More and more families these days are considering homeschooling. According to one study, in 2016 there were an estimated 2.3 million homeschool students in the United States, up from 2 million in 2010. It’s suggested that the homeschool community is growing at a rate of 2%-8% per year.

If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you are at least thinking about homeschooling your child(ren). While I wouldn’t say that I am evangelical about this method of education, I will say that I wholeheartedly support any parent considering making the change! In this guide, I will outline a lot of the common questions and concerns regarding homeschooling. At the end, I will leave my email and you can contact me any time with any lingering questions.

What is Homeschooling?

Google defines homeschooling as, “the education of children at home by their parents.” This is the most succinct definition one could find.

However, as most homeschooling parents will tell you, that simple definition doesn’t quite cut it. There are a million and one ways to homeschool your children, and each of them have their pros and cons.

Here are a few of the more common methods:

  • Classical
  • Secular
  • Unschool
  • School-At-Home
  • Eclectic
  • Charlotte Mason
  • Waldorf
  • Montessori

Not all methods automatically preclude the use of the others, and a lot of parents actually use two or more methods in tandem. Every homeschool family looks different, and every day in the life of a homeschooler looks different beyond that.

How Do I Get Started with Homeschooling?

Well, you’ve already begun, haven’t you? To get started, you must first do some research of your own. You’ll have to ask yourself several questions, and then develop a plan from there.

  • Why do you want to homeschool?
  • What will your educational philosophy be?
  • Is it legal where you live? What are the state requirements?
  • Are you qualified to teach your child at home?
  • What curriculum will you use?
  • How will you provide for your children’s education and financial needs at the same time?
  • Do you have a support system in place? Are they in favor of your decision?

Research is definitely your friend in the beginning. There are a lot of decisions to be made and you want to have as much information as you can get your hands on before settling down to make a plan.

Some parents choose not to plan first and just fly by the seat of their pants – this is a valid choice, too! I’m just the kind of person who makes lists and plans things (over)enthusiastically.

Once you’ve done the research, and as a family have agreed that this is the way you’ll educate your children, the next step is to unenroll them in school, if they were enrolled. After unenrolling them, I would suggest giving them a break before launching into your own curriculum.

After that (or the next step if your children have never been in public school) is to decide on a curriculum. From there, you’re all set to begin your homeschool journey!

Tips for Success with Homeschooling

Be patient.

You are going to need lots of this. Teaching your own kids can be extremely difficult, especially if you’re like me and your children inherited your temperament. Kids don’t always learn things at the pace you’d like either, so you’ll need to be able to conform to their needs. Adjust your expectations now, because your needs do not matter when it comes to their education.

Be flexible.

You will plan and plan, and everything will go according to that plan… for about a week. Then one of your kids will come down with the flu, and the other will have to go visit his dad, and suddenly your plans are rendered useless.

When I organize and plan lessons I always do two things. I write them in pencil, and I make sure to have contingency plans for those times with ‘Plan A’ just isn’t going to work out.

Be organized (moderately).

Organize yourself. Organize your supplies. Buy a planner. Make sure you have the foundation for organization and the rest will follow. Don’t box yourself into a corner though! Make sure you leave room for the flexibility that homeschooling requires.

Be committed.

“I don’t WANT to be homeschooled anymore.” You’ll hear that, even (perhaps, especially) if your kiddo doesn’t believe it. My youngest likes to pull that one when she is tired of her math work. In those cases, I have to be patient and flexible, and often give her a bit of a break so she doesn’t burn out.

For homeschooling to be effective, you have to be committed. You can’t waffle. You have to stand your ground, which leads us to…

Be strong.

People will judge you. People will have all sorts of suggestions for how to do things “properly.” Remain open to ideas and critique, but don’t let people dictate to you how you should live your life and raise your children. Remember that you are making this decision because you believe it is in the best interest of your children. Stand by that.

Common Questions About Homeschooling

Is homeschooling legal?

Yes, in most places. To find the specific laws regarding your state, visit this rather comprehensive website. This is the first place you should look when making the decision to homeschool.

What about socialization? Won’t my children be lonely?

This is likely the biggest misconception regarding homeschooling. The short answer is no, you’re children won’t be lonely – unless you allow them to be.

I have an entire post dedicated to socializing your homeschooler, so I’ll keep this brief. There are many ways to ensure your child gets the socialization they need while keeping them out of a public school. The only way your child will be unsocialized is if you do not allow them to leave the house and don’t allow them to have friends.

What if I don’t have room to turn a room into a classroom?

Well, first of all, you don’t need a formal classroom for your homeschool unless you just really want one. My kids and I do most of our schooling on the road between activities (some call this road-schooling, especially for those whose families travel in RVs and schoolies year-round) and in the living room.

At first, keep it simple and do what’s comfortable. Kids learn best when they aren’t feeling anxious and frazzled by large changes. If they want to do their schooling outside, chuck the papers and go play in the dirt. There’s lots to be learned everywhere you look, so I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: don’t box yourself in. Be flexible and open to inevitable changes.

Don’t only religious people homeschool?

No. Secular homeschool groups are out there and they are growing in number. Many secular families choose to educate at home!

Can I work full-time and still educate my children?

You can! Of course you can! So many parents do! It might require working some magic on your schedule, but it’s absolutely doable. Stay tuned, as I plan to write an article on this exact topic.

Do I need a degree or formal education to teach my children at home?

Absolutely not. I went to school to take some classes on elementary education, curriculum formation, and special needs issues, but that was a personal choice. By no means is it mandatory, except in those states where it’s legally required (and there are a few – check your state laws!).

Can I homeschool my child with Autism/ADHD/GAD/Etc.?

Simply put, yes. However, I would consult your child’s psychologist, occupational therapist, doctor, what-have-you before making the decision. In situations like these, you need your child’s support system to be on board with the choices you are making at home. Some parents opt to change care providers based on their attitude towards homeschooling, and some opt not to homeschool based on advice from said care providers.

Ultimately the decision is up to you, but I will say that many families successfully homeschool neurodivergent kiddos, my family included!

It’s also important to note that you should check your state’s laws because some states require that children in private schools or home schools still receive IEP/504 plans and the assistance that comes with those plans.

What about college? How will they get into a good school if they don’t graduate with a diploma?

This will vary based on how you decide to homeschool, honestly. But know this, in general, homeschooled children have NO PROBLEMS getting into the college of their choice. There are homeschooled kids getting into Ivy League colleges all over the country.

As far as diplomas go, some high school curriculums do offer a diploma upon completion. Some parents choose to send their children to community college for their basics before transferring them into a four-year college. And some kids get their GED and go to trade school. All are valid choices, all have their merits, and what choice you make depends on your family unit alone.

Will my kids be weird?

Probably, but they’d likely be weird whether or not you homeschooled. Parenting pro-tip: kids are odd little ducks. It’s part of what makes them so amazing!

Will my homeschooler have a diverse upbringing? Aren’t all homeschool families the same?

Homeschooling is quite possibly the number one parenting decision to make if you want your kids to experience a diverse upbringing, in my opinion.

Think about it like this, when a child is in a public school, they are generally with only their age group for most of the day. They interact with a very similar group of people all the time. When a child is homeschooled, because there are little to no restrictions on who they have to interact with during the day, they tend to spend their time with a varied amount of people.

Kids who are homeschooled are exposed to many different lifestyles. As a result, most are taught acceptance and respect for those diverse lifestyles. For example, when I was a child, we spent time with a polyamorous homeschooling family, another family who sent their kids to public school, and even a super religious Christian family with 14 children in the home. We were exposed to different ideas, life choices, and maturity levels, and I truly think it helped my brothers and me to grow into the adults we are today.

A Final Word

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to homeschooling. Every family does it differently, and that’s okay! If you go into planning and educating your children with the right mindset, things will go moderately smoothly.

If you have any questions, or just want to chat about where to get started, just email me at foxandcompassapothecary@gmail.com!

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