How Do Families Homeschool?
How families homeschool is an individual decision, based on the needs of each family. Therefore, what homeschooling looks like for one family may look very different from what it looks like for another. While on the one hand, that’s not a lot of information for a family just getting started, on the other hand, this reality gives each family license and freedom to be themselves and find what works best for their circumstances or stage of life. Even so, there are a few general pictures of homeschooling “how to” that can help newcomers find a starting point.
Points to Ponder
Here are some basic ideas about how to homeschool.
Homeschool families group their students according to a number of criteria, such as how many students are in the family, the ages of the children, the type of curriculum used, etc. In some families, each student is given independent instruction in all classes. In others, the whole family learns all subjects together. In many families, students are grouped together for some classes, such as history or elementary science, but receive individual instruction in classes such as mathematics and phonics.
What is considered part of the homeschool curriculum can vary widely from family to family. The state a homeschool family lives in may affect what is considered schoolwork. Many states have required classes, such as language arts and math. Core classes, such as language arts, math, social studies, science, and health can always be counted as homeschooling. Electives such as arts courses or home economics, as well as physical education classes, can almost always be counted as schoolwork. Classes in religion can often be counted as well. Practices, such as for sports or drama, chores, volunteer work, and many other activities might also be counted, depending on the state in which a family lives.
Depending on where a family lives, they may have varying degrees of freedom in setting up their homeschooling schedules. Some families follow the public school schedule, schooling their children for the same days and times that the school is in session. Other families school for three months with a one-month break year-round. Still others may choose to school for a number of weeks then take a week-long break, or to take a long break over the winter and school during the summer.
Just like there can be great variety in how homeschoolers set up their yearly schedules, weekly and daily schedules can vary as well. Some homeschoolers choose to school all five weekdays. Others may school just four days a week, with one day open for errands and outside activities. Others, often if one of the parents works a shift, might school on the weekend and take off a day or two during the week. Some homeschoolers begin schoolwork bright and early in the morning, some are finished before noon while some are just beginning their day at lunchtime and may even work into the evening.
Some homeschool families have a dedicated homeschool room, complete with desks, chalkboards, and a flag. Others have a primary homeschool room with couches or tables, while still others homeschool at the kitchen table or all over the house. Families may do seatwork for a portion of time, then move to the couch to cuddle up for read-aloud time. And for some students, the floor is the best location for learning.
The word “homeschooling” is somewhat misleading. Homeschoolers generally find that school occurs anywhere the teacher and students may be. While some families may primarily complete core lessons at home, others school at the library, in the backyard, at the park, or even in the car. Schoolwork can be done while waiting for a doctor’s appointment or at the laundromat.
Families also utilize outside activities, such as art or music lessons, sports teams, or apprenticeships as part of their education, and some use group activities such as field trips and homeschool co-ops. Other families have students that attend a public or private school part of the day and spend the rest of the day at home.
A Few More Thoughts
The who, what, when, and where of homeschool families is a personal choice based on the needs of the students in each individual family. Part of the joy of homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility to create an educational environment that works for your family. And, what works one year for a homeschool family may change and evolve as the family changes.