The Truth About Homeschooling
And how to homeschool – correctly!
Contributed by: Heather Martinson, Founder Celebration Education
Oftentimes when people think of homeschooling, they imagine mom calling her child to the kitchen table, where she instructs him in all the necessary things that a child must learn and then her child obediently and proficiently completes worksheets and other assignments given by mom. Truth is, this rarely happens – fortunately!
Learning at home has a completely different dynamic from learning in a classroom. When a teacher has 20-30 students in one room, it is necessary to employ certain tactics and tools that are irrelevant at home.
The great thing is that homeschooling is extremely flexible and there are as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschoolers. Instead of making sure that you are teaching your child in the way that the kids in school are taught, you can make sure that your child is learning in the way that she learns best – THIS is what homeschooling is all about!
Homeschoolers don’t need to spend six hours a day at the kitchen table. Homeschoolers often spend more time reading than their classroom counterparts. Homeschoolers go on as many field trips as they like. Homeschoolers can spend all day on science (or any school subject) if they like.
Unfortunately, the false misconceptions about homeschooling keep too many families from homeschooling. They think they can’t “school” their own kids. The good news is, they CAN homeschool their kids without recreating school at home. There is a whole other world of opportunity for them.
SO WHAT ABOUT YOU? Are you thinking about homeschooling? Do you need help getting started? Are you looking for resources? READ ON!
Probably the #1 homeschooling question I get asked is, “how do I get started?” But the answer to that question is never simple. It depends on many things, including your reason for choosing to homeschool, your child’s learning style, your child’s learning abilities, and the dynamics of your family. Each family homeschools differently. If you are dedicated to your child’s education, you will find what works best for him or her.
There are many options to consider when you’re starting to homeschool. I’ll share with you your options as they relate to your reasons for choosing to homeschool, different ways to learn, and how to homeschool legally.
Reasons to Homeschool
Your approach to homeschooling is greatly influenced by the reasons why you are wanting to homeschool.
Here are some of the main reasons why people choose to homeschool:
Individualized Learning You’re not a fan of standardized or “common” standards. You want your child’s learning to be customized.
Safety Your child does not feel physically and/or emotionally safe at school. Special Needs Your child has needs (physical, educational, or emotional) that are not being properly met at the local school.
Religion You want your child to have a religious education and private school is not an option.
Falling Behind or Getting Ahead Your child is falling behind and you want your child to get one-on-one attention for these subjects and/or your child is smarter than the kids in their grade level and you want your child to have an opportunity to get ahead.
To Specialize Your child is an actor, athlete, or other professional and needs the flexibility that homeschooling provides.
Way back in the ‘80s, when I decided I would homeschool the children I would eventually have, my reason for wanting to homeschool was so that my children could have individualized learning. I wanted them to have the opportunity to learn from more than one teacher and one textbook. In the end, almost all of the reasons I cited have come into play for us.
How to teach your kids
Curriculums used in local schools were created for crowded classrooms. This how teachers are able to keep all children doing the same thing and how they make sure all the necessary topics are covered. These types of curriculums are not necessary when you are working at home, one-on-one with your child. There is a whole world of learning opportunities available to you. You can pick and choose the one(s) that work best for you and your child.
You actually don’t need to decide which approach you use right away. It’s a good idea to test out different approaches before you decide what’s best for your family. Even then, you can change your mind at any time. What works for you one day may not work the next. It’s important to be flexible and patient sometimes, knowing that if you keep your eyes open, you will find things that works.
Here are some of the most popular learning approaches:
Boxed or Online
You buy a full year of curriculum in one box or subscription to a full year of online learning. These are available in both secular and religious sets. Pros: A set curriculum has a familiar feel because it is essentially the same type of learning we grew up with. Everything is spelled out for you. This is a good choice if you want your children to be learning the same stuff the kids in school are learning. This is also a good approach if you plan to put your child back into a traditional school soon. Cons: This approach is not very flexible. It requires more seat time than other approaches and large amounts of busywork. Sections of these curriculums often go unused since it won’t all be applicable to your child’s needs.
The whole family studies topics together. You integrate all school students into these topics. There are some unit study curriculums available on the market. Pros: Themes create heightened interest in a topic, leading children to want to know more. Having all the school subjects integrated together is very natural, reflective of the real world. This approach also lends itself to field trips, projects, trips to the library, and learning from primary sources. This approach is adaptable to all learning levels and styles. Cons: This approach is not a good fit if it is important to you that your child does all the same things the kids are doing in school. Some parents feel they are not creative enough to facilitate these dynamic learning experiences.
This is 100% child-led learning. Children are allowed to learn what, when, where, and how they want. Pros: This approach allows children to get deep into any topic they choose. More than just learning, these children also learn how to learn and they become able to teach themselves anything they want. Cons: This approach is not a good fit if it is important to you that your child does all the same things the kids are doing in school. This is also not a good fit if you like to have a lot of structure in your learning experiences.
This is all of the above. You patch together your own curriculum, drawing on a variety of resources. Pros: This is a very flexible approach. You tailor all learning experiences to your child’s immediate needs. Cons: This approach requires a lot of research and familiarity with the different approaches and curriculums.
I’ve used basically all of these approaches except boxed curriculum. My favorite is unit studies. As a family, we enjoyed studying many great topics together. We also did a fair amount of unschooling over the years.
How to homeschool legally
By California law, children are required to attend school. Here are five ways you can opt out of the local neighborhood school.
1. Homeschool Independently (PSA)
You establish your home as your own private school just for your family. This is The most flexible option, but parents are responsible for obtaining curriculum, paying for classes, and for all other educational expenses. Instructions on how to establish your private school can be found on California Homeschool Network’s Website: https://www.californiahomeschool.net/how-to-homeschool/establishing-your-psa/
2. Charter School
Charter schools are public schools that can offer independent study programs. Some of these schools have set curriculums that you must follow, others allow you to choose from among a variety of approaches and curriculums. Some have learning centers that your children can attend and some allow you to use education funds to pay for classes through approved vendors.
3. Local Public School
You can take advantage of independent study program through your local school, school district, or through the county department of education. These programs generally have your child use the same curriculum that is used in the schools.
4. Private School Satellite Program (PSP)
You pay for independent study through a private school. Some of these private schools provide curriculum and classes, others don't. All provide record-keeping.
5. Private Tutors
You hire teachers to teach your kids. Obviously, anyone can use tutors, but if you’re using tutors to opt out of the local school, then it is required that the tutors you use are credentialed for the school subjects they are teaching.
Personally, I have always liked the freedom of homeschooling independently and this is how I homeschooled my kids all the way through.
Now that you have this information, it is likely you have even more questions than before you read this. There are so many options, it can be overwhelming. But don’t stress over it – you’ll get it!
I’m going to share one more secret with you: You will succeed! I know this because regardless of the approach you use, the number one requirement for homeschooling is a caring parent. I know you’re a caring parent because you’ve just read this article. I trust that you will do whatever you need to do to get the best possible education for your child. You will find what your child needs and you will find what works for you.
Sitting at the kitchen table for hours a day is hard, but homeschooling is a lot more like being a loving parent. It’s something you already have a good track record with!
Homeschooling is probably not what you thought it is, but it can be way better than you expected! I wish you all the best on your homeschooling journey!!
- Heather Martinson
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Article written by
Heather Martinson, Founder Celebration Education
Heather started Celebration Education in 2006. Students in grades K-12 take up to two days of classes each week at Celebration Education’s Learning Bottega in Santa Ana. There are less than ten students in every class. Celebration’s approach is fun and interactive learning at the speed of kids and their interests. Classes can be paid for with charter school educational funds.
PS: Heather welcomes families’ questions about homeschooling and Celebration Education. She may be reached by phone, text, or email