Homeschooling is generally defined as home-based and parent-led learning. Homeschooling has a rich and detailed history in the United States and throughout the world. According to greatschools.org, homeschooling is currently legal in every state in the U.S. While 20 or 30 years ago homeschooling was a bit of a novelty, in recent years it has grown exponentially. Globally, the status of home education varies considerably. It is legal in several countries throughout the world. In many countries it is completely illegal while in others it is technically legal but with so many stipulations to follow that very few people are able to actually do it. The following information discusses many aspect of homeschooling in the United States and around the world.
The History of Homeschooling
Homeschooling has been around longer than public schools. Until modern times most individuals throughout the world received their education in a home environment by family members. In the United States public schools were officially started in 1642 when the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed a law stating that children must be taught to read. Attending public school was not mandatory, however, until the mid to late 1800s. Most children were still taught to read, write and do simple mathematics at home by parents or other family members.
According to Homeschoolers Anonymous, the homeschooling movement started again in the United States after public schools had been established for several decades. This new movement officially started with the 1904 court ruling. The Indiana Appellate Court stated that a school was officially defined as “a place where instruction was imparted to the young.” This definition meant that a school that was held in a home would be the same as a private school. Throughout most of the twentieth century, however, the vast majority of children were educated in the public school system. In fact, homeschooling almost became extinct in the United States.
The Coalition for Responsible Home Education reports that the modern movement for homeschooling was started by John Holt in the 1970s. When this movement first began homeschooling was legal in all states but some had very strict requirements. There were several states that even required parents that homeschooled to have teaching licenses. What has been termed the “cultural wars” began in the 1980s and homeschooling began to cast a broader net, becoming appealing to those with Christian as well as other religious beliefs. In recent years homeschooling has expanded even farther, with people who are religious, secular, and on all sides of the political spectrum now looking to homeschooling as one of many educational options for their children.
Homeschooling vs Public School
One of the most prominent reasons individuals choose to homeschool their children is because they aren’t satisfied with the public schools in their area. When asking, is homeschooling better or is it best to give my child a public school education, several factors should be considered. It is important to understand some of the primary differences between a homeschool education and one obtained in a public school.
- Emphasis on Testing and Grades – This is currently one of the most fundamental differences between nearly all public schools and a home based education. There is more of an emphasis on mastery of material when educating at home. Public schools are required by state and federal mandates to regularly test students. While students who are educated at home may receive grades, it is normally optional unless they are learning through an official online school. Students in public schools almost always receive grades on a regular basis throughout their academic career.
- Large Schools and Classes – Public schools have hundreds and sometimes thousands of students while a homeschool normally has only a handful of students and sometimes only one. The calm, controlled atmosphere in a home environment is often touted as one of the advantages of homeschooling. Those in support of public schools, however, argue that exposure to many different people in an often chaotic environment helps prepare children for the real world.
- Peer Influence – Peer influence can be negative or positive. Whether it generally has a good or bad effect on a child there is little debate that peer influence is almost always much greater in a public school environment. For some children this is a positive influence and they look forward to hanging out with their friends. For others it can have an extremely negative impact. This is especially true when bullying is a factor. Homeschooled kids are often more influenced by their parents and families than their friends.
- Parent or State Influence – As noted above, a parent’s beliefs and values usually have a greater influence when a child is educated at home. This is not only true when it comes to peers but also when it involves the curriculum being taught. In a homeschool, while certain skills may be required, parents still have the freedom to decide how those skills are taught, what curriculum is used, and the values that are instilled in a child. In public school parents normally don’t have input on the type of curriculum or teaching style that is used.
The Homeschoole Curriculum
There is now a wide variety of curricula, programs, and supplies available for homeschoolers. There are curricula for preschoolers all the way through high school homeschool programs. Many people choose to use online homeschool programs because they provide an abundance of resources through the Internet. Most parents will choose a combination of curricula and online options to customize a personal educational plan for their children. The following are different curriculum options available to parents.
- Secular Curriculum – This type of curriculum is non-religious. It may simply not promote any particular faith or it may specifically refer to humanism or atheism. While the curriculum that is taught in public schools is almost always secular, homeschoolers may also be taught this type of curriculum at home.
- Biblical Curriculum – This type of curriculum promotes the Christian faith. A curriculum may only have references to the Bible while other types of curriculum might include actual Bible stories and verses throughout the lessons. Some specific denominations, such as Catholic, will write curriculum that promote their denominational beliefs and standards.
- Online Curriculum – Some parents decide to choose curriculum that can be primarily completed online. Several companies produce curriculum that comes in both workbook form and online. This curriculum can be secular or religious in nature.
Homeschoole World breaks down and describes home based curriculum in even more detailed terms. The following are a few of the specific types of curriculum that families can use for their children.
- Traditional Curriculum – This type involves workbooks and textbooks and is similar to what most people experienced in a traditional public school. The companies that produce traditional types of curriculum may include extras such as testing materials, videos, and kits that have math and science supplies.
- Online Academy Curriculum – Of all the online options this is the most structured and rigorous. A student will attend scheduled online classes that include a teacher and other students. This type of learning will normally cost more than the other options because of the close interaction with the teacher as well as other benefits. This can be similar to attending a brick and mortar private school, except the majority of the educational experience is conducted online.
- Online Independent Curriculum – This is similar to an academy style curriculum but is done independently. A student will read online materials and watch lectures and have interaction with the teacher through emails. This is not as expensive as an Academy but is not as highly regarded by colleges.
- Long Distance Learning – Students will learn with traditional textbooks but lessons and tests are graded through mail or email. This type of learning, as well as the online academy curriculum, often provides more motivation for students. When a student knows that someone else besides their parents are expecting them to produce quality work they may be more motivated to complete assignments.
Choosing a Curriculum
Once a parent understands the different types of curriculum available it can still be a daunting task of choosing the right one. For those who are just starting out homeschooling it might be better to attend a fair where materials are set out so the parents can browse through curriculum at their leisure. Homeschooling Almanac gives several tips for choosing the best curriculum.
- How Easy is it to Use? – Being confused about how to follow a curriculum should not be something a parent is concerned about. Clear instructions and organized materials should part of any successful educational plan.
- Does it Have Tools that will Measure Objectives? – Whether it is comprehension questions or checkpoints, there should be obvious ways to measure progress along the way. This will enable parents to know when it’s time to move on to the next lesson or if a child needs to spend more time on a particular skill.
- Is There Live Academic Support? – Being able to connect to a real person in real time will obviously make the educational experience move more quickly and productively. Having someone to answer questions and be able to suggest alternatives can prove invaluable to parents.
- Does it Include Offline and Online Options? – For parents who favor either totally online or offline learning this may not matter. But a variety of instructional options will often keep children from getting bored.
Before taking on the task of educating their children at home most people will ask the question, how much does homeschooling cost? The general answer is that it can cost virtually nothing to thousands of dollars a year on each child. The answer for each family will depend on everything from whether they buy items new or used to what type of program they wish to use. According to Bright Hub Education several of the costs of a home education are tax deductible. The following are several of the general areas that parents usually spend money on when planning to homeschool a child.
- Curriculum – Standardized homeschooling packages that are put together by well-known curriculum companies can cost hundreds of dollars. Parent can cut costs by purchasing used books or sharing them with other families. It is usually a good idea to test a curriculum if possible before making an actual purchase. Some companies may allow trial periods or free pages of a curriculum so a parent can see if that particular curriculum will work for them. Parents who have a background in education or expertise in specific areas such as math can put together their own curriculum for little expense.
- Supplies – Big ticket supplies can include a computer, a printer, and a desk. Most people, however, usually have these items already in their home. Art supplies, puzzles, pencils, paper, and other small supplies will likely need to be purchased. These costs can run a few hundred dollars or more for a school year. As with the larger items, many people will already have some of these supplies in their home.
- Field Trips/Extracurricular – Any well-rounded homeschool program will include extracurricular activities and at least a few field trips each year. Some families may actually spend more time on field trips and extracurricular since a homeschool schedule will be more flexible and allow time to engage in outside activities. There are, however, many free activities that can be done at parks and libraries.
- Lost Income – If one parent was already staying at home with the kids then this will not be a cost to consider. If both parents were working full-time jobs then the loss of income can be considerable. This should be taken into account and a budget put together for monthly expenses before beginning to homeschool. Extra expenses will oftentimes need to be cut out of the budget in order for one person to be able to stay at home.
- Homeschooling Dues – This is obviously an optional cost but one that is often recommended. Those that are part of an official homeschool group will have greater access to information, support, social opportunities, and may even receive discounts on various events and activities in the community. Costs can range from less than a $100 to up to $1,000. Groups that are considered co-ops, which means they are generally ran by volunteers, are normally much less expensive.
How to Homeschool your Child
Figuring out how to homeschool is the first obstacle and fear that many parents face. There is definitely no shortage of advice when it comes to starting a homeschool. The first step is to gather information about the many types of programs and ways to homeschool that are available. A good place to start is by going online and researching the many websites and blogs that have information about how to start homeschooling. The following are steps parents can take when preparing to homeschool.
- Check Requirements – Some states in the U.S. don’t have any requirements for homeschoolers while others require periodic testing that must be submitted to local officials. Sometimes a state may even require families to submit information regarding the curriculum they are teaching. Homeschooling requirements around the world vary. HSLDA provides a summary of some of the state laws regarding homeschooled students and their ability to participate in public school activities such as athletics and even classes.
- Choose Curriculum – Deciding what type of curriculum the family will use can be an overwhelming and extensive process. The first step is to decide if a secular or faith based type of learning will be used. After choosing what type of curriculum a family will use, parents will need to spend quite a bit of time online and going to homeschooling fairs to be able to look at all the curriculum options available. Talking with other homeschool parents will be invaluable when making a decision regarding curriculum. It is important that some sort of curriculum or educational plan is established for each subject the child will be studying. For elementary age students the general curriculum usually includes reading, writing, spelling, grammar, math, science, and history. For older students the curriculum may be more diverse and specialized.
- Set Goals – After a curriculum for every subject has been chosen, families will need to set individual goals for each child that is being homeschooled. Goals could be made by specifying a certain amount of time to complete various chapters or units in the curriculum. Families can also set goals by deciding how long they should spend teaching certain skills. They may also decide if they want each child to complete a certain grade level in a specific amount of time.
- Get Organized – Whether you have an online planner or a traditional one, making daily, weekly, and even monthly plans are necessary to stay organized. This also means evaluating the long-term commitment that will be required to meet goals. The key to homeschooling success is often related to how well parents oversee and monitor a student’s schedule.
- Make Evaluations – An evaluation process should be in place before the first lesson is taught. This means evaluations should be completed periodically in each individual subject for every child. An overall evaluation of the entire homeschooling process should be completed 2 or 3 times each year. Curriculum packages may have their own testing materials that can be used in conjunction with the curriculum. Some curriculum companies even offer placement tests so parents will know at what level their child should start.
- Prepare for Setbacks – Many parents are extremely excited when taking on a challenge such as homeschooling. But like almost anything new and dramatically different there will almost certainly be setbacks and disappointments along the way. It is important to mentally prepare for difficulties before beginning the homeschool process. It is also necessary to have a backup plan, such as a second curriculum or different types of extra-curricular activities, in place if the first plan is ineffective.
Homeschooling Around the World
Homeschooling is a global phenomenon. When it comes to how to be homeschooled, there are lots of different countries and cultures that provide their own types and styles of homeschooling.
- Australia – Homeschooling in Australia is legal and has grown in popularity in recent years. The Aussie Educator provides information about home education for each of the states and territories. There are several support groups throughout Australia that parents are encouraged to join or connect to. A few of these groups include Home Education Association (HEA) and Aussie Homeschool Forum.
- Brazil – Homeschooling was legal in Brazil from 1824 until 1990. The Statute of Children and Adolescents was passed in 1990 that forced children to enroll in the public school system. There have been several bills introduced in recent years in an attempt to again make educating children at home legal. The Open Journal of Social Sciences discusses the current movement to again make educating a child at home legal in Brazil.
- Canada – Flora.org discusses homeschooling in Canada and answers many questions families may have. Each Province in Canada has its own regulations regarding teaching children at home. Some provinces don’t even require parents who educate at home to register their children when beginning the process of homeschooling. By some estimates there are now approximately 22,000 students being educated outside of the Canadian public school system.
- China – Homeschooling in China is officially illegal but there are still many families who educate their children underground. The government ran schools in China are often extremely strict and many parents complain that their children have been abused. According to HSLDA, in recent years there have been legal loopholes that have allowed some parents to homeschool their children without fear of retribution from the government.
- France – Homeschooling is permitted throughout France. The government does require that an equivalent education be taught so that those educated at home have learned similar things to their peers in the public schools. Some subjects and topics that must be covered include spoken and written French, French literature, math, art, p.e., and at least one foreign language.
- Germany – It is currently illegal to teach a child at home in Germany and has been illegal since WWI. In recent years there have been high profile cases in which parents have actually fled Germany for fear of persecution involving their desire to homeschool. According to the BBC news homeschooling is not only illegal but families have faced fines and imprisonment for attempting to educate their children at home.
- Great Britain – In Great Britain children can be taught at home but there are some stipulations that parents must follow. The government website in the United Kingdom states that a parent can educate a child at home either part-time or full-time. Local councils will assist families who want to home educate. There are a few requirements, however. Those wishing to homeschool their children must write a letter to and get permission from the school headmaster where the children were attending school.
- India – Educating a child at home in India is currently legal, but there are several murky aspects surrounding homeschooling. The Swaddle reports that the Right to Education Act (RTE) requires that states provide free education to children aged 6 to 14. The Act, however, does not clearly state that parents are required to send their children to a government sponsored school nor does it officially prohibit or recognize homeschooling. There are several support groups for those who choose to educate their children in a home environment while living in India. Most of these support groups, however, are online.
- Russia – Taylor & Francis Online reports that homeschooling in Russia was part of the upbringing of the elites for many years. The government did attempt to crack down on homeschooling throughout the twentieth century. In recent years, however, homeschooling in Russia has made a comeback.
It should be noted that besides Germany, several European countries have outlawed homeschooling. It is illegal in Greece, Spain, and while it is not officially illegal in Sweden, it is nearly impossible to obtain approval. It is legal in Switzerland and Norway.
Many individuals who have been taught at home have gone on to reach the top of their professions and gain fame. The actress, Jennifer Love Hewitt, was homeschooled until she started high school in Los Angeles. Condoleeza Rice, who is a former Secretary of State, was homeschooled until she was 10 years-old. Frank Lloyd Wright, Margaret Atwood, and C.S. Lewis were also homeschooled at different points in their lives. Learning Liftoff describes the experiences of several other famous homeschoolers.
- Justin Bieber – It has been reported that Justin took online classes while he was on tour so he could meet his graduation requirements.
- Taylor Swift – Taylor Swift decided to homeschool to finish her education after starting her musical career at age 14.
- Tim Tebow – The football star with a strong personal faith was homeschooled while still playing on sports teams with the public schools.
- Demi Lovato – Demi was bullied so much in the 7th grade that the child actress decided to be homeschooled.
- The Jonas Brothers – Kevin, Joe, and Nick Jonas were homeschooled by their mother who has said she would have educated her children at home even if they hadn’t been in the entertainment business.
The National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) states that home-based education is growing around the world. The following includes interesting facts and statistics reported by the NHERI regarding homeschooling.
- The United States has about 2.3 million students that are educated at home.
- The population of those being homeschooled has been rising at a rate of about 2 percent to 8 percent.
- It is estimated that taxpayers save about 27 billion in the United States annually due to homeschooling. This number is based on the approximate number of homeschooled kids and the yearly cost of educating a child in the public school system.
- Approximately 3.4 million adults in the United States have been homeschooled at some point during their K through 12 education.
The U.S. Department of Education keeps detailed statistics regarding specific aspects of all non-public school education. This includes homeschooled students as well as those who attend private and parochial schools. The Department of Education cited the following reasons why parents choose to homeschool. It should be noted that many parents choose to homeschool for more than one reason.
- A desire to provide a religious based education was the reason stated by 64 percent of parents.
- Concern about the atmosphere and environment in the public schools was stated as a reason by 91 percent of parents.
- Being dissatisfied with the academic instruction was a reason given by 74 percent of those who decided to homeschool.
- That the student had special needs was a reason given by 17 percent of parents.
Should I Homeschool?
When deciding if this option is best for a family several factors should be taken into consideration. Familyeducation.com discusses several pros and cons to consider when deciding whether to homeschool or not. The following are a few of the benefits of teaching children in a home environment.
- Educational Freedom – Even though there are still standards to meet and various tests children will be required to pass, parents who homeschool have great freedom in choosing curriculum, books, and teaching methods. Many parents will combine different types of curriculum to meet the individual needs of their children. For example, a parent may teach their child reading and writing while having the child learn math through an online class.
- Quicker Advancement – Children in most public schools, especially those with large classes, will learn and advance at a much slower rate. With greater individualized attention and less time spent on non-academic tasks children will often get through material in the fraction of the time it takes in a public school. It can sometimes take 10 to 15 minutes to simply line up a large class and take them to various activities throughout the day. Disciplining individual students may also take time away from actual instruction.
- More Family Time – When parents spend several hours each day working closely with their children there will likely be an increased closeness and a greater bond that is formed. More family time can also include greater flexibility with a daily schedule. When a family’s life no longer revolves around a school day schedule or a year-round school calendar, there is greater freedom to plan schedules that work for the family.
- No Negative Peer Pressure – A child’s social interaction can be more closely monitored by a parent. In a public school setting a child may be influenced by dozens of different kids that a parent doesn’t even know about. Children also have the freedom to dress and act in a way that feels comfortable to them without the fear of being ridiculed.
- Religious Freedom – For parents who want to include religious instruction along with educational lessons, homeschooling gives them the freedom to do so. Children can express their religious beliefs without fear of offending others.
There are disadvantages and drawbacks to consider as well.
- Financial Concerns – Homeschooling normally requires at least one parent to stay home. If there are financial restraints in the family this can make it extremely difficult to pursue homeschooling.
- Time Restraints – Educating children at home not only takes time when the child is learning, but there is also a lot of time spent planning, buying supplies, and networking with other homeschool families.
- Too Much “Togetherness” – While being able to spend a lot of time with their children is generally a benefit, being with a child 24/7 can be overwhelming. Adults who choose to homeschool should be able to arrange a certain amount of breaks in order to spend time with other adults.
- Living Outside the Mainstream – Even though homeschooling has become more accepted and more sophisticated in recent years, homeschoolers are still sometimes looked upon as an oddity. While it will vary, depending on the community that the family lives in, being able to live outside-the-box is a trait homeschool families should have.
- Lack of Social Interaction – With the rise of homeschool networks and the increasing variety of music and sports activities in most communities this argument is generally no longer true. There are some, however, that believe children may not get the social interaction they need when they are in a homeschool environment.
The Future of Homeschooling
While many people may disagree on the benefits and disadvantages of teaching a child at home, there is little doubt that homeschooling is rapidly gaining ground in the United States and abroad. There are several reasons why homeschooling is very likely to continue growing.
- Increased Technology – With millions of people worldwide having access to a computer and the Internet it is easier than ever to homeschool. Having access to a wide variety of information without actually having to purchase textbooks is enabling more people to instantly find the best materials for homeschooling. Softml.net predicts that online apps will play a large part in the future of homeschooling. Computer apps will be part of everything from preschool children learning to trace letters to high school students preparing for college classes.
- Increased Diversity – When the homeschool movement began most people did it because of religious reasons. Now there are many diverse reasons for choosing homeschooling, thus widening the net of people who choose to leave the public school system. While those of faith who choose to homeschool will likely continue to grow, families of all different backgrounds are predicted to join them.
- Increased Networking – Because of the diverse reasons that people choose to homeschool more organizations and support groups have been created to help these specific groups. This increased network of homeschool groups means that individuals will have the support they need and will be less likely to quit after starting.
Deciding to homeschool or not is a personal choice that may be right for some families and not for others. For those who do decide to pursue a home education the options are almost endless. Homeschooling will almost certainly continue to expand and take on a wide range of forms to meet the needs of diverse families around the world.