Are you considering homeschooling for your children? Then, this guide will give you a solid understanding of what homeschooling is and how to select the best homeschool curriculum.
As of the 2011-2012 school year, approximately three percent of school-aged children were homeschooled in the United States. When asked about their motivations for homeschooling, more than 90 percent of parents answered that they were concerned about the safety of other school options. Many parents also turn to homeschooling when they learn that homeschoolers often outperform students from public schools on standardized academic achievement tests.
While some states have experienced an increase in homeschooling since 2012, the movement has decreased in other states. Research by the U.S. Department of Education estimated a slight decrease in overall homeschooling according to participation in 2016, but it’s still estimated that approximately three percent of school-aged children are homeschooled.
Now that school shootings are becoming more routine and as many as one in three children are the victims of bullying at school, more parents are likely to choose homeschooling over public-school education.
What Is Homeschooling?
Homeschooling is the practice of educating your children at home rather than sending them to public or private institutions. Homeschool laws vary by state, so you may or may not need to notify your public-school system of your intention to homeschool. Some states also require homeschoolers to register with the state, and the extent to which the state monitors homeschooling families varies.
Many public high schools now offer a tuition-free virtual education option that allows students to do their work partially or entirely from home. This isn’t considered true homeschooling because students are still officially registered with a public-school system, which means the school is still receiving government payments for each student. These students must also complete all coursework provided by the school system, so parents have no freedom to introduce their own curriculum.
Homeschooling is a bit different because parents remove their children from the public-school system and gain greater control over what they teach their children and how the lessons are delivered. This may save taxpayers more than $25 billion dollars each school year, since public schools are federally compensated based on the number of registered students.
Think of homeschooling as teaching your children independent of teachers, guidance counselors, and school boards. As a parent or legal guardian, you personally take on all those roles plus many others.
How Do I Choose a Curriculum?
While selecting homeschool curriculum may seem overwhelming or confusing at first, understand that this is one of the biggest advantages to homeschooling. You can determine what your children do and do not learn just by selecting a curriculum that is well suited to your family values.
We’ll discuss the different types of homeschool curriculum and where you can buy the best programs in a moment, but first let’s look at the criteria you should use to select the program best for your children.
Religious Affiliation or World Views
There are secular homeschool curriculums as well as programs rooted in Christianity and many other religious preferences. The world view presented through each should closely match the values that you want to teach your children.
It’s not uncommon for parents to select different curriculum for each of their children because every child has their own learning style. One may do better reading textbooks and completing worksheets while another absorbs the information better through interactive computer lessons.
Parent Availability & Education
School teachers dedicate five days a week plus many weekends to educating their students, but many homeschool parents have jobs, housework, and other responsibilities to balance. Determine how much time you can spend guiding your children through their studies, and then make sure that your chosen curriculum isn’t more hands-on than you can manage long term. You may choose programs that provide professional instruction for subjects in which you’re lacking the knowledge to teach competently, especially at the high-school level.
Complete homeschool packages organize everything for you, requiring you to do nothing more than present the lessons and perhaps grade papers according to an answer key. Some parents prefer to create their own programs by piecing together different resources and curriculums with less structure. Do you want to do it all on your own, or do you like the idea of someone else putting the program together for your child?
What are your children interested in learning? Do they have special talents or skills that you want to develop? The more you allow your child’s interests to influence the curriculum, the more interest they may take in learning.
Complete program packages and online programs that require tuition are the most expensive options. Using unit lessons and piecing together your own resources allows you to make use of the library and many free online resources to save money.
Types of Homeschool Curriculum
Now that you know how to compare homeschool curriculum to find the best option for your child, use this cheat sheet to determine where you can buy curriculum for your students.
Students enjoy interactive lessons complete with animated characters and intuitive algorithms that decide when a child repeats a lesson and when they move forward. Some programs are purchased as CDs while other are entirely Internet-based. Some are online schools that require tuition in exchange for access to legitimate teachers. These are the best options if you travel frequently because your child can complete their schoolwork from any computer with an Internet connection.
Some of the best computer-based curriculums include:
- Accelerate online Academy
- Switched on Schoolhouse
- Oak Meadow
Unit Study Curriculum
These programs arrange material into units of study and are often packaged by the subject rather than as one complete curriculum. This allows you to mix and match units from different programs and makes supplementing with other resources easier. Some of the best companies offer a variety of products in different formats, each dedicated to a different unit of study or subject.
Some of the best unit study programs include:
- Creative Thinking
- Five in a Row
- Learning Adventures
Complete Curriculum Packages
These programs come in packages and provide everything that you need to teach your child for an academic year or semester. You may need to purchase some basic materials to complete some of the lessons, but for the most part, everything that you need comes in the package. This is perfect for parents who want to simply implement a program that is already created by professionals without going the online learning route.
Some of the best complete curriculum packages include:
- Sycamore Academy
- Moving Beyond the Page
- Easy Peasy All-In-One Homeschool
Keep in mind that there is some overlap between types of homeschool curriculum today. Many companies are now producing unit studies along with the option to purchase complete curriculums. It’s also common to see companies offering text-based and online options, so most homeschool parents end up mixing and matching resources from different companies.