You’re excited about the new homeschool year, and you have a list of things to do to get ready. Do you have a list of things you don’t have to do?
Homeschoolers don’t have to:
- Buy new curriculum. Really! You don't need to purchase a new curriculum to homeschool. You can use free online curricula, you might homeschool using an approach that doesn’t require a purchased curriculum (unit studies, unschooling), or you could use the internet and the library to design your own studies. You can also buy used curriculum privately or through a homeschool conference or bookstore. Of course, buying new curriculum is certainly an option if you prefer doing so.
- Follow a school calendar. You can homeschool year round or on a four-day week. You can homeschool through the summer and take time off between Thanksgiving and Christmas. You can even forget about the calendar all together, since children learn all the time. It’s up to you how you set up your homeschool calendar.
- Follow a school schedule. You don’t have to start school at a certain time of day. Your kids can play outside during school hours. You can homeschool at night, or set a homeschooling schedule around your work hours. You can think in terms of setting up your homeschool schedule by the week instead of by the day. You don’t even have to have any set schedule - or you can!
- Use school desks. School student desks aren’t very comfortable or practical in the home. Children do need good places to read, write, think, make art, and use technology - but you can provide welcoming, well-lit learning areas without using school desks. Or - use them if you want to, or if your child wants a school-type desk.
- Assign grades for work completed. You can give grades if you want to, but many homeschooling parents don’t assign grades to their children’s work, especially before middle or high school. They might help children learn how to improve by showing them how to check their own math. They might have conversations about what makes a story well-written. Or, they might give grades - it’s up to each parent. Of course, there might be exceptions if you use certain options to homeschool in certain states in the United States or in some countries. Find out from experienced homeschoolers in your area if you are required to record or submit grades, but if not, you really don't need to use grades unless they serve your purpose!
- Have your child work all on one grade level. Many homeschooled kids work at one grade level for math, another grade level for language arts, and another grade level for science and social studies. In fact, many homeschoolers find that grade level doesn’t really matter once you’re homeschooling, because parents can tailor the level according to the child’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Follow school rules. Traditional "school rules" fit institutions which are managing large numbers of children with much less adult supervision. Rules about bathroom use, pencil sharpening, recess, or raising your hand may not make any sense in your home. Come up with principles you want you and your children to live by in your home instead. You can still support your children in learning and following rules at Scouts, the library, homeschool classes, church, and on field trips. There are plenty of opportunities for learning school-type rules, and your children will not be confused if you don’t use rules at home that don’t make sense in a home.
- Assign homework. Your kids are learning at home – it’s all homework! Or, maybe none of it is homework, since there is no “take home” aspect to it. Sure, you can give your children opportunities to practice if that is part of your educational approach, but many homeschooling parents don’t assign or require "homework" that is separate from the time a family spends together while learning, especially before middle or later elementary school.
- Use worksheets. Some kids like to do worksheets, and some parents find them valuable. You can use them! However, many homeschooled kids don’t do any worksheets or workbooks, or they don’t do them for years at a time. There are many other ways to learn content and practice skills, and homeschoolers don’t have to use worksheets if they don’t want to.
- Split learning into separate subjects. In schools, learning is almost always divided into separate content areas that we call “subjects.” The most common subjects are math, language arts, science, and social studies. Other subjects might include such things as art, music, physical education, geography, and foreign language. As a homeschooler, you can use this approach, but you don’t have to split learning into separate subjects if you don’t want to. A child will grow in language arts skills while reading historical fiction – and learn history at the same time. A child will grow in handwriting skills while writing and drawing in a nature journal – and learn scientific observation and life science information at the same time. There are many homeschooling resources that can help you learn about different ways that children can learn “across” two or three subjects at one time.
Home Not School
Homeschoolers are dedicated to helping their children learn. What is distinct about home education is home -- and all the wonderful things families can do from that home base. While you are exploring what you can do, don’t forget to consider which things homeschoolers don’t have to do.