Ever consider homeschooling your children? Last year, roughly 3.7 million students, or about 7 percent of all school-age kids in grades K-12 in the United States, homeschooled. That’s a 48 percent increase from 2019, when only 4 percent of school-aged children received homeschool educations.  The good news is that there are more homeschooling resources than ever before. More states passed laws making it easier for homeschoolers to gain access to public school resources. These include extracurricular athletics or funding through education savings accounts.

Homeschooling is not new. But since the pandemic, millions made the change. Parents cite mask mandates, elite student athletics and a dissatisfaction with public and private curricula as a few reasons to homeschool. Others choose it to give their kids a faith-based education or the freedom to create a personalized lesson plan.

We talked to two moms with homeschool experience who shared their experiences.

Why did you decide to homeschool?

Hilary lives in Texas and homeschools her three daughters. Seven years ago she pulled her kindergartner from  a private school. She left her career in human resources to teach full time and has never looked back. “I truly feel [my daughters are] getting a far better education.”

Cindie from Wisconsin, whose children are grown, says she homeschooled 3 of her 4 kids for 6 years. While she flirted with the idea for several years, she finally took the homeschool plunge when her youngest was facing all-day kindergarten “I was philosophically opposed to this as were several of my friends. That was the incentive we needed to try homeschooling.”

One of Hilary’s daughters practices her penmanship.

Learn at your own pace

While Cindie’s oldest son, who was in high school at the time, opted to stay in his current school, her three other children all went with the homeschool route. Her sixth-grade son liked the fact that he could learn at his own pace and not “have to review things multiple times until everyone in the class had it.”

While her children are grown now she says she recalls the experience “fondly as some of the best years of child rearing!”

Get advice from veteran homeschoolers

A good first step is to get advice from current and former homeschoolers. “I had the luxury of having a friend who was a teacher by profession and who homeschooled her own children,” Cindie says.  She also recommends attending a homeschool conference to learn the latest in homeschool trends and network with others to create a support group. “There are workshops to attend, people to speak with, curriculum to look at and really just seeing that so many people are making the choice to homeschool is support in itself,” she says.  Laws governing homeschooling vary from state to state, so you may have to travel to attend a good conference, she adds, but it would be worth the time to do that.

Likewise, Hilary joined a local network of homeschoolers and runs a Facebook group. For instance, her oldest daughter attends a co-op one day a week for lessons with other homeschooled children. Bloggers like the Home School Mom offer lots of advice.

Not locked into a curriculum

Choosing a curriculum tailored to your child is also important. Today there are plenty of curricula choices from math and science to those that emphasize studying the humanities for a classical education. For instance, Hilary is using Classical Conversations, a Christian-based program, which includes teaching her daughters Latin.

Cindie stresses that even if you select a curriculum, don’t worry that you’re locked into it.  “Sometimes you have to try different programs to find the one that suites your child best.

Flexibility for field trips

Homeschoolers also enjoy enormous flexibility. That includes trips to museums, zoos or learning experiences. During Covid, some families traveled around the country while homeschooling their children. They visited National Parks, museums and lived in cities around the United States. 6 Budget Friendly Summer Kids Activities shows just a fraction of some of the educational activities you can do with your children.

Look! No screens: Many homeschool parents emphasize outdoor play and limited computer time.

Can anyone homeschool?

Cindie believes there are homeschooling options for everyone. “There is really something for everyone,” she says. You can assemble your own curriculum. Other options include packages that are computer generated that map everything out for you. It does everything from scheduling to correcting homework and grading. “Also, homeschool co-ops can be a great help where your children can still get group experiences and there is built-in support for the parents too.”

Can you work and homeschool at the same time?

While Hilary quit her job to homeschool, she knows many parents who work part time. A few parents even juggle homeschool with full-time jobs. It depends on the year of the child’s instruction and if you’re relying on co-ops.  Especially the very early grades, she says, daily instruction can be only a few hours a day depending on the child. Meanwhile, as students approach junior high, there’s more self-instruction going on. For instance, when her oldest daughter decided she wanted to learn how to code, Hilary gave her a book and she taught herself. This she says, is one of the benefits of “teaching her a love of learning.”

Hilary’s daughters working on different grade-level work.

What’s the hardest part of homeschooling?

The hardest part of homeschooling, Cindie says, was getting started and figuring out the new rhythm of your life. This is  especially challenging if you are homeschooling more than one child at a time. Also, it can take some time to assess the learning style of each child and then realize that the same program or curriculum may not work for all of them.  This, she adds is one of the greatest benefits to homeschooling too, in that each child is taught in their own style where they can really excel.

Getting to spend time with your kids

Both Hilary and Cindie agree that the best part of homeschooling is the ability to spend quality time with their children. And while not everyday is perfect, overall it’s well worth it. “I realized that when the kids were in school I had very little quality time with them,” Cindie says. “Up early, off to school, home for homework, music or sports, dinner and bedtime. We wanted more time to really know them, to instill our family values into them and for them to spend more time together as well. One of the best parts for them is that they learned critical thinking skills and strong study habits which unfortunately are not taught for the most part in traditional school settings. These skills have served our children well and I am so thankful for the time spent with them, which seems to fly by so quickly!”

–Patty Yeager

Patty Yeager is the managing editor of Smart Lifebites. Her stories include: Ten Tips for Visiting a U-Pick Fruit Farm with the kids  and 5 Cool things you probably didn’t know about pecans.

Smart Lifebites