If there is anything I have learned through my approximately 15 years of homeschooling, it is that there is no one, right, true, best way to homeschool for every child nor for every family nor for every situation. That is actually part of the beauty of homeschooling– that you have the freedom to decide exactly how you want to do it for any given result that you choose. Child actors may homeschool because they want the time to spend on their movie or TV set. Some families choose to homeschool so that their kids have hours open when their working parent is home. Others want to travel and explore the world up close so they road school or boat school. For other families, they have a negative experience with the public school with bullying or teachers or philosophies. Some children have special needs, and a structured school is not the proper setting for them. Some people are natural teachers and able to get wonderful results unschooling their children. Some families prefer an online school or to hold a similar schedule and curriculum of a public school, just doing the same thing at home. And there is everything in between– with parents deciding to use workbooks and textbooks for some subjects, and just reading together and doing lots of hands-on activities for other subjects. There is a whole wide world out there and we will never be able to teach or learn everything there is to know and understand.
The important thing is to decide where you want to go with your homeschool. What do you want for your child? What will they want and need in the future? What are the goals for your child? Do you want them to be college ready when they finish their studies? Do they need time to pursue a talent or deep interest? What skills do you think are the most important for them to have, both academically and in life? Do you want them to go to Harvard? Do you want them to learn entrepreneurial skills and business? Do you want them to learn a particular skill? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What must they know? What are the things you want your child to learn the most? The final result is what you should be the most interested in accomplishing in your homeschool. Once you have a clear picture of what you decide will be most beneficial for your child, then you can work your way backwards to set up milestones along the way and to figure out what they need to do year by year and all along the way.
For example, if I want my child to finish calculus by the time he graduates from homeschool, I have to figure out what skills and classes he will need to have and finish in order to do that. So in this case, I can see that I will need a solid elementary math curriculum that will have my child ready for Algebra by 8th grade, Geometry in 9th, Algebra 2 & Trigonometry in 10th, Pre- Calculus in 11th and Calculus in 12th. So now I can do some research and find a math curriculum that will work well for my child and then facilitate him taking those classes, whether I teach them myself or find a tutor or find a class he can attend. The homeschooling parent becomes a facilitator. We live in a fabulous time where we can find lots of help, lots of curriculum, lots of classes and lots of good options. If I know that my child does not enjoy math and is more gifted in art or literature, then I may be fine with him just finishing enough math to do well enough on the SAT or ACT to get into a good college where he can pursue whatever major he decides. (In the case of math though– be aware that the more math a person learns and does in high school, the more doors will open for them in college– a lot of doors will close for them if they don’t have enough math particularly in engineering, technology and science fields. Math is a more objective subject on which they will be judged, so definitely aim high if your child has the aptitude for it.)
So depending on your reasons for homeschooling and your expected results from doing so, you will start experimenting to see what methods and curriculums will work best for your situation. This will likely change over time. Some things that seem very important now, may not seem so important later and other things you don’t think much of now may gain importance later. You will make mistakes, you will not do as well as you hoped in some areas. You will have wonderful successes, you will have paydays and celebrations. Just like everything in life– you will have good days and bad days, good times and bad times. But it is all part of it, and overall it may be a wonderful experience for you. You may do it just a year or two, you may do it for many years, you may decide not to do it all. But whatever you decide to do, own it, do it and do your best. Don’t be afraid of failure– failure means you are alive and you tried something new and it is an opportunity for growth and learning.
So– now that I got all that out of the way– I will tell you what I think every child needs in their academic career whether they are homeschooled or not in order to live a happy, productive fairly normal to extraordinary life. First of all they need to know how to read and write. They should learn to read phonetically– sounding out words, not by sight-reading. They need to learn to enjoy reading books and to learn from them. They need to be able to put their thoughts on paper and to express ideas. They need math skills. It is a complete disservice to any child homeschooling or not to graduate without knowing how to figure out percentages, fractions, areas, perimeters, algebra and numbers at a minimum. In our modern society, this is an absolute must. If you as the parent are not good with math– either learn it ahead of your child or get them a teacher or find someone who can really help them. They also need to know how to use computers and sift through information. They need to know basic history of the world, geography and cultures and modern life. They should understand the basics of politics and economics. They need to understand basic science concepts. They need some life skills like cooking, cleaning and getting along with others. They need to be active and healthy (physical education and health).
And there is plenty they should learn about just being a good person– but that is for another day– just focusing on academics right now–
That may seem overwhelming– but remember you have 18 years to do it and lots of curriculum and help you can garner along the way!
With a solid foundation in these basic areas, they will be prepared to then pursue and learn about whatever other interests they have and to delve deep into other topics or hone specific skills or talents they are interested in especially as they get older and more able to do things. You can click on my menu at the top under homeschooling to see which particular curriculum we have chosen for the various subjects in our homeschool. It is easier the more you do it, I may actually have it all figured out by the time I get to my 8th kid. Please leave me a comment if you want to know more about what we have done– I tend to do better answering questions than just coming out with a great article or synopsis, but I will continue to try. Thanks for reading this far– hope it has helped someone! Take care!