Fundamentals of Homeschooling 1: Consider Your Options

If you are considering homeschooling your children, you have likely come across social media, forum, or blog posts that promise that it will be inexpensive, easy, educationally superior to public schools regardless of how you approach it, and take a minimal amount of time each day.

Indeed, there are ways to “homeschool” that are very easy and require little time or effort from you. Easy approaches, though, rarely lead to the kinds of outcomes people often look for when homeschooling. If you are seeking an education for your children that provides meaningful work that aligns with their interests and abilities, if you want them to be internally motivated and active learners, and if you want them to develop the ability to think critically and carefully, you are going to have to spend time or money in order to make those things happen. Providing an individualized, substantive, engaging education for a child is a genuine challenge. Like many things that require a sustained commitment and constant effort, though, it is worth it if you are willing to do the necessary work to make it happen.

Below is a chart showing the range of available options for educating your children. You will notice that there is a direct relationship between control and effort. The more control you want over what your children learn and how they learn it, the more effort you will have to put into the process.

Although this list is not exhaustive, it addresses the most common approaches to education right now, ranging from unsupported unschooling to individualized education. Each option has benefits and drawbacks, and many people change course as their needs and circumstances change. Parents may supplement any of these approaches with extracurricular activities including music instruction, athletic activities, and classes. The main categories are as follows:

Unsupported Unschooling

Students are given little or no direct instruction and few, if any, curriculum materials. Practitioners may believe that direct instruction hinders a child’s natural inclination to learn.

Traditional School

The tradition model of education where instruction is outsourced to a public or private school, and a teacher is responsible for a class of 20 or more students. Parents provide support as needed or requested by the teacher to insure that work is being completed by their students.

Online School

Education is outsourced to an online provider who oversees all aspects of a child’s education via video presentations, on-line conferences, and written correspondence. Parents are responsible for insuring that students complete the assigned work.

Supplemented School

A partnership between the student, teacher, and parent. Teacher is primarily responsible for direct instruction, and parents oversee supplementary material to fill in gaps or to support the student’s interests. Sometimes this approach is referred to as “afterschooling.”

Custom Outsourcing

A partnership between the student and one or more curriculum providers for online or in-person courses. Parents may help choose courses, but are not responsible for direct instruction.

This approach also includes “cottage schools,” “university-model schools,” and some co-ops where students attend classes away from home two or more days per week and complete assignments independently at home.

Packaged Curriculum

A partnership between a single curriculum provider and the parents, who are responsible for direct instruction using the materials provided. Packaged curricula often include textbooks, workbooks, schedules, and extensive notes regarding the implementation of the program. They may also include written scripts for parents to follow.

Supported Unschooling

A partnership between the student and parent where the student has primary control over the direction and content of the education. The parent provides direction, acquires resources, and offers guidance as requested to help students meet goals they themselves have set.

Parent may choose to supplement with some curriculum materials in order to fill gaps.

Individualized Education

Parents use a combination of purchased curriculum and materials they write or assemble themselves in order to create a fully customized educational experience. Within the bounds of the laws of their states, parents have complete freedom to tailor their schedules, resources, and approaches to meet the needs of their children.

Students may also participate in an educational or enrichment co-op groups in order to supplement but not supplant work done at home.


At The Flourish Workshop, we work hard to provide resources that you can use to supplement a school-based education, to meet the needs of unschooled students, and to develop an individualized home-based education for your children. We hope to be a source of support and encouragement as you guide your children on their educational journeys. The greatest benefit of this lifestyle is that we get to participate fully in this journey of exploration and learning together with our children as they seek, discover, and claim their destinations.

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