When we began homeschooling I’m pretty sure everyone thought we were crazy. Some told us we were and some just waited for us to buy an economy-sized van and have 12 more children. Six years later, people ask me almost daily about what it’s really like to homeschool. They want to know everything from the best homeschool curriculum options to what the social life of a homeschooled child is really like. So I’m laying it all out there — confessions of a homeschooler style — with absolutely everything you need to know about homeschooling.
Who Should Homeschool Their Kids
The answer to this is an easy one: anyone who wants to homeschool and who has time to do it. In general, it only takes me about three hours per day to homeschool my three elementary school-aged children, not including any prep work I need to do for their lessons. If you are feeling the pull to homeschool your children then take some time researching the homeschooling laws in your state, curriculum options, and where you can find homeschooling support in your area. As you familiarize yourself with the laws in your state you’ll know if your first step in homeschooling will be to notify your local school district or not. If you do not have to make any official declarations you can jump right in to choosing curricula.
A great resource for the homeschooling laws in each state is the Home School Legal Defense Association’s website. The state we live in, Michigan, has very few regulations around homeschooling, but that seems to be the exception when it comes to homeschooling laws. Many states require families to submit a portfolio of work at the end of the school year. Some have regular check-ins with education representatives and some mandate standardized testing. No matter where you live,, make sure you are familiar with the laws in your state. You don’t want to find out too late that you’ve dropped the ball on requirements. You can ignore your laundry and that two foot pile of dishes while you teach your kids how to multiply, however, not knowing the laws in your state can seriously affect your family’s welfare.
If you have a check-in process with your local school district, they will let you know what subjects must be included in your days and whether you have specific goals to meet each quarter. Guidelines greatly vary from state to state with some requiring only check-ins for attendance, others requesting full portfolios of completed work, and others allowing full autonomy in your homeschooling plans. Once you know what you need to include you can move on to choosing your curriculum options.
Best Homeschool Curriculum
Finding the best homeschool curriculum for your family can be one of the most overwhelming decisions you will make in your homeschooling journey. There are so many options out there and when you’re taking your child’s education into your own hands the responsibility of getting it “right” can be enough to send some parents back to the closest elementary school. The best thing you can do when choosing homeschool curriculum is to spend some time investigating how your child learns. Are they hands-on learners? Do they need information read aloud to process it? Does a workbook and pencil allow them to cruise ahead in their studies independently?
Once you figure out what makes your kids’ little minds tick (easier said than done!) you can begin exploring options. We’ve tried a different math program almost every year and are heading into our second year with Teaching Textbooks which, to my sanity’s delight, is working great for all three of my kiddos, including my dyslexic child. We also had a great time with Right Start Math during their younger years because it is a hands-on program with all kind of fun manipulatives.
For Language Arts we really like the Logic of English series. All About Spelling and All about Reading are favorites of almost every homeschooling family we know. As a total book-lover, my favorite part of Language Arts has been incorporating a whole lot of hanging out on the couch reading chapter books and writing stories together.
When it comes to subjects like Science and History we’ve enjoyed all kinds of different curriculum options such as Mystery Science (you’ve got to check this one out, so fun!), Steve Spangler science kits, unit studies through Evan-Moor and Intellego, and the Who Was book series that’s almost always on sale on Amazon. As homeschoolers we also enjoy trips to the local science center and historical museum when it’s nearly empty because the rest of the world is at work or school. Homeschooling tip: Any community attraction that offers an “educator’s discount” almost always offers the same to homeschoolers.
Finding the best homeschool curriculum is definitely a personal decision and I’ve relied heavily on reviews by Cathy Duffy to help me narrow down the options that may work best for our family. My number one lesson in choosing a curriculum is that you aren’t married to what you choose; if it’s not working for you and your kids are rolling their eyes more than usual there are plenty of other options to try. That’s part of the freedom of homeschooling!
There are so many ways to find homeschooling support, but the most valuable tool for me has been Facebook. As with every other topic, there are countless Facebook groups devoted to homeschooling. You can find everything from like-minded homeschoolers to curriculum sales to fun field trips in your area by joining groups that appeal to you.
Another great option for support is homeschool co-ops. Co-ops are becoming more and more popular in the homeschooling world as a way to form a sense of community with your fellow homeschooling families and to diversify your children’s learning. My favorite benefit of co-ops is meeting other moms nearby who homeschool and finding that two minutes to talk about the fact that I’m not the only one whose kitchen looks like a perpetual science experiment.
When it comes to support, homeschooling is just like any other endeavor in life; if you search enough you will find some like-minded people attempting to do the same thing as you. The more people you connect with the more options for support you will find!
Choosing to homeschool is a huge decision. If you’re up for it and your kids are willing — OK, I might be biased – but my advice is to absolutely give it a shot. Homeschooling is not always easy but I know I’ll never regret the special time I’ve had with my kids as their teacher.