We’ve heard a great deal about homeschooling lately and the topic is creating quite a buzz. Many parents are having to look into this type of 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 homeschool (because I never had a grand plan to do it) to suddenly feeling tremendously overwhelmed by the vast amounts of information available. What I quickly figured out is that homeschooling is becoming more accepted by society and is on the rise. Because of the positive trend, more people are talking about it and giving it some serious consideration.
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 me and my family 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 that there are about 1.7 million homeschooled children in the United States, according to a report prepared in February 2018. 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 a 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 that shows children who are homeschooled can absolutely succeed academically and socially when they are offered the proper support. Parents of homeschooled children are typically motivated and driven to go above and beyond in order to facilitate their children’s education. They continually educate themselves and are able to 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 who 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 prior to choosing a curriculum.
1. Check with your state’s laws regarding homeschooling.
While homeschooling is legal in the United States, it is regulated by state government. It is important to research your specific state’s laws regarding the requirements so that you legally comply with your state’s laws. Some states view homeschooling as private education and regulate them as such. Other states have specific state statues, and others have no restrictions at all.
2. Get connected to local homeschool groups.
We all know that we are better together, especially in the homeschool community. The advice here is to get plugged in to 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 direct you in learning the laws in your state, curriculum selection, extra-curricular or group classes, as well as local available co-ops. This is also a great way to help reduce your anxiety and overwhelm, because they understand you and can support you.
3. Explore various homeschooling methods.
This is an important part of the process. What’s so unique about homeschooling is that you get to design what school looks like for your child. One thing that homeschool is not, is public school at home. There are several homeschooling methods that we will discuss later. The best part is that you have the freedom to choose what style works best for your child and family. Figuring out the method that will work for you makes it so much easier when choosing and designing a curriculum.
4. Choosing a homeschool curriculum based on your child’s learning style.
There are so many learning options available. Online and virtual options, books, websites, classes. It is really important that you discover and explore your child’s unique learning style before purchasing a curriculum. 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 for me. I have found homeschool 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 before, 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 exactly 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.
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 either 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 a really 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 literature focused method. The core subjects are taught reading, mathematics, science and history, with a particular focus on Latin, logic and rhetoric. Often the teaching of character and values is combined in order 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 at all. The idea is that children lead the education based upon their individual 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 upon the theme of butterflies. Quite often, the unschooling method is used for students transitioning from a traditional classroom or school settling to homeschool setting.
This method is very popular for younger children. But that doesn’t mean that older students won’t benefit from this method. Unit Studies revolves around a theme and incorporates 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, as well as learn about the wildlife that may live in the ocean. This method allows students to associate ordinary themes within the core subjects.
Within the homeschool community, you will often hear about the Charlotte Mason method of teaching. Charlotte Mason was a British educator in the late 1800s to early 1900s, who emphasized respecting each child as a person and providing them 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 homeschool is the right option for you? When deciding on whether or not homeschool 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 conditions for education 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!