Homeschooling: Key Facts and Resources

Have you ever thought of teaching your children at home? More American families are choosing to homeschool their children every year.

By GreatSchools Staff

Homeschooling, which is legal in every state, simply means that you, the parent, take charge of your child's education instead of sending him to a private or public school. If you are thinking about homeschooling, there are some important things you should know.

Some Surprising Facts about Homeschooling

There are no typical homeschool parents

Today's homeschool parents include individual parents with different educational philosophies, groups of families in a community working together and religious families of all denominations.

Parents homeschool for different reasons

As no one description of a homeschool parent exists, neither does one reason for why parents homeschool. The following list, from a 1999 survey conducted by the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES), includes the top reasons parents gave for homeschooling:

Homeschooling is gaining in popularity

In this same study, NCES found that about 1,096,000 students, or 2.2% of the nation's students ages 5 to 17, were being taught at home instead of attending a public or private school. Of all homeschool students, 82% were educated exclusively at home, while 18% combined homeschooling with classes and programs from local public or private schools. In order to qualify as a homeschool student (according to NCES) a student can't be enrolled in a private or public school for more than 25 hours a week.

Thinking About Homeschooling: Four Key Questions

1. What are my legal rights and limitations?

Laws on homeschooling vary from state to state. Some states just ask to be informed that your child is being homeschooled, others mandate specific curriculum guidelines, and still others require homeschool students to take state standardized tests. Homeschool parents are ultimately responsible for their child's education, so becoming aware of your legal rights and limitations is important.

2. Where do I begin?

Once you have identified the legal process for homeschooling, you'll need to come up with a plan for educating your child that answers three questions: how? what? who?

How will I teach my child?

Methodologies for homeschooling range from using set activities and keeping school hours to a laid-back approach known as "unschooling." Unschooling is based on the notion that children learn best when they are ready; the student decides school hours, subject matter, learning methods and content material. Parents considering homeschooling can research different models and choose the one that best suits their child.

What will I teach my child?

Some parents create and teach their own curriculum, while others buy a commercial program. Curriculum programs targeted for homeschool families include lesson plans, texts, activities and tests. Additionally, local public or charter schools that support homeschooling may offer other helpful resources.

Who will teach my child?

Although many parents take on the task of teaching their children themselves, others recognize they can't do it all. Some parents supplement their teaching by hiring tutors, calling on friends, or enrolling their children in select classes at museums, libraries, junior colleges, 4-H clubs and even the public schools.

3. Will I find support from my local school or district?

Many school districts support homeschooling and will provide parents with curriculum, textbooks and even a space to meet with other homeschool students.

Some schools will also allow homeschool students to enroll part time. These students can study core subjects at home, and then enroll in elective classes at a nearby public, private or charter school. There may also be options for homeschool students to participate in sports or other extracurricular activities. School policies vary, so check with your local school or district to see what level of support they offer to homeschool families.

4. Are there homeschool networks in my community?

Almost every state has homeschool support groups or state centers where parents can go for ideas and resources; some even structure field trips and activities. At a local level, many homeschool families form community networks, where they get together weekly for outings and group discussions. If you try homeschooling, you may want to connect with other homeschool families to help your child develop socially as well as academically.

Additional Resources

If you are interested in learning more about homeschooling, there's a wealth of information available on the Internet. Your state Department of Education's Web site may be a good resource, along with these sites that are geared specifically for homeschool parents.

To find curriculum ideas, message boards and links to more homeschooling sites:

To read more about homeschooling, including state laws: