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Homeschooling refers to school-level education done outside of a formal school system, typically in the home, or in a friend's home or a common location with some friends. Homeschooled children may be self-taught, may learn from online videos and instructional materials, may study from parents, may learn from private tutors.
Homeschooling can be very difficult for parents, although some of the difficulty can be alleviated by joining homeschooling communities and using homeschooling websites. Here are some alternatives:
- Online school: Generally available at the middle or high school level.
- Schools for gifted children: These include private schools as well as government-run magnet schools for gifted and talented students.
- Acceleration within the school.
- Gifted and talented education programs within the school.
Options within homeschooling
Homeschooling can run the gamut from unschooling (where the child essentially plots his or her own educational trajectory, and parents and others only provide support and help to the extent necessary) to a curriculum with a comparable level of regimentation to the school system. Option elements include:
- Choice of curriculum (or choosing to have no curriculum at all)
- Choice of homeschooling community with which to pool resources for classes or shared activities (for meatspace activities, this is constrained by geographic location)
- Choice of instructional materials (some people prefer video learning, some prefer books, some prefer personalized instruction, some prefer automated online assessment, some want a combination).
- Choice of instructor for personalized tutoring: Generally, students either self-learn, or parents teach them (with one parent possibly teaching other parents' children within the community). It is also sometimes possible to hire people part-time or full-time for such tutoring, but this tends to be expensive, even more so than private school.
- Choice of external accreditation for courses and for final credit: Homeschooling can be supplemented with course credit from an online school. Homeschoolers also need to investigate what tests they need to take in order to demonstrate competence. The goal is two-fold: (i) avoid the ire of local regulatory agencies, (ii) have a strong application for the next educational or life stage, which typically means college. For more on this, see college admissions for homeschooled students.
Homeschooling and geographical location
There are ways in which geographical location matters more for homeschoolers, and ways in which it matters less. We list both types below.
In general, the geographical regions that are favorable for homeschooling tend to coincide with the geographical regions that are favorable for other students. See the discussion on the page choosing where to live for gifted children for more information.
Ways that geographical location matters more for homeschoolers
- Homeschooling is still a legal gray area in many jurisdiction. At the extreme, it is illegal in Germany, and a German family was recently granted asylum in the US so they could continue homeschooling. Even in places where it is legal, it may be subject to various regulatory requirements. To successfully homeschool without getting in trouble with the law, it may be necessary to investigate homeschooling-friendly jurisdictions.
- Homeschooling often requires coordination and support with other parents and outside tutors, particularly in the case of young kids or in the case of kids whose learning needs exceed what parents and off-the-shelf materials can provide. Where you live can have a huge impact on how easily you can find fellow parents and tutors.
Ways that geographical location matters less for homeschoolers
- People sending their children to brick-and-mortar school have to worry about the difference between geographic areas in terms of the quality and cost of the schools (this includes the quality of the other students at the schools). This is less of a concern for homeschoolers.
Resources on homeschooling tend to be subdivided based on:
- The geographical location of homeschooling: Geographical subdivision is because homeschoolers living nearby may coordinate for shared classes (for instance, a group of homeschoolers may pool resources for tutoring by a particular teacher) and shared social experiences. Geographically close homeschoolers may also deal with similar local regulatory issues.
- The type of curriculum and ability level of the student: The challenges for homeschooling gifted children differ from the challenges of homeschooling for reasons of religious incompatibility with the nearby schools. Both differ from the challenges of homeschooling a student with specific learning disabilities, which in turn differs from the challenges of homeschooling a student with physical disabilities.
We list here some good starting points for general resources as well as resources specific to intellectually and otherwise gifted children. We do not have adequate subject matter knowledge to provide information on other forms of homeschooling.
- Gifted Homeschoolers Forum: The website has extensive resource lists to help homeschoolers get started. They also have an active Facebook group. They also list other organizations here.
- List of local homeschooler support groups on the GHF website. One of the biggest among the list mentioned is the Bay Area Gifted Homeschoolers forum.