Considering Homeschooling? Here’s How to Make It Work

Curious about homeschooling? You’re not alone. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, almost 3.5% of school-aged children (and growing) are homeschooled. For context, the number of homeschooled kids in 1999 was about 850,000. Today, it’s over 1.7 million.

There is no one reason why people choose to homeschool. Likewise, while there are definite clusters in the data -- most homeschoolers are white, have three or more children, and are two parent homes where only one partner works -- there is also surprising diversity.

For example, parents’ educational level isn’t a differentiator; homeschoolers are evenly split amongst parents with some college, bachelor's degrees, and graduate degrees. The same kind of split holds for income levels and grade ranges.

"A Trial By Fire"

Whatever draws a person to homeschooling, one thing cuts across -- it can feel like a trial by fire. Even those trained in education and aligned with a homeschool-friendly philosophy can face times when they’re not exactly sure what to do. In fact, sometimes that educational training can work against the homeschooling parent.

As a classroom teacher, you learn how to manage a classroom full of similarly aged children. You try to find a happy medium between what works for all kids in the class and what each unique child needs. You try to design experiences that balance academic rigor and classroom control; your peers and supervisors tend to evaluate your quality against this balance. And you get to learn from your mistakes. You practice and repeat your lessons each year and get better along the way.

Homeschooling breaks everyone one of the rules. You may have children at wildly different development stages, not even bounded by age. Classroom control is not a thing. And there is no learning from repetition. No one has ever homeschooled Your Child at This Particular Age before. Ever. Including you.

The Grand Adventure

This doesn’t mean homeschooling is impossible, but it does require a commitment to experimentation. With every new stage of development your children pass through, you are learning anew, growing with them, changing your technique, curriculum, and relationship. You are on a grand adventure with your children, and although you will gain confidence, your approach will be uniquely catered to your child and your family.

If you want homeschooling to work, you have to be ready to experiment, fail, and experiment again. You must commit to education being an inseparable component of your relationship with your child. School is not a place; it is a journey. It doesn’t begin when your child reaches "school age." It starts at conception.

In other words, you've been building this education thing from the ground up all along.

Top Ten tips

So how do you make it work? Good curriculum and a solid understanding of education are critical, but every child-parent dynamic is unique.

  1. Follow your child.

  2. Adopt a theory of education.

  3. Be a mentor, not a "teacher.”

  4. Study child development and psychology.

  5. Use local learning resources.

  6. Prepare a supportive home learning environment.

  7. Join a homeschooling community.

  8. Stay up-to-date on educational research and trends.  

  9. Contemplate your daily rhythm.

  10. Nurture yourself.