Denise homeschools three boys; one of them is college-bound in the coming fall. "It's worked well for our family," she says, "but I'm not sure if we'll continue with the two younger ones … we'll assess that anew each year."
One of the benefits for Denise's older son, and her family in general, has been his ability to work ahead and complete most of his college requirements early. Denise researched those requirements beforehand to learn how colleges might view his homeschool curriculum. She made sure he would be properly prepared for college-level work. In her son's case, he was able to complete much more work on his own than he would have accomplished in a brick-and-mortar school.
The homeschooling decision will vary depending on your family, children, and your own outlook. "You have to decide what works for you. Sometimes, learning works better at home," she remarks.
In Denise's case, her high schooler is a bright and quick learner who was up to the task. He attends supplemental in-person classes once a week and is socially active, often doing extensive volunteering.
Denise loves the way homeschooling actually frees her family's schedule. They can squeeze extra activities into each day — volunteering, hiking, or attending local field trips. The kids work hard in the morning for a solid three hours and then take a long break in the afternoon — often using that time to get some much-needed fresh air. Later in the day, they'll put in another few hours.
"We get so much done," says Denise.
The Benefits and Challenges of Homeschooling
The decision to homeschool is a major one. You can expect it to affect most aspects of your home life and parenting. While there are many positives, such as seeing your children in a new light and offering them individualized lessons, there are also challenges.
For Denise, one of those was dedicating her days to her children's education. "I miss out on lunch with my girlfriends," she says with a laugh. There are also, especially with younger kids, struggles to keep them on task. If you're working with two or more kids, you may find yourself acting as both a referee and a disciplinarian.
But for many parents, the benefits far outweigh the trials. Homeschooling is on the increase, with upwards of 1.8 million students learning at home.
There are many reasons you might be considering homeschooling. Perhaps you are wary of your local public school, feel strongly about religious instruction, or have a child with an illness that affects school attendance. Or you may have a child who you're confident would thrive with instruction tailored precisely to his needs and strengths.
If you're thinking about homeschooling, there are a variety of factors to keep in mind. Here's our guide for getting you up-to-speed on the most crucial homeschooling considerations.
Nuts, Bolts, and Practical Aspects
Look at your state requirements and laws.
Each state has different sets of rules and regulations governing homeschooling. For instance, Oklahoma has lenient regulations, assuming that "private instruction is supplied in good faith." There are no mandated tests, and parents aren't required to have a teaching certification.
On the other hand, in a state like New York, parents must submit instruction plans, complete required testing, and keep a record of attendance.
Pennsylvania recently amended its law and no longer requires parents to submit portfolios of completed work at the end of each year; in the past, these were reviewed by a panel.
Many homeschooling parents prefer working without strict oversight, so be sure you know what will be required to comply in your state. You can check HSLDA, Coalition for Responsible Home Education, or A2Z Home's Cool for information on existing laws.
Find out what resources are available in your state and locality.
Most states, counties, and cities provide local organizations and resources for homeschoolers. Some will even provide supplemental classes, materials, and curriculum guides. Homeschooling families often network with others close to them and attend meet-ups or field trips together. Many cities have programs at local museums or libraries that are specifically designed for homeschoolers.
Families are mindful of the need for peer relationships, and frequently work together to keep kids socially active. You can also find a range of extracurricular sports and activities to maintain your child's social life.
If you're planning to homeschool a child with special needs, you'll also want to look into the options and supports your state provides. Many will have opportunities for therapies and services. Check your state's department of education and Homeschool Curriculum Explorer for potential resources.
Decide what curriculum you'll use, where you'll get it, and how much it will cost.
There are multiple sources for curricula and lessons. You'll have the option to go with something completely pre-packaged or design one of your own. Some are expensive and others are free. However, cost isn't prohibitive. There are plenty of resources online and in your local communities, such as museums and libraries, that make homeschooling possible within any budget. However, you'll have to factor in the loss of income if you will be teaching your children in lieu of working outside the home.
Make a plan for the time factor.
Obviously, a teenage student can divvy up the 6-hour school day according to his needs. You can also structure your time with flexibility, even though it seems as if you may be losing the freedom you would have had if your kids attended a brick-and-mortar school. You'll have the ability to schedule each day according to your own needs and plans. Kids can tag along on errands or double up assignments on some days to gain a day off. In general, you can make study time much more efficient and condensed. In thinking about the time factor, consider if you and your family would benefit from less regimentation. If not, you can still design and keep to a strict schedule.
Still, most homeschoolers agree that homeschooling can be a full-time job. You're hands-on most of the time, and have to factor in teaching and prep time. Even if you have a prepared curriculum or supplements online, you'll still have work to do. Consider whether or not you can really manage the time — even with the built in flexibility — if you also plan to work outside the home.
Making Sense of the Personal Side
What challenges and rewards can you expect as a parent?
Parents already know that they have a 24/7 job, but homeschooling will add additional responsibility to that. You'll have the privilege to tailor your child's education to fit her strengths and learning style. And you'll be present for her epiphanies and challenges. No doubt, the experience will bring you both even closer.
On the downside, you'll be spending a substantial amount of time with your children, which may be overwhelming for some parents. You won't have snow days or sick days off, and unless you set parameters, you may feel like the school day drags well into the evening. It can be hard to set divisions in your household between school and regular family time.
Is homeschooling right for your child?
You're the expert in your child and her needs, aptitudes, and temperament. Only you know for sure what kind of programs your child will benefit from. Homeschooling often offers children a much more personal curriculum — one that plays to their strengths and offers additional time and study where they may need it. Many students and families thrive when they take charge of their own education.
Interested in Learning More?
Further reading on Noodle:
Ceceri, K. (n.d.). Public School or Homeschool? Making the Decision. Retrieved February 19, 2015 from About Education.
Rich, M. (2015, January 4). Home Schooling: More Pupils, Less Regulation. Retrieved February 16, 2015, from The New York Times.
Tanz, J. (2015, February 4.) The Techies Who Are Hacking Education by Homeschooling Their Kids. Retrieved February 17, 2015 from Wired.