Are you worried about your ability to teach your children? Do you question whether you have the knowledge and skills? Are you worried that you don’t have the training? Maybe you feel confident with the younger grades but are concerned about the advanced courses in high school. You may be thinking about how successful you were as a student and wondering how you can help your children through that process.
The good news is, you share the same concerns that most homeschool parents have had. However, in most cases, your perception about your abilities is simply not true. The following are four potential myths that may be keeping you from beginning your homeschool journey. Read to see why those barriers may not be as daunting as you once believed:
Potential Myth #1: I am not legally qualified to homeschool.
What qualifications do you need to homeschool? That really depends on the state in which you live. Currently, 36 states in the US have no parent qualifications for homeschooling. Three states—California, Kansas, and New York—require that parents who wish to homeschool be “competent,” “qualified,” or “capable of teaching,” without specific guidelines.
The remaining 11 states—Georgia, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia—have a minimal education requirement for parents wishing to homeschool. Most of these 11 states require a high school diploma or GED in order to qualify to begin homeschooling. Tennessee requires a high school diploma or GED for homeschooling high school students, while Washington requires completion of a course in home-based study or college credits. Even within these 11 states, six states—North Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia—and Washington, DC allow parents without the required high school diploma or GED to bypass homeschool teacher qualifications under certain conditions.
Check your state’s requirements for parent qualifications for homeschooling before proceeding, but you are likely to be surprised to learn that you can meet your state’s qualifications for homeschooling without difficulty.
Potential Myth #2: I do not know how to teach.
If you are not a certified teacher, one of the barriers to homeschooling for you might be your own belief that you are not qualified to teach. In actuality, you have already taught your children many things, both academic and non-academic. Teacher preparation programs are necessary for classroom teachers because teachers do need to understand how learning happens most effectively, but a lot of what teachers learn in those programs deals with teaching within a classroom full of students (e.g., whole-group lesson planning and assessment, classroom management, differentiation). Here are some ways for you to fill in the gaps:
- Consider Packaged Curriculum: Especially when you are starting to homeschool, you may want to consider purchasing or subscribing to a preset curriculum. Boxed curriculum arrives as a single package and contains all the materials you need for a year. If you prefer a more portable form, an online curriculum may be for you. For example, Time4Learning offers a monthly subscription that covers instructional needs for the core subjects at a particular grade level, along with supplemental options (i.e., Time4Writing for additional focused writing instruction). You may want to start with one of these and then determine whether you want to replace or supplement materials for certain subjects.
- Access Teacher Courses or Workshops: Consider boosting your self-confidence and knowledge about teaching by taking classes in person or online. Attend teacher workshops in your community, if they are available, and subscribe to teacher websites.
- Research Specific Teacher Questions: If you don’t have time to take courses or workshops, or even if you do, researching different aspects of teaching can help you grow in a more gradual way as a teacher-parent. Look up learning theories or ways to teach certain information. Find sample lesson plans, experiments, or activities. Seek answers to teaching problems like what to do if a child is not engaged in learning. Information is everywhere!
Potential Myth #3: I cannot homeschool my child.
You have a unique relationship with your children, one that you may not believe can work in a homeschool situation. However, there are children like yours who have succeeded in both traditional school settings and in homeschooling. What you may need to work through are your own expectations for your children as well as what your role as a parent is. Your child’s personality, motivation level, ability to listen, or interest in school are not impassable barriers. You may simply need support from those who have already walked those paths. Reach out to the homeschooling community to see what works when homeschooling a child with similar strengths and challenges.
Potential Myth #4: I cannot do this alone.
The truth is that you don’t have to “do homeschooling” alone. There are many organizations and people who can help. Here are just a few:
- Homeschool Organizations: Try joining a homeschool association or co-op for support, or simply connect with other homeschool parents in your area. Veteran homeschoolers will know your state requirements and have all been where you are now. They can help with all kinds of advice from filing paperwork to how to structure your day. You may be able to find homeschool co-ops or other homeschool parents (informally) who can even teach subjects for which you are less comfortable.
- Homeschool Resources Online: The digital resources available online for homeschoolers is astounding. Whereas homeschooling was a more solitary venture in the past, the Internet has enabled the existence of quite an active online community. Look for everything from online curriculum and courses to advice on recording progress and transitioning to college.
- Schools: In some states, homeschool children can access individual classes at their local school districts. Check your state’s regulations to see if this is an option, particularly when your child enters the more advanced coursework later in the high school grades.
- Personal/Local Network: Don’t forget to access the expertise in your personal or local network. Is there a teacher, tutor, coach, or even family member who can help with a particular subject area?
Self-doubt will happen when you homeschool. You will wonder whether you are covering it all. You will question whether there is a better way to do almost everything. Rather than fall victim to these kinds of thoughts, you need to focus on the fact that there are no perfect lessons—even for certified teachers—and you need to give yourself the gift of trying again. Most of all, remember that you are not alone: You are on this journey with a beautiful child who can help you along the way. Just listen!
Coalition for Responsible Home Education (2020). “Parent Qualifications.” Coalition for Responsible Home Education. Retrieved from https://responsiblehomeschooling.org/policy-issues/current-policy/parent-qualifications/
Huseman, Jessica (2015, August 27). “Homeschooling regulations by state.” ProPublica. Retrieved from https://projects.propublica.org/graphics/homeschool