In the US, the number of homeschooled students in grades K-12 was approximately 3.1 million during 2021-2022, which accounts for roughly six percent of school-age children. In spring 2019, there were about 2.5 million homeschooled students, around four percent of school-age children.
The homeschool population has been growing at an estimated two and eight percent annually over the past few years, but it experienced a significant rise from 2019-2020 to 2020-2021.
Homeschooling can be an excellent option for those looking to take control of their child’s education. Parents who want to homeschool their children can choose from various approaches, ranging from unschooling to virtual or online schooling. Here’s a guide to help you start homeschooling and ensure you’re doing it right.
- Understand Homeschooling Laws and Regulations
- Determine Your Child’s Learning Style
- Set Your Homeschooling Goals and Objectives
- Choose Your Homeschooling Method
- Find Curriculum and Resources
- Establish a Schedule and Routine
- Connect with Other Homeschooling Families and Communities
Understand Homeschooling Laws and Regulations
Each state has different regulations for homeschooling. For instance, parents must submit a declaration of intent to their local superintendent by July 1 or 14 days in New York before starting homeschooling. They also need to create a personalized home instruction plan, keep track of attendance, send quarterly reports, and conduct standardized tests.
Understand State Regulations
To ensure that you understand your state’s regulations and follow them correctly, it is best to consult with a legal expert or an experienced homeschooling parent in your state. Additionally, you can take advantage of organizations such as the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which provides legal advice and resources related to homeschooling.
Parents need to keep records of the student’s attendance and progress when homeschooling. Depending on the state and local district, a comprehensive portfolio of educational materials, such as textbooks and tests, may need to be submitted for review. Additionally, most states require that parents submit quarterly or annual reports and standardized test scores.
Determine Your Child’s Learning Style
Knowing and understanding them well is essential to provide personalized education for your children based on their unique learning needs. This may involve observing the obstacles they encounter while learning or identifying their preferred learning styles.
Learning styles refer to how children process information through their senses. Certain children may benefit from educational activities that cater to their specific learning styles. However, all children learn best when interacting with information using multiple senses.
If your child has special needs, homeschooling can be an excellent option. Parents should consider their children’s unique needs and tailor their homeschooling program accordingly. Parents may also need to consult with educational experts to ensure that they provide appropriate instruction for their children.
Set Your Homeschooling Goals and Objectives
Consider why you want to do it when you think about starting homeschooling. Your reasons can help you decide what goals to set for your homeschooling journey, which will then guide your decisions about teaching styles, curriculum, and homeschooling methods.
When planning homeschool goals, consider your starting point. Homeschooling a 4-year-old will have a different approach than homeschooling a tenth grader.
The best time to start homeschooling a child depends on your family and needs. If your child is struggling in school and you think homeschooling can help, it doesn’t matter if you start in kindergarten or later. However, if you think your child should first complete elementary grades in public or private school, that can also work well.
Once you have determined your goals and objectives, developing a curriculum plan is next. Curriculum plans should be tailored to the specific needs of each student and family. Consider grade level, state requirements, learning styles, and interests when creating a curriculum plan.
You can choose from various curricula available online or in stores, but it’s essential to consider their quality and effectiveness before purchasing. For instance, some online programs may not meet state standards or support certain goals that you have set for your child. If you’re uncertain about a curriculum’s quality, look for reviews from other families who have used the same program.
Choose Your Homeschooling Method
Homeschooling involves different approaches or styles in teaching children, affecting curriculum choice and day-to-day activities. These methods can prioritize child-focused or learning-focused approaches. Some popular methods include Traditional, Classical, Charlotte Mason, and Unschooling.
The most common homeschooling method is similar to a traditional school, where a standard curriculum and a set schedule are followed. Many new homeschooling families choose this method as it is familiar and comfortable and is a good option for those living in states with strict homeschooling regulations.
Classical education is an old teaching style that focuses on the child’s developmental stage to teach skills when they are mentally and developmentally prepared. The Trivium comprises three stages – grammar, logic, and rhetoric – representing the learning stages children progress through.
Charlotte Mason was an educator, speaker, and author who believed in teaching children through quality literature, known as living books, nature exploration, art, and direct interaction with learning concepts. In the Charlotte Mason method, students engage fully with their learning by moving around and interacting with nature, copying lessons word for word, and journaling their thoughts and ideas.
Regularly utilizing narration, dictation, and journaling transforms learning from a mere chore into a way of life. It fosters a continuous dialogue between the child and the parent or teacher.
Unschooling is a homeschooling method that is different from deschooling. It concentrates solely on the child’s interests and uses textbooks and curricula only when they align with their curiosity. There are no schedules, assignments, or tests, and regular projects are not required.
At this point, it may help to compare homeschooling vs. unschooling. Homeschooling usually has a structure and follows a curriculum, while unschooling is more flexible. Unschoolers rely more on child-led learning and living books, whereas homeschoolers generally use textbooks and workbooks to cover in-depth topics.
Find Curriculum and Resources
Purchasing a homeschool curriculum prematurely often leads to regret. First, consider your child’s learning style and your homeschooling approach, then evaluate available resources. Read reviews, compare prices, and talk to other homeschooling families. This can help get an idea of what curriculum options are available.
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, look for resources supporting your chosen materials. For example, if you choose a language arts program, find books from the library or websites with supplemental activities. Many homeschooling families recommend joining support groups and co-op classes to share resources, ideas, and strategies.
Establish a Schedule and Routine
Home education follows a flexible schedule, but it’s essential to establish some form of routine. Doing so helps children develop self-discipline and time management skills, which are crucial for them in the future.
Creating a daily or weekly schedule can help prevent burnout from too much learning or boredom caused by too little structure. Additionally, counseling services may be necessary for children who have difficulty adjusting to the homeschooling environment.
Regularly Evaluate Your Homeschooling Plan
As you embark on your homeschooling journey, take time to evaluate the curriculum, resources, and teaching methods that you are using. Consider the successes and challenges of each approach and make adjustments as needed.
Regularly assessing your homeschooling plan helps ensure that it provides meaningful learning experiences for your children and meets their needs. Furthermore, staying apprised of state education regulations ensures you follow them correctly.
Connect with Other Homeschooling Families and Communities
Homeschooling can be lonely if you don’t have other families or communities to connect with. Fortunately, plenty of online and local homeschooling groups provide support and guidance for new homeschoolers.
Joining such networks allows you to gain insight from experienced homeschooling parents and create relationships with those facing similar challenges. It can also provide field trips, social activities, and curriculum-sharing opportunities to enrich your children’s learning experiences.
Attend Homeschooling Conferences and Events
Homeschooling conferences and events offer valuable networking opportunities and are a great way to get information about new trends in homeschooling. Additionally, attending such conferences can provide insights into curricula choices, teaching approaches, and resources.
These events can also be beneficial for connecting with other homeschoolers, which is especially important if you are just starting. Furthermore, attending homeschooling conferences and events can help you stay up to date on the latest developments in the homeschooling industry.
Homeschooling can be a great option for those looking to take control of their child’s education. It is important to understand the laws and regulations in your state, determine your child’s learning style, set goals and objectives, choose an appropriate homeschool method, find good curriculum resources that match your needs and budget, create a schedule or routine for homeschooling activities, regularly evaluate the plan you have chosen for and connect with other families or communities who are also engaged in homeschooling. Attending conferences and events related to homeschooling is another way to stay up-to-date on trends in this field. By considering all these steps when starting with homeschooling, parents ensure they provide quality educational experiences tailored to their children’s unique needs.