A Simple Guide for Homeschooling: Parents and Students

Mother helping her young daughter with a school lesson.

Confidence is a trait that, when instilled, will help a child accomplish, grow, and build themselves. (Image: Trendsetterimages via Dreamstime)

While most children attend public or private schools, an increasing percentage are homeschooled. Learn more about the homeschooling movement and what it entails when parents teach their children.

What is homeschooling?

Homeschooling is a progressive trend in the United States (and worldwide) in which parents teach their children at home rather than sending them to a standard public or private school. Families choose to homeschool for several reasons, including unhappiness with the educational alternatives offered, distinct religious or educational views, and the perception that children are not advancing inside the standard school framework.

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When prominent authors and scholars like John Holt, Dorothy and Raymond Moore, and others began writing about educational reform in the 1970s, the homeschooling movement gained steam. Homeschooling was presented as an alternative educational choice. According to the National Home Education Research Institute, more than 2 million homeschooled children are now in the United States, and the number is constantly expanding. Homeschooling is permitted in all 50 states, as well as many other nations.

Mother sitting on the floor in the living room with her kids, giving a homeschool lesson.
More than 2 million children are now being homeschooled in the United States. (Image: Pojoslaw via Dreamstime)

What are the prerequisites for homeschooling your children?

The legal criteria for homeschooling in the United States differ by state. Some states have minimal or no standards, while others require portfolio reviews or standardized testing at regular intervals.

According to Holt, author of the best-selling book Teach Your Own, the most crucial thing parents need in order to be able to educate their children is “to like them, to love their companionship, physical presence, vitality, folly, and enthusiasm. They must enjoy all of their talk and questions and try to answer those questions.” The only requirement for most parents who homeschool is a desire to do so and a commitment to the educational process in the context of building a career.

What is the best way to begin homeschooling?

In practically every part of the country, parents do not need a teaching degree to homeschool their children. Parents with young children who have never attended a formal classroom can begin a homeschooling program when their child reaches school age. At that point, they will begin complying with the regulations of their specific state.

The process is slightly different for parents who already have children in school and decide to homeschool. They must first notify the school principal or local superintendent of their intention to withdraw. The letter should explain the parents’ intention to withdraw their child from school and begin homeschooling. Following the notification, parents must adhere to the district’s specific guidelines.

How to create a homeschool schedule?

Homeschoolers plan their days in whichever way suits them best. Many start school early in the morning, like in a typical school, while some choose to blur the lines between “school” and “home.” If a youngster becomes enthusiastic about a scientific experiment before going to bed, some parents may pursue the child’s excitement to see where it leads; this also becomes part of the school day.

Homeschooling allows for a more flexible schedule when it comes to 'school' time versus 'home' time.
Homeschooling allows for a more flexible schedule when it comes to ‘school’ time versus ‘home’ time. (Image: Nadezhda1906 via Dreamstime)

A homeschooling family’s educational philosophy will significantly influence the organization of their day. Most of us are only familiar with one style of education — the traditional system of textbooks, rows of desks, and standardized testing — but educational ideologies are numerous. These are Waldorf, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, classical, leadership education, interest-led learning, unit study, and other approaches. Homeschoolers can combine topics that best suit their children’s needs.

You could also wonder if homeschoolers follow the standard school calendar year. In actuality, homeschoolers have complete control over their school year’s schedule. Many schools follow the traditional school calendar, while others are open all year and take breaks during certain weeks.

Creating a homeschool curriculum

The tremendous number of people choosing to homeschool their children has resulted in a diverse curriculum and materials. Catalogs are brimming with possibilities depending on various educational philosophies, learning methodologies, how much time a homeschool instructor should dedicate to daily instruction, and so on.

Subjects typically taught include the traditional disciplines followed in a formal school program and those that capitalize on the child’s interests. In his best-selling book The Element, Ken Robinson writes that “the key to [educational] transformation is not to standardize education, but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.” A homeschooling atmosphere provides a natural setting in which parents can deliver an individualized method of instruction that matches the child’s unique interests, abilities, and learning style.

Homeschooling families may incorporate subjects that are not grade- or age-specific, such as history, literature, and the arts. Students of various ages, for example, may study the same historical period together and then be assigned homework based on their age and aptitude. To fulfill the particular requirements of each child, a homeschooling tutor (parent) may instruct each child one-on-one in other areas, such as arithmetic and reading. Meanwhile, other students may be working on individual assignments or playing in another room, depending on the age of each child.

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