If you’ve ever heard other parents talk about their homeschooling experience or thought about homeschooling your children, you may be wondering what homeschooling is and how it works. Homeschooling is an alternative to a public or private school education. It has many considerations, concerns, and, often, widespread misconceptions. But homeschooling your kids isn’t letting children run wild and do whatever they like—it involves structure, planning, and organization, regardless of your method. Homeschooling isn’t always easy, but it provides unique advantages and opportunities. If you’re exploring the idea of homeschooling or wondering if it’s a good option for your family, here’s a short guide in homeschooling 101.
What is homeschooling?
Homeschooling is simple to explain, but not as easy to do. Simply put, homeschooling is teaching your kids at home yourself. When you homeschool, you take responsibility for training your kids with the knowledge and skills they are expected to have in life. For many families, homeschooling is another aspect of parenting. Instead of giving the responsibility of educating to a school, teacher, or private tutor, parents devote themselves to appropriately train and instruct their children until they’re ready for a trade, advanced schooling, or whatever their next step will be.
A Brief History of Homeschooling
Before the rise of small community schools and the introduction of mandatory education, most working class-parents taught their children at home out of simple primers and books available to them. With mandated school attendance and free, public access to education, homeschooling became a thing of the past, and even became inaccessible to parents. Parents who kept their children from mandated school attendance risked fines or imprisonment because of compulsory attendance and truancy laws. In the late 1980s, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association and concerned parents led the charge for homeschool freedom. When parents began homeschooling, or crisis-schooling, because of COVID-19 quarantines, many families decided to leave public education permanently resulting in a second resurgence of the homeschooling movement.
Parents choose to homeschool children for discipleship, safety, and academic excellence. Homeschooling gives parents the freedom to give their children an education that aligns with a biblical worldview and to introduce popular scientific theories and social movements from a biblical context. It also lets parents make choices for their children’s safety. Classroom environments may put children with special learning needs, health risks, and allergies in danger of learning anxiety, worsening illnesses, or allergic reactions. Finally, in some cases, the local public or private schools may not adequately challenge children academically. Homeschooling gives parents the freedom to customize their children’s education so they can add challenges or adjust learning expectations to ensure their children are learning and learning well.
What Homeschooling Means to Us
At BJU Press, we’re committed to providing children an education from a biblical worldview that is academically sound and challenges them to advance, think critically, and live like Christ. This type of education is not often possible in public schools because of the number of children taught in a classroom, a difference in worldview, and peer and societal pressure to conform. Homeschooling allows parents to instruct and disciple their children without daily fighting messages from an opposing worldview taught in the classroom. And with tuition costs and fees for private schooling or tutoring, homeschooling may be the only option for parents who are concerned for their children’s physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
How Homeschooling Works
Successful homeschoolers are organized, conscientious families who consider the needs of their children. They will also consider how to meet those needs alongside state requirements without overwhelming their students or avoiding responsibilities. Parents who choose to homeschool must recognize that they’re taking on every aspect of their children’s care, and they have a responsibility to make sure their children’s education appropriately prepares them for later life. In execution, this responsibility means being involved and attentive even and especially when children are learning independently or self-paced.
Depending on where you are in learning about homeschooling, the following tips and homeschooling facts should give you an idea of what getting started with homeschooling will involve.
- Be ready for research. From the different homeschooling approaches to the resources available, there will be a lot to research.
- Find a homeschool mentor. If you have a friend who homeschools already, they may cut down on your research time. They can share what worked for them and what didn’t and why.
- Preschool isn’t required. No states require students to attend or have a preschool education.
- Homeschooling isn’t one-size fits all. With the different approaches and resources available, what works well for your family won’t match work for another family. And that’s okay.
- You don’t need fancy qualifications. States don’t require parents to have a teaching degree or certification before they can teach their own kids.
- You will be doing some teaching. You may go into this looking for a program that requires you to teach as little as possible, but there will always be questions and skills that you’ll need to help teach.
- Homeschooling is rarely free. Whether in terms of time or money, you will spend more on homeschooling than you expect to. There will often be a trade-off between the two.
- Record keeping will be your best friend. A clear, thorough account of your kids’ accomplishments and progress while you homeschool will be your proof of homeschooling success.
- You can start and stop when you need to. Many homeschool families stop homeschooling when their kids enter or finish middle school. Some go all the way through high school.
What else does homeschooling involve?
- Field trips.
- Organization. Keeping track of your children and everything that they’re learning will take a lot of planning and organization.
- Rearranging. Setting up an ideal homeschool room may take several attempts.
- Activities and extracurriculars. Homeschool families often have more time or flexibility for other activities.
- You may have a favorite printer by the time you’re done.
- Homeschool parents often find themselves learning with their students.
- You probably won’t finish the books, and no one expects you to.
What do you do when you’re homeschooled?
Homeschooling and traditional schooling will be very different, but given state requirements and expectations, it can be helpful to use traditional schooling as a reference for what you’ll need to do every day. You can adjust your flow, rhythm, and expectations as you get more comfortable and gain confidence, but at the beginning, your days will likely be full of lessons, textbooks, and learning activities.
- For state and college requirements, make sure lessons cover the core subjects: science, math, history, social studies, and English language arts.
- Lessons should also cover elective studies. Some popular elective options are Bible, modern language, art, physical education, music, speech and debate, or computer coding.
- Learning activities should be varied and multisensory. Some ways to make learning more multisensory include nature walks, conversations, baking, or drawing.
- Field trips are still an option and a huge help for homeschoolers. Many organizations (especially those that perform public services) welcome homeschool families for guided tours.
Do parents teach when homeschooling?
Yes! Parents always teach. The amount that you teach will vary depending on whether you choose to lead lessons yourself, encourage your children to learn independently, or use video lessons for teaching. Video lessons and independent study will certainly reduce the amount of time that you teach, but you will still teach. If you’re teaching the lessons yourself, you’ll likely spend about 15–30 minutes teaching per course, with an additional 15–30 minutes of preparation time if you’re using a prepared curriculum. If you use video lessons or independent learning, your teaching will often be giving additional explanations for the lesson, answering questions, or giving instructions for assignments, but you will still be teaching.
Can anyone homeschool a child?
Parents have the right to homeschool their children in any state. That means that any parent or legal guardian, regardless of background or academic qualifications may homeschool their own child. Some states may require additional oversight if you don’t have a teaching background, but you’re still able to homeschool. State requirements for other people homeschooling your child may vary by state.
Do you need a curriculum to homeschool?
If you have the time and energy to build a learning experience from the ground up, no, you don’t need a curriculum to homeschool. Curriculum are prepared for you so you don’t need to decide what to teach and when, come up with activities from scratch, prepare questions and ways to measure learning, and still meet all state standards and expectations for homeschoolers. No, you don’t need a curriculum. But in terms of time and effort saved, a curriculum may be an imperative for you. Choosing the best curriculum for you depends on your family’s needs and wants.
How does homeschooling work in your state?
One of the first things you’ll need to look into and research is what the requirements for homeschoolers are in your state. The Home School Legal Defense Association has researched and created an interactive map that explains homeschool requirements by state. This will be a vital resource for you when you get started and if you plan to move to a new area. If you may be homeschooling through high school, you’ll also want to look into your state’s graduation requirements.
What to Expect When Homeschooling
If you’ve already decided on homeschooling, what can you expect going forward? Again, most of what you’ll be doing initially should be researching and connecting with other homeschool families. Knowing what approach you’d like to follow and what curriculum you’ll be using will be the fastest way to find out what to expect. In the day-to-day, planning and organization will hugely contribute to your success. If you can create a flexible and functional schedule for your family, you’ll quickly settle into a routine. Similarly, a good homeschool planner will keep you organized and focused on your goals.
Is homeschooling easy?
Homeschooling takes work. It involves the same challenges and struggles you have as a parent. Would you describe parenting as easy? When taking on the full responsibility of preparing your children, don’t think of it in terms of easy or hard. The easy days and the hard days will come side-by-side. Ultimately, what matters isn’t whether it’s easy or hard. What matters is that you can do it, and you have the tools to do it successfully.
Why Homeschooling Works
Homeschool students have unique learning experiences and a tailored approach and teaching methods that meet their needs and abilities. They also learn in safe environments free of unrealistic academic and social expectations. In addition, they often spend their time with adults and children of all ages. Their varied social experiences will give them more social confidence than students who only spend time with others in their class.
How effective is homeschooling?
Research from the National Home Education Research Institute suggests that homeschooled children often perform better on achievement testing than public school students and tend to be more emotionally and socially developed.
Are you ready to start homeschooling?
If you’re ready to start homeschooling, or still unsure about it, we can help! BJU Press Homeschool offers curriculum resources, tips, and tricks for getting started with homeschooling whether you choose to take us on your journey.
Other great resources to help you on your homeschool journey: