How Does Homeschooling Work? Guide to Homeschooling in 2023

Parents are constantly inundated with choices regarding their children’s education. One of the most important: public school, private school, or homeschooling?

Which one is the best for your child?

Every child — and every household — is unique. Before you decide on the future of your child’s schooling, let’s talk about how homeschooling works.

Homeschooling Laws and Regulations

Homeschool law differs depending on the state. Some states have more rigorous homeschool regulations, while others are more lenient. In some states, the homeschool laws require that parents who choose to educate their children at home must:

  • Notify their local school district superintendent of their intention to home school;
  • Teach for four hours a day for 180 days per year;
  • Use a curriculum that is either approved by the state or is comparable to what is taught in public schools; and
  • Administer a standardized achievement test to their child each year.

Other states offer more freedom regarding what is required to homeschool. If you’re considering homeschool, be sure to research the homeschool laws for your state.

How Do You Homeschool a Child?

A lot of parents just don’t know where to start. What subjects does your child need to learn? How do you teach them? If you don’t have a background in education, how will you be an effective teacher?

First: Relax. You teach your children all the time. You taught them how to brush their teeth. And you taught them how to ride their bike.

You may have even taught them how to read a little bit (or a lot).

Trust me, you can do this.

There are many ways to go about homeschooling your children. You can:

  • Purchase a pre-made curriculum;
  • Design your own curriculum; or,
  • Use a combination of both approaches.

Some pre-made curricula can be expensive, but it takes a lot of the guesswork out of home instruction. You’ll know exactly what your child should be learning and when they should be learning it. That said, there are plenty of excellent options that are well loved and highly affordable.

Of course, designing your own curriculum gives you more freedom to tailor the education to your child’s unique needs and interests, but it also requires more work. If you are up for it, you can make a completely customized curriculum from scratch, using the public school standards as a guideline if you wish. Or, many parents find it beneficial to mix and match from different curriculum options, pulling from a variety of publishers for math, language arts, science, and so on.

While there are countless curriculum options to consider, there are also many resources available to help you homeschool your child, including:

  • Homeschooling support groups;
  • Online forums and discussion groups;
  • Homeschooling co-ops; and,
  • Homeschooling resource centers.

Remember, no two homeschooling journeys will look the same, so focus on what is right for you and your child.

How Do You Prove That Your Child is Learning?

One of the most common concerns about homeschooling is whether or not the student is learning what they need to learn to succeed.

You may worry that there are gaps or something you have forgotten to teach them along the way. Imagine your child turning 16 and – oh no – they’ve never read a page of Shakespeare! Being a parent is not without worry, and being a homeschool parent is no different. But, so long as you are being intentional in your child’s education and keeping a focus on your educational goals, everything will be alright. Infact, public school students are just as likely as homeschool students to have educational gaps in learning.

So how do you know if your child is actually learning? Every family has different educational goals and methods of assessment. Many states have a rubric that you need to follow — along with required standardized testing to assess your child’s progress each year. If your state does not require testing you can choose to do optional testing, like the IOWA Assessment, for around $60 per test.

Some parents are able to get an idea of their child’s progress by taking free online placement tests with different curricula providers. Or, you may find the periodic evaluations and quizzes included in many curriculum packages to be a sufficient gauge.

As a homeschool parent, you can help monitor your child’s learning by:

  • Setting clear educational goals for your child and yourself;
  • Keeping a portfolio of your child’s work;
  • Administering standardized tests; or,
  • Checking your child’s understanding with periodic evaluations.

Rest assured – the more you inspire confidence in your child, the more likely they are to teach themselves as much as you are teaching them. You may find that your homeschooling only serves as a jumping-off point for their curiosity.

How Do You Socialize a Homeschooled Child?

How will your child socialize if they’re not in school with other children their age? The great news is, this is an amazing era to be a homeschooler!

There are so many resources and opportunities for homeschoolers to socialize. Some parents may worry that their child will be isolated, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Find a local homeschool community to be a part of, get your children involved in team sports, and plug in to your local library. Many libraries offer amazing opportunities for children, that are both educational and fun!

Some of the best ways to socialize as a homeschooler include:

  • Homeschooling co-ops;
  • Homeschooling support groups;
  • Homeschooling resource centers;
  • Sports teams and other extracurricular activities;
  • Youth groups at your local church;
  • Part-time jobs;
  • Volunteer work; and,
  • Community events.

In fact, some would argue that homeschooled children are more well-rounded and have a unique advantage over their peers because they have more time to explore a wider range of interests. When you develop your homeschool curriculum, remember that socialization can be just as important as any other subject you teach.

What is a Homeschooling Schedule Like?

When you send your child to traditional school, they’re gone for most of the day. Your child can only have a small number of absences, and their day is blocked off in hourly increments for a myriad of subjects until the bell rings.

But what about when you homeschool? How does a homeschool family or homeschool parent structure their day?

The beauty of homeschooling is in the flexibility! That means that so long as you are operating within your state’s regulations (if there are any), you get to decide what works for your family. Some families choose to homeschool year-round, moving at a slower pace throughout the year and taking small breaks here and there. Others take a more traditional approach and mimic the public school calendar, homeschooling from about September to May.

Some families homeschool for a set number of hours each day, while others are more task oriented and finish their school day when the work is done. Students in grade school may complete their work in an hour or two! Some parents find it helpful to keep a rigid schedule, while others thrive on spontaneity and let their child’s curiosity lead the way.

Again, it all depends on what works for you and your child.

The flexible nature of homeschooling allows you to change things up as you see fit. If you have a family trip planned, you can take a week or two off of school. Even better, incorporate some elements of worldschooling by finding fun learning experiences along the way.

Or, if your child is struggling with a particular subject, you can adjust your schedule and spend more time in that area until they feel comfortable.

It may take some time to find a homeschool schedule that works for your family. You might find that your child learns better in the morning, the evening, or in smaller chunks throughout the day. If your personal schedule allows it, don’t be afraid to make some tweaks as often as needed to find the best fit.

What Happens If You Encounter a Subject You Can’t Teach?

It’s okay to admit that you don’t know everything. No one expects you to be an expert in every subject within your homeschooling curriculum. Even certified teachers have to brush up on their curriculum every now and then.

If you feel completely at a loss (like in Algebra, yikes), don’t worry. One of the great things about homeschooling is that you have options. It is not uncommon for parents to need a little extra help once their children advance from elementary school.

Some options include hiring a tutor, enrolling your child in an online course, or joining a homeschooling co-op where each family teaches a different subject.

What Are the Different Approaches to Homeschooling?

Part of what makes homeschooling so unique and beautiful is just that – everyone’s journey is unique and will look different. There are so many ways to homeschool and the right approach for your family will depend on your specific needs and goals.

Some of the most common approaches include:

  • Classical homeschooling;
  • Charlotte Mason homeschooling;
  • Montessori homeschooling;
  • Waldorf homeschooling;
  • Unit studies; and
  • Unschooling.

There are even some new approaches, like worldschooling! Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses, so it’s important to do your research before deciding which one is right for your family.

What Are the Most Common Challenges When Homeschooling?

As they say, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Homeschooling may seem daunting at first because you don’t know what challenges you’ll encounter.

The most common challenges include:

  1. Figuring out the logistics. Obviously, one parent is usually more involved in homeschooling than the other — and they will need to spend a significant amount of time at home. How will you make this work?
  2. Dealing with social pressure. There’s still a lot of criticism out there regarding homeschooling — and a lot of misunderstandings. But remember: You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone. You just have to do what’s right for your family.
  3. Overcoming learning obstacles. There will always be hurdles — at some point, you’ll run into something your child just “can’t” learn or you just “can’t” teach. It may seem like an impossible feat, but where there is a will there’s a way. You just have to be willing to take the time to find it.
  4. Avoiding “burnout.” You’re now a full-time parent and a full-time educator. If you don’t take time and breaks for yourself, it’s very easy to feel that you spend all of your time “doing”, with nothing left for you.
  5. Giving yourself grace. Really, this should probably be number one, because every homeschool parent will face it at some point or another. You’ll compare your kids to the neighbor kids. You’ll question your ability or qualifications to do this. You’ll wonder if you are doing the right thing by homeschooling. Give yourself grace and know that as a parent, you are uniquely qualified to teach your children, and though there will be bumps along the way, you’ve totally got this.

Of course, these are just a few challenges you may face when homeschooling. But remember, every family is different. You may find that you don’t face any of these challenges, or you may face a challenge I haven’t mentioned. Homeschooling isn’t for the faint of heart, but it is worth the work you put in.

What About Extracurriculars?

Sports, music lessons, and other extracurricular activities are just as important for homeschooled children as they are for anyone else. These activities provide opportunities to socialize and learn new skills.

Most homeschooling families find plenty of options within their local community when it comes to extracurricular activities. Some areas even have homeschool teams or sports program especially for homeschoolers. If your area does not have a designated homeschool sports association, your child may be eligible to try out for the team within your public school district.

If you need more ideas, check with your state’s homeschooling association.

Conclusion: Homeschooling Is Not As Hard As It Seems

Though it may seem daunting at first, homeschooling your children doesn’t have to be hard. Once you find a rhythm and get comfortable with how homeschooling works, it can be a really rewarding experience.

Remember: you’ve been teaching your children all their lives. And you will continue to teach them for the rest of yours. Afterall, school started in the home long before there was such a thing as public school. And that was before the miracles of Pinterest and Youtube came along to help!

With a growing community of homeschoolers, advancements in technology, and a vast array of resources, homeschooling is now more accessible than ever before. So, if homeschooling is on your radar, know that you have plenty of support to make it happen.


How many hours a day should you spend homeschooling?

This depends on your family, the age of your child, and the homeschool laws for your state. Some students will learn faster than others and some students will enjoy learning more than others. You should aim to include about 1-4 hours of instruction in your day depending on your circumstances. And remember, those don’t necessarily need to be consecutive hours or hours spent sitting behind a desk.

What are the disadvantages of homeschooling?

Some parents find that homeschooling is simply too complicated and time-consuming. They may decide it is a better fit to send their child to a traditional school and combine that with tutoring and extracurriculars. The primary disadvantage to homeschooling is simply that it requires time and involvement — which you may not have to give.

How do you properly homeschool?

Every kid is different. Some have special needs. Some struggle with specific areas — and others greatly excel. To “properly” homeschool, you should be constantly learning yourself. Join homeschool groups, listen to podcasts, read homeschool books, and keep an open mind. And always make sure you adhere to your state’s homeschool regulations.

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