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Homeschooling 101

Is There Such a Thing as Sort-Of Homeschooling?

By Mir Kamin

Recently on the Alpha Mom Facebook page, someone referenced an older post of mine about packing school lunches from back when I was homeschooling my son (and mentioned it in passing, as part of the post), and said the following:

My biggest takeaway from this article (no offense, I’m just good with the lunch thing) is that there is a way you can PARTIALLY homeschool your child. What is this magical thing called a co-op they also go to?

Yes, Virginia, you can partially homeschool your child. (No, the commenter’s name isn’t Virginia.)

I think a lot of people have various misconceptions about homeschooling, chief among them the old trope about how homeschooled kids don’t get any socialization skills, which I hope we all know is ridiculous, by now. But the second most-common thing I hear is always something along the lines of, “Oh, I could never homeschool. I wouldn’t want to be my child’s only teacher.” Well, good news! You don’t have to be. In fact, I know a lot of different homeschooling families in all kinds of situations, and I can’t think of a single one where one parent is the sole instructor. Not one. Here’s the secret: Homeschooling would be more accurately referred to as home-based-schooling. Your base in home, rather than a school building, but from there—especially nowadays—your options are plentiful. (That was excellent news for me, as I was terrified to homeschool my child, and having lots of options made it so much easier than I’d ever imagined it could be.)

Before I go any further, let’s get the legal stuff out of the way. First of all, I’m going to be discussing homeschooling in the U.S., because I don’t know anything about how it works elsewhere. (Sorry, International readers! Feel free to chime in, because I’m curious.) Here’s a handy resource for looking up the regulations in your state, and for fun you can check out other states, as well—it’s kind of wild, how much it varies. For example, I thought Georgia (my home state, which is listed on that map as “low regulation”) had hardly any requirements, but then I looked at Texas, where the only requirements are that you teach the recommended subjects and have a written curriculum (although there is no requirement to show these things to anyone, so it’s more like a suggestion). On the other hand, in New York, you have to submit a full curriculum complete with course materials, you have to follow a given set of topics, and you have to do quarterly reports and yearly testing.

The first step in deciding to homeschool is to make sure you know and can comply with the regulations for your state. But from there, you can do all sorts of things.

Who teaches?

You can decide to homeschool and be your child’s sole instructor, of course. If that works for you, great! If the very notion strikes fear into your heart—or if you’re also working, or want your kid to have variety, or any other of a hundred “or”s come to mind—it’s certainly not necessary for them to learn only from you. You can…

    • … have both parents work with the student, or a parent and a grandparent, or any other combination of family members (provided they meet your state’s requirements; some states require a degree, some don’t).
    • … hire a tutor. Again, check your state’s regulations on terms of necessary qualifications.
    • … join a co-op of some sort which is homeschooling families coming together to share and swap expertise. In a situation like that, participation is free, but when your kid is off learning French with another parent, you may be teaching math to someone else’s kid(s).
    • … join a co-op of the sort which caters to homeschooling families but takes money in exchange for instruction; this is like a private school or group tutoring, and regulations will vary by state (do your homework before utilizing one of these). These groups will often refer to themselves as “homeschool resources,” “academies,” or “alternative learning programs.” They don’t always use the co-op label.
    • … utilize online curriculums, such as K12, which is free and a complete curriculum/virtual school experience tailored to your state’s requirements, or resources your state provides (here in Georgia we have Georgia Virtual School, which allows students to take specific classes online) which may be used either as an entire curriculum or as supplementation.
    • … put together any combination of the above and more, as suits your family’s needs.

How much time is spent on “school” in any of these situations?

Part of what attracted our family to homeschooling was the understanding that a lot of time in public school is spent on behavior managements, busy work, and the logistics of moving around large numbers of students. At the time when we’d pulled my son, 7+ hours/day of regulated behavior was just too taxing for him, and I knew we could accomplish the same work in a much shorter period of time each day. Now—you are going to get sick of me saying this—don’t forget to check your state’s regulations, because some states do actually have an hours-per-day requirement which you either have to fill or be willing to lie about (not that I would ever encourage you to lie). Here in GA there is a days-per-year but not an hours-per-day requirement, which worked out great for us. It turned out that my kid could finish his work in about… an hour. Maybe two. (Part of that is him being smart. But a huge part of that is removing a lot of distraction and stress from his life, and also the aforementioned wasted time in large-group environments.) This meant that we were able to do a ton of “enrichment” stuff, he could attend what we lovingly referred to as “Hippie School” and do things like spend endless hours in the woods, and in the space of a couple of years, he worked a grade level ahead. Assuming you’re not violating any regulations, you spend as much time as your particular kid needs. In our case, that meant less time in the beginning (while he was sort of “detoxing” from a bad school experience) and then more time toward the end, of his own volition because there was stuff he wanted to study. Some co-ops are full-time, some are part-time.

How do you pick a curriculum?

That’s as loaded of a question as “Which one of your kids is your favorite?” Beyond your state’s regulations, you’ll have some or a lot of flexibility to decide this. If you Google “homeschool curriculum” chances are you’re in for some overwhelm. On the other hand, if you want more variety than what “regular school” offers, you’re in for a treat. Some curriculums are religious; others aren’t. Some curriculums are flexible; others, not so much. Do an honest assessment of what’s going to work for your family: Are you comfortable coming up with lesson plans? If no, you probably need to find a ready-made curriculum (or even a curriculum for certain subjects where you feel less comfortable). Are you utilizing other instructors? If so, do those situations come with a certain curriculum? It’s not about finding the “right” thing, it’s about finding the right approach for your particular family. I know folks who buy several curriculums and pick and choose from each to put together what they like. I know folks who spend most of their homeschool time working at home and some who do very little at home and utilize other instructors and venues and that works for them. You just have to find what works for you.

How do I figure this out?

Honestly, I don’t know how anyone survived homeschooling before the Internet. No hyperbole! You can find so many things online now, from other homeschooling families in your area to any educational tool you might want. Pre-Internet, I guess you just hoped you knew some people or ran into someone else, and you went to the Teacher Store for supplies and figured it out. Bless the Internet, man. You want a co-op in your area? Start Googling. You might be amazed to discover how many there are. And this is aside from the fact that by law, any extracurriculars at what would be your child’s assigned public school are also open to your homeschooled child, and the typical sort of rec soccer/music lessons/drama troupe sorts of things are always good supplements for kids in any educational environment.

The bottom line is that if you’re looking for a way to, as this comment put it, “partially homeschool” your kid, you absolutely can.

Photo source: Photodune/StepanPopov


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About the Author

Mir Kamin

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now ...

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now her life looks very different than it did back then: Those little kids turned into anything-but-regular teenagers, she is remarried, and somehow she’s become one of those people who talks to her dogs in a high-pitched baby voice. Along the way she’s continued chronicling the everyday at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, plus she’s bringing you daily bargain therapy at Want Not. The good news is that Mir grew up and became a writer and she still really likes hanging out with her kids; the bad news is that her hair is a lot grayer than it used to be.

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[…] to me now that I’m solidly middle-aged and the other is (in response to a reader question) all about how homeschooling can be all kinds of different things. So, um, you can go read those and I won’t make ye walk the plank. […]