If you are a parent who is thinking about homeschooling your child, you may be asking yourself what you need to know and how to provide the best education for your children.
Whether you are concerned about the environment at your children’s school, worried about the curriculum being taught, think you’d be their most effective teacher, or just want to keep your kids at home with you, there are many reasons why parents choose the homeschooling option. In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that the number of homeschooled students increased from 850,000 in 1999 to 1,690,000 by 2016, and the number continues to increase.
Not to worry, Fetch is here to help! This guide will lay out the fundamentals of homeschooling, plus some helpful tips and tricks. We’ll also tell you how to save money on homeschooling expenses and earn free gift cards in the process.
The Pros and Cons of Homeschooling
Homeschooling is not for everyone, but for those children who are good candidates for this type of learning environment, it might make a big difference in their academic careers and future success.
Children can learn in many different environments, and each circumstance produces an opportunity to learn new things and discover new skills. But like any other educational decision you make for your child, there are important considerations to factor in, to ensure that homeschooling is right for you and your child.
Be prepared, because homeschooling is a big commitment, both emotionally and financially.
Homeschooling is becoming ever more popular because it provides the flexibility for students to get an education tailored to their own interests, pace, and style.
Not only can parents give their children, as students, all the time they need to master a subject, but there is no need for redundancy. Once the student understands the material, you can move on at a faster clip than those in a more traditional learning environment. This wiggle room is possible because you as the teacher are devoted to only your child’s learning and not responsible for pacing their education with a classroom of other students.
While homeschooling can provide the opportunity to learn lessons in a real-world environment — like learning fractions by baking a cake! — it also withdraws students from learning what others may be like in the “real world.”
Some psychologists have warned that homeschooled children “may experience difficulty entering ‘mainstream life’ and may not grow up to be ‘complete people’ if taught at home, but there is also a large body of research that finds that homeschooling may not harm children’s development of social skills.
Because homeschooled children do not have the same methods of socialization as others, peer pressure and bullying behaviors are less pervasive. Social status is not important, or at least less defined. All of this can be a great thing, though the lack of positive peer pressure may impede growth and goal-orientation.
Homeschool parents may want to make sure that their homeschooled children have sufficient interaction with friends to meet their social needs as well as interactions with a variety of children and adults, with backgrounds not similar to theirs, to be aware of differences in a multicultural society.
Many potential homeschool parents may be surprised to discover how little regulation there may be for homeschooling in their state. Registration, educational qualifications, and testing requirements vary. So while many parents are choosing to homeschool to make sure their children get the best education possible, at least one Harvard Law researcher has argued that the lack of regulation in the homeschooling system poses a threat to children and society.
What It Takes To Be a Homeschool Parent
You may think you know what it takes to be a homeschool parent, but this job has both perks and costs that you may not immediately realize.
Many homeschool parents have reported that the one aspect they most underestimated was how much homeschooling would change their family’s lifestyle. When parents take on the job and responsibilities of the teacher — not to mention all other school staff! — they will be responsible for creating and implementing all lessons as well as organizing field trips and getting students ready for testing. All of which need to comply with any potential state and local requirements. And that can be a lot!
Time Needed to Homeschool
The amount of time you’ll be spending with your children could be both a major blessing and a burden.
Homeschool parents are with their children all day and this adds up to a fair amount of stress. As one homeschool parent put it, “Homeschool lasts all day because I’m with my kids all day. Life lasts all day.”
Unlike other parents who can turn to other duties after putting their children on the school bus, a homeschool parent may need to incorporate the curriculum into the family’s day-to-day operations. For some this is a perk – for others, it can be a problem.
Education Requirements to Homeschool
In the United States, there isn’t a program or certification to designate parents as eligible for homeschooling. Yes, you can homeschool, and don’t even need to be a former teacher or even a college graduate to do it.
As mentioned previously, requirements vary based on the state in which you reside, so you’ll want to check on your specific state’s guidelines. Most parents providing primary homeschool instruction have at least a high school diploma or GED, but not all states require even this. States in which parents must meet homeschooling requirements include Georgia, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania. Washington State is perhaps the most rigorous, requiring a high school diploma or GED and some college credits or completion of a parent qualification course, as well as having a certified teacher meet with the student regularly throughout the year.
The Cost of Homeschooling
Homeschooling has obvious costs as well as hidden ones. According to Time4Learning.com, the average cost of homeschooling ranges from $700 to $1,800 per child per school year, including the cost of the curriculum, school supplies, field trips, and extracurricular activities. And, there are no federal tax breaks for homeschool expenses.
Free resources are available, but taking on the financial burden of teaching kids at home can take its toll. Plus, keep in mind the opportunity cost of teaching your children, instead of some other income-earning career outside of the home, before deciding on homeschooling as the best choice for your family.
How Homeschooling Varies By State
One of the criticisms of homeschooling is that no consistent requirement exists for instructional eligibility or academic rigor across the country, but some states and localities do have their own guidelines. Make sure to find out about any and all requirements in your area to ensure your homeschooling success.
Here are some of the ways We have found homeschooling varies from state to state:
Attendance and Registration Requirements for Homeschooling
Some states are more rigorous in their attendance and registration requirements than others. However, even in the more relaxed states, we recommend maintaining proper attendance and documentation, as a way to avoid truancy prosecution.
In Illinois, for example, homeschool families have no required qualifications, and registration for homeschooling is even optional! In Georgia, however, parents must submit an annual Declaration of Intent to Utilize a Home Study Program, by September 1, or within 30 days of establishing their homeschool. It will include all homeschooled children’s names, ages, the address of the homeschool, and dates of the school year. Georgia parents must teach at least 180 days per year and write annual progress reports.
In New York, parents must file a similar Declaration of Intent, as well as an instruction plan, a minimum of 14 days before school starts. They must then submit quarterly reports and conduct standardized tests. Parents in Indiana must do the same, in addition to keeping attendance records and following a requirement to teach in English.
Some form of testing is likely required to satisfy homeschooling laws in your state, though some do not have formal assessments. For those states that do require testing, the process varies. Some school districts must administer and pay for home school testing. In others, families have to pay for testing their children, though approved lists of tests are often provided.
In those states where standardized testing is not required, some other formal evaluation or progress report may be accepted. Results of tests are also evaluated differently from state to state.
Non-Academic Activities When Homeschooling
Some states allow or disallow homeschooled students to pursue sports and participate in other interscholastic activities at their local public school or with public schools.
Florida statutes, for example, provide for home-educated students to participate in the public schools’ interscholastic extracurricular activities. In Idaho, homeschool students are not required to take a class at a public school to participate in the school’s sports program.
The Alabama High School Athletic Association amended its bylaws in 2016 to allow homeschool students and other “non-traditional students” to participate in interscholastic athletics with public schools, but Rule 305 of the California Interscholastic Federation prohibits homeschoolers from playing on public school teams.
Information about each state’s attendance, registration, testing, and other requirements can be found on its Department of Education website as well as on the Homeschool Legal Defense Association website and on Time4Learning.com.
What It Takes to Homeschool Successfully
Homeschooling provides two factors that have been deemed central to educational success — home influence and strong parental involvement. But in addition to those influences, some other elements can work to make your homeschooling successful.
Organization for Homeschooling
Scholastic suggests that the most successful homeschool parents have a designated learning space and organize by purchasing storage cabinets and bookshelves for holding textbooks and workbooks.
Fetch Pro-Tip: Use your Fetch points to get gift cards for homeschool organizational essentials like cabinets and bookshelves.
Following a daily schedule is another way to stay mentally organized and set expectations for each day’s lessons and activities.
Homeschooling Lessons and Learning Opportunities
Academics are important, but not the only component of a child’s education. Homeschool parents should map out the school year in advance, setting learning goals with their children, but also opportunities to make learning a family activity. Special effort should be made to take lessons outside of the classroom for experience with real-world situations.
Collaborating with other homeschool parents is another way to ensure success, both with lessons and socialization.
Not only does this alleviate some of the burden on the parent as the primary instructor, but it introduces new information and allows you as the educator to evaluate your habits and teaching style. Homeschool collaboration expands the availability of activities. It gives homeschooled students the opportunity to compete in sports, participate in performances, and join clubs with other homeschoolers in the area.
Watch Out For These Homeschooling Traps!
Watch out for three common pitfalls into which Scholastic warns many new homeschool parents could fall. At first, homeschool students — and parents — may have feelings of isolation. A support group or homeschool community can assist with this.
A second possible concern is committing to a curriculum too early. Test out some styles and use free or affordable resources before laying out a lot of money for that expensive packaged curriculum that you may have found online.
And, always remember to be flexible and make adjustments as needed. Flexibility is one of the main reasons you decided to homeschool after all!
How To Save Money On Homeschooling
Just like other students stocking up on supplies to go off to class in the Fall, homeschool families are doing the same. But all of the notebooks, pencils, binders, and more are just the beginning! Homeschool families also have to shell out for all of their own textbooks and learning aids, and perhaps have even opted into purchasing a curriculum and testing materials from a trusted educational resource.
Homeschool families can’t forget that they also need computers, software, and high-speed internet for all of this home learning to happen. And none of this comes cheap!
Boxed curriculum packages may be expensive, but many similar resources can be found easily — and free — at your public library. Public libraries are great for materials beyond just books. You might also use the library for periodicals, audio recordings, videos, ebooks, computer games, and even lab kits and activity packs to help your children learn.
Many libraries offer special free programs for school-aged children; some even have programs made specifically for homeschoolers.
Use Online Resources
There are countless sites designed for self-teaching and homeschooling. They can help your child learn a variety of subjects like science, foreign languages, math, and more. Even better — while some have a small subscription or download cost, many of these sites are free!
Online resources like Khan Academy offer free videos on a variety of learning topics. YouTube, has high-quality videos, taught by subject experts, that can supplement your curriculum, and apps like Duolingo can be used to learn a foreign language.
Also, look for educational websites that offer printouts. Sure, you’ll need to spend money on ink cartridges, but you’ll save money on textbooks in the end! Invest in a good laser printer to save money on printing costs, in the long term.
Join Homeschool Community Groups
If you can join forces with a network of homeschoolers in your area, then you have a community of resources to share. Not only can you learn from their experiences, but you can exchange books, materials, and other learning aids.
Homeschool community groups also sometimes collaborate with each other to teach children together in a small class. This helps parents with expertise, time preparing, and budgeting on curriculum resources.
Use Fetch to Save on Homeschooling Costs
Despite all of these ways to save, there will inevitably still be costs incurred while homeschooling your children. After making all of those necessary purchases, simply remember to snap your receipt and upload it to the Fetch app so you can get some savings back from your spending.
With Fetch, you’ll earn rewards and unlock savings on every purchase you make. You’ll get at least 25 points for every receipt you snap and many more points on Special Offers, like Ticonderoga Pencils!
And, as those points accumulate, you’ll earn gift cards to retailers like Home Goods, Best Buy, Wayfair, and Target which you can use for that organized homeschool setup, for maximized educational performance. You can also get free gift cards for Amazon, CVS, and Walmart for supplies; or Whole Foods, Kroger, and Safeway for mind-nourishing snacks and meals.
Yes, you can homeschool. And even while homeschooling, you can save money!
Hit the buttons or scan the QR code below to download the Fetch app and start earning points for your homeschooling endeavors.
Have a great school year and happy snapping!
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