As families weigh the option of homeschooling next year, I see a lot of newbies asking questions, especially about how to follow their state’s “curriculum” or where to enroll in an online school or buy a “homeschool program.”
There are a lot of good reasons to start homeschooling now. School is likely going to be disrupted for the next year or longer in many states. Not everyone is able to oversee their student’s education. However, for families who are finding that they can during this difficult time, we’d like to offer our number one piece of advice.
There are many ways to homeschool, but an eclectic approach is the one that is right for most families. It allows you the flexibility, creativity, and rigor that your student needs. It allows you to seek out as much, or as little, outside support as is right for you. It doesn’t have to confine your student to a computer all day. It’s excellent for help a student meet their goals – whether that’s admission to a selective college, heading into community college, or starting a career in the trades.
In an eclectic homeschool, you don’t choose a single online school or a single program. That’s good, because cheap all-in-one online program don’t have great outcomes for students. Online schools are expensive. And all-in-one homeschool programs often lack flexibility. In an eclectic homeschool, you pick and choose the materials, experiences, and classes that are right for your student and family. These can include online classes, computer based courses, textbooks, workbooks, video lectures, and more.
For a motivated, academic student whose parents have time to devote to the student’s education, it might include lots of books and texts as well as discussions and work graded at home. For a student who needs outside structure in a busy, working family, it might include several individually chosen online courses with great teachers. For a student hoping to attend a selective school, it might include community college or AP courses at home. For a student strong in one subject, but weak in another, it might include lots of in depth work in one area and extra support and tutoring in another.
There are great homeschool curricula and materials out there, as well as good online classes and wonderful resources. Homeschool classes are already tailored for the online and home environment, with teachers who know how to make one or two meetings a week really work so students don’t have to be tied to the computer all day but also get an appropriate amount of work and challenge for the week. Homeschool parents know many of these tricks of how to turn resources into a high school credit or how to turn a kid’s interest into an educational opportunity.
How do you create an eclectic homeschool experience that’s right for your family? One way, especially if you’re a busy family with a student in high school, is to hire consultants like us who have years of experience and know the marketplace and what’s out there, who will listen to your needs and help you make a good plan. This is especially important for high school students because when you start homeschooling, you’re taking on the responsibility to get that student ready for college or life beyond school.
However, if you have younger kids or a do it yourself spirit, you may not need consultants. Even for high school, it’s not rocket science. We have this very generalized checklist of credits and you can check out our resources page for more help. You can look at college admissions websites to get a sense of what schools you’ve considered ask of students, especially homeschooled students. Or you can look at what your local community college, trades program, or a military program asks of students to make sure you’re doing everything you need to do.
For younger students, getting professional help can be useful too, but the stakes are much lower. It’s all right if you flounder a little while for a younger student. The floundering can be part of the process! And there is no permanent record. As long as your student is reading a little, writing a little, and doing a little math, you can’t fall behind.
Plus, the homeschool community is incredibly generous with its advice so research and posting on your local groups can get you a lot of suggestions. Just be sure you’re clear about what you want. “What do you like for history?” will probably get you a million different sorts of things, including things for little kids when you have a teen, or for a specific religious perspective that doesn’t match your own. “I’m looking for an American history program for my 14 year-old. We’ll consider a class or a textbook. He’s a gifted writer and does well with structure. We’d like a secular program.” Help narrow it down to get the suggestions you actually need.
Homeschooling will never be for everyone, but as schooling options and life is turned upside down, we know it can be right for families who never really considered it before.