Exploring & Thinking About Homeschooling

  1. Exploring Homeschooling

In the US and Canada, each state or province regulates homeschooling in its own way. Some states are more homeschool-friendly than others. When thinking about homeschooling, it’s important for you to know the laws and regulations of your state. Do you need to contact your local school system? Do your children have to take standardized tests? What kind of end-of-year records do you need to submit?

A simple way to find out this information is to visit the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) website. This is an organization that has been advocating for homeschoolers for the past four decades. HSLDA has compiled the laws for every state and you can find summaries and details of those laws on their website.. Once you know the regulations you need to follow, making the decision to homeschool may seem more achievable.

Check your state’s homeschool laws but be assured that homeschool parents are not required to possess a teaching license or formal training in education. Some states do require a homeschooling parent to have earned a high school diploma, but in most states, the only qualifications needed are a desire to home educate and an interest in learning. If you wish to homeschool, don’t let a lack of training intimidate you. It’s your hard work and dedication to seeing your children reach their potential that will produce strong academic results, not a fancy degree.

If you make the decision to homeschool a child who is already attending public school, you don’t need to wait for the school year’s end to begin your homeschooling program.

  • You will want to start by officially withdrawing your child from their school. State requirements vary regarding the withdrawal process. It’s important to familiarize yourself with your state’s regulations and make sure you comply with them.

  • When you withdraw your child from an educational setting especially after the school year has started, it’s important to give you and your child a chance to “de-school,” and take the time to work together to establish new routines and reconnect with your child’s interests and passions, maybe even take a break from formal academics. Plan field trips, read-alouds, unstructured free play, or time in nature. Use this season to observe your child, get to know their strengths and challenges, so you can identify strategies for helping them learn in a way that’s meaningful and that will help them thrive in their new environment.

  • Homeschooling is not a permanent choice. Families can make the decision to homeschool or go to a traditional school on a yearly basis. Homeschooling might be the answer to your family’s circumstances right now. You can change your mind.

All parents have the legal right to home educate their children, including children with learning disabilities and challenges. In fact, homeschooling can give children of varying abilities an advantage because they are taught by those who are personally familiar with their strengths and weaknesses and who can quickly integrate new learning strategies and techniques. As a homeschool parent, you have a unique opportunity to provide your child with a learning environment where they are truly loved and accepted. Despite these advantages, teaching a child with special needs at home is extremely demanding. It will require an extra measure of patience, creativity, and dedication, especially if there are other children in the home whose needs must be balanced. There are some steps you can take to ensure that you are well-resourced for this endeavor:

  • Gather a strong support system for yourself whether through family, friends, therapists, church community, or a local homeschool support group (preferably all the above!). You will need others to lean on as you navigate the 24/7 demands of both teacher and parent.

  • Look for support groups, either local or online, that are dedicated to your child’s specific learning disability.

  • Develop daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal rhythms that give you time and space to recharge. This is critical for all homeschoolers, but especially for those who are raising a child with special needs. While some school authorities are supportive and even accommodating of your student, sometimes homeschool students with special needs may draw extra scrutiny from school officials. Joining the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is an important source of support if you are teaching a child with special needs.

  • Christianbook has a large selection of products for children with kinesthetic and sensory needs and with learning differences. Visit our Sensory & Kinesthetic Learning Resources page and Learning Differences page.

You can homeschool your children, even when they are at different ages and skill levels. It’s a matter of finding the method that each child responds to and a way to stay organized that works best for you. Your best plan could be one of these or a combination of them.

  • Independent learning is the end-goal of homeschooling, and older children can take ownership of their education. In fact, at the higher grade levels a lot of homeschooling curricula are written to the student. Parents still monitor assignments and grade quizzes, tests, and daily seatwork, but the student manages their schedule and workload and is responsible for reading (or watching) and completing their lessons on a daily basis.

  • Shared subjects: History, Science, and Bible are subjects that all ages can study together. When your children learn the same material, it encourages shared discussion, experiences, and insights. Older children can “reteach” concepts and topics, which helps them to solidify content and confirm their understanding. In addition, there are best-selling homeschool programs that are written with different reading assignments and activities for different age levels.

  • Unit Studies allow you to organize your lessons and subjects around a central theme and allow your children to dive deep into topics that they feel passionate about. Some examples of themes are topical (like space, insects, or baseball) and seasonal (like learning about maple syrup in early spring, or snow during winter). Literature-based unit studies centered around a particular book (like Little House on the Prairie) can immerse your children in a period of history as you blend its themes into all their subjects. Homeschoolers who use unit studies incorporate their theme or topic into language arts, math, science, and history lessons, whether it’s using sentences about baseball to label parts of speech, or geometry problems that involve honeybees and their hexagonal hives. The limit is your or your child’s imagination.

  • Reading together: even if each child is doing their own thing (or you’re doing it with them), bring your family together to share a book, by reading aloud. It can be a classic piece of literature (check off reading for language arts); a historical picture book or chapter book (check off reading and history); a biography (check off reading, science, and history). Little ones might ask a question and your older child will answer and start a discussion (check off reading comprehension and literary analysis). Children who share stories can connect with each other and they’ll remember the experience when they’re older.

  • Computer-based or video-based courses can provide a more traditional, grade-level coverage of subjects. Scheduling can either be a consistent daily routine or your child can complete their lessons when it’s best for them (after all, some kids are not morning people!).

Homeschooling is an investment, but there are homeschool programs and curricula available here at Christianbook to fit every family’s budget. With the growth of homeschooling over the past few years, there are also a lot of online resources. Often books and other educational materials can be used for siblings as they reach each grade level. Usually teacher resources (like teacher manuals and answer keys) are reusable, while student materials (like activity books and work-texts) are “consumable” and “non-reproducible,” which means they need to be replaced for the next student. Most families are buying student materials and teacher resources for at least four different subjects (math, language arts, science, and history/social studies) for an entire school year (approximately 180 days) for each child. Ideas to keep homeschooling affordable include:

  • There are curricula programs that can be purchased by the semester or by the quarter. So, while the cost will be the same or a little higher (factoring in shipping), the dent in the budget will be smaller at the time of each purchase.

  • Buy curricula that can be reused. Most of the time, this will pertain to the teacher materials. There are some homeschool publishers who allow for photocopies of student materials to be made for use within the immediate family.

  • Use your local library for books, audiobooks, educational videos, museum passes, online educational subscriptions.

  • Make your own teaching supplements, like phonics or math facts flashcards; math manipulatives like beans or popsicle sticks for counters.

  • Find free online downloads and printables covering almost every subject. Homeschool Compass (sponsored by Christianbook) has a page dedicated to carefully designed printables for your children!

As a parent with outside employment or as a single parent, or as a single parent with outside employment, your homeschool is going to look different than other families that you might see on social media or in a homeschool support group. And that’s okay. You are investing in your child’s education and in your relationship with them.

  • Your homeschool might be mobile: bags packed, pencils sharpened, your kids might bring their work as they go with you to appointments, meetings, etc.

  • Your homeschool might be at different times of day: scheduling may mean that connecting with your children will be in the afternoon or evening, rather than traditional school day hours.

  • Your homeschool will be organized. You’ll find a system and routine for planning lessons and checking assignments and assessments that will work best for you and your kids.

  • Your homeschool might include more helpers, not just you and your kids. Between co-ops, classes, support groups, other parents as teachers, and maybe even relatives for childcare, you’ll develop a community that supports you and your children. And that counts as socialization!

The “socialization” question isn’t as prominent as it used to be, but it will probably never go away. As homeschoolers, your children have more opportunities to connect with the real world than students who are in school for six to eight hours a day and only associating with kids their own age.

In the workplace, in our neighborhoods, at church, and in our hobbies and clubs, not everyone is our age. Grocery shopping during the day when the store employees are adults, visits to community homes, spending the day with older and younger siblings, play-dates with other homeschool families, and volunteer opportunities are just a few ways that homeschooled students learn to develop multi-generational relationships, which is what we do as adults.

As parents, you are your child’s most important model for social behavior and when you intentionally seek out occasions for your kids to connect with the community, you give them the chance to practice compassion, conflict resolution, and communication skills.

Homeschooling can be a lonely endeavor for both you and your children. Finding families and friends who homeschool can be challenging but it is an integral part of your support system. Also consider that not everyone in your support system needs to be a homeschooler. So take the time to find a community to become involved in and other parents and families that encourage each other and share interests. Here are a few ways to make connections.

  • Visit your state’s homeschool organization page. These are private organizations run by veteran and current homeschoolers. Often you’ll find information on activities (like conventions, graduation events, field trips), co-ops, classes, and more. Advice from parents who’ve navigated the laws of your state is invaluable. Click HERE for a link to the current state organizations.

  • Check out a homeschool convention in your area. Usually homeschool conventions happen once or twice a year, usually between March and June. At conventions you’ll find speakers on almost every homeschool topic, from how to teach different subjects to balancing instruction for multiple children. Conventions also often have a Vendor Hall, where you can look at curriculum from top homeschool and education publishers. Click HERE for a link to current homeschool conventions.

  • Visit the library or playground when traditional schools are in session. If you meet school-aged children and parents there, they are probably a homeschool family.

  • Check with museums, state parks, theaters, nature organizations for special homeschool programs. These can be great places to meet other homeschool families.

  • Search social media for local homeschool events, field trips, and activities.

  • Call churches in your area and ask if they have a support group for moms or parents or if any members are homeschoolers.

  • Leadership and vocational organizations like 4H and National FFA Organization, Scouts, and others give homeschool children opportunities to connect with other young people with similar interests.

  • The Homeschool Compass website offers support for your homeschool journey with how-to articles, encouragement, printables, booklists and reading lists, curricula suggestions and more.

If you homeschool for any length of time, you will experience a challenging situation of some sort. However, you don’t have to give up homeschooling, but you will need to get creative. When it happens, be prepared for your homeschool life to change and function differently than it did before. Give yourself and your family time to adjust to the new normal, as you re-evaluate your expectations on how much you and your kids can accomplish and prioritize the subjects and activities that most directly contribute to your long-term goals. You can’t really plan ahead for a crisis, but making connections with your homeschool community now will give you resources and support when you need it.

You may feel unsure in this area as you think about homeschooling and your child’s future, but the truth is many homeschool families have navigated this territory before you. In fact, homeschoolers are accepted and even sought out by some of the country’s finest universities because of the unique strengths they’ve gained through homeschooling. Employers appreciate the independence and emotional maturity that often characterize young adults who have been homeschooled. A strong academic foundation, creative problem solving, and independent thinking skills are just a few of the assets college admissions officers and employers frequently ascribe to homeschoolers.

If you’re thinking about homeschooling and your kids are in elementary or middle school, you don’t have to have this all figured out yet. Just be assured that there are lots of resources to support parents and high schoolers, there are lots of ways to earn the credits required to graduate, and there are lots of opportunities for young adults to become involved that will look great on a transcript, application, and resume.

If you do have a high schooler that you want to homeschool and you’d like more information on how to prepare your young adult for college or career after graduation, just click HERE.

At Christianbook, we carry best-selling homeschooling curricula and brands along with a huge selection of support materials and supplements, like math manipulatives, workbooks, sensory resources, and more. We also have Homeschool Curriculum Advisors on staff and to answer your questions about any of the homeschool products we carry. We go the extra mile to help, whether it’s looking at the product in our warehouse or contacting the publisher to get an answer. Homeschool Curriculum Advisors are available any time our phones are open, as well as by email. If you email, be sure to include the subject and grade level that you’re shopping for.

Our website is the most exhaustive source of the homeschool product we sell. But if you prefer to flip actual pages, our Homeschool Catalog is jam-packed with best-selling curricula and resources to make any homeschooler happy.

Contact Information for Christianbook's Homeschool Curriculum Advisors and Homeschool Catalog:

  • Christianbook's Homeschool Curriculum Advisor phone number: 1-800-788-1221

  • Click HERE to send an email to Christianbook's Homeschool Curriculum Advisors.

  • Click HERE to request that a Christianbook Homeschool Catalog be mailed to you.

  • Click HERE to view an online version of the Christianbook Homeschool Catalog.

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