Homeschooling or homeschool (also called home education or home based learning) is the education of children at home, typically by parents but sometimes by tutors, rather than in other formal settings of public or private school. Although prior to the introduction of compulsory school attendance laws, most childhood education occurred within the family or community,homeschooling in the modern sense is an alternative in developed countries to attending public or private schools.
Homeschooling is a legal option for parents in many countries, allowing them to provide their children with a learning environment as an alternative to public or private schools outside the home. Parents cite numerous reasons as motivations to homeschool their children. The three reasons that are selected by the majority of homeschooling parents in the United States are concern about the traditional school environment, to provide religious or moral instruction, and dissatisfaction with academic instruction at traditional public and private schools. Homeschooling may also be a factor in the choice of parenting style. Homeschooling can be an option for families living in isolated rural locations, living temporarily abroad, and to allow for more traveling; also many young athletes and actors are taught at home. Homeschooling can be about mentorship and apprenticeship, where a tutor or teacher is with the child for many years and then knows the child very well.
Homeschooling may also refer to instruction in the home under the supervision of correspondence schools or umbrella schools. In some places, an approved curriculum is legally required if children are to be home-schooled. A curriculum-free philosophy of homeschooling may be called unschooling, a term coined in 1977 by American educator and author John Holt in his magazine Growing Without Schooling. In some cases a liberal arts education is provided using the trivium and quadrivium as the main model.
Homeschools use a wide variety of methods and materials. There are different paradigms, or educational philosophies, that families adopt including unit studies, Classical education (includingTrivium, Quadrivium), Charlotte Mason education, Montessori method, Theory of multiple intelligences, Unschooling, Radical Unschooling, Waldorf education, School-at-home, A Thomas Jefferson Education, and many others. Some of these approaches, particularly unit studies, Montessori, and Waldorf, are also available in private or public school settings.
It is not uncommon for the student to experience more than one approach as the family discovers what works best for them. Many families do choose an eclectic approach. For sources ofcurricula and books, “Homeschooling in the United States: 2003″ found that 78 percent utilized “a public library”; 77 percent used “a homeschooling catalog, publisher, or individual specialist”; 68 percent used “retail bookstore or other store”; 60 percent used “an education publisher that was not affiliated with homeschooling.” “Approximately half” used curriculum or books from “a homeschooling organization”, 37 percent from a “church, synagogue or other religious institution” and 23 percent from “their local public school or district.” 41 percent in 2003 utilized some sort ofdistance learning, approximately 20 percent by “television, video or radio”; 19 percent via “Internet, e-mail, or the World Wide Web”; and 15 percent taking a “correspondence course by mail designed specifically for homeschoolers.”
Individual governmental units, e. g. states and local districts, vary in official curriculum and attendance requirements.
- Unit studies
The unit study approach incorporates several subjects, such as art, history, math, science, geography and other curriculum subjects, around the context of one topical theme, like water, animals, American slavery, or ancient Rome. For example, a unit study of Native Americans could combine age-appropriate lessons in: social studies, how different tribes lived prior to colonization vs. today; art, making patterns or artifacts influenced by Native American decorative crafts; history (of Native Americans in the U.S.); reading from a special reading list; and thescience of plants used by Native Americans.
Unit studies are particularly helpful for teaching multiple grade levels simultaneously, as the topic can easily be adjusted (i.e. from an 8th grader detailing and labeling a spider’s anatomy to an elementary student drawing a picture of a spider on its web). As it is generally the case that in a given “homeschool” very few students are spread out among the grade levels, the unit study approach is an attractive option.
- All-in-one curricula
All-in-one homeschooling curricula (variously known as “school-at-home”, “The Traditional Approach”, “school-in-a-box” or “The Structured Approach”), are methods of homeschooling in which the curriculum and homework of the student are similar or identical to what would be taught in a public or private school; as one example, the same textbooks used in conventional schools are often used. These are comprehensive packages that contain all of the needed books and materials for the whole year. These materials are based on the same subject-area expectations as publicly run schools which allows for easy transition back into the school system. These are among the more expensive options for homeschooling, but they require minimal preparation and are easy to use. Step-by-step instructions and extensive teaching guides are provided. Some include tests or access information for remote testing. Many of these programs allow students to obtain an accredited high school diploma.
- Online education
Online resources for homeschooling include courses of study, curricula, educational games, online tests, online tutoring, and occupational training. Online learning potentially allows students and families access to specialized teachers and materials and greater flexibility in scheduling. Parents can be with their children during an online tutoring session. Finally, online tutoring is useful for students who are disabled or otherwise limited in their ability to travel. Students can enroll in a full-time course load leading to a diploma or enroll in particular courses as part of their enrollment in another school or homeschool). Similarly, as more and more universities make content available online, homeschooled families are finding a wealth of materials available, primarily for use as self-study. Although teacher support is not usually provided in open courseware programs, families teaching their own children may, if the study met their requirements, grant credit for the work through their homeschools.
- Community resources
Homeschoolers often take advantage of educational opportunities at museums, libraries, community centers, athletic clubs, after-school programs, churches, science preserves, parks, and other community resources. Secondary school level students may take classes at community colleges, which typically have open admission policies. In many communities, homeschooling parents and students participate in community theater, dance, band, symphony, and choral opportunities.
Groups of homeschooling families often join together to create homeschool co-ops. These groups typically meet once a week and provide a classroom environment. These are family-centered support groups whose members seek to pool their talents and resources in a collective effort to broaden the scope of their children’s education. They provide a classroom environment where students can do hands-on and group learning such as performing, science experiments, art projects, foreign language study, spelling bees, discussions, etc. Parents whose children take classes serve in volunteer roles to keep costs low and make the program a success.
- Unschooling and natural learning
Some people use the terms “unschooling” or “radical unschooling” to describe all methods of education that are not based in a school.
“Natural learning” refers to a type of learning-on-demand where children pursue knowledge based on their interests and parents take an active part in facilitating activities and experiences conducive to learning but do not rely heavily on textbooks or spend much time “teaching”, looking instead for “learning moments” throughout their daily activities. Parents see their role as that of affirming through positive feedback and modeling the necessary skills, and the child’s role as being responsible for asking and learning.
The term “unschooling” as coined by John Holt describes an approach in which parents do not authoritatively direct the child’s education, but interact with the child following the child’s own interests, leaving them free to explore and learn as their interests lead. ”Unschooling” does not indicate that the child is not being educated, but that the child is not being “schooled”, or educated in a rigid school-type manner. Holt asserted that children learn through the experiences of life, and he encouraged parents to live their lives with their child. Also known as interest-led or child-led learning, unschooling attempts to follow opportunities as they arise in real life, through which a child will learn without coercion. An unschooled child may utilize texts or classroom instruction, but these are not considered central to education. Holt asserted that there is no specific body of knowledge that is, or should be, required of a child.
“Unschooling” should not be confused with “deschooling,” which may be used to indicate an anti-”institutional school” philosophy, or a period or form of deprogramming for children or parents who have previously been schooled.
Both unschooling and natural learning advocates believe that children learn best by doing; a child may learn reading to further an interest about history or other cultures, or math skills by operating a small business or sharing in family finances. They may learn animal husbandry keeping dairy goats or meat rabbits, botany tending a kitchen garden, chemistry to understand the operation of firearms or the internal combustion engine, or politics and local history by following a zoning or historical-status dispute. While any type of homeschoolers may also use these methods, the unschooled child initiates these learning activities. The natural learner participates with parents and others in learning together.
- Autonomous learning
Autonomous learning is a school of education which sees learners as individuals who can and should be autonomous i.e. be responsible for their own learning climate.
Autonomous education helps students develop their self-consciousness, vision, practicality and freedom of discussion. These attributes serve to aid the student in his/her independent learning.
Autonomous learning is very popular with those who home educate their children. The child usually gets to decide what projects they wish to tackle or what interests to pursue.
Homeschooling and College Admission
After secondary education is completed, many students choose to pursue higher education at established colleges and universities. Many students use standardized test scores to aid colleges in evaluating their educational background. The College Board suggests that homeschooled students keep detailed records and portfolios.
In the last several decades, US colleges and universities have become increasingly open to accepting students from diverse backgrounds, including home-schooled students. According to one source, homeschoolers have now matriculated at over 900 different colleges and universities, including institutions with highly selective standards of admission such as the US military academies,Rice University, Haverford College, Harvard University, Stanford University, Cornell University, Brown University, Dartmouth College, and Princeton University.
Many homeschooled students earn college credit through dual enrollment, by taking community college classes while in high school. Others choose to earn college credits through standardized tests such as the College Level Examination Program (CLEP).