to whatever works best for you and your kid.
3. Less Stressful Environment
Homeschoolers usually don’t have as much homework as those who go to public or private schools.
Having no extra work means more room to be carefree and enjoy the things they’re interested in.
Homeschooling also reduces your child’s experiences with bullying, peer pressure, and illegal drugs, which can affect their academics.
And because homeschooling is so flexible, you can incorporate field trips for hands-on learning as often as you want.
That makes for a more enjoyable learning experience compared to being cooped up in a classroom for hours at a time.
4. More Colorful Social Life
In a traditional school, children are grouped into age brackets, so they usually hang out with friends their age.
But in homeschool, aside from being more connected to their family, they also get to befriend people of all ages.
It also turns out that homeschoolers are more active in the community and socialize easier with adults, particularly professionals.
5. More Unique and Engaging Lessons
Because homeschooling gives you the freedom to customize lessons, you can create lots of activities that are fun and engaging while keeping in mind your child’s proficiencies.
You can get out of the house as often as you want and visit museums, zoos, and national parks.
You can meet with field experts to learn what they do, play sports with neighbors, or take pottery classes together. Ideas are endless!
Having experiences like these will help your kids gain more knowledge and learn more skills.
5 Homeschooling Tips
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment with Teaching Methods
The homeschooling styles above are only a handful of so many educational philosophies that exist.
Other styles include the Montessori Method, Charlotte Mason Education, Moore Formula, Waldorf Education, and many more.
One method might be excellent for your child’s learning, while others...not so much.
It’s okay to switch between teaching styles to see which one works best.
Switching between methods won’t inhibit or distract your child from progressing.
Sure, there might be a short adjustment phase, but it’ll be worse if you stick to a method that’s not working.
2. Join Homeschooling Co-ops
Homeschool cooperatives are simply groups of homeschooling families.
They often get together to socialize, share tips and methods, and discuss all sorts of topics.
With social media, it’s even easier to find homeschool co-ops near you. You can find them through Facebook, email lists, or even in your local library.
Being a part of a group who are on the same journey as you and your child will make homeschooling so much more fun.
You’ll have plenty of opportunities to go on learning field trips together, celebrate holidays, go on vacations, or simply hang out.
3. Teach Your Child to Learn
Don’t be too obsessed with covering every single topic. Not even the most prestigious schools can do that.
So, what you should do is to teach your child how to learn. The best way to do this is to teach them with eagerness.
Be positive and enthusiastic as you discover new knowledge, and you’ll quickly find out how contagious that kind of excitement is.
Teach them to ask questions, to take notes, and to interview people from different lines of expertise.
Encourage them to read, experiment, and create. And tell them that even after they’ve learned so many things, there’s always more to find out.
If you teach your child to learn, you won’t have to worry about forgetting to discuss a few topics. They’ll be natural learners anyway and thrive wherever they go in life.
This is for students who are new to homeschool life after spending a bit of time in public or private school.
Deschooling is the transition phase for both parents and children to let go of school defaults and adjust to their new homeschool routine.
Adept homeschoolers suggest deschooling your kids before homeschooling because this kind of change might be confusing for the children.
A good start is to just go easy on the academics.
You can also exploit the freedom homeschooling gives you to explore your city or neighborhood.
Grab tickets to the theatre, play sports, visit museums, volunteer in the community, or socialize with your new homeschool co-op.
This is actually a type of homeschooling already. But if you plan to have plenty of formal lessons, wait a bit.
Don’t be curriculum-heavy right off the bat, and give your child some time to adjust.
5. It’s Not Just About Academics
One of the best parts of homeschooling is you can supervise every inch of your child’s growth and development.
Compared to having them learn in a school classroom, you can guide your child every step of the way and keep track of all their progress.
To really make the best of this, don’t just focus on their intellectual development; you should help their character and personality bloom as well.
You have the opportunity to be the best influence for your child so that they can grow into the best versions of themselves.
Children have always been taught at home up until a century or two ago when governments made formal education compulsory.
And just a few decades ago, educational reformists advocated bringing homeschooling back so that learning can be specifically tailored for each child.
Most of us are familiar only with the traditional classroom setting, but with homeschooling, there are countless teaching methods you can use to aid with your child’s education.
Homeschooling also has plenty of benefits that you can’t get from public or private schools such as customized learning, flexible schedules, and more freedom for unique and engaging experiences.