According to the National Center For Education Statistics, around 3% of school age children in the United States are homeschooled. That's a small percentage, but it amounts to over 1.5 million students, and it appears the number has been growing for some time.
There are plenty of reasons to choose the homeschool option, but before you make a decision, ask yourself these seven questions.
1. How much do you know about it?
If you know families who homeschool, or if you were homeschooled yourself, the answer is probably "a lot." If you have only the vaguest idea what homeschooling is really like, it's a good idea to start with some serious research.
It's great to check out books and websites on the topic, but for a truly informed decision, make sure you talk to real life homeschoolers too. You can probably find your local homeschool groups easily online, or ask around within your local community, your church or even on Facebook. Most homeschoolers love to meet newbies considering the homeschool lifestyle, and will happily chat about pros, cons and the methods they use.
2. What support do you have?
Motherhood can be isolating, and homeschooling without proper support can be worse. Luckily, there are lots of homeschool groups, classes and activities in most areas, but find out about what's available before you make the leap.
It's also wise to chat to family and friends about what sort of support they can give you, especially in times of illness and emergency. Dealing with the unexpected becomes more challenging when you have the kids at home full-time.
Lastly, ascertain how supportive your spouse is. While one parent is often more enthusiastic than the other, it's important you're both committed to giving the homeschool life a fair trial. If the main homeschooling parent doesn't have the support of the other parent, it's difficult to make it work.
3. What are local laws regarding homeschooling?
They differ from state to state, and country to country. In some places the rules are almost non-existent. In others, they're pretty restrictive. Some countries don't allow homeschooling at all.
4. Can you afford it?
Some people choose to homeschool to save money. They see homeschooling (perhaps with the help of private tutors) as a cheaper alternative to private school, or as a way of saving on all the extra expenses that come with attending public school.
Homeschooling on a very tight budget is possible, but if you're going to pay for pre-written curriculum, private tutors, and online courses, it can get expensive. Plus, of course, you probably won't be able to both work full-time. Most homeschool families have at least one full-time stay-at-home parent.
It's definitely a good idea to work out a budget in advance.
5. Why do you want to do it?
There are many valid reasons to homeschool, but there are a few questionable ones too. Public schools can be a scary, high pressure places, and it's fine to choose safety, security and a relaxed approach to learning over that. But fear isn't always a good reason to keep your child at home. Remember, you can't necessarily protect your child from everything bad in the world, even if you homeschool.
Many families choose to homeschool so they can put their faith at the center of family life, which is a valid choice, but homeschooling also shouldn't be a way to completely isolate your children from those with different beliefs or ideas. Consider all of your reasons for homeschooling and think about whether there are any drawbacks to the positive reasons you identify.
6. Will it suit your children?
Some children love homeschooling. Others really do thrive in school. It's not always easy to tell before you try it.
If your child loves learning about his own interests on his own schedule, and prefers small groups to big crowds, he'll probably thrive in the homeschool environment. But things can change. Be prepared for the fact that some homeschooled children eventually want to go to school.
7. Are you open minded and flexible?
There are many different methods of homeschooling, but many people have a set idea about how they'll do it. There's a problem with that. Your way may not suit your children, or it may suit one of them but not the others.
You could argue that they're kids. They should just do it your way, but if there's one thing homeschooling will do, it will make you realize that all children learn differently. As you spend more and more time facilitating their learning, you'll want to give them the best, most interesting and most enjoyable education you can provide.
Staying flexible and open minded can allow you to adapt your methods to your children, and give them a truly customized, inspiring and unique education.