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Homeschooling 101: What is Homeschooling?

by Mary Ann Kelley

Homeschooling is when children’s education is based at home with their parents’ guidance rather than through enrollment in a public school or private school. That said, the insider joke is, “Homeschooling isn’t much like school, and we’re never home.”

Get started right now with our Quickstart Guide to Homeschooling.

That’s because many homeschoolers find emulating classroom approaches to education is not as effective as the home-grown version, and in many places, there are lots of opportunities for homeschooled kids to learn with friends and out in the community.
What is homeschooling?

Homeschooling can begin with kindergarten and go through homeschooling high school. As formal preschool has become more popular, more parents who do not send their kids to preschool also refer to homeschooling in preschool or pre-K.

How Do I Homeschool?

Find the information you need to start homeschooling at Six Steps to Get Started Homeschooling.

Homeschooling is Legal and Accepted

Homeschooling is legal in all fifty states in the United States and in many countries around the world. In the United States, the relevant laws are unique to each state. Find individual state laws and guidance for following those laws at the websites of statewide homeschooling organizations in each state. National and international homeschool organizations tend not to keep up with the changes and nuances of state-by-state laws, and they often lack the clarity and accuracy of state homeschool organizations.

Homeschooled graduates can be admitted to college, join the military, get good jobs, start businesses, and live creative lives.

Homeschoolers are Independent

Homeschoolers have the freedom to do what works. They don’t need to follow the education laws for public schools, and in the U.S., they don’t need to follow any one specific approved or accredited curriculum. Some states and countries have more regulations than others regarding what parents have to do to meet the home education law; however, in general, one of the benefits of homeschooling is that parents have the freedom to customize how their children learn. This includes freedom to choose their approach and the resources that will be used. Homeschooling families can typically learn on any schedule that works for them.

How Many Homeschoolers Are There?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)  in the United States, “Overall, about 3 percent of students ages 5 through 17 were reported as being homeschooled, representing 1.7 million homeschooled students in 2016.” Most states in the U.S. also keep track of the numbers of homeschoolers in their state.

Why Do People Homeschool?

The main reasons people homeschool are concerns about the environment in schools and dissatisfaction with academic instruction. This is contrary to the stereotype, which assumes that most people who choose homeschooling do so for religious reasons.

NCES has collected data on why people are homeschooling. Their report, “Parent and Family Involvement in Education: Results from the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2016,” says, “When asked to select the reasons parents decided to homeschool their child, the highest percentage of homeschooled students had parents who said that a concern about the environment of other schools, such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure was one reason to homeschool (80 percent). The highest percentage of students’ parents reported that among all reasons, a concern about the environment of other schools was the most important reason for homeschooling (34 percent). Seventeen percent of homeschooled students had parents who reported dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools as the most important reason for homeschooling, while 16 percent reported a desire to provide religious instruction as the most important reason for homeschooling” (page 4 of PDF).

What are the Benefits of Homeschooling?

Homeschooling is widely known for its flexibility, allowing parents to help children learn in the ways that work for each child. Parents and kids do not need to follow the conventions of school when they’re homeschooling; they can customize, choosing their own curriculum or approach. Homeschooled kids are widely accepted at colleges and in the workplace. You can read about the wide range of benefits of homeschooling, from building positive family relationships to homeschooling through illnesses and challenges.

Homeschooling Styles

There are so many ways to homeschool; homeschoolers call the different approaches homeschooling styles or homeschooling methods. Different styles work for different families because their situations and their children are different. You will find one person who loves a particular approach and then another person who finds fault with the same approach. People often start out with one approach and evolve to a different approach, or they combine aspects of several approaches and call themselves eclectic homeschoolers. It’s not unusual for new homeschool parents to try to replicate school at first and switch approaches when they encounter resistance.

Choosing Curriculum

Parents can choose their homeschooling curriculum, taking into account their overall approach to learning, their children’s strengths, the amount of one-on-one time they can provide, their children’s age and stage of development, and what their child enjoys doing. Some homeschoolers use a curriculum similar to what is found in schools, but many do not.


A surprising factor in the adjustment to learning at home is the idea of deschooling. Both parents and children need to transition to learning outside of the school classroom that is the predominant method of education today. Experienced homeschoolers recommend a period of deschooling before homeschooling, and they suggest that families continue over time to get “school defaults” out of their heads so that learning outside of school will flourish.

Education Hybrids are Here

In some states, there are various education hybrids due to families combining some elements of homeschooling with classes and programs offered by public schools, private schools, charter schools, colleges, and online schools. Some hybrid models are illegal in one state while legal in a neighboring state. Not all hybrid models of education are considered homeschooling by all homeschoolers, even if the education is mostly taking place within the home. That hasn’t stopped some from calling these newer combo-types of education hybrid homeschooling instead of hybrid education.

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