Practical homeschooling all comes down to two questions. How much time do you have for homeschool involvement and what is your time worth?
To be clear, let’s say homeschooling is a given. The question at hand is how to be practical about homeschooling. A parent needs to be practical in estimating the time requirement to homeschool successfully. The parent then needs to be practical about where that time is going to come from. Plus what changes you need to get that time. Practical homeschooling also requires a structure that will prevent burnout.
Practical homeschooling realistically estimates the parent involvement.
Individual students and grade levels will vary with time requirements. An online school might only take four hours of actual school time, but other homeschool methods can take more time. The level of parent involvement will also vary depending on how you homeschool. One method might allow the parent to complete non-school tasks while the student is working, but another method could fully consume the parent’s time where it is hard to accomplish anything else. This is important for the parent to understand before choosing a method! For example, an online school might just require the parent to be in proximity to the student for occasional help and motivation. That might allow the parent to accomplish some household or home business tasks within sight of the student. Whereas a paper-based or custom curriculum will require much more parent dedication due to teaching, scoring, record keeping, and prevention of student shortcutting.
If you put together your own homeschooling curriculum,
it will require much more time. Parents will have significant research time to find the proper grade and ability level of curriculum. You will need to make sure the curriculum spirals properly so your choices do not create concept gaps. You may need to research standards that will be in achievement tests if your state requires periodic testing, so you can include them. Using different curricula for each subject can require more time because assignments and assessments might need to be handled and scored differently for each subject. Scoring student work is one of the top time requirements for a parent. If the curriculum requires teaching time, the parent must set aside planning and preparation time. Overall, you will have more work for research, teaching, and scoring when developing your own curriculum. It can be the most successful if you have the time and commitment.
If you use a paper-based curriculum,
the parent needs to set aside time to score assignments and assessments. Students should never score their own work! You will need to either manage school records or mail paper assessments to a homeschool program. Extra time is also needed to manage the curriculum inventory and provide daily security to answer keys. If you use the same publisher for all subjects, it can remove the research requirement for scope and sequence, plus might offer a stronger vocabulary development because many publishers coordinate new words across subjects.
If you use online curriculum, but not a school,
care is needed for proper scope and sequence of concepts. Many online programs are supplementary and are not designed as a main curriculum! The curriculum should cover all basic standards that might be covered in an achievement test, so problems with your state’s Dept of Education can be avoided. If the online curriculum is not stated as being a school, they are not obligated to meet standards or scope and sequence structures that are included in most good curricula. Many online courses do not provide a system for permanent records, so a records system must be developed and maintained by the parent.
If you use an online school,
it will still require parent involvement. Depending on the homeschool program the school offers, the parent may still be responsible for academic help when the student needs it. Lower costing programs are not going to provide as much support. An online school can save a tremendous amount of time for the parent because of built-in daily lesson plans, scoring, and record keeping, but motivation and school time monitoring are going to fall mainly on the parent. Some online schools provide subjective scoring. Many do not. Subjective scoring is where a human needs to score sentence, phrase, and essay answers that the system cannot automatically score. Some online schools provide academic concept help. Many do not. Some online schools offer built-in help from a human teacher within the curriculum interface. A few even offer other methods for tutoring such as online whiteboards and face-to-face video tutoring.
With online schools, the parent is still going to be the primary motivator, school bell, and (depending on the program) tutor. An online school that offers academic assistance is good for older students where the parent has less time or feels weak in a subject or concept. An online school can reduce the parent responsibilities the most, so it frees up time to be more of an encourager.
Practical homeschooling requires rescheduling other duties.
Depending on what homeschooling method you use, you may need to schedule the bulk of other household tasks at other times. Some methods may require the parent to remove all tasks and distractions during school time. It might even take shutting off the phone! That is why it is important to evaluate your situation and choose a homeschool method that will realistically work. If you cannot dedicate yourself full-time to your student during student work time, you need a method that can meet your need.
Practical homeschooling may require extra help.
Spouse, extended family, and even the student need to help to make a successful homeschool. Extended family and friends need to know your school time, so they can keep from distracting you. The immediate family may need to chip in and help around the house more. The spouse needs to take time to show a daily interest in how school went each day. The spouse might even be responsible for an elective course or extra curricular activity. Above all, it is a great structure to have the spouse or other family member commit time with the student on a regular non-school time basis to give the homeschool parent some personal time.
Practical homeschooling requires being realistic about long term responsibilities.
It is very common to be apprehensive when first starting to homeschool. It is also common to initially over-commit parent involvement when choosing a homeschool method. Homeschooling is exciting and rewarding, but it needs to be practical homeschooling for the long haul. It is important to structure cushion as a parent. Can the student still accomplish school work if the parent becomes ill? Can the student still accomplish school work if the parent is temporarily busy with unexpected distractions for a day or two? Is there a structure to provide the parent with some regular “me time”? After several months, will the parent burnout because there is not enough time for everything? Is there cushion if the initial estimate of parent commitment in the beginning changes later. You should ask yourself these kind of questions when choosing a homeschool method.
In general, a program with homeschool tuition will usually save the parent substantial time over a free homeschool program. For many, time has a monetary value. A regionally accredited program provides the greatest scrutiny of the quality of the online school. An accredited program that supports your homeschool also provides insurance for when the parent’s schedule temporarily changes or the parent gets occasionally worn out. An accredited program can better support a work at home parent. The online private school used in our Example Value page costs about $1.53 per hour for a 5 hour day for 3rd through 8th grade. It is about $2.50 per hour for high school. The regionally accredited school includes curriculum, human academic help when needed, at-home achievement test, daily lesson planning, record keeping, online grades, subjective scoring, and a private school diploma.