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What is Homeschooling?

Homeschooling is an alternative to the traditional school-based approach to learning. Under this system, parents educate their children at home instead of sending them to public or private school. Homeschooling has exploded in popularity in recent years, especially after the pandemic forced classes to shift online. The National Home Education Research Institute estimates that over 3.7 million K-12 students were homeschooled during the 2020-2021 school year. In this guide, we’ll talk about how homeschooling works, what the requirements are for homeschooling, and how to get started. 

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How does homeschooling work? 

Homeschooling is a unique educational option that allows parents to oversee their child’s learning experience. Homeschooling situations tend to vary depending on the parent. However, there are a few defining characteristics that all homeschooling setups have in common: 


In homeschooling situations, parents act as one-on-one teachers for their child. While parents are responsible for overseeing their child’s education, they don’t always do 100% of the teaching. It’s common for homeschoolers to take some classes outside the home. Ultimately, though, parents are the primary directors of their child’s education. 

Customized curriculum 

Many parents choose to homeschool their children so they can craft an educational experience that aligns with their family’s values, morals, or religion. Homeschool parents are free to choose a curriculum that suits the needs of the child and the family. The rising popularity of homeschooling has resulted in a variety of online curriculum packages and resources. Just a simple Google search will reveal the many curriculum programs that you can purchase or download for free.

Along with choosing a curriculum, parents also typically adopt a particular educational philosophy that suits their child’s needs. Some of the most common teaching models include classical, leadership education, and interest-led learning. Each model provides a unique educational foundation. The leadership model, for instance, focuses on teaching students how to think instead of what to think. 

Flexible schedule 

Homeschoolers typically operate on a different schedule than traditional students. Parents and children are free to organize their daily routine however they see fit. Some families start school in the morning, while others wait until the afternoon and work into the evening. Additionally, weekly schedules aren’t always Monday through Friday. Families often create their schedules to accommodate the parent’s work schedule. 

Homeschooling parents don’t need to take time for administrative tasks, such as roll call or moving students from one classroom to the next. That means homeschool days are often shorter than typical public or private school days. Homeschoolers also have freedom over the structure of their school year. While many follow the traditional school calendar, others “go to school” year-round and simply take off during specific weeks when they need breaks. 


A homeschool education is primarily home-based, but that doesn’t mean all learning is done at home. Families usually set aside time for field trips or outside-the-home classes and activities. Some families even adopt mobile versions of homeschooling. Roadschooling, boatschooling, and worldschooling have all gained popularity in recent years. 

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Must comply with state laws

While homeschooling offers a lot of flexibility to create a unique learning environment, parents must still comply with their state’s laws. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, but regulations vary between states. For instance, some states require students to pass standardized tests at regular intervals. In other states, parents must get approval on their curriculum. It’s also common for states to require a certain number of home instruction hours each year. Meanwhile, some states have little to no homeschooling regulations. For additional information, has put together a great guide about individual state homeschooling laws.

How do I start homeschooling? 

In most states, parents do not need any qualifications to become homeschool teachers. Even among the states that do regulate homeschool teachers, the requirement is usually a high school diploma or GED. Most of the time, the biggest requirement to becoming a homeschool teacher is the desire to do so. 

For parents with young children who have never attended a traditional classroom, they can begin homeschooling their child once they turn school age. But for parents who want to withdraw their kids from public or private school, the process is slightly different. They must write a letter of withdrawal to the school principal or local superintendent, describing their intent to begin homeschooling their child. After that, parents continue the process by following their district’s specific guidelines. 

Frequently asked questions about homeschooling 

How are homeschooling programs funded? 

The majority of homeschool programs are privately funded by the parent(s). Although a lot of parents pay out-of-pocket for learning materials, there are some financial aid options for homeschoolers. For instance, some states offer funding for homeschool programs. This is especially true for special needs students. In North Carolina, disabled students enrolled in homeschool programs can qualify for $8,000 per year. For additional information, consult this complete guide to funding options for homeschooling.

Do homeschooled kids take standardized tests? 

It depends on the state. Some states require homeschoolers to take end-of-year standardized tests, while others do not. Even in states that do not require standardized testing, some homeschoolers participate in annual testing anyway. This usually happens when parents want an update on their child’s academic progress, or when they want to prepare for tests like the SAT and ACT.

Can you be homeschooled and still go to college? 

Absolutely. As homeschooling has become increasingly popular, more and more colleges have begun to recognize the validity of a homeschool education. Some colleges have even begun actively recruiting homeschoolers through state conventions and targeted information sessions. The key thing to keep in mind is that the application process looks different for homeschooled students. Learn more about applying to college as a homeschooler in our guide to applying to college as a homeschooler.

See also: Scholarships for homeschoolers 

Do homeschoolers do better or worse than traditional students? 

It depends on who you ask. There have been several studies over the years comparing the academic performance of homeschooled students to traditional students. However, the results have been controversial. Homeschool advocates typically cite two large U.S. studies (Rudner, 1999 and Ray, 2009) as definitive evidence that homeschoolers academically outperform public and private school students. Both studies demonstrated that homeschooled students achieve higher test scores. 

However, critics argue that the results of such studies are skewed. Neither study relied on a random cross-section of homeschoolers. In fact, participants were selected from a particular subgroup of the homeschooling population — families who subscribed to a fee-based testing service. These kids were more likely to have high-income, well-educated parents. Not surprisingly, their test scores were much higher compared to the average scores of public school students from all income levels and family backgrounds.

Ultimately, it’s hard to say for sure whether homeschooling leads to higher academic achievement. Families should make the decision whether to adopt homeschooling according to the individual needs of students and their parents. While it may work out great for some families, it might not be the right decision for others. 

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