Before the Covid-19 pandemic, homeschooling was a relatively uncommon way of teaching children, but due to the closure of schools, it became the only way that millions of children around the world went to school.
In many cases, a lot of children were taught by their teachers via Zoom or Teams but returned to school later on. Despite this, and even before the pandemic, homeschooling was on the rise. From 1999 to 2016, the percentage of children who were homeschooled rose from 1.7% to 3.3%.
The reasons for homeschooling are wide ranging and can vary from child to child. But one thing is certain; homeschooling is becoming a much more common way for parents to raise their children. Due to this, it’s important that parents know the best ways to homeschool their children. In a school, children are taught by well-educated professionals. While many parents are, of course, well-educated and can impart knowledge, they do not have the training to teach and educate their children in the best way.
To help you understand the best way to homeschool your children and ensure that they are receiving just as good, if not better, an education as they would in school, here is the ultimate guide to homeschooling your children.
Why Homeschool Your Children
There are a lot of reasons why parents decide to homeschool their children. One of the main reasons is so they can alter their child’s learning so that it has a different religious or ethical perspective. This is common as some parents do not agree with what their children are being taught in school and want to have more control over their education and the ethics and morality they are being taught. Due to the way curriculums are decided in the US, the actual ethics, religion, and morality can vary. In one state, a parent might withdraw their child due to their education being secular whereas another might withdraw their child due to the teaching of archaic attitudes toward sexual health and gender.
But not everyone withdraws their child due to the actual contents of the curriculum and are more concerned about the learning environment itself. Not every child thrives in the same space and some need more specialist attention. Here are just some of the reasons why parents want to change their child’s learning environment.
Moving To a More Positive Schooling Environment
Depending on the attitude of the teachers in your child’s school, you might want to homeschool them so that they have a more positive and supportive environment. Some learning environments want to simply drill the same information into every child’s mind and have them repeat it in order to pass exams.
While this will help some children succeed, for others it does not allow them to develop critical thinking skills and do their own research. If children are only taught how to pass exams, then they will not have the skills necessary to succeed in life. In some schools, children are only really taught how to be good employees once they leave school, which not all parents believe will allow their children to lead fulfilling lives.
In much more tragic circumstances, parents will remove their children due to the prevalence of school shootings and violence in schools. Studies have shown that school shootings are on the rise which can have an incredibly detrimental effect on a child’s learning and mental health. Not only is there the risk of a real shooting, children are being taught how to hide from shooters and protect themselves, which is definitely not the right environment for young children to be in at any time, let alone when they are trying to learn.
Improve the Quality of Education
Depending on your local area, the schools near to you might not have the money and resources to provide the best quality education. As a parent you will be teaching a much smaller number of children, which means that you will be much more likely to have the money to pay for more up to date and higher quality resources than a school.
This means that you can improve your child’s education simply by providing them with better quality textbooks and learning materials. STEM subjects are being funded and focused on much more than humanities and arts. This is true throughout both college, high school, and middle school. There appears to be a perception that, beyond young childhood, students should give up arts, humanities, and sports and focus on more “productive” subjects.
If you homeschool your children, you will be able to provide them with art materials, literature, and sports equipment that their school might not have the budget for. You will also be able to provide your children with more diverse resources. There are a lot of conversations happening around school materials being centered around straight white men and focusing on outdated concepts regarding gender, sex, and sexuality. If you homeschool your child, you can be certain they will be taught a more diverse curriculum that is more accepting and open-minded.
Protect Your Children From Bullying
Bullying is a very common reason why a child is removed from mainstream education and homeschooled. Sadly, some schools will not take bullying seriously and even moving a child from one school to another doesn’t always help. This means that some children will simply be safer in their own home than in school.
This is a very sad reality but protecting your child is your main priority. A school should be somewhere your child is safe and protected. If this is not the case, then homeschooling might be the best way to ensure your child is safe.
If your child is often bullied in school, then this can have a detrimental impact on their education and academic performance. This can be due to the direct impact bullying has on a person’s mental health, but also simply because a child who is being bullied will often be scared and distracted during the school day. If your child is being bullied, this will be their main concern and they will not be able to focus on their studies. Removing your child from this kind of environment might be the best thing for their health, happiness, and academic success.
Providing a Specialist Learning Environment for Children with Disabilities
Finding the best learning environment for a child with disabilities can be very difficult. Every disability requires different support and each child’s needs will vary depending on how their disability affects them. This means that even schools designed for children with disabilities might not have exactly what your child needs.
This is a difficult decision to make. As a parent, you feel as though you know your child’s disability and needs better than anyone else. While someone at a school might not know your child’s individual needs as well as you do, they will have years of experience teaching and working with children with disabilities and so have a more specialized understanding when it comes to your child’s schooling.
It’s important to find a balance. If you do believe that your child will have the best possible education at home, then make sure to take them to extracurricular activities. This means that they won’t be missing out on important socializing opportunities simply because of their disability. While they might need additional attention and support, this doesn’t mean they should miss out on other aspects of childhood that students experience in school.
Getting Started Homeschooling
If you have made the firm decision to homeschool, it’s essential that you do as much research as possible. Being able to teach children is a high level skill that not everyone can do. It’s important to ensure that you equip yourself with everything you need so that your child does receive a better education than they would at a local school.
Research Your Homeschool Options
Depending on your state, you might have some freedom over when and how your child starts their education. Some states will have legal requirements for the age at which every child must start schooling. This ensures that every child has equal access to education and the opportunity to learn.
But this doesn’t mean that you always have to stick rigidly to what the state guidance suggests. In some areas, you might find that you have to essentially copy your local school’s teaching and apply it within your home. If you are planning to homeschool your children for greater control over their education, then you must do research into what is and is not allowed in your state.
It’s also important to ensure that you yourself are educated about the different styles of teaching and how to teach a student. Even your own child might not be able to learn in the way you want to teach them. A lot of people do not realize what a difficult and complex skill being able to teach is.
Research Your State’s Homeschooling Requirements
This is really important. Homeschooling your child doesn’t mean that you can teach them whatever you like. In some cases, parents will claim that they are homeschooling when really they are simply not bothering to educate their child.
This is one of the reasons why the state will still be involved in your child’s education. There are legal requirements with regards to your child’s education which you cannot ignore. You also need to inform the local authorities that you will be homeschooling your child as they will know if you do not register with a school.
Laws vary from state to state but most will require you to update the local authorities on the curriculum you are teaching and to report on your children’s progress. Even when homeschooled, the state still has a responsibility to check in and ensure you are properly educating your child.
Some states require parents to send regular reports about attendance and to regularly conduct standardized tests. This is sometimes a problem as some parents choose to homeschool their children in order to remove them from an environment focused on tests and exams. This might sound like a good idea considering how stressful exams can be, but if you do not test your children they will not have proof of their grades and academic performance. This can stop them from receiving their high school diploma and going on to college or furthering their education. If you do not adhere to these requirements, you could be allowing your child to fall behind and placing them at a disadvantage to their mainstream educated peers.
Decide on Homeschool Curriculum
Before the school year starts, you need to plan out a curriculum and lessons. This is what teachers spend their summer doing. Everything needs to be planned out and approved in advance of the school year. Depending on where you live, your state might require you to still teach the curriculum of your local area. Homeschooling your child doesn’t necessarily mean that you can teach them whatever you like. You might have more freedom but you cannot often make up the curriculum by yourself.
Some states will also require you to submit your curriculum and lesson plans to be approved. States and local governments have legal control over the education of students. There are laws relating to what children can and cannot be taught. This means that your curriculum will also be subject to these laws.
Deciding on a curriculum can be difficult, so it’s important to do as much research as you can. Teachers will be given guidance around what to teach but they do have some freedom over the specifics. For example, in an English class, you might be able to choose what books your child studies, but you might have to stay within certain themes dictated by the state.
Set Up A Dedicated Homeschooling Space In The House
This is really important. For most children, they have the separation of their home and their school which allows them to unwind at home. This isn’t possible with homeschooling as they will be spending all of their time in one place. This means that it’s a good idea to have a dedicated space for learning.
If you have a big enough home, then turning a spare room or the garage into a classroom is a really good idea. Children need to be in a space where they feel comfortable and ready to learn. This means being surrounded by colors, images, and reminders of important things. Just as they would in a normal classroom.
If your children are learning at the kitchen table, then they won’t have this separation. This can make things really difficult. It can also make life pretty isolated and claustrophobic. If you have no other option than working at the kitchen table, try to spend time outdoors and in other areas.
With homeschooling, you have more opportunities to teach in different ways. You can go to museums, parks, and nature reserves much more often than children in schools. If your child cannot concentrate or is struggling with a math question, take them somewhere else to work it out. This can simply mean taking them to a park and having them count the number of trees they see. This will make the problem much more fun and entertaining.
It’s also important to ensure all school work is cleared away at the end of the day. School days are a certain length for a reason and making your child work for longer is not a good idea. Make sure that, once school is finished, their home once again turns into somewhere for them to relax and play. Otherwise, they will feel as though they are living in their school which is not healthy.
As mentioned above, homeschooling doesn’t mean that you can just teach however you like, you still need to ensure that your children are reaching their full potential. This means setting goals for them to achieve.
This doesn’t have to involve stressful testing, especially at a young age, but teaching children how to work toward an end goal and to experience success as a result of their hard work is an essential life skill.
This is a time when research is especially important. Teachers will specialize in either a subject or a year group. This means that they are intune to the milestones that each child should be reaching at a specific age. But when homeschooling, you need to be a specialist in all subjects and in childhood educational development.
It is essential that you know which milestones your children should be reaching at what age. OF course, all children develop differently but there is a time when your children should be able to read, write, and add up. If they don’t, they will be at a huge disadvantage throughout their lives. Setting goals in line with educational milestones set by professional psychologists and pediatricians is essential.
Work Out A Homeschooling Schedule
Homeschooling allows you to give your children a great sense of freedom. This can be, for example, allowing your child to sleep in later when they are a teenager. There is scientific evidence that shows teenagers are not lazy but instead have naturally different sleeping patterns and need more sleep.
But just because you can give your children more freedom, that does not mean you can throw away structure entirely. If you decide to let your teenager sleep in later, they still need to have a schedule once they are up and about.
Repetition and routine are essential for learning. Just like adults need a routine for their jobs to ensure they are in the right mindset to work, children need to be in the right mindset to learn. This does not mean that you have to rigidly structure your child’s day, as learning should still be informal and fun. It can mean that you allow your child to stop when they are tired and pick up their lessons again later on.
This is especially important for children with disabilities who will not work well within the structure of a mainstream school. If, for example, your child has severe ADHD, they will not be able to focus in the same way. This is one of ways in which your child will potentially benefit from homeschooling as you can take the time to help your child refocus and get back on track. This would not often be possible in a mainstream setting. That said, a child with ADHD does need routine and structure. So while you can tailor the school day specifically to your children’s needs, their education will potentially suffer if they do not learn in an organized and structured way.
Join A Homeschool Support Group
Homeschool support groups are really important and beneficial. One of the main drawbacks of homeschooling is that your children will have a lot fewer opportunities to socialize with people their age. Homeschool support groups will allow your children to meet up with other homeschooled children, make friends, and learn how to socialize. It will also be beneficial as there is often a stigma attached to homeschooling and your children might find it difficult to meet students in mainstream schools who understand them.
Support groups can also be beneficial for parents. They will allow you to meet other like-minded parents who will be able to give you advice and support. You will also be able to ask about any concerns you might have and, more often than not, be told that you’re doing everything fine. This kind of support, which essentially calms down the natural parental panic, is really important. Socializing is also important for you as you need to focus on yourself as well. Most parents are able to have time away from their children during the school day which, whilst often difficult and painful, is important. A homeschooling parent, on the other hand, is dedicating all of their time to their children which can really take its toll.
Benefits Of Homeschooling
The potential drawbacks of homeschooling are talked about often; it is possible for children to be isolated, to not learn enough or in the same way to be aligned with their peers, and some parents might just not know enough to teach their children well. But what about the benefits of homeschooling? Considering there has been such a rise in the number of homeschooled children, there must be some benefits. Here are some of the reasons why homeschooling might be the better option for your children.
Homeschooling Offers Flexibility
This is a really key benefit. Schools in the US, in contrast to a lot of other countries, have very long school days. This is often due to the extensive extracurricular activities American students are expected to take part in.
The school day has been relatively standard across all states for a pretty long time, but that does not mean that it works well. As mentioned above, teenagers need a lot of sleep yet are being forced into school at eight in the morning, if not earlier, every day. The school day then ends at around three or four in the afternoon, which is too early for most parents to be able to collect. When homeschooling, you can set out your own school day that works for everyone.
Homeschooling Can Help You Set The Pace Of Learning
All children learn differently, but schools cannot tailor their teaching to individual students. This means that a large group of individuals are being forced through a homogenous system. There is little that can be done about this but it does make homeschooling beneficial for some children.
There are children who will need a slower pace and cannot keep up with their peers. This means they are often held back or made to feel inferior to their peers when they simply learn differently or just aren’t academically minded. Not every child is set to study at college and some will leave school to become carpenters or have a vocational job. This is not inferior to academic learning but it is often treated as such. Homeschooling means that your children can work at their own pace and at their own level without being made to feel as though they are underachieving.
This also true of children who are very academically minded and are working at a higher level than suits their age. Homeschooling would allow your child to progress further and faster than in a mainstream school.
The Attention Is Focused Entirely On Your Child
Studies have shown that smaller class sizes can improve children’s academic performance. This is because they will have fewer distractions and the teacher can spend more time providing individual support. This is one of the reasons why privately educated children perform better academically. It is not necessarily that they are receiving a better education, but instead they are having focused support for their individual needs. This is, sadly, just not a reality in mainstream schools where budget cuts are resulting in class sizes growing.
When you’re homeschooling your children, you are giving them all of your attention. This means that you can tailor your teaching to their individual needs and they can have one-to-one tuition. If your child is struggling with something, you can choose to spend a whole afternoon working on it. This would not be a possibility in a mainstream classroom as the teacher has so many other students to teach and help.
You will also be able to tailor the subjects to your children’s personal interests. You can make learning more fun by making it special to them. For example, you can teach your child to count using dinosaurs or you can teach equations by baking a cake. You have so much more freedom to make your children’s learning special and fun.
Accommodating to Special Circumstances
While tailoring education to your children’s specific interests is a great way to make teaching more fun, it is essential for some students. This is especially true of children with disabilities, especially learning disabilities, that mean they simply cannot succeed in a mainstream or even specialist classroom.
In these cases, some parents might not want to homeschool their children but have no other choice. It could be something as simple as the school not being able to accommodate a wheelchair or other physical needs. This should not be the case but disabilities are often overlooked and forgotten until the situation becomes drastic. Being left out in these situations and being made to feel different and a nuisance can have a negative impact on a child’s academic performance and mental health.
In your own home, you will likely already have made the necessary alterations that make it suitable for your child’s disability. This makes it the perfect place for them to learn. They will still be able to meet other children at support groups and other social activities. But in their home, they can feel safe and everything from the curriculum to the structure of the school day can be made to perfectly fit their needs.
Overall, homeschooling your children is a personal choice. It might be the only way for your children to get the best education possible. But it’s important to remember that, as well as the wide-ranging benefits, there are also some potential drawbacks to homeschooling your children.
This means that, as well as having to teach yourself how to teach your children, you also need to ensure that they are not isolated from other children their age. You also need to ensure that they are receiving all of the education they need to become smart, kind, critically-thinking, and compassionate adults.
Education isn’t just about learning times tables and the dates of the world wars. There are a lot of complex and important things that children learn in school that you will need to replicate if not do better. Homeschooling won’t be easy, but if you truly believe it will be the best option for your child, then you should absolutely go ahead.