As state school districts struggle with the decision whether to return to school in person or conduct classes virtually online, a growing number of parents are considering whether they want to take another avenue and school their children at home.
Parents across the country have expressed frustration at traditional school systems and their plans for the 2020-2021 school year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some schools have begun in-school classes only to cancel them and switch to distance learning when the number of those testing positive for the virus increased.
Approximately 2 million students are homeschooled in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Education, with a good chance that number will grow this school year to levels that have not been seen in modern times.
Several states have reported a surge in homeschooling applications. Vermont has seen applications go up 75%. In North Carolina, the state received so many requests for applications that its website was overwhelmed last month.
According to the National Home Educators Research Institute, 3% to 4% of school-age children are being schooled at home and Brian Ray, the NHER’s president, told The Associated Press he anticipated that that number will increase by at least 10%.
However, taking on the responsibility for your child’s education, not to mention changing the family’s lifestyle to turn your home into a home school is a daunting task.
Homeschool advocates point to studies that have shown that those who are homeschooled generally outperform academically those who received in-school educations. Critics of the process say children who are homeschooled lack socialization skills and real-world experiences.
What is homeschooling, is it right for you, and should you consider it? Here are some answers about homeschooling.
What is homeschooling?
First, a look at what homeschooling isn’t. It is not what most parents in America went through in the spring as the country shut down when the virus began circulating.
It is not online public schooling where you and your child are trying to figure out how to connect with your child’s school and get assignments or watch their teacher deliver lessons.
Many districts have a virtual school option that is separate from the public school your child would attend.
Homeschooling is when parents withdraw their children from in-person, public or private school education and, instead, teaches them at home.
There are several options for homeschooling beyond a parent teaching his or her child. Among other options, there are online homeschools that provide live lessons with teachers, “bubbles” or “pods” where a group of students in an area gather with a parent, tutor or teacher to learn, and “umbrella” schools where your homeschool program is supervised by a private school.
Homeschooling provides parents the flexibility to create a learning environment that is based on their child’s interest, learning level and readiness.
Is homeschooling right for my family?
Homeschooling is a tough decision on many levels. Here are some things you should consider before you make your decision to unplug from the public school system.
- You will be in charge of your child’s education. It will be up to you to make sure your child is engaged and is learning. You will have to keep up with paperwork and grades. You will have to be able to help your child learn, though there are many resources that can help you do that.
- You will be home with your kids. Time away from parents and children is not a bad thing. You need to realize that your children will be home with you much more if you are new to homeschooling. Time together isn’t a bad thing, either.
- Some school districts do not allow homeschooled children to participate in sports.
- You may not have access to the technology and resources a public school has.
- There are not as many opportunities to socialize with groups at school.
If I decide to homeschool, where do I start?
Homeschooling is not for everyone, but if you do decide to proceed, you need to do your homework.
There are endless websites that offer help and links to more help when it comes to homeschooling, but, first, you need to consider the idea from all angles.
Once you decide you want to begin homeschooling here are some tips to get started.
- Know your state’s laws. A few states require that students be taught by a person who is a certified teacher. Others require paperwork and a paper trail of your child’s schoolwork. Check out your state’s requirements here.
- Locate a local support system. Nothing you look up online will compare with talking to a person who has gone through the homeschooling process in your area. Look for home educators in your area by going to The Homeschool Mom website. It is a comprehensive source of homeschooling information.
- Consider “deschooling” before you start. Deschooling means withdrawing from public school, then giving your child some time away from education to then establish a mindset for a new way of being educated. Click here for a look at deschooling.
- Choose a curriculum. How will your child learn? How structured would the experience be? You have to decide how you are going to teach your children and whether the situation will be structured as a public school does or if you will try some new avenues of learning. You can purchase an “out-of-the-box” learning experience from online sources, or come up with your own type of curriculum. Here are some tips on choosing a curriculum that best suits your family.
The Coalition for Responsible Home Education offers these tips.
Is homeschooling legal?
Homeschooling is legal in all U.S. states, but each state has its own laws governing homeschooling.
Some have few regulations, while others are more strict.
Click here to find out your state’s legal requirements for homeschooling.
What if I have a full-time job outside of the home?
If both parents work outside of the home or you are a single parent, homeschooling will present more challenges. Your decision to homeschool will depend on several factors such as if you have childcare while you are at work; if you are willing to homeschool at night when you get home from work; if there are other parents in the area who homeschool the you can pay to homeschool your child.
Some families with two incomes have opted to have one parent quit their job to stay home and educate the children. That decision requires a big adjustment for families but gives parents the peace of mind that their child is being educated the way they wish.
Some families have been able to stagger their work shifts so one parent is home with the children while the other works.
This post at Homeschooldiner.com offers some tips on working full-time and homeschooling.
What about socialization?
One criticism of homeschooling is that the homeschooled child does not get the social interaction needed to function in society as they grow to adulthood. Critics claim they are not put in situations where they have to learn to interact and learn to figure out how they fit into society.
While they are not in a public school setting, homeschooled children can find social interaction in other ways. Parents can connect with other homeschool parents to set up playdates, children can take classes at community centers or play city-league sports. Many states allow homeschooled children to be part of the school band or arts programs.
Do homeschooled kids take standardized tests?
Standardized tests are required for some homeschooled children, depending on the state you live in. The majority of states do not require the tests, but allow homeschoolers to take them.
How does homeschooling high school students work?
If you are homeschooling a high school student there are a few things you need to know.
First, you need to determine what your child needs to learn to graduate from high school. Some of this will be determined by state regulations. (Click here for those).
Next, you should make a plan for when those courses will be taken. You want to make sure you cover the courses needed for your child to go on to a college if that is in their plans. Click here for a sample plan.
Look for resources to help you with the high school years. Not every parent wants to or can easily teach algebra. There are a lot of online resources that can help you teach the courses.
Where can I find more information?
The good thing about homeschooling now are the options available to parents. Online resources are plentiful as are online homeschooling communities that offer support and answer questions. Below are a few resources that can help answer questions about homeschooling.
- Information about homeschooling in general: The Homeschool Mom; Homeschool Legal Defense Association; Homeschool.com; Time4Learning
- Online software-based learning: Khan Academy; Dreambox; BrainPOP
- Individual subject tutors: Tutor.com; Chegg.com; TutorEye; FIVERR
- Curriculum: Moving Beyond the Page; Oak Meadow; k12; Sonlight; Classical Conversations
- Individual online live classes: Outschool
Cox Media Group