There is a fair amount of confusion over what is meant by homeschooling. This confusion is made worse because each state has a specific definition of what is meant by homeschooling, and the different states have different definitions. Throw in several organizations with their definitions, the definition of the educational establishment, and a number of professors of education, and you have quite a collection of definitions. Let us see if we can provide some order to this confusion.
The Fundamental Characteristics
While there are many ways to homeschool, let us limit our discussion to the most basic situation, or what can be called the paradigm, of homeschooling. By understanding this case, we can pull out the key characteristics of the definition of homeschooling.
First, parents who homeschool have made a conscious decision to manage the education of their child to a much larger degree than present in any other schooling option. In essence, homeschooling parents have decided to control the education of their child in every detail. The homeschooling parents decide what material will be studied, what books will be used, how much time is spent in class, and many other details. The homeschooling parents do not give these decisions over to any other person, such as a school principle, a individual tutor, or even a government official.
Second, a child who is homeschooled does his schoolwork at home. This seems rather obvious, but again we are looking at the most fundamental characteristics of homeschooling. A homeschooled child does not go to another location for their education, not a school, not a church, not even the house of another person. While a homeschooled child may take a specific class elsewhere, the central location of education for homeschooling is the home.
Third, homeschooling parents are responsible for the actual delivery of the educational material. While a third party can be hired for a specific topic, the parents hold onto the final responsibility of the delivery of the material. The parents make sure the child does the work, the parents make sure the work is graded, and the parents are in charge of the records of the child’s education. The parents can use outside resources to help them with this task, but the final responsibility is with the parents.
Who Does the Teaching
A homeschool teacher can be any member of the family; it does not have to be a parent. A grandparent, sibling, uncle, or cousin, just to name a few possibilities, can be the teacher for a homeschool child. Having said that, usually the main teacher of a homeschooled child is either a parent or a grandparent, for obvious reasons (discipline, responsibility, etc.).
While a child can take a class taught by someone who is paid, having a paid tutor as the main teacher in a homeschool can sometimes be problematic. Some states require that if someone is paid to homeschool a child, that person needs a teaching license issued by the state. If you are thinking about hiring someone to teach your child at home, you need to check with the Department of Education for your state to determine the precise requirements.
What Needs to be Done to Homeschool
There are two different sets of requirements you need to meet in order to homeschool your child. First, there are the legal requirements of the state where you live. These can sometimes be confusing, so make sure you research these requirements thoroughly. Some counties will also have specific requirements for homeschooling, so you need to check with your local board of education as well. Be persistent with government officials because they may very well try to prevent you from homeschooling.
The second set of requirements is putting together the resources you want to use for your homeschooling effort. This is usually a set of books and a collection of normal school supplies. The books can be either a prepared curriculum or simply a set of individual textbooks. Both of these can be found online, and many states have conventions for homeschooling where you can buy books as well. You should start off simple, with your focus on the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. You can add other subjects later, once you have started; however, if you want to start with other additional subjects (art, history, science, and so on), certainly you should do so.
Call to Action
Many parents are dissatisfied with the education their child can get in the existing school systems. If you are one of these parents, I would strongly suggest that you consider homeschooling as an alternative to sending your child to a school every morning. From personal experience, I can say that homeschooling is one of the best ways to educate your child.