We’ve heard a great deal about homeschooling lately, and the topic is creating quite a buzz. Many parents must consider educating a child at home because of the nationwide quarantine. Among many, many other challenges most parents are facing is finding the best homeschool curriculum for their child.
When I decided to homeschool my child, I had no idea how many resources were actually out there. I went from not knowing anything about homeschooling (because I never had a grand plan to do it) to suddenly feeling tremendously overwhelmed by the vast amounts of information available. I quickly figured out that homeschooling is becoming more accepted by society and is rising. Because of the positive trend, more people are discussing it and seriously considering it.
Right now, you may have no choice but to homeschool, and you need some guidance. Or you may be asking yourself, is homeschooling right for my family and me in the long run? Let’s dive right in and discover what all the talk is about.
Why Do Parents Choose to Homeschool?
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported there are about 1.7 million homeschooled children in the United States, according to a report prepared in February 2018.1 The belief is that this number is growing and quickly surpassing the 2 million mark. What is making this number continue to rise?
Based on research and surveys conducted by the NCES, the main reasons parents choose to homeschool is based upon many factors. For most, it has to do with their concerns regarding the social environment of traditional schools. For others, it is the poor academic quality of public schools and the belief that parents can provide quality education with various options available. No matter the reason you choose to homeschool, there are some things you will want to know as you embark on this journey.
Homeschooling has been around since the 1970s, so there is plenty of data and research showing that homeschooled children can succeed academically and socially when offered the proper support. Parents of homeschooled children are typically motivated and driven to go above and beyond to facilitate their children’s education. They continually educate themselves and deliver learning that is most beneficial to their child’s unique traits and learning style. In fact, there are many Ivy League and private colleges that have commented that most homeschooled children present well during college admission screening because they are incredibly well-rounded individuals.
Steps to Start Homeschooling
As a newbie homeschool mom, I made a mistake. I thought that searching for a homeschool curriculum was the first step. It isn’t! Many new homeschoolers will make this same mistake and quickly go online to search “homeschool curriculum.” Typically, most people assume that their main objective as a homeschool parent is to recreate a classroom setting in their home; however, there are many styles to choose from.
Before we dive into specific homeschooling methods, let’s look at best practices before choosing a curriculum.
1. Check with your state’s laws regarding homeschooling.
While homeschooling is legal in the United States, it is regulated by the state government. It is important to research your state’s laws regarding the requirements so that you legally comply with them. Some states view homeschooling as private education and regulate them as such. Other states have specific state statutes, and others have no restrictions.
2. Get connected to local homeschool groups.
We all know we are better together, especially in the homeschool community. The advice here is to get plugged into a local group by searching community groups on social media or online in your area. Doing this early will save you so much time. Homeschool support groups exist to help you learn the laws in your state, curriculum selection, extra-curricular or group classes, and available local co-ops. This is also a great way to help reduce your anxiety and overwhelm because they understand and support you.
3. Explore various homeschooling methods.
This is an important part of the process. What’s unique about homeschooling is that you design what school looks like for your child. One thing that homeschooling is not is public school at home. There are several homeschooling methods that we will discuss later. The best part is choosing what style works best for your child and family. Figuring out the method that will work for you makes it so much easier to choose and design a curriculum.
4. Choosing a homeschool curriculum based on your child’s learning style.
Many learning options are available: online and virtual options, books, websites, and classes. Before purchasing a curriculum, you must discover and explore your child’s unique learning style. Typically, the core subjects are taught, but how you teach them is up to you. Once you have decided on the method that will work best for you and your family, the resources available are endless. The ability to narrow down the method beforehand will help tremendously when the curriculum search begins.
5. Attend homeschool events.
There are conventions and homeschool events that occur all over the country. Attending events like these will provide great exposure to speakers and experts who can provide additional resources and education to you as the education facilitator in your home. Even though this step may not be feasible right now, plan to attend an event as soon as you can, especially if you decide to homeschool beyond this year.
6. Build your support system and network.
I don’t know where I would be without the support of my fellow homeschool community moms. They understand my struggles and fears and are a wealth of knowledge. I have found homeschooling to be a very supportive community, and encouragement is a must when you are in the throes of homeschooling.
Homeschool does not usually look exactly alike from home to home. Therefore, it is important to learn about the various methods of learning. Remember when I advised that you figure out the homeschooling method you would like to use before purchasing a curriculum? Well, here it is. You are about to understand why this is the case. There are probably ten or more methods by which parents choose to homeschool. Here, I am going to highlight the 5 most popular methods.2
This is probably the closest style to what most people grew up with in a traditional classroom. It usually consists of textbooks and workbooks in each subject, based on your child’s age or grade. This is just as you may recall; reading and answering questions about the content and using workbooks for additional practice and testing with fill-in-the-blank and multiple-choice questions. Sometimes the traditional method is presented in an online or virtual platform, which can be an effective learning style for some children.
Classical homeschooling is based on teaching children in three stages (The Grammar Stage, The Logic Stage, and the Rhetoric Stage). The main goal of this model is to teach children to think for themselves. It is both a language and a literature-focused method. The core subjects are taught reading, mathematics, science, and history, focusing on Latin, logic, and rhetoric. Often the teaching of character and values is combined to train the mind to draw conclusions.
The homeschool community is seeing a rise in the method of “unschooling.” This concept is based on the fact that no set curriculum is used. The idea is that children lead their education based on their interests and curiosities. For example, if a child is interested in butterflies, then together, you research and learn all there is to know about butterflies. The thought is that incorporate all four core subjects based on the theme of butterflies. The unschooling method is often used for students transitioning from a traditional classroom or school setting to a homeschool setting.
This method is popular for younger children. But that doesn’t mean that older students won’t benefit from this method. Unit Studies revolve around a theme and incorporate all subjects (math, English-language arts, history, science, music, art, etc.) into one topic. For example, one week, the theme may be “Oceans.” Your lessons in each subject will incorporate the overall ocean theme. Your child will read books and draw pictures about the ocean and learn about the wildlife that may live there. This method allows students to associate ordinary themes within the core subjects.
Within the homeschool community, you will often hear about the Charlotte Mason teaching method. Charlotte Mason was a British educator in the late 1800s to early 1900s who emphasized respecting each child and providing a broad education. This method uses rich literature rather than textbooks. This method works well for how children naturally learn, combining basic academics with nature study, art, music, and crafts. This homeschool curriculum reinforces good lifelong habits, not just presenting a body of information.
Is Homeschool Right for My Family?
Wondering if homeschooling is the right option for you? When deciding whether or not homeschooling is right for you, it’s important to remember that the quality of a child’s homeschool experience depends almost entirely on the parents’ dedication to providing a functional, nurturing environment with optimal education conditions and healthy child development.
The blessing you have right now is that you get the chance to explore all of these options for a homeschooling curriculum! Use this time to look into the various methods and styles of homeschooling. Ask lots of questions. Talk a lot with other homeschool moms. They can guide you in many ways!