By Dakota Moore
In the aftermath of the Covid 19 pandemic, the purported increase in school shootings, the lapsing trust in public school education, and the flexibility and control homeschooling offers inspired an unprecedented rise in homeschoolers. As we enter the month of August, many more parents consider it one of the schooling options available, like my neighbors down the street who have chosen to homeschool. What holds many parents back is how different homeschooling is from other options or their misconceptions about homeschoolers. Homeschooling may seem daunting because of the responsibility, the time requirement, and unfamiliarity, but many resources make it doable; after all, my mom homeschooled all my siblings and me, and I have seven siblings. Perhaps you are curious or considering the homeschool option for your children. I want to share my experience and some helpful tips if you are.
I enjoyed my homeschooling experience, and I don’t believe I would have made it without the ability to be schooled at home because of my health. I struggled with epilepsy, chronic migraines, executive functioning issues, sleep apnea, and low blood pressure. Schooling at home with my mom allowed me the flexibility I needed. Suppose I had a seizure or felt sick. In that case, I could rest and not worry about getting my schoolwork done because class time, when necessary, was structured around my health. Homeschooling is an excellent option for kids with disabilities, as curriculums are adaptable for those with specific disabilities. You can structure and modify the school day and curriculum according to your child’s needs, which only you know best as parents.
My unique health situation aside, having a tailored approach to my education was essential to my college preparation and my ability to succeed in higher education. Having my mother as my primary teacher in my earlier years allowed her to focus on correcting my areas of weakness and maximizing my strengths. I don’t believe I would have received a better education at a public or private school. The independent study I engaged in taught me discipline and perseverance and created standards for myself to reach. I still have GERD, POTS, migraines, and executive functioning issues. But now, I am an honors student on my college’s dean list and live independently on campus during the school year.
I was introverted, and it took a while to be comfortable with other people and make friends. Thus, the only thing in my homeschooling experience I believe could have used some improvement was the social aspect. Despite misconceptions, however, there are many ways to socialize when homeschooled. What’s more, going from schooling at home to a college environment isn’t much different from the change someone who attends public or private school to college experiences. I believe the lack I felt socially was partly due to my personality, and we didn’t do co-ops. I was able to make friends, though, with time and some extra effort. However, taking your child to activities is essential as they won’t have hundreds of peers around them for several hours daily.
Train up a child in the way he should go,Proverbs 22:6
And when he is old he will not depart from it.
Suppose you have doubts about your ability to homeschool. In that case, there are ways to overcome them as approaches to homeschooling have diversified dramatically in past years. Some common concerns are time, having to teach the curriculum to your children, and the amount of money it can cost. My family of 10 faced these same issues but have been able to overcome them throughout the past 20 years. In terms of time, it does require more involvement in your child’s education, but that should appeal to parents, and the time doesn’t have to equate to a full or part-time job unless you want it to. You may need to plan your child’s curriculum, but that takes place before the start of the school year. Most curriculums come with easy-to-follow planners as well. Some online schedules and planners allow you to input your lessons and automatically distribute the work over a specific timeframe, like Homeschool Planet, which my parents used.
If you prefer not to instruct your children directly, that is made possible by the many online options available. Several curricula will grade the schoolwork for you and have written or recorded lectures like Teaching Textbooks or Saxon, for example. There are also great programs like HSLDA that are entirely online, taught, and graded by online teachers. Abeka offers both options, parent-led and online video lessons, and there is Liberty University Online Academy, to name a few. A third option is co-ops. Groups of homeschooling children learn a single subject together taught by a parent with exceptional knowledge and a passion for the subject area. There are co-ops for interests like photography, music, and art too. There is a cost for these, but it’s usually not as expensive as online classes with certified teachers. Co-ops also help with socializing, allowing for the classroom environment that some children might miss when homeschooling. Besides co-ops, church activities, community centers, YMCAs, community outreach opportunities, and other social settings allow your children to engage socially and in different activities.
The variety of curriculum formats available prevents you from having to teach if you don’t want to. An example is what my mom did. My mom taught us and graded all our subjects from pre-K to 3rd grade. Afterward, we used online programs or book-based curriculums with printed or recorded lectures for all subjects except history, the Bible, geography, and writing. She taught and graded these subjects using the My Fathers World or Notgrass curriculum. In high school, we did almost entirely independent study book-based and online programs. We enrolled in a few classes with HSLDA. My mom didn’t have to relearn physics, and we could focus on subjects that pertained to what we wanted to major in, and we got to choose our instructors. This approach fits with the degree of involvement my mom wanted at each learning stage. What you use and how much time you invest depends on what suits you and your children’s needs each year as you homeschool. Don’t let a lack of teaching experience stop you; my mom’s background is in foreign service. Still, she’s been able to navigate instructing all eight of her kids.
Once you find suitable materials, depending on your situation, you’ll need to procure them in time for the new school year. Books, programs, and classes can be expensive. Affording all of it was one of my family’s most significant hurdles when homeschooling. My dad worked two, sometimes three jobs, and we struggled to afford it even then. Thankfully my grandparents would help, and HSLDA provided some funds to us one year when we couldn’t purchase all the curricula we needed. Something good to do is buy books or register for classes whenever is best for your budget or piecemeal throughout the year. We purchased books when there were deals; purchase early from book sales; they go faster now since more people homeschool. You can also borrow materials from your neighborhood co-op or church friends. There are bound to be a few homeschooling veterans in your vicinity. They undoubtedly have some old curricula that may be perfect for one of your kids, which will help you cut costs. My family was a part of the Homemakers Ministry at my church, and we exchanged books, clothing, and other school supplies. They were also a great support group, and we made lifelong family friends.
Lastly, I want to mention the legal help HSLDA provides. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association is an excellent resource for homeschooling support, grants, tips, encouraging stories from other families, and, if needed, legal help. Although it’s much rarer nowadays, sometimes states will target you for homeschooling and create unlawful and unnecessary requirements. Hopefully, this never happens, but depending on your state, you may encounter conflict. An example of one experience my family and I had when moving from North Caroline to DC occurred in late 2007 or early 2008. My mom had homeschooled us in North Carolina. When we moved out of state, they tried to continue tracking our academic progress. They sent letters for several months, some of which started to seem threatening to my mom, and so she contacted HSLDA, who took action on our behalf, and the letters stopped. There was a second problem we encountered in Maryland about four years ago. However, these types of issues are becoming less common, but it is wise to keep HSLDA as a legal resource in your back pocket.
HSLDA also assists with usual homeschooling questions, like making transcripts and applying for financial assistance. They also offer grants to supply curriculum and other services to homeschooling families who have fallen on hard times. One year we received a compassion grant when our funds wouldn’t cover the cost of our curriculum. In addition, HSLDA offers consulting services and advice for homeschooling children with special needs. My mother found this resource helpful because some of my siblings have special needs. The membership fee is roughly equivalent to a Walmart plus membership; it is affordable and worth every cent. If you have the funds, it’s a great tool in your homeschooling toolbox. There are local homeschool associations that are good for help with testing, notices of intent, finding local resources to utilize, and legal assistance.
My parents desired to have more family time, educate us from a Christ-centered perspective, and instill in us a Christlike character. They also wanted the flexibility to attend to my and my siblings’ medical conditions, so they chose to homeschool us. All of these factors made homeschooling our best option. What your goals and needs are may be different, so I hope my experience and tips are helpful in your determining whether to homeschool or not. As someone who homeschooled K-12, I believe it is a fantastic schooling option worth investing your time and money into; it is an investment in your children’s future. Check out the homeschooling statistics below!
Homeschooling is becoming mainstream!
- There were 1.2 million more homeschool students in 2021 in the United States than in 2019; that’s roughly 7% of school-age children. Wonder how many more opted to homeschool in 2022?
- Demographics amongst homeschoolers are widely diverse: religiously, politically, socioeconomically, ethnically, and culturally.
- 69% of peer-reviewed studies on success into adulthood (including college) show that home-educated adults succeed and perform statistically significantly better than those who attended institutional schools (Ray, 2017).
- 87% of peer-reviewed studies on social, emotional, and psychological development show homeschool students perform statistically significantly better than those in conventional schools (Ray, 2017).
- Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of both parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income.
- 78% of peer-reviewed studies on academic achievement show homeschool students perform statistically significantly better than those in institutional schools (Ray, 2017).
- Home-educated students typically score above average on the SAT and ACT tests that colleges consider for admissions.
- Colleges are actively recruiting homeschool students.