In your homeschool, how do you make learning choices for your children? Do you make decisions based on your knowledge, experience, and beliefs as their parents (parent-led homeschooling), or do you make choices based on their interests and natural abilities (child-led learning)? As you learn more about homeschooling methods and curriculum, you’re going to start seeing these terms a lot. In this post we’ll discuss what parent-led homeschooling is, and how you can decide if it works for you.
What is parent-led homeschooling?
Parent-led homeschooling is an educational approach—or homeschooling method—that keeps parents in charge of learning decisions for their children. In other words, you decide what your kids learn as well as when and how they learn. The main difference between parent-led and child-led homeschooling is that you, rather than your children, are the driving force in choosing what your children learn and when. Parent-led homeschooling doesn’t mean that parent-led homeschoolers ignore their children’s preferences in their learning opportunities. Often, what it means is parents get creative in teaching stuff their kids don’t want to learn about. No one can force a kid to learn. But you can find ways to get them interested in what they have to learn anyway.
If you choose parent-led homeschooling for your kids, you’ll also be solely responsible for teaching your kids, too. Some parents may choose to delegate certain subjects to another teacher—a co-op teacher, video teacher, private tutor, music teacher, or other instructor. Though there’s a lot involved in being the primary teacher for your kids, it’s also very rewarding.
Is parent-led homeschooling the same as teacher-led homeschooling?
Teacher-led homeschooling refers to when a parent entrusts their children’s education to a live video teacher or tutor for all their children’s educational needs. So instead of making all the day-to-day learning choices for your children yourself, you look to someone else to do it. When you entrust another educator to make most learning choices for you, you are giving up some of your authority over your children’s education. In parent-led homeschooling, you oversee every aspect of your children’s learning, not just who teaches them.
Benefits of Parent-Led Homeschooling
- Time. When you’re the primary instructor of your children, you naturally spend a lot of time with them. Filling the role of both teacher and parent is a great way to get to know your kids. You’ll share precious memories, triumphs, struggles, and countless moments that you will have to cherish no matter what happens later in life.
- Discipleship. Parent-led homeschooling gives you more opportunities to disciple your children and lead them through their struggles. More so than even some other homeschooling approaches. You get to teach them how to persevere in their studies and show them the value of learning. You also see the slow but certain result of daily loving your children to the Lord and living as an example to them. Who knows? Maybe they’ll even disciple you, too!
- Customizability. As the primary educator, you’ll soon find that you have a lot more freedom to adapt and customize your homeschool experience to your and your children’s needs. While all homeschoolers have the freedom to adapt their materials, the knowledge it takes to know what to do and when not to do it isn’t easy to explain. It’s an experiential knowledge that comes when you sit across from your children and see in their eyes when they understand and when they don’t.
- Cost. Aside from a few independent learning options for homeschooling, parent-led homeschooling will often be one of the cheaper options available. Video teaching options or online learning options can add hundreds or thousands of dollars to a homeschool order, depending on what company you’re ordering from and what you’re looking for. Parent-led homeschoolers often only rely on textbooks for teaching their children. Textbooks and reliable teaching materials are commonly available through curriculum swaps or are sold used online.
Disadvantages of Parent-Led Homeschooling
- Time. Teaching your kids takes time. Lots of time. From lesson planning, to gathering supplies, to teaching your kids every day, parent-led homeschooling is a commitment that requires carefully planning. Parents with multiple kids and single parents may struggle to find a way to make parent-led homeschooling work for them. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, though! There are options for homeschooling multiple children and for homeschooling as a single parent.
- Uncertainty. If you start to ask whether you’re doing the right thing, whether this is what God really wants for your family, or whether your kids are really being prepared, then you’re not alone. Uncertainty is a familiar feeling for homeschool parents. These feelings and thoughts can get a lot stronger when you’re also taking responsibility for teaching as well as planning your homeschool. When you’re unsure of yourself, what you really need is to be reminded that you can do this, that you know what God has called you to do, and that you’ve done the research and know what your kids need. One of the best resources for you in dealing with uncertainty is building up a homeschool support system—people you can talk to who will encourage you and remind you of the things that you need to remember.
- Subject matter expertise. Uncertainty at times has a point—when your kid starts learning long division and you’ve been using a calculator for so long that you can barely remember short division, how can you teach it? What if you teach it wrong? Sometimes, being a good homeschooling parent requires you to be self-aware and acknowledge that there might be certain things better taught by someone else. Fortunately, there are plenty of options for teaching support in co-ops, video courses, and other homeschooling parents.
Is parent-led homeschooling right for me?
If you have the time to commit and the certainty that this is the best option both for you and your children, then absolutely, parent-led homeschooling can be a great help for your family. However, it’s okay if you look at it honestly and know that it won’t work for you—no matter how much you may want it to. You won’t get kicked out of the homeschool club if a different educational approach works better for you. In fact, many find that independent learning options with video courses work much better for their family.
5 Steps to Start a Parent-Led Homeschool
1. Get to know your homeschool laws and expectations.
If you’re new to homeschooling, the first thing you should be aware of is that each state has its own requirements for homeschool families. In general, these requirements don’t affect parent-led homeschoolers any differently than teacher- or child-led homeschool families. The Home School Legal Defense Association tracks homeschool laws by state so they’re easy for homeschool families to learn. Additionally, you might want to learn more about how to homeschool.
2. Pick a curriculum that includes teaching resources and support material.
When you’re doing the teaching yourself, you’ll need a curriculum designed to support your teaching. Curriculum for parent-led homeschoolers should have well-written teacher editions or teaching materials. These teacher editions will give you a starting point for lesson planning, suggestions for activities to do, additional background information for answering questions, and answers and suggested answers for questions in student assignments. If you’re looking at a curriculum that only offers answer keys instead of teaching guides, then what you’re looking at is probably a curriculum designed for independent learning, not for parent-led homeschooling. Once you have a curriculum that works for you, learn how to use the teacher edition and how to navigate it. You’ll thank me later.
Examples of Parent-Led Homeschooling Curriculum
Some popular homeschool curriculum options that support parent-led homeschooling include BJU Press, Abeka, AOP, Sonlight, My Father’s World, and BookShark. There are plenty of options, so be sure to read more about choosing the best homeschool curriculum for your family.
3. Pick a planner.
Planners can almost be as big of a decision as homeschool curriculum. Planners may be designed for different homeschool approaches, different curriculum choices, and even how many kids you have! Some planners include space for lesson planning, assignment schedules, and reporting. Some are digital, and some are strictly pen and paper. Check out the planner options available to you. And, if you like digital planners, be sure to check out the Homeschool Hub!
4. Learn about lesson planning.
A curriculum that has built-in lessons will streamline lesson planning significantly, but if you plan on using a curriculum not designed for parent-led homeschooling or if you plan on building your own curriculum, you’ll need to know how to lesson plan.
5. Choose a schedule.
Once you have a curriculum, planner, and an understanding of how to plan lessons, you’re set to schedule out your year. At least initially, you’ll probably do most of your planning in pencil. If you stay focused and stick with it, your first year will be behind you before you know it, and you’ll know for certain what you’re capable of!