To homeschool or not to homeschool?
This is the question.
And while opting out of the current wave of educational tests and changing standards sounds great, and it can be, there is so much to consider before you get down to the actual homeschooling part.
1. Is it legal here?
Yes, homeschooling is legal in all 50 states and territories.
Some states just make it more difficult than others. Most states are no to low regulation, meaning that parents might not be required to notify state officials prior to removing their child from traditional public/private schools or families might might not have to share educational data (tests, progress, curriculum, etc.) to the state.
Other states have moderate regulations. These states generally require proof that homeschool is happening (attendance charts, curriculum samples) and for parents to show that progress is happening (tests, reports, work samples, etc.).
Very few states, generally in the eastern MidWest and Northeast, have high regulations. These states require lots of documentation and paperwork from parents and students to prove that the homeschool is on par with a traditional education.
All these different rules and regulations can get challenging for military families moving around the country. If you start is no regulation Texas and then are reassigned to high regulation Rhode Island, your homeschool process and routine might need to be completely overhauled to meet the increased burden of proof.
2. What is the process?
This is up to each individual state, much like traditional teacher certification standards. Generally, most states require that you notify your local school district or the state department of education with your intent to homeschool.
Some states, like California, make it easier with homeschool collaboratives set up and maintained through local school districts. Other states make it much, much harder.
For specifics about homeschooling in your state, contact your local school district or state department of education. They should be able to direct you to the required documents and legal statutes.
3. What do I teach?
You need to teach everything. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Math: basic computation to advanced math subjects
- History/Social Studies: US and World, often state history as well
- Reading: how to read, comprehension, analysis, etc.
- Writing: from letter formation to advanced writing skills
- Physical Education
How you choose to teach it and the order in which you progress is up to you. You can also add on additional subjects, like religion, or choose a curriculum the meets your personal/religious beliefs instead of a secular curriculum.
4. How do I teach?
This is really up to you. There are a ton of theories and schools of thought out there right now. From having traditional school at home to unschooling to worldschooling, the direction is up to you.
Know that there are also thousands of sites and resources out there, many of them for free, to help guide you on this journey. There are also hundreds of curriculums for sale that you can use to teach your children.
However, homeschooling does generally require that you, the parent(s), teach the children. When and where this happens is up to you, which is great if you are working full or part time. Not necessarily a negative, just something to think about: If you work out of the home, what are you doing with your children during the day?
5. Can I outsource teaching?
This is a great idea! And this is actually how MilKids got started: homeschooling families wanted a trained teacher to come in and provide support/additional teaching services.
Hiring a teacher can also be great for larger homeschool co-ops. It gives you, and your students, access to a trained and often certified teacher who is willing to think outside the traditional K-12 academic box.
For your kids, it can also be great having some of their education content delivered by a non-parent. It allows them to interact with other adults, and get a taste of what college or a career might entail in terms of personal relationships and communication.
However, there are regulations in many states regarding hiring professional help for general curriculum teaching. Be sure to look into these state-specific laws before you hire anyone. Also, know that you are hiring a professional, and should be prepared to compensate this person appropriately.
6. Are there drawbacks?
Just like anything else involving children and educating them, homeschooling takes time, planning, and organization. There is a time commitment, but it can be more flexible than traditional school depending on what else you have going on (work, etc.).
For military families, this can be such a blessing.
During PCS season, homeschooling means that you can move on weird schedules without worrying about your child missing something. School comes with you!
You can take post-deployment vacations anywhere, anytime. Your school adapts to YOU and your family. Headed to the Caribbean? Learn about traditional foods, music, and culture or history. Going cross-country? Your children can learn about the states that you will be visiting!
Moving so often also means that you need to stay on top of the local and state laws regarding homeschooling. Since the specifics, and the paperwork, are likely to change every few years this is going to be an undertaking. Joining a homeschool support group, like HSLDA, can be a great resource to have in your corner. There are also many military specific homeschooling groups and pages on Facebook that can offer advice, tips, and ideas.
I’d love to hear from my homeschooling or homeschool curious readers! What were your questions? What resources could the traditional ed community have helped you out with?