4 Ways to School at Home

Taking responsibility for your children’s education can be the most rewarding decision you will make as a parent.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The pandemic ushered in new questions about our children’s education. Sometimes reminding ourselves of our school options is enough to help us focus on loving and leading our family. We have choices as well as opportunities.

I’ve lived this story before.

When my parents discovered our local school system did not meet my learning needs, they made a difficult choice. They looked at their school options and decided to pull me out of traditional school when there were few options in the 1980s.

Our budget was not limitless, so private homeschooling was our only alternative. Neither of my parents ever wanted to homeschool. At that time there were very few resources available and there was almost no support network. Many of our relatives and friends criticized my mother, who bravely did what she thought was best even if she questioned her own ability at times.

In the long run, it was the best educational decision she ever made for us. She gave us a chance to re-discover our love for learning, create a buffer in subject areas where we needed more time to grow, and excel in areas of strength. She led us to become lifelong learners.

So, while potentially feeling trapped by your circumstances and school options, please take a few minutes to explore what’s possible. Your child’s education is worth it.

4 Ways to School at Home

For most, “homeschooling” is a word that evokes images of children in flannel writing on lapboards around a wooden stove. However, in the last few decades—and especially in the last two years—homeschooling has become much more than that.

Most parents are surprised to discover there are four different categories of homeschool options, each with key differences that matter in time and money.

This chart explores those differences.

The key factors to consider across these four types of school options are: cost, autonomy, and authority.

  • Financial cost relates to how families must pay for online memberships or curriculum outside the traditional classroom.
  • Autonomy involves decisions on how, when, where, and what to study.
  • Authority concerns the parent’s decision to determine grades and tests, teacher requirements, and school hours.

Understanding the difference between online and offline school is essential to recognizing key factors in multiple remote school options.

Public School Options

Public School: Online

Originally, online public school was part of the traditional school. Online Public School contains an approved course load with pre-recorded lessons, interactive digital reading material, and online exams. These online public classes are fully under the authority of the school district as part of the official curriculum.

As a result, parents are not responsible for the cost, nor do they have the authority to choose the brand of curriculum, day of study, or format. That authority belongs fully to the school. So cost is low, autonomy is low, and authority is low.

Public School: Offline

Offline public school is often referred to as “Zoomschooling.” In reality, offline public school can also refer to “emergency public school at home,” and is what families enrolled in public school experienced at the beginning of the pandemic.

Usually, the state regulates, evaluates, and funds offline public school options. So, offline public school is not traditional homeschooling because the district is still in charge of when and how schooling happens. It is a temporary solution to an emergency situation, and some families find it a good fit. Like Public Online School, cost is low, autonomy is low, and authority is low.

It’s important to note that this is an emergency option and the long term effects are still being studied.

Private School Options

Private School: Online

Developed with online study, assessment, and engagement in mind, these programs are often high quality. By enrolling in a private online school option, cost is moderate to high, accountability is shared, and autonomy is low.

Private School: Offline

Typically, this school option transfers the classroom setting to an online platform. For this option, cost is moderate to high, accountability is shared, and autonomy is low.

Homeschool Options

Public Homeschooling

Public Homeschooling is a hybrid between public school and private homeschooling, often called “charter schools” or “public school at home” depending on your state. Sometimes, specific states reimburse parents who choose Public Homeschooling. These reimbursements cover a specific list of curricular and extracurricular expenses, around $1,000‐$3,000 per student per year depending on the state.

Within the category of public homeschooling, parents can select online, offline, or a fusion of the two. Please note: Public homeschooling comes with strings attached, as it should. Often, it is a form of public school inside the student’s home. So cost is shared, autonomy is shared, and authority is low.

Private Homeschooling

Private Homeschooling is the most customizable and traditional form of homeschooling, which sought legalization in the US in the 1980s. This form of schooling provides families with the greatest amount of autonomy. Private Homeschooling empowers them to customize their curriculum and school schedule to fit their needs.

Like public homeschooling, parents can select online, offline, or a fusion of the two homeschool options. That means cost is moderate to high, autonomy is high, and authority is high.

Parents and Their School Choice

Which form fits your family best is up to you. Parents in the U.S. retain the legal right to dis-enroll from or re‐enroll in public school at many points in the year if they meet their state’s criteria, even in the face of the COVID‐19 pandemic.

What Parents Need to Know

Homeschoolers do not need a teaching degree (and I say this confidently as a former professional educator). That said, it helps to have some coaching.

Homeschoolers do not need to be rich. I have seen some parents provide an excellent education by purchasing high‐end curriculum, private tutors, and international learning tours. Also, I have seen many parents provide an excellent education with a modest budget with only a math book, a library card, a reading list, and internet access.

Homeschoolers do not need a full‐time stay‐at‐home parent. Especially for families who choose the Private Homeschool model, there is flexibility in time of day, days of the week, and weeks of the year they choose to school. Also, there is flexibility for how much time to spend on each subject.

Single parents can successfully homeschool just as well as dual‐income households. It is completely doable with a little creativity. (See Homeschool Like an Expert for specifics.)

Easy Resources for School Options

Unlike over forty years ago, there is now a flood of resources available to families. These resources exist in the form of curriculum, co‐ops, social media groups, and supplies. Almost too many, for those just looking to homeschool until the pandemic lifts.

Depending on how much time they want to invest, parents can purchase curriculum bundles such as Ready Made School. This curriculum offers a year’s worth of core subjects at a discount to make homeschooling easier.

Parents interested in spending more time on research or in building their own curriculum can look at homeschool conventions. Or, you can look at your state homeschool organization for suggestions of where to find resources and how to evaluate the effectiveness of each curriculum provider.

You Know Your Child Best

Ultimately, each family must do what it thinks is best to educate their children during this pandemic. And hopefully we will support other families facing the same choices with school options, whether their decision is the same.

You know and love your child better than anyone. Whether or not you choose homeschool options, your child does not prove how much you love your child—there is more than one way to get a great education.

You are Not Alone

Be encouraged. Simply by reading this article to the end, you are clearly dedicated to finding the best school options for your child. You are on the right path. More importantly, you are the parent your child needs.

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