The Middle School Years – by Rosemary Ward Labaree

This post is for the many, many homeschool families who ask me about the middle school years and how best to prepare for high school when a competitive college admission is the ultimate goal.

I’ve met many parents of middle school students who feel stranded.  They want to be prepared for the high school years that are skulking around the corner.  They want to get this right, but they’re unsure.   School administrators, grandparents, and well-meaning friends offer  “do this, do that” sound bites.  But, inertia and uncertainty prevail.

There are two distinct phases of home education, after the elementary years wind down: The Interrogatory Phase (middle school) and the Execution Phase (high school).

It is in the Interrogatory Phase that you learn what you will be doing in the Execution Phase.  The Execution Phase is a terribly busy time and as the name implies, you are putting into action all of the plans you made in the late middle school years.  If you wait until high school to ask the important questions, you will find yourself bogged down, confused, and feeling rather ineffective.

Regardless of what your long-term goals are, you should think of middle school as preparation for high school. Here are key components of middle school years:


                                                         Figure out your kid

What does my student love best and where does he/she excel?   For example:  Does she like to build things?  Is he quick with his math?  Does she read above grade level?  Can he write better than most boys his age?  Do topics in science, music, art, or history hold her attention more?

It might seem like a lot to know about your student but if you pay close attention to your days, the answers are there.  Your goal is to get an academic lock on your student and know his strengths, weaknesses, and special interests.  Pay attention to your student’s skill set and talents.  These are the headwaters from which good things can flow.

                                                                      Test

For an objective “stock-taking”, you’ll need to test. I am not a big advocate of testing, especially in elementary school, but by middle school you really need to get a fix on how your student measures up against the general population.  We are not very good scorekeepers for our own kids.

(There are many online resources for testing your student in the privacy of your home, if you prefer.  A google search will reap a harvest of them.) 

1.  You can have your older middle school student take the PSAT or the SAT.  Scores prior to 9th grade are purged – no one but you will ever see them.  You don’t have to get upset with low scores here because you will adjust down for his/her age.  For example, if your 7th grade student has an SAT math score of 500 – you should be very encouraged; that is quite good for that grade level.

2.  There is also a test called the SSAT (not administered by the College Board).  The SSAT is similar in shape to the SAT, is geared toward the middle school student, and it will give you a projected SAT score, depending on the age of your student when he takes this test.  The SSAT is a personal favorite of mine.

What does this testing accomplish?

1. You will have a reality check.

2. You will know where you need to concentrate your efforts.

3. If your student has real strength in one area, it will be revealed and you may have a ticket to gifted learning programs.

4. Since all of these achievement exams are (at minimum) 3 hours long, your student will know ahead of time what it feels like to sit through this endurance test.  Better your kid do this before it counts than do it for the first time when it really does count.

                                                             Preparedness

Is my student ready for high school?  Is he ready to work hard?  Does she know how to manage her time?  Does he know why he needs to do all of this work?  Are we on the same page?    

Most students do not know what they want to do with their lives.  But, they should still have goals. Without goals, how will you get them to study into the late hours of the night and on weekends when that time/need arrives.  It is very hard to push a kid who does not have a shared vision of excellence and achievement.  To instill this desire in your student, he must see the goal(s).  You should do college tours.  It might sound foolish to traipse across the campus of Columbia University with a middle school student – it is not.  Pick a beautiful day, travel without time constraint on a day when classes are in session, jump in to an organized tour or just walk the campus and hang in the nearby eateries to get a sense of the intellectual energy and excitement that you will find everywhere.   If you can get your student excited about attending ONE college, ANY college, then you are on the “go” square of the game board.  You can build goals from there.  Without this, you will find yourself parroting admonitions which will fall on deaf ears.  A student needs a tangible goal, especially if no particular career goal is present.  Invest in your student’s enthusiasm.

Does my middle school student even KNOW what hard work looks like?


This is critically important.  Your daughter might view 20 math problems per week as punitive.  Your son might think that a weekly 250 word essay is pure torture.  Most middle school students need to calibrate what they think is hard work to what hard work actually is. They need good models.  Middle school students who want to land in a competitive college need to meet other students with similar goals..  Your job is to find them. The homeschool community is filled with success stories.  Find the families who have high-achieving kids.  Ask them what they did.   If your 12 year old son or daughter sits down with a 21 year old who has a proven academic track record and they hear it straight from the source, they will never forget it.  It is golden.

To find peers, try to get your middle school student into one high-achieving program, whether online or through your local community.

                                                        From Ideas to Action Plans

During the Interrogatory Phase of the middle school years you should try out different things.  This takes time but it is worth it.   If math seems to come easy, find a math club.  If your student loves science, do science fairs.  If writing is at the top of the list, find contests and competitions to enter.  Your goal is to get some traction.  Once that happens you will see real progress. Advice for mom – get on numerous homeschool discussion loops and scour the digests from these groups nightly.  This is how you learn about cool, local opportunities.  You will  have to make a regular investment of time to do this research.  Here is a terrific website with lists and lists of competitions in science, art, history, math, computers and writing. A good place to start –  http://cty.jhu.edu/imagine/resources/competitions/index.html

This list includes a good number of competitions for middle school students.

If a student is preparing to compete for something  – anything – he will be more focused.  Then you (mom) can reverse-engineer your school year around this event.  Big events like these actually ADD structure to your year.

                                                           Plan, Plan, Plan Some More

Once you have gathered up activities, events and competitions, you are one easy step away from creating a calendar for the year with clear goals mapped out.  Keep going with this.  Do a hypothetical 4-year high school plan.  Involve your middle school student in this.    Of course, this plan is going to morph.  But if you have no plan at all, you are bound to fall short of a high standard.

                                                                Broaden Horizons


A desire to achieve and the determination to do hard things  won’t come out of thin air.  You need to nurture it.  There are wonderful educational events run by Learning Unlimited throughout the year.  Middle school students can take exciting classes on the campuses of some of the best universities in the country for as little as $30 for a full weekend of amazing courses.  No grades are given.  University students volunteer to teach. Often a middle school student discovers an entire field of science or language they did not even know existed. Inspiration is everywhere.  Do this!  Do it as often as you can.

http://www.learningu.org/current-programs  Get on the mailing list.  Have it on your calendar.  The MIT and Yale programs are especially good.

                                                                Your Leadership


Many years ago a homeschool family asked to meet with me.  Mom and dad could not get their kids to read books. They wanted advice.  Most home educating families know that in order to be poised for the academic world kids need to read  – a lot.  They need to read hard stuff and they need to read often.  These parents were worried.  Their kids did not have dyslexia or ADHD. They were neurotypical kids.  “Why can’t we get them to read?” they lamented.    I asked them what they (mom and dad) were currently reading, looking high and low for a sign of books.  “We don’t read, we don’t have time for it.”  Hmm.

The prescription is simple.  Kids will read more if you have a set reading time and lead by example.  Kids will also read in the absence of other forms of entertainment and if most table top surfaces hold a small stack of interesting books.

If your middle school kids are glued to glowing rectangles, have technology free hours built into the day and have good books ready to fill the gap.  It is harder now than it ever was before to encourage kids to read books.  The glowing screens hold far more appeal.  We cannot extricate ourselves from these devices entirely but we can claim back a few hours a day – this is a reasonable goal.  Lead the way on this.

                                               ~          ~          ~          ~          ~          ~

The middle school years are a period of intense mentorship.  It is during these years that you can establish that you and your student are on the same team.  The road to excellence is arduous, but it is made easier when the prize is clear, the goals are reasonable, and your leadership is obvious. You got this !   Godspeed !

Rosemary Laberee

labereetown@gmail.com

The Center for Home Education Policy – A Solution in Search of a Problem

by Rosemary Ward Laberee

Homeschooling is an educational choice often misunderstood and much aligned. It is the
favorite whipping boy of the main stream media’s education coverage. This essay parses
the misguided efforts of a new organization which has goals of promoting more oversight
in homeschools and which naively hopes to guard against bad parenting – an ever present
iniquity found disproportionately more often in families who send their children to school
than in families who do not.
It was with great interest that I read The Washington Post Magazine’s article, by Lisa Grace Lednicer, on this new enterprise – The Center for Home Education Policy.
Greater Home Education Monitoring (March 2, 2017)
The young people who run this organization were homeschooled and their goal is to help those who do not like the homeschool life their parents have designed for them. The Center for Home Education Policy wants to help young men and women “escape” their homeschools, and, rather presumptuously, will offer some basic life skills support in the process.
Sarah Hunt and Carmen Green are rather accomplished young people (Rhodes Scholar candidate and Georgetown Law). They have an outstanding command of the king’s English, did well at college, and clearly know how to get a job done. This puts them head and shoulders above most of their brick-and-mortar-schooled peers. They are not poster children for some backwoods, Bible-thumping, slop-‘dem-hogs-or-else kind of parenting. I bet that the parents of these enterprising young adults are exceedingly proud of them, as well they should be.
The goal of The Center for Home Education is more government regulation of home education, but as this essay will point out, there are errors and omissions in their petition.
The most obvious problem is this: The Center for Home Education Policy zooms in on fundamentalist Christianity as a culprit while ignoring other forms of religion-motivated, segregating, educational options. This is troubling. If The Center for Home Education Policy truly cares about the isolating and rigid circumstances which can be found in extremely religious homes, and if they care about how hard it is for the young lives trapped there, then it would definitely need to put a wide-angle lens on the camera. Christians are not the only home educators out there. What about the solitariness of Amish children? What of the detachment of children in conservative, orthodox Judaism? Finally, what about the confinement, oppression and degradation of young Muslim girls? These cultures represent huge homeschool communities – why doesn’t the Center for Home Education Policy “go there”?
I think it is because they would not feel comfortable stomping around the sacred grounds of a culture they do not know, even if it does have practices which offend their sensibilities. Maybe they have more respect for the rituals of these religious cultures than for their own? Regardless, their approach to helping home educated youth seems biased. They appear to be on a targeted witch hunt, and it robs their goals of integrity and sincerity.
On the claims of abuse and starvation in these fundamentalist homes, it is imperative to point out the difference between families who are truant and families who home educate. Truant families do not send kids to school. Neither do they homeschool. They do nothing at all because they are bad people. Legislating home education will do nothing at all to save kids from bad parents and creating a police state where kids are checked up on regularly steps into a very menacing space. The corruption in large governmental, bureaucratic departments which aim to “help children” is legendary. Relying on any agency to verify the integrity of a homeschool (against whose standards?) has a distinctly Orwelian stench. Bad people who fail to send their kids to school ALWAYS claim to be homeschooling. Hunt and Green have erroneously conflated these two groups.
Think. How many public-school kids suffer at the hands of bad parents? Tragically, too many to count. Why don’t we blame public education for this? Why don’t we seek some oversight in these families? If a few of the 1.8 million homeschool kids are mistreated in their homes, this is a terrible thing. But here is a much worse statistic – thousands and thousands of kids, who are not homeschooled, are mistreated in their homes each year. Thousands of kids who attend public schools are victims of abuse. Kids who attend public school are also much more likely to be murdered – while AT the school. Child abuse is ghastly and heart-breaking and for the sake of those victims, I think we should interpret the data correctly.
Hunt and Green explain that many kids who were homeschooled in isolating circumstances need very basic life skills training and academic remediation as well. I have caught one or two rare glimpses of this, so I do not disagree entirely. But it is very disingenuous to suggest that this is common in home education. It is not common. It is rare. It is, however, very common to meet a middle schooler who attends a public school and who still cannot read. Of the young people who fill our prisons and who drop out of high school or college, the overwhelming majority went to a public school. (That is a very scary outcome.) Now, THIS looks like a good space to occupy if you want to make a real difference to the kids.
You see, the question that does need an answer is this: Why are so many young people who come out of our nation’s public schools not prepared for college, for life, and for self-sufficiency? Here is a problem that needs a solution, but it is not a problem generally found in homeschool homes.
More importantly, today’s headlines have revealed how public school students are narrowly formed around a bubble of progressive, politically-correct, left-of-center orthodoxy. The shocking events on our nation’s college campuses show us how very intolerant and viciously protective that isolating piece of society can be. (Here, I am referring to the isolation which public education molds.)
Now – take a look at the Nation’s Report Card
https://nationsreportcard.gov/

Report

THIS is terrifying. None of the kids represented in these statistics were home educated. This is a crisis, a tragedy, and a terrible injustice. On a GRAND scale. How can one point fingers at a very few ill-prepared homeschool children, when an entire nation is facing an academic extinction event brought to us compliments of ….no, not home education…. but that wondrous alternative known as public education? The author of this article, Lisa Grace Lednicer, showed neither the Nation’s Report Card nor the Homeschool Report Card. Such an omission is not cool.
The numbers and the research speak volumes. This is why I think that The Center for Home Education Policy is a solution in search of a problem. Home education builds better citizens.
The problem is public education.
In the Washington Post article, Sarah Hunt explains that some homeschoolers do not even know what the SAT is. The direct opposite has been my experience. I have heard the same things, year in and year out, from homeschool teens who take the SAT or ACT. Homeschooled teens come away shocked at how oblivious the other students are about these tests. During the test breaks they listen to bewildered comments from the school kids, many of whom do not even know why they are there. These public school students are shocked to find out that the test is 3.5 hours long. They are shocked to learn that they must write an essay. They are shocked to learn that they must know Geometry to do the math portion. My own four kids (each took SAT 2 to 3 times in total) were flabbergasted at how unskilled and vulnerable these kids seemed. And they felt pity for them.
As someone who consults with parents during the college application process – parents of homeschoolers as well as parents of public school students – I can tell you that there is a huge difference between the two. Homeschool parents are much more aware of the requirements for graduation and the criteria for admission to college. For many homeschool families, the proof of the pudding arrives during the first year in college. This is when homeschool kids truly shine. Colleges are eager to have them and they thrive, while many of their public schooled peers do not.
I think that Hunt and Green have focused on the wrong data. To illustrate this point – imagine you are in a room where there are 100 young people who were very poorly educated and who come from wacky families. Now, imagine that 5 of them were home educated. How can you hope to be taken seriously when your take-away from this is that more regulation is needed in home education, when the real problem is in the BIG numbers … the 95 other people? It does not make sense.
The timing of this article and, indeed, the timing of the whole “homeschool monitoring” message is suspicious, given the present political climate. There is an elephant in the room, which may be the real reason for the howls for “home education monitoring”. It is this – the inevitable a la carte approach to education. If the US moves toward a voucher model for education then home education will grow even more. So, best to start the bleating and barking for more controls now, right?
I wish The Center for Home Education Policy well but remain convinced that they are a solution in search of a problem. I hope they turn their well-formed minds to the real problems in education, where they might rescue countless children lost in an intellectual and cultural wasteland.

How does it feel like to be homeschooled?

What is your daily routine? Is it easier or harder than going to a public/private school?

Here’s a parent’s response for our 11 year-old daughter. We’ve been homeschooling her now for almost two school years.

For a while, we let her set her own sleep schedule. She stayed up late (usually midnight), and woke up between 10:00–11:00. Lately, we have been requiring her to wake up at 9:00, since she has several activities that start at 10:00. Bedtime is still a struggle.

Schedule

  • Daily
    • Waking up at 10:00. Getting breakfast. Checking messages, etc. from her friends
    • Practice violin & piano
    • Complete homework for next couple of days
    • Additional violin & piano practice
    • Bedtime usually between 11:00 PM – midnight
  • Mondays
    • Reading class at 3:00 PM
      • 1–2 hours / flexible
      • Online (Skype) with her tutor
  • Tuesdays
    • Latin class 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM
      • Online (Skype)
      • 3 students
    • Mandarin class 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
      • In person with tutor
  • Wednesdays
    • English grammar / writing
      • Online (Skype) with tutor 1–2 hours
  • Thursdays
    • Violin lesson 1000 – 1100
    • Piano lesson 1600 – 1700
  • Saturdays
    • Art class 1130 – 1230
      • In person with one other student (good friend)
  • Sundays
    • Badminton class 1330 – 1500
  • Open gym 3–4 times weekly (mostly just playing with friends)
  • Currently studying math and chemistry online (Khan Academy). However, will soon switch to tutor for math.
  • Free time
    • Drawing / animating on computer
    • Playing games / texting with friends
    • Reading

So, is homeschooling really easier?

I don’t think that is the correct question. Any learning activity can be easy or hard, depending upon the effort. However, with homeschooling, we have the option to choose not only the content, but also the manner it is taught and learned. This makes it more likely that the student will be engaged. In our daughter’s case, she has substantial input into these decisions. Therefore, homeschooling is more interesting, challenging, and engaging.

Certainly, the schedule fits our family life better. I think most homeschool families will agree with this one. It also gives us more flexibility to travel throughout the year.

I believe the most important aspect of homeschooling (concerning learning), is that it minimizes the trivialities, and frees up much more time for personal pursuits and leisure. Our daughter spends ours each day drawing and animating. She is part of a community of artists (online) that collaborate and share their ideas and work. She routinely mentors others (teens and adults). I don’t think she could pursue this passion to the same extent as a traditional student.

Is homeschooling easier? Not really.

Is homeschooling better? Yes.

Which of the following do you recommend: homeschooling (online) or the US public school system, and why?

My daughters on the verge of 2 years old and I have another one on the way. I’m wary about sending them to public school, because I personally didn’t learn a lot (a bit too easy) and it didn’t really help socially. While I know there are pros and cons to both, what are your point of views?

Written Apr 18

free to learn

Wow … you are way ahead of the game!

 

First of all … relax. You have plenty of time to figure things out and, who knows, the playing field may change significantly by school time.

Until that day comes, you have quite a bit of homework to do.

Your first assignment: What are your goals for your children? What do you want them to achieve as a result of their education?

Second assignment: What are the strengths and weaknesses of each child? How do they interact with others? Are they social, or not? Gifted? Any learning difficulties, etc?

Third assignment (and this question is just a start): What are the strengths and weaknesses of different educational choices, and how well do they fit each of your children?

The good thing is that you have several years to complete your assignments, before you make any decisions.


Now it’s time for me to answer your question.

But first, a digression.

There’s a body of research that suggests we should not begin to formally educate our children until they are older. Some studies indicate that it can actually provide negative performance outcomes. The consensus seems to be about age seven. Several European countries, including Sweden and Poland, do not require schooling until age seven.

Other researchers believe that it is far more important (and natural) to encourage our children to play during their formative years. Dr. Peter Gray has a lot to say about this, but we’ll talk some more about him later.

So, don’t be in a big rush to start your kids on the education hamster wheel. Anyway, back to our story.

Deciding on a specific curriculum greatly depends on the answers to the above assignments. In fact, it is entirely possible that each of your children will require a completely different approach.

Your question asks us to compare online versus traditional schooling. There are two major considerations for this comparison. The first is the adequacy of the curriculum, and that mostly depends on the classes that are chosen (both online and traditional). I have read no research that indicates online teaching is better than traditional. Ultimately, your children need to do the work to understand the concepts, and to demonstrate mastery. Whichever method is chosen will require someone to ensure they are “getting” the material. My view, from a curricular perspective, is that this is a toss-up. Either option could provide a really good, or really bad, education.

The second major consideration is the learning style and, in my view, this incorporates the degree of social activities and interaction required. Online learning tends to be more isolated. A classroom environment is more likely to foster group interaction. However, once again, each situation is different, so you have to be careful. My view on this one is mixed. Some kids thrive in a social environment, while others prefer to work in isolation. (It happens that our daughter prefers relative isolation – a large classroom is a bad environment for her. We also have friends whose homeschooled children have chosen to return to traditional school).

Therefore, your answer is … it depends.


But that’s just the beginning. You forgot to ask some other important questions.

For example … what other learning opportunities exist, other than online or traditional education?

And it turns out, there are lots of choices available. Here’s an excerpt from one of my other answers:

  • Unschooling. The interests of the child guide the focus of the learning.

  • Democratic schools (such as the Sudbury school system). The interests of the students guide the curriculum, but this occurs in a community environment.

  • Homeschooling, with the parents (or family members) as the teacher.

  • Homeschooling, with instruction guided by tutors.

  • Online education.

    • This also has its own spectrum, which ranges from selection of individual courses, to a complete curriculum. Online classes are available from grade school to graduate level.

  • Co-op classes – where homeschool families share responsibility for teaching.

  • Umbrella schools. These can also occupy a spectrum, but are generally a hybrid which may offer classes (or not). However, the idea of an umbrella school is to provide for administrative support (such as grades, or transcripts).

  • Dual enrollment. Homeschool students generally have the option of attending community college classes (if they meet minimum qualifications).

  • Charter schools. While some of these schools are essentially just regular schools run by businesses using taxpayer funds, others can be formed by parent groups. The specific rules for formation and administration of charter schools are determined by each state.

  • Private (and religious) schools. Privately funded schools.

  • Magnet schools. These are generally operated by the local school district, but with an emphasis on certain academic areas.

  • Traditional schools.

The beauty of homeschooling is that you don’t have to be restricted to one choice … there’s a whole smorgasbord available.


There is one other very important consideration. Some children have special needs, or have specific learning disabilities. While it may be possible, or even desirable, to homeschool, it is also quite possible that a traditional school has better resources available. Once again, carefully consider the alternatives. Traditional school may be the better choice.


Oops! I said I would mention more about Dr. Peter Gray, so here it is.

Peter Gray is a leading advocate and researcher who writes about unschooling. I find myself drawn to the philosophy of unschooling. I always seek to engage my daughter in choices about what, and how, she should learn. I recommend studying the principles, as it may help you clarify the educational goals you seek for your children.

Why are teachers important?

mean_teacher_800w_600h

Is it not feasible to learn what one wants to learn by reading, understanding, and practicing from relevant textbooks/journals/YouTube/Khan Academy/Wikipedia/Google?

Okay … first, a “pre-script”. When I searched for an appropriate image for a “teacher”, the vast majority showed a person (usually female) standing at a blackboard in front of a class. Hmm … that says a lot about our education system. Several stereotypes, particularly of the “broadcast mode” of teaching. Anyway, I digress, so back to the real discussion of teachers.

Written Apr 14

Hang on a sec … I’m a little confused by this one.

 

Let me think about this. I am homeschooling my daughter, and she uses a variety of learning methods, including every single one you mention in your question:

  • Textbooks. Seems to me that these are written by experts who are seeking to impart knowledge to students. In fact, textbooks are a method for teachers to convey information.
  • Journals. This one is a little different. Journals are usually directed at an audience within a certain profession, so they assume a certain base knowledge. The intent, however, is the same – to impart knowledge from an “expert” to others.
  • YouTube. Now it gets more interesting. There’s a lot of stuff on YouTube that is silly, fun, and entertaining. But there is also a lot of stuff that is educational in nature, and can be very engaging (for example, Richard Feynman’s lectures). My daughter’s interest in science probably increased exponentially as a result of vSauce and Veritasium. She also “self-taught” digital drawing and animation by watching YouTube videos. But, once again, these educational videos are brought to us by “teachers”, who are imparting information.
  • Khan Academy. KA has two distinct modes. Videos, which are a form of lecturing (teachers again), and questions, which encourage mastery learning.
  • Wikipedia/Google. Not quite so clear-cut, but once again we are dealing with sharing of information.

The issue a student has to deal with, is how to manage all the available information and learning sources above. And that is where teachers/tutors/mentors are vitally important. Ideally, a “teacher” knows the student’s personality, learning style, capabilities and interests. The “teacher” can therefore help guide the student toward an effective application of study. Furthermore, the “teacher” can help the student evaluate the information critically (there’s a lot of bad information out there), evaluate the student’s understanding, and provide feedback.

And this is where our traditional style of education tends to break down. Too many classrooms are stuck in the “broadcast” mode, where the teacher spends a lot of time lecturing. (Of course, there are also many examples of alternate classroom styles, so I am generalizing).

Ideally, our student and teacher should work together to identify areas of interest, and competencies to be developed. The teacher should guide the student to appropriate resources (including many of those discussed above). There may be occasions where the teacher determines that group projects are the appropriate way to learn. In this way, education can become more personal, and individualized.

Of course, my daughter and I can already take advantage of these options, as she is homeschooled. Wouldn’t it be great if our educational system changes course, and sets sail for individualized learning? We have the capability now.

Could a large group of parents that homeschool their children group together and form their own small private school?

Say for example a group of 50 parents decided to pool their resources, with parents teaching subjects that they know best, pooling their money and renting a building.

Is this legal in most states? How large could this homeschool group grow?

School-Choice-2-1024x681

Written Apr 13

Think of schooling as a spectrum of choices. The result will therefore look something like this:

  • Unschooling. The interests of the child guide the focus of the learning.
  • Democratic schools (such as the Sudbury school system). The interests of the students guide the curriculum, but this occurs in a community environment.
  • Homeschooling, with the parents (or family members) as the teacher.
  • Homeschooling, with instruction guided by tutors.
  • Online education.
    • This also has its own spectrum, which ranges from selection of individual courses, to a complete curriculum. Online classes are available from grade school to graduate level.
  • Co-op classes – where homeschool families share responsibility for teaching.
  • Umbrella schools. These can also occupy a spectrum, but are generally a hybrid which may offer classes (or not). However, the idea of an umbrella school is to provide for administrative support (such as grades, or transcripts).
  • Dual enrollment. Homeschool students generally have the option of attending community college classes (if they meet minimum qualifications).
  • Charter schools. While some of these schools are essentially just regular schools run by businesses using taxpayer funds, others can be formed by parent groups. The specific rules for formation and administration of charter schools are determined by each state.
  • Private (and religious) schools. Privately funded schools.
  • Magnet schools. These are generally operated by the local school district, but with an emphasis on certain academic areas.
  • Traditional schools.

Parents should think carefully about which option is best suited for their children. As some of the other responses have noted, the choice to homeschool can be VERY dangerous if not done properly.


In my family’s case, we take advantage of several different options noted above. The overall philosophy is unschooling. I have found that engagement and motivation are highest when our daughter has expressed interest in particular subject areas.

The method of instruction varies. I prefer tutoring, as research shows that it is a very effective way of learning. However, I also know that project-based learning is very important (again, supported by research). Therefore, our daughter also participates in several classes (usually online).

Lastly, I believe that mathematics and English are essential ingredients for a basic education, so I ensure that they are a continuing part of the curriculum.

Also (and this may be viewed as heretical in the homeschooling community), I believe that standardized testing has an important role to play in education. I therefore have my daughter participate in annual standardized tests at our local school. This allows me to demonstrate that she is learning the minimum requirements compared to her peers; it will also demonstrate appropriate grade-level placement, if we decide she should return to the traditional school environment (which we don’t plan on doing, but you never know); and it will prepare her for similar testing in the future (e.g. SAT), which may be useful if she decides to pursue college (which is very likely).


So, with the exception of traditional schools (which receive their mandate from federal, state, and local school authorities), I believe it is possible for parents to get together and organize learning (or schools) at virtually all other levels.