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Homeschooling 101: A Beginner's Guide

October 21, 2022

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When considering homeschooling, it's important to understand the benefits and challenges of this educational choice. Homeschooling programs offer children and families a variety of benefits, including customized instruction, increased family bonding time, and more opportunities for learning outside the traditional school setting.

However, even good homeschooling programs can also present certain challenges, such as finding enough quality curriculum materials and managing lesson planning. In addition, many parents worry about their children socializing with other kids their age.

Ultimately, the decision to homeschool your child is a personal one that requires careful consideration of all the pros and cons of homeschooling. In this blog post, we'll discuss everything you need to know to help answer the question: is homeschooling better for your family? And if so, how to start homeschooling.

A homeschool set up

Understanding the Law

Homeschooling has been legal in all 50 states since 1993. However, it's imperative that parents educate themselves on state homeschool laws before they begin homeschooling.

Some states, like Missouri or homeschooling programs in Texas, have laws that favor the parents' right to choose a method of education for their children and require very little documentation.

Children in a homeschool setting

Other states, like New York, have strict requirements for homeschoolers. These include notifying your local school district of your intent to homeschool, submitting an Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP) to the state, complying with day, hour, and subject requirements, filing quarterly reports, and assessing your child(ren) annually with standardized homeschooling NY tests.

There are organizations that exist to help homeschoolers navigate the intricacies of the US legal system and keep their homeschool practices on the up and up. One such organization is the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). They've been around for over 35 years and helped over 100,000 families to maintain their rights to homeschool, including many families homeschooling in Texas.

If you're still at the state of wondering how does homeschooling work, you should explore their website for details on your state homeschool laws. Check out the homeschooling requirements by state:

These resources will help you get started finding homeschooling programs near me!

Benefits of Homeschooling

Despite the potentially required legal hoops, parents still choose to homeschool their children for a multitude of reasons. The following are some of the most commonly cited benefits of homeschooling.

Less Expensive Than Private School

A quality education isn't cheap. The average annual tuition for private schooling for grades K-8 in the US is $12,350. The cost increases to $16,040 per year for high school.

Homeschooling offers a high-quality education for a fraction of the cost. At an average of just $700-$1,200 per student, homeschooling is an affordable alternative for families looking for a way to allow their children the benefits of focused schooling.

Quality Time

Parents who homeschool enjoy extra hours, days, weeks, and months with their children that parents whose children attend traditional school miss out on. Childhood passes so quickly, the memories made during the time spent homeschooling will be treasured forever. 

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Focus On Your Child

It's a tremendous blessing to give your children the gift of understanding and encouragement. If your child has special needs or is gifted and benefits from extra challenges, you can meet those needs by homeschooling.

Too often are children left to languish in public classrooms because the teacher has too many students to care for. In a homeschooling situation, this doesn't happen. You can choose the program that's right for your family from the wide range of options from faith based learning to homeschooling programs for special needs. Your children are always your top priority.

Grow Independence

Homeschooling also gives you a unique opportunity to grow your child's independence. As parent and teacher, you will shape the adult your child becomes. Every day is a new opportunity.

By using seemingly mundane tasks as part of your curriculum, you can teach your child independence and self-sufficiency. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, yard work... these can all become lessons. Life lessons.

Challenges of Homeschooling and How to Overcome Them

Unfortunately, the challenges faced by homeschoolers don't end with state legal requirements. However, as with any other challenge, they can be overcome. Here's how.

Socialization/Finding Friends

Any homeschooler can tell you this is the first challenge out of the mouth of any parent who doesn't homeschool. "But what about socialization?" The answer is so simple.

We socialize! Homeschoolers have meetups, conventions, workshops, co-ops, and support groups. There is no shortage of social gatherings for children or parents. This can be especially good when homeschooling high schoolers who are ready to get out and build their own social networks!

Whether your homeschooled children need help academically or are looking for a sports team to join, resources are just a Google search away.

Avoiding Burnout

Burnout can happen to anyone. At work, at home, in your homeschool journey. But that doesn't mean you're a failure, and it doesn't mean you have to give up.

Symptoms of burnout can include:

  • exhaustion

  • fatigue

  • depression

  • anxiety

  • lack of interest in activities you used to enjoy

  • substance abuse

homeschooling

When burnout becomes severe, it requires medical intervention and can take months or years of recovery. It's so important to recognize the symptoms before things get that bad and take steps to heal.

Parents, especially moms, are notorious for putting themselves last. Self care is never a priority.

But it should be.

You can't take care of your family if you don't take care of yourself. If you start to feel or notice the symptoms of burnout in your own life, take a step back. Do something for yourself - rest, recover, take time.

When you feel ready - really ready - come back slowly. Begin with reminding yourself of your "why."

Why do you homeschool?

What's your big reason? Focus on that and go from there. This is a good question to keep in mind from the first day of kindergarten to prepping to begin homeschooling programs for high schoolers. Start slow and take your time.

Don't rush and don't feel pressured. You're worth it.

More Expensive Than Public Schools

Although homeschooling is far and away cheaper than private schooling, it is more costly than sending your kids to public school. The benefits, however, far outweigh the cost.

Instead of having one teacher for every 25 children, your child or children have your undivided attention.

When considering homeschooling vs public schooling, there are many aspects to consider for your family. A benefit of homeschooling is the ability to tailor lessons to your child's needs and interests. Not to mention all the time you get to enjoy with your kids.

While there are free homeschooling programs, which are often homeschooling online programs with limited physical resources, on the market like Easy Peasy Homeschooling, be wary of the quality of their curriculum and the amount of resources they provide.  If expense is a hard limiting factor, homeschooling may not be right for your family. At least, not right now.

Teaching Multiple Children Simultaneously

If you have multiple children, it can be challenging to manage various grade levels simultaneously. The good news is that parents all over the world do it successfully every day. Here are a couple of strategies that can help.

Unit Studies

Whether you use curricula or create your own, unit studies are very effective when teaching multiple grade levels. For example, you can have younger children do an art project in relation to the subject, while older children write a report.

Block Time

Schedule blocks of time for each child individually when needed. While you focus on specific studies with one child, the other children can spend time reading or being read to by an older child.

Children in home school setting

Choosing a Homeschooling Method

When you're ready to start at home schooling, the first decision to make is what method to employ. What are the best homeschooling programs? There are three main homeschooling styles or methods: unschooling, Charlotte Mason, and classical. Each has its own educational philosophies.

Unschooling is the most relaxed and child-led approach, while Charlotte Mason is parent-led, with a focus on providing richly educational life experiences. Classical homeschooling is a mix of the two, with a focus on teaching children the basics of reading, writing, and math.

Unschooling

Unschooling is a homeschool style that doesn't rely on traditional methods of instruction, such as textbooks and worksheets. Unschoolers learn through real-world experiences and self-directed exploration.

There is no set curriculum to follow. Instead, children gain knowledge and experience through genuine curiosity and hands-on experience.

Children who unschool are more likely to be self-motivated and self-reliant. Unschooled children also typically have a better understanding of the world around them, since they learn about things in a natural way, rather than through a pre-determined scope and sequence.

Of course, there are also challenges associated with unschooling. The most common challenge is breaking free of the notion that children can't be teachers. When you allow a child to decide what they want to learn about and direct the course of study, amazing things can happen.

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It's not uncommon for homeschooling families who discover unschooling to find whole new avenues of interest. Suddenly, their child wants to study history or art. All because you allowed them to make the decision on their own.

Unschooling can be magical, but it's not for everyone. Ultimately, the choice comes down to what works best for each individual family. The important thing is that homeschool families find the option that is best for their child(ren) and provide them with an education that meets their needs.

Charlotte Mason

Homeschooling with the Charlotte Mason method is a wonderful way to give your child a personalized education. This approach to homeschooling focuses on teaching children using a combination of books, hands-on experiences, nature study, and living books. It is a gentle and relaxed way to educate your child, and it allows you to customize the curriculum to fit your child's interests and needs.

The Charlotte Mason method also encourages parents to be involved in their child's education by reading aloud to them, discussing the material they are learning, and helping them apply what they are learning to everyday life. This approach helps children learn best by reinforcing information through multiple channels.

One of the benefits of using the Charlotte Mason method is that it can be adapted for any age or grade level. You can start using this approach with school-age children and continue using it all the way through high school homeschooling programs.

Some of the challenges you may face when homeschooling with the Charlotte Mason method include finding quality living books and nature studies resources, as well as trying to fit everything into your already busy schedule. However, there are many online resources and support groups available to help you with these challenges.

Classical Homeschooling

The classical method of homeschooling is a centuries-old approach to education that has been revived in recent years as more and more parents have chosen to homeschool their children.

It focuses on teaching children the "three R's" – reading, writing, and arithmetic – in addition to grammar, rhetoric, and logic. This approach uses a traditional curriculum that covers a variety of subjects, including history, literature, science, and mathematics.

parents and their homeschooled child

One of the greatest benefits of the classical method is that it prepares children for college. In addition to teaching them the basic skills they need for academics, the classical method also teaches them how to think critically and how to argue effectively. These skills are essential for success in college and beyond.

Classical homeschooling can be done in a variety of ways. There are many curriculums available, and parents can choose the one that best suits their child's needs. There are also online resources available for those who want to use a classical homeschooling approach.

Despite its many benefits, the classical method of homeschooling isn't right for everyone. Some parents find it too rigid or may not have enough time to teach all the subjects required by a classical curriculum. Others prefer a more eclectic approach to homeschooling that includes a variety of methods and curriculums.

The Right Method for Your Child

It's important to choose the best homeschooling programs for your child. If they enjoy learning through hands-on experiences and are motivated by curiosity, unschooling may be a good option. If your child enjoys structure and routine, Charlotte Mason may be a better fit. And if your child needs a more traditional learning environment with lots of drill and practice, classical homeschooling may work best.

No matter what type of homeschooling method you choose, it's important to find a curriculum that fits your child's individual needs. There are many curricula available, so take the time to research and the best homeschooling programs for your family.

Choosing the Right Curriculum

Once you've chosen a method for your homeschool, the next step will be to choose a curriculum. There are so many choices available it can be an overwhelming contemplation. Fear not. 

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With these choices comes the ability to choose the program that will cater to your child and your family's needs and lifestyle. One of the great benefits for many families is the ability to choose religious centered curriculum that allows their children to keep their faith in mind as they learn and grow.  There are many Christian online homeschooling programs and Catholic homeschooling programs in the US!

We've found some of the best programs for homeschooling out there for each method and will share them with you right here.

Unschooling

Since the unschooling method is student-led, it doesn't follow a curriculum per se. It follows your child's interests and curiosity as they develop and grow. They can change abruptly, so you must be flexible.

That said, there are still many resources on unschooling that you may find helpful. From sites that teach through games to mail-order projects to "Not Back to School Camps" for all ages, there's something for everyone!

Charlotte Mason

As one of the most popular homeschooling methods, there are many Charlotte Mason curricula available. One of our favorites is from Julie Ross and is called A Gentle Feast.

A Gentle Feast is one of the best online homeschooling programs with a complete, virtual homeschooling programs. It includes a parent portal, customizable elements, lesson plans for grades 1-12, and more.

Another amazing Charlotte Mason method curriculum is from Jeannie Fulbright Press. Focused on science and a love of nature, these products will inspire your kids to explore their world in new ways.

Complete with planners, storybooks, art supplies, and more; this website has all you'll need to get your kids excited about learning!

children in their homeschool

Classical

For those who prefer a more traditional model of schooling, the classical method appeals.

Classical Academic Press offers a wide selection of curricula, online courses, teacher training, and co-ops. It's an amazing resource for anyone interested in classical homeschooling or homeschooling programs online.

Memoria Press is a fantastic resource for classical Christian homeschooling programs. Founded by Cheryl Lowe, their mission is to "promote and impart the classical heritage of the Christian West." Memoria Press offers curricula and online Christian homeschooling programs

The Right Choice For You

Homeschooling is a great option for many families, and it offers a variety of benefits that can't be found in a public or private school. However, it can be challenging to get started, and there are many methods and curricula to choose from.

By taking advantage of the resources in this article, we hope you'll have an easier time making the right choices for your family. Your child's best education is within reach.