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The Homeschooling Insider’s Dictionary


Homeschooling Insider's DictionaryNew homeschoolers can’t help but experiencing it. It often happens the first time you go to a homeschool convention, or visit a homeschool co-op. You walk in, start to get the lay of the land, and then it hits you…

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This is like a whole different world.

There are different norms, different terms, different expectations – and everybody who’s in it seems to “get” it. You start hearing things like “Notice of Intent” and “IOWA” and “lapbooks” and you start to wonder just what it is that you’ve gotten yourself into.

Now, you could go and get one of those “New to Homeschooling” official guides, or your state organization’s homeschooling manual, and you’ll get the technical info you need to help you start learning what everything means in this world of home education. Sure, Ruth Beechick and Linda Dobson can get you started, but I’m here to give you something even better. Yep,  I am here to give you the real deal – the insider’s guide to what all of those terms really mean. I’m talking about the unofficial, you-ain’t-gonna-hear-it-anywhere-else help that may not quite make it into any book. The one you need when you want the real-mama-in-the-middle-of-homeschooling definitions rather than the successfully-graduated-beaucoups-of-kids-years-ago-while-holding-down-a-full-time-job-and-growing-our-own-food expert definitions.

Fear not, intrepid homeschoolers. You’ll be experts on all the homeschooling terms in no time. I bring you the Homeschooling Insider’s Dictionary:

1. Unit Studies: The all-in-one curriculum option, where multiple subjects are taught around a certain theme, that homeschool parents turn to after they’ve spent hundreds of hours lesson planning for 6 children at 6 completely different levels, in order to keep their sanity.

2. Online learning: Academic subjects blessedly taught by someone other than Mom. Also known by its less common names: Mom Gets A Break, and Student Does Something Productive While Mom Works With Siblings.

3. Teaching responsibility: Getting the house clean by the children, since the homeschool parent is too tired from and busy with teaching to do it herself, and too poor from staying home to teach them to hire a housecleaner.

4. School uniforms: Pajamas. Occasionally upgraded to t-shirts and ratty shorts.

5. Record-keeping: The list of things a homeschool mom writes down from what she can remember she did with her kids, that gets handed to the in-laws when they start asking, “Now what are you doing with Johnny, exactly?”

6. Hands-on learning: The teaching style that requires the homeschooling parent to do lots of prep work and have endless amounts of project supplies available at all times. Also known as “A guarantee that you have an extremely active, focus-challenged student”.

7. Culinary arts: An academic subject in which students use measurement, estimation, chemistry, and artistic ability, which results in Mom being relieved of dinner duty.

8. Eclectic homeschooling: The catch-all phrase that imparts an air of validity to the homeschool parent’s attempts to try any and everything that will actually educate each of her vastly different, completely opposite kinds of learners.

9. Homeschool co-ops: An opportunity for groups of moms to hang out and support each other without feeling guilty, because their kids are accomplishing something academic with someone else.

10. Homeschool convention: A chance to get away from the kids, go on a shopping spree, and attend therapy, all at the same time.

11. Motivational incentives: The candy, intended for cheerful, diligent student workers, that Mom ends up eating as her own reward for putting up with grumpy attitudes and lackadaisical effort.

12. Exercise: The homeschooler’s remedy for ADHD, accompanied by shorter periods of learning, nutritional supplements, and a tremendous amount of prayer.

13. Homeschool room: The kitchen table. And couch. And bed. And floor. And sometimes even the occasional tree.

14. Independent reading time: The homeschooler’s equivalent to t.v. for older kids, and a euphemism for “Even though you don’t want to nap, I really hope you end up falling asleep so I can get something done” for younger kids.

15. Field trips: Proof that the homeschooling Mom isn’t just all business. Also a free day where technically education is occurring, but Mom didn’t have to teach it.

16. Dictation: The homeschooling parent’s requirement that her attention-challenged children to repeat back to her the directions she just gave them, to increase the chances of them actually getting done whatever she asked.

17. Tests: The kids telling Dad at the end of the day what they learned.

18. Socialization: The homeschooler’s attempt to make her children more adept at handling themselves in social environments than most of the people who ask homeschoolers questions about socialization.

19. Standardized testing: The stress-inducing examination, taken by the student, but which actually tests Mom’s prowess as a homeschool parent. Or maybe it’s just the process by which to get numbers that convince the powers-that-be let her continue homeschooling. (Definition still in process…please see future editions of the dictionary for final revision).

20. Textbooks and worksheets: Textbooks? Worksheets? Homeschoolers don’t know what these are. Refer to your local public school guide for more information.

Rebecca Capuano

Rebecca Capuano is the stay-at-home mom of three children (one of whom is in heaven) who also makes attempts at being a homeschooler, writer, photographer, scrapbooker, and truth-seeker. She earned her Master of Social Work degree from East Carolina University, and has worked in a variety of capacities (including group homes, day treatment centers, and public schools) with at-risk children and staff, including developing a therapeutic and educational day treatment center for delinquent youth in Wilmington, North Carolina. She currently resides in Virginia, and has written on a variety of topics for both and Home Educators Association of Virginia. Rebecca believes that family is created by God as the most fundamental institution in society, and she is dedicated to helping families nurture their children to become responsible persons of character and integrity.

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  1. Sarah Lentz

    Loved this! Thank you for helping me get my day off to a smiling start.

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