There are a lot of different ways of educating kids that fall under the term homeschool these days. While some homeschoolers might argue that some of these are not truly homeschooling, I want to include everything that is generally referred to as homeschooling in this post.
The truth is, the world of homeschooling is full of big, wide -open spaces. Which means there are also many decisions to be made. The flexibility of homeschooling is one of it’s greatest assets. But if you are new to the homeschooling world it can also be very overwhelming to digest all your options.
You need to know which homeschooling world to dive into. You need to know how to make this lifestyle shift in a way that will be successful. You don’t need anyone standing on a soap box telling you that there is this one correct method you must use. If you wanted that you could just send your kids back to public school. Am I right?
You need objective information about the different options that are out there and a quick summary of the pros and cons of each. You need the pros and cons to be practical and relevant. Then you can grab onto the method that is going to work for you right now. Of course, there will be more research and more decisions to make once you figure out which type of homeschool you want.
Choosing your type of homeschool first can save you a lot of time researching options that are not going to work for you. It can also save you a lot of money buying curriculum that is not practical for your situation. And, perhaps most importantly, it can save you from failure. Because if you choose a homeschool method that is not a good fit for you and your kids, you will get frustrated fast and are likely to throw in the towel and claim that homeschooling just didn’t work for you.
I hate watching moms go through this process when all they really needed was better guidance at the beginning of the journey to help them chose the method that would be successful for them.
I encourage you to be brutally self-honest as you read through the pros and cons of the methods below. Don’t pick a method because it sounds like THE BEST WAY EVER. Pick it out because you can see how it will fit into your life right now. And don’t stress too much over your choice.
Don’t become so attached to your chosen type that you are afraid to try one of the other ways if the first one just isn’t working out. What a parent and child need one year can be very different from what they need the next year. Don’t let the naturally shifting needs of your family make you feel like a failure.
And finally, learning and teaching are both hard work. Although humans are naturally curious, and that curiosity often drives us to learn, learning still takes effort. So please, don’t expect any method to be easy. Nothing worth doing ever is.
The Four Main Types of Homeschooling Are:
- Public School at Home
- Hybrid Schools
- DIY Homeschool
Below you will find descriptions for each along with tips on whether each method will be a good fit for you or not.
Public School at Home
While many long-time homeschoolers do feel this option should not be called homeschooling, it is generally given that label. It is often the first step parents take into the world of homeschooling. There are specific reasons to use this method, but there are also plenty of reasons why it is not everyone’s cup of tea.
Public school at home may be a good fit for you if:
- You only plan to homeschool temporarily (this will keep your child aligned with the public school curriculum).
- You need a free option (this is not your only free option, so don’t choose it just because of that).
- You want someone else to do all the grading and evaluations.
- Both parents work full time or you are a single parent. (Because teachers do the grading and teaching, this option takes less of the parent’s time.)
Public school at home may NOT be a good fit for you if:
- You want to homeschool because your child is smart and needs to move through curriculum more quickly. (Public school at home will require you to stick to the schedule set by the school.)
- Your child needs to move through one or more subjects more slowly because of learning difficulties. (Again, you must follow the schedule set by the school which may not coincide with what your child needs.)
- You want to take vacations or field trips whenever you feel like it.
- You want an individualized education program.
Basically, public school at home is exactly what it sounds like. You use the public school curriculum, are given a schedule, and students turn their work into a teacher for evaluation and grading. It provides a little more flexibility than being in the school building every day, but not nearly as much flexibility as any of the other types of homeschooling.
If you are interested in this option, I suggest using a search engine to find out which options are available in your state. Just type in your state name + online public school and you should find relevant options. Alternatively, you can see if the popular provider k12 is available in your state and learn more about public school online there.
Hybrid schools have classrooms, teachers, and homework assignments. They generally meet between two and four times a week. They are often private, which means they require tuition. Student’s complete work assigned during their days at home.
Hybrid schools might be a good fit for you if:
- You want a curriculum with a different philosophy from public-school. (Hybrids will each have their own philosophy so you want to look into that before signing up.)
- You work full time and want to drop your kids off at a school building a few days a week.
- You want a school, but you also want more time with your kids.
- You want a school, but you need a system that is willing to work with your child’s individual needs.
Hybrid homeschools might NOT be a good choice for you if:
- You need don’t have an education budget. Most hybrid schools cost money. (The exception is if you live in a state where your child can take some classes at public school while still homeschooling, this is sometimes called hybrid education but is a little different from what I am addressing here.)
- You can’t drive your kids somewhere several days a week.
- You want your child to work at their own pace.
- You want the freedom of taking trips or vacations anytime you like.
Hybrid homeschool options differ depending on your location. So if this option seems intriguing to you, your first step will be to search ‘hybrid homeschool near me’ and see what comes up. Another great resource is to find a homeschool Facebook group for your city and then ask the moms in the group what options are available.
Co-ops are less formal than hybrid schools and are often not drop off options. Many homeschooling co-ops offer classes, but they are often taught by parents and parents are expected to stay on site and volunteer by either teaching or assisting during classes. Co-ops usually meet only once or twice a week. Some co-ops are a la carte, meaning you pick and choose which classes to take. Other co-ops are based on a complete curriculum that you must purchase.
A Homeschool Co-op might be a good fit for you if:
- You are a DIY homeschooler who needs more accountability.
- You are a DIY homeschooler who wants some else to teach a few of the subjects.
- You want to make sure that you and your kids both make a lot of other homeschooling friends quickly.
A Homeschool Co-op might NOT be the right choice for you if:
- You want ultimate freedom in your schedule. You will have a lot of freedom, but still, the co-op will start and stop during certain times so you will want to plan vacations around that. Field trip opportunities may also occuron the same day as co-ops.
- You don’t want to drive anywhere.
- You don’t have a budget for it. (Co-ops are generally less expensive than Hybrid options, but they still have tuition fees.)
- You need someone else teaching every subject for your child.
- You need a drop-off option so you can get work done.
Available co-op options will be dependent on where you live. I suggest finding local homeschool moms to see what is available in your area. A good place to start is in a local homeschool Facebook group. Or trying out a search engine, just make sure to include the term ‘near me’ or your city name to get relevant results. But please know that not all co-ops choose to have websites so there are likely options that will not come up on a search engine.
Do-It-Yourself Homeschooling refers to homeschoolers who choose their curriculum themselves, create their own schedule, and do all the grading/assessment themselves. Some DIY homeschoolers make use of a few a la carte Co-op classes as part of their overall plan. Others may choose to fulfill social needs with sports, extra-curricular activities, neighbors, or church friends. DIY homeschoolers want complete autonomy with their educational choices.
DIY homeschooling might be a good fit for you if:
- You want to let your child work at their own pace.
- You want to pick out what curriculum to use.
- You need to homeschool for free, but you want more freedom than public school at home allows.
- You want to set your own schedule, leaving wide open spaces for vacations, travel, and field trips.
DIY homeschooling may NOT be a good fit for you if:
- The thought of such complete freedom overwhelms you. (That is a completely legitimate and okay reason to choose one of the other options above.)
- You need accountability.
- You work full time AND need a free option. (Free options for DIY homeschoolers take more time for the parent to plan and implement.)
- You don’t want to be your child’s primary teacher.
There are, of course, many packaged curriculum options that come with all the materials and schedules you need, so you can get the guidance you need while still maintaining autonomy. There are many programs that are designed for kids to work independently, so you may also find doable options in this area even if you work full time. (Especially if your kids are 5th grade or older.)
Nothing is impossible in the world of homeschooling, you have many choices and can build a program that fits your needs. You can change that program as your children grow. You can do what your children need in order to be happy and healthy learners.
I hope this guide helped you understand this first layer of options. If you are leaning towards a DIY type of homeschool your next task will be to think about your homeschool style. And yes, homeschooling styles (sometimes called methods) are a different than the types I covered in this article. Here is a quick way to understand homeschooling styles.
Now that you understand these options and have a better idea of which ones might be a good fit for your family, head over to How to Start Homeschooling – A Beginner’s Guide.