Did you know that there were 2.5 million homeschoolers in the United States in 2019? Homeschooling has increased in popularity in recent years, growing as much as 8% per year in the U.S.!
Until about a decade ago, homeschooling was considered a strange, almost-fanatic alternative to traditional schooling. Movies often portrayed homeschoolers as weirdos or misfits, further solidifying this belief.
However, homeschooling has since become much more mainstream, becoming the fastest-growing method of education in the U.S., while also growing steadily around the world.
What Is Homeschooling?
Homeschooling is educating one’s child or children at home, as opposed to sending them to traditional public or private schools.
The reasons why families choose to homeschool vary. Some of the most common reasons include:
- Wanting an individualized learning experience for their child(ren)
- Feeling dissatisfied with the standards of the public school system
- Instilling specific values, beliefs, and worldviews in their children
- Using pedadogical approaches not available in institutional schools
- Enhancing relationships between parents and children and among siblings
- Providing guided social interaction with adults and peers
- Giving a safer environment because of bullying, physical violence, alcohol and drugs, unhealthy sexual activity, among others
- Educating children in the midst of health emergencies such as the Covid-19/Coronavirus pandemic of spring 2020
Is It Hard to Homeschool Your Child?
So the question is, is it hard to homeschool? Homeschooling parents tend to agree that it’s hard, but because it meets their family’s goals, it’s worth it.
One homeschooling mother writes about how public school was hard for them as well, so although they did find challenges with homeschooling, it worked wonders for them.
Some of the challenges you need to prepare yourself for when you homeschool include:
- Learning how to teach your children
- Keeping detailed records of their work to submit to the authorities at the end of every school year
- Dealing with judgment from family and friends who don’t agree with your decision
- Juggling the pressure of keeping up with the school system or with other homeschooling families
- Not being able to use services that public schools offer, such as speech therapies
How Many Hours a Day Do You Have to Homeschool?
Some parents are afraid to homeschool because they can’t imagine spending 6–8 hours a day teaching their children. After all, isn’t that the amount of time that they spend in school?
The good news is, as a homeschooler, your children will not have to spend as much time as they do in regular school. Why?
- One reason is that regular school is not individualized; it includes lectures for a big group of students. This means that everyone waits for everyone else—or leaves the slower ones behind. For example, when learning a math concept, your child can learn in a much shorter time when he gets your full, focused attention, without waiting for his turn with the teacher.
- The typical school day includes a lot of free time in it: walking to and from classrooms, walking to the lunchroom, changing for gym class, waiting for the teacher, etc. Having the children at home cuts out a lot of these “extras.” Of course, you will give breaks in your homeschool schedule, but everything is so much closer, which can save you a lot of time.
- In homeschooling, the child learns at their own pace. If they learn the lesson faster than their classmates in regular school, that means they spend most of their time waiting for the others. When you homeschool, you can get the most from your child’s time.
How Do I Start Homeschooling My Child?
Here are the steps you need to take to start homeschooling your child:
1. Write down your reasons and goals for homeschooling.
Every family has a different reason for wanting to homeschool. Discuss with your family what your goals are for your children.
Write down your specific “why” before you begin; it will help give you clarity and stability in the long run.
When challenges come your way—as they surely will!—you can flip back to your journal where you wrote down your “why” to keep you motivated.
2. Research the laws on homeschooling in your state or country.
The first thing you need to do is check the laws in your country or state. The good news is, homeschooling is legal in the United States and in many countries. If you don’t live in the United States, check with your local government to make sure it’s legal, as not all countries allow it.
For example, at the time of this writing, the following European countries do not allow homeschooling:
- the Netherlands
In the United States, different states have different regulations on homeschooling. For example, some states require more detailed reports, such as keeping a record of school days, submitting lesson plans for approval, or actually reporting to the district supervisor. Other states are more lenient.
3. Research homeschooling methods.
Depending on the age of your children, there are different ways of homeschooling that you can look into.
First things first: know that homeschooling is not bringing school into your home. You don’t have to recreate everything they have at school, like the whiteboard or lecture format.
Some of the most common homeschool approaches are:
- School-at-home: In this method, you simply purchase textbooks and workbooks from different publishers, and wing it. A teacher’s guide will normally give you tips on how to teach the lessons, but generally, this method requires you to have a high teaching ability.
- Unit studies: With unit studies, you teach your children on a per-topic basis. For example, this term, you might focus on everything relating to the weather. This means that everything you teach will revolve around this, from language arts to science, history, and even math! Next term, you might want to focus on Ancient Egypt.
- Unschooling: Unschooling is an interest-led approach, where the homeschool lessons depend on what the child is interested in at the moment. As such, it usually does not include a set curriculum for the year, and the family “schools” (or un-schools, we might say) as they go along. Families who travel a lot may prefer this method, which has also come to be known as “worldschooling.”
- Classical Method: The Classical method uses the educational practices of Ancient Greece and Rome, which include a three-part process, called the trivium, to train the mind.
- The 1st phase, known as the Grammar Stage, lets the children absorb facts to create a foundation.
- The 2nd phase, the Logic Stage, teaches the children to think through arguments.
- When they reach the 3rd phase, or the Rhetoric Stage, corresponding to high school, the children learn how to express themselves both in oral and written language.
- Charlotte Mason: Based on the educational philosophy of early-1900s British educator Charlotte Mason, this method uses a lot of “living books,” nature study, a rich exposure to the great artistic masterpieces in history, and handicrafts, among others.
- Eclectic: The eclectic method simply means a mix-and-match, wherein the parent chooses from different approaches and mixes them.
4. Choose your curriculum or make your own.
After you have chosen the approach you would like to take, you need to decide on whether you have the resources to buy a boxed curriculum or make your own. (A curriculum is essentially the lesson plan that you will use for the entire school year.)
A boxed curriculum is one in which everything is collected for you: a book list, a suggested schedule, and sometimes, a list of other materials you need to prepare. For most of the approaches, boxed curricula are available for sale.
The challenge is weeding through the different companies and choosing what you believe will work best for you.
Some important things to consider when buying a curriculum are:
- Cost: Is the curriculum within your budget? Take note that the curriculum may include additional books you need to buy.
- Time and convenience: Do you have the time to collect different materials from various sources, or would you prefer to buy something that already contains everything you need?
- Personality: Do you prefer having a structured guide, such as a fixed daily schedule, or are you more spontaneous and would prefer a guide that’s a bit more “loose” or flexible?
Alternatively, if you feel up to it and you have the time and energy, you might want to make your own curriculum.
This will work if you have experience teaching, or if you opt to create less-traditional curricula like unit studies or your own Charlotte Mason curriculum.
You can also check out our list of online resources for teachers to discover fun, interactive learning material and creative teaching ideas.
5. Prepare your homeschool room or space.
After you have picked your homeschooling approach and curriculum, you can start to think about your homeschool room or space. Some families have a dedicated homeschool room, while others teach all around the house, outdoors, or in other locations.
While a dedicated room can translate to greater attention, having the children learn wherever mom needs to be, such as the kitchen when she’s preparing meals, can help save time.
In any case, you need to find a place where all your materials will be accessible, such as your books and school supplies.
6. Collect your resources.
If you opted for a boxed curriculum, this step will start with clicking a few buttons and waiting for your parcel to arrive at your doorstep.
If you chose to mix and match, you will need to collect your materials from different sources.
Then, you will also need to collect your school supplies. This will include pens, pencils, art supplies (such as glue, paint, maps, or a globe), science supplies (like magnifying lenses and measurement tools), and notebooks.
It would also be wise to invest in printing equipment to print out materials from the internet.
7. Make your schedule.
One of the most important skills that homeschooling families need to learn is time management. Create your schedule based on your family dynamics: do you wake up early as a family? Or do you prefer a slow morning and start “serious” work more around lunch time?
When you make your schedule, feel free to include family chores in the list, as these also form an important part of your children’s development.
8. Remember to set aside time for yourself.
Also, be sure to include regular time for self care. Now that you will have your children home with you 24/7, you will need to be intentional about finding time to care for yourself.
Try to schedule in some “me-time” once a week, perhaps on weekends, when your children have a day off from studying, or one evening after they’ve gone to bed. The key is to make sure you don’t let homeschooling take over your entire life.
As noble as it is to dedicate yourself to your children’s education, it’s crucial that you take care of your emotional and mental health as well, so you can be fully present and at your best for them.
9. Join online forums and find a local homeschooling group.
A support group is critical when you first start homeschooling. An online forum can help you work out kinks in your schedule or other difficulties, but if you can find a local homeschool group, that’s even better.
Having a local homeschool group means you can meet up with another family, giving you and your children a chance to be part of a homeschool coop or other social gatherings.
This also allows you exposure to new ideas and methods, as well as an opportunity to be around parents who know the challenges you face as a homeschooling family.
10. Find a mentor.
Homeschooling looks different for every family, but if you can find a mentor, perhaps a more experienced parent who has walked the path before you, get connected as soon as possible.
A mentor will not only be able to share their experiences with you, but offer a broader perspective from more years of homeschooling that will help you to see the big picture instead of focusing on minor details.
Learning How to Homeschool
As you go through your planning process, find a way to journal your thoughts and share your questions with others.
Whenever you feel discouraged or in doubt, you can return to the purpose you wrote down at the beginning of this process to remind yourself why all of this is absolutely worth it.
Have you ever homeschooled a child? Are you thinking about getting started? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below!