Which Homeschool Approach is Right for Your Kids?
Without knowing exactly what to expect from the upcoming school year, families are seeking out alternative and hybrid schooling options for their at-home students.
It’s no secret: families and students now have to imagine a new way of learning. In 2016, only around 3.3 percent of kids in the US were homeschooled. That number is quickly changing. For many parents, a short-term measure in Spring taken to ensure their kids’ safety may become more long-term than they expected…or prepared for.
Without knowing exactly what to expect from the upcoming school year, families across the country are proving their creativity by stepping up and seeking out alternative and hybrid schooling options for their at-home students.
The lesson so far? There is no shortage of options, and parents are creating their own education teams and playbooks. As parents, how do you know which style of homeschooling is right for your child? How do you determine which options are the most effective, affordable, and flexible for your family?
Why Do People Homeschool?
Reasons to homeschool this year in particular seem pretty obvious – protecting our children, teachers, and community from the spread of COVID-19 is pretty good rationale on its own. But the benefits of homeschooling expand beyond just this moment in time.
Homeschooling (in its various forms) grants parents a higher degree of control over, as well as deeper participation with, different aspects of their kids’ educational journeys, such as:
- the quality and focus of the curriculum,
- removal of peer pressure and other common social issues many students face, like bullying, and
- more attention and creativity toward supporting students (especially those with special learning needs).
So while the benefits of homeschooling are clear, it’s important to recognize the key challenge: every family has its own unique needs. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution.
7 Homeschool Approaches and Their Differences
Parents’ work (and for many, work-from-home) schedules, lack of ability to teach complex subjects, and the struggle to keep kids motivated are just a few of the major challenges parents say they are facing this school year. Homeschooling will provide parents with some options to satisfy their unique needs.
Homeschooling in general is not specific to any one style of education. That’s what makes deciding the right approach for your family challenging. Formerly known mostly by its dictionary definition - “to teach (one’s children) at home instead of sending them to school” - the evolution of technology and sheer necessity have produced new, more powerful tools for families to educate their students.
That means homeschooling in 2020 is a deeply flexible option for most families, and now more than ever, it’s possible to tailor the at-home learning experience to meet any education challenge.
Different homeschooling methods work for different families. Deciding what’s right for your kids can be complicated. Here is a breakdown of the most common forms that families have been exploring. Note that associated costs exclude the time or wages parents lose from work, wi-fi and computers.
Classic or “Traditional” Homeschooling
What it is: the process of educating children at home rather than sending them to a traditional school
In most homeschooling situations, parents are the ones doing the teaching. Traditionally, curriculum looks a little different than the school’s and involves teaching based on the three stages of learning: the Grammar stage, the Logic stage, and the Rhetoric stage. Given the current circumstances, we can include the parent’s delivery of a school district’s curriculum into this category.
The biggest difference between homeschooling and other methods of online learning is that homeschooling typically relies on the use of traditional tools like textbooks and offline learning and testing methods, while online learning utilizes different digital tools like live video chats, prerecorded video content, digital whiteboards and exercises.
While this can be the most affordable option for parents who have the ability to stay at home, it can be the most time-consuming limiting in terms of social contact with students’ peers.
- Main educator: Parent(s)
- Approximate Number of Students: 1
- Flexibility: B-
- Cost: $200-$500 per year in curricula and supplies
What do you need to do to get started with traditional homeschooling?
Understanding your state’s specific laws on homeschooling is priority one. After you understand the guidelines you’re working with, you can source different lesson plans online that will help you design a curriculum appropriate to your child’s grade. Wyzant has additional resources like Ask An Expert and subject-specific videos to help dive deeper into more complex subjects.
Distance Learning, E-learning, & Hired Homeschooling
What they are: Education variations that utilize a school’s existing program from home
In a pre-pandemic world, each of these three variations on homeschooling looked a little different, and more voluntary. Today, the lines between distance learning and e-learning are blurred. Since students are unable to interact directly with their teachers in-person, more digital resources have been introduced.
Distance learning involves remote learning through digital tools as part of an institution’s regularly scheduled programming.
E-learning refers to the interaction that occurs between a teacher and a student using digital technologies. Using this method, students learn their class material through an online medium, even if the teacher is in the same building. This structure helps to simulate work-based learning situations, and provides flexibility for busy students.
Hired homeschooling refers to the hiring of teachers, tutors, or other educators in addition to institutional learning (usually following traditional classroom curricula) for supplemental support.
Hired homeschooling for online lessons provides a similar interaction to distance and E-learning, involving technologies such as digital video services, whiteboards, and video content. The main difference is in parents’ ability to choose their educators.
- Main Educator: Teachers, tutors
- Approximate Number of Students: 1
- Flexibility: A+
- Cost: There should be no cost to participate in a school’s remote learning program. Online tutors average $45-$55 per hour.
What do you need to do to get started with hired homeschooling and distance/e-learning?
Begin by working directly with your school district to understand their remote learning capabilities. If your school district has limited digital resources, homeschool tutoring is a strong option for supplementing 1:1 direct instruction that is not limited by access to resources through your district.
The lesson so far? There is no shortage of options, and parents are creating their own education teams and playbooks.”
Remote Learning Pods
What they are: Small groups participating in remote learning together
Learning Pods (aka micro-pods, pandemic pods, and group homeschooling) are a new concept developed by enterprising families looking to provide a structured and more social classroom-like experience for their children, while learning via virtual instruction from traditional educators.
Supervision, technical support, and peer socialization are features intended to complement the “homeschool pod” approach, and it has the potential to synergize with schools when they have a structured virtual schedule. Instruction can be augmented with the help of a tutor, who can work with small groups. Conversely, though, these small groups require heavy coordination between the host families and their school to balance the planned (somewhat changeable) agenda with additional tutoring and enrichment activities.
- Main Educator: Tutors, teachers
- Approximate Number of Students: ~10
- Flexibility: B+
- Cost: Online tutors average $45-$55 per hour
What do you need to do to get started with learning pods?
Families in school districts across the country have begun creating their own remote learning pods. These groups can be found self-organizing on Facebook and directly in coordination with some school’s parent group clubs.
If you’re looking for a pod in your community, check with your school district to confirm remote learning is provided, and work with them to coordinate schedules and begin parent recruitment.
What it is: Just like “old” school, but smaller
For families who want to replicate an in-class experience, but leave the teaching to the trained educators, microschools are an option. These mini-classrooms are intended to be more formal, and accommodate slightly larger groups than pod learning, with curriculum being delivered by an in-person educator.
The concept has existed for years similar to traditional schools, microschools may see some changes in operational requirements to abide by their respective state’s rules.
- Main Educator: Teachers
- Approximate Number of Students: ~10
- Flexibility: B-
- Cost: $2,000 - $5,000 per year
What do you need to do to get started with microschooling?
Microschool programs can be more complicated to organize than other methods, as you would need to build it from the ground up, with states sometimes requiring a license. Families can, however, find already established microschools through searches and parent groups on Facebook.
Hybrid, or Blended Learning Approach
What it is: A mix of in-school and any of the above methods
Blended learning approaches might be the reality for many families as schools plan for partial reopenings. If parents are working or otherwise unable to facilitate at-home days with their kids, they can consider any pairing of the homeschooling options presented above to plan the majority of their child’s week. In the case of blended learning, it’s all about using what works specifically for your family’s unique needs and goals.
- Main Educator: Varied
- Approximate Number of Students: 1- 10
- Flexibility: A-
- Cost: Varied
What do I need to do to get started?
Work with your school district to get your child’s schedule, and coordinate with your respective education team. These could be pod-parents, tutors, teachers, or other members of your community - anyone you trust to help establish a schedule and goals for at-home days that aligns with your student’s long term needs.
You can search for contact information for US public schools using The National Center for Education Statistics Public School Search.
What kind of homeschooling works for your family?
There is truly no correct or perfect way to approach homeschooling this year. With the challenges that remain ahead, the best approach is to do what makes sense for your family and your child’s education (and well-being).
Have an idea we haven’t explored? We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to share this with your networks to learn more about how your neighbors are thinking about homeschooling this year.
Wyzant takes the guesswork out of finding a qualified homeschool tutor you can trust. Since 2005, students and professionals all over the globe have looked to Wyzant for help in more than 275 subjects like math, science, test prep, foreign languages, music, technology, and many more. It’s easy to browse profiles and reviews, message tutors, and book private lessons in-person, or using Wyzant’s powerful online learning platform. At Wyzant, there are no commitments or expensive pre-paid packages