by Kim Jaworski, Homeschool Resource Specialist
If you’ve decided to withdraw your child from school (or not enroll in Kindergarten in the first place), your homeschool adventure begins, or does it? There are still a few more decisions to make and some terminology to get accustomed to. Be sure you know the general guidelines for your state (I’m in MN, so I can speak with confidence on the situation here). In some states you need to be a licensed teacher or work with one as you homeschool, in other states you simply need to be the parent of the child to legally homeschool (MN). Some states will require an annual standardized test (MN) and others have no such requirement (WI). If you do an online search for your statewide homeschool support group, they should have a list of requirements in your state on their website. Rules in hand, lets look at some other choices.
First of all, taking your child out of a brick and mortar school (public or private) doesn’t automatically make you a homeschooler. If you choose to enroll in an online school (like K12.com) you will be learning at home, but you are technically (technically here means according to state statute in MN, and possibly your state) still enrolled in a public school, but it’s a charter school. You don’t need to follow homeschool statute guidelines and requirements. You will follow the requirements of your online charter school. You are technically “distance learning” or “online schooling”. If your online school choice isn’t accredited in your state, then you’re homeschooling (technically) and will have to follow homeschool guidelines in addition to what your online school might lay out for the year. The important factor here is whether or not your outside source for curriculum is accredited in your state. Some will try to imply that they are by saying things in their ads like “legal in all 50 states”. That’s not the same as being accredited. And by the way, homeschooling is legal in all 50 states.
Secondly, if you opt into a homeschool co op or learning program (Classical Conversations, Charlotte Mason, etc) you will participate in a local group (or not) and use a prescribed curriculum or course of study. You are homeschooling, and will be responsible for any subjects not covered by the program you’re participating in.
Thirdly, you don’t need to join a group or a program. It’s possible to homeschool according to an ideology (libraries and online searches will get you plenty of info on these) like Unit Studies, Montessori, Unschooling, and others. Some offer packets or grade bundles you can purchase, but you can also do it on your own following the ideology. These are not accredited and you are homeschooling.
Lastly, you don’t need to buy into any prescribed plan and in all honesty, I think it’s easier (and cheaper) not to. When you homeschool “outside of the box” you have more flexibility to accommodate your child’s interests, strengths and weaknesses, take into account family needs and scheduling, and make learning more of an adventure with a sense of discovery and fun. This is probably called “eclectic” homeschooling by people who need labels, but I called it “text-book avoidant”. You can read more on text book avoidancy in another article on my website, but basically, you can chart your own course, picking and choosing from the other options if you like, or simply mapping out a path year to year or month to month and adjusting as needed. This can be scary for some families and incredibly freeing for others. As a Homeschool Resource Specialist, I can help you navigate your options if you’d feel better with a guide for the start of your journey. You’ll find your footing in no time. Browse my website resources and pick and choose what feels like a good fit for you and your child. You don’t have to be up and running when public schools traditionally start. You can wade into the shallow end of the pool and try a few things. As you find what works, add a few more things to your plan. And please HAVE FUN! You can homeschool in your pajamas, you can homeschool in a hammock, you can homeschool on a walk through your neighborhood, you can homeschool in your nearest park, you can homeschool on youtube, you can homeschool on PBS, you can homeschool with madlibs, you can homeschool on a trampoline, you can homeschool with legos, you can homeschool while baking cookies, you can homeschool with all ages of children together, you can homeschool your child while babysitting someone elses. I say this all with great confidence, as I have done all those things and I am so glad we did!