So you want to homeschool your children. You have decided that you want control over your children’s education, that it is affordable, and that this movement is growing for a reason. But where do you start? Which books and curricula do you choose?
That's what this article is for. I want to help guide you in the homeschool process.
First, let me say that it can be helpful to look for a good homeschool group. These usually follow a university model of education, where students meet once or twice a week per class and do the rest of the work at home. If you cannot find a good homeschool group near you (or if you want to supplement it), then you need to develop your own educational plan for your children.
You need three things: (1) a method; (2) content; (3) and resources. Another way to think about it is that you need to decide how to teach, what to teach, and where to get it.
Before you decide what you want your children to study, you need to have a methodology of education. Our government educational system is obsessed with method, but they end up overthinking things. They focus on implementing the newest and most innovative methods. Instead, we should just consider how children grow intellectually.
This is why the classical method of education is so great. The classical method uses what is known as the trivium, which consists of three stages—grammar, logic, and rhetoric. The trivium recognizes that young children are best equipped to learn information (grammar). As they grow to middle school age, children develop the ability to reason (logic). Then in high school, they are able to polish their speaking and writing skills (rhetoric).
I believe this is the best method to follow in education, as it goes “with the grain” of a child’s development. Whatever the subject, young children ought to be taught the basics of that subject—such as arithmetic in math, basic facts in science, stories and dates in history, and the alphabet and basic grammar skills in English. If nothing else, young children should learn the basics of reading and writing. These are valuable tools for students as they progress in every subject, and almost every parent can teach their kids these skills. Start with children's books, and then move on to more difficult books, such as the Bible. (This is what people used to teach reading for hundreds of years, and it worked quite well!)
The grammar of a subject ought to receive focus for young children, but it should not be left out of middle school and high school courses. For example, a 12th grade US history course still requires students to learn names and dates. However, middle school and high school courses ought to go beyond the grammar stage. There ought to be a heavy emphasis on reasoning skills for grades 7–9, as students here develop the ability (and often the desire!) to argue. Grades 10–12 should still use reason, but they should build on it through more advanced assignments, such as speeches and essays. This is the how of teaching.
Once of you have decided how you are going to teach your kids, you next need to decide what you will teach. You need to determine what subjects you will teach and how you will progress in them. In other words, you need a plan of study.
The typical subjects studied in schools today are math, science, English, and history. These are good subjects that ought to be studied by all. But I would also add to this language, theology, and other humanities (particularly for high school students). Let’s discuss each subject briefly:
- Math—Children ought to begin with basic arithmetic (addition, subtraction, etc.) and advance into algebra and geometry in high school. Advanced students should study trigonometry and calculus.
- Science—Science covers a wide variety of material, as students seek to understand the natural world. High schoolers ought to focus on the big three of chemistry, biology, and physics.
- English—All ages should cover basic English grammar, reading, and writing. As students develop, they ought to advance in their ability to read and write (a much neglected skill today). High schoolers ought to focus on the great works of literature.
- History—This is a seriously neglected subject today. I believe history should be split into four areas: (1) ancient history; (2) medieval history; (2) modern European history; (4) and American history. They can be condensed for young children, but each area ought to receive a full year of study by high schoolers. Here are some resources for church history in particular.
- Language—I recommend Latin for language study, followed by Greek for later high school. However, any language is better than none. The best modern languages are Spanish, French, and German. Learning a foreign language helps students in their grasp of English grammar, their knowledge of English vocabulary, and their communication skills.
- Theology—Since the Bible is important simply for its role in Western civilization, even unbelievers will benefit from its study. Of course, Christians also believe the Bible is the Word of God. For this reason, the Bible ought to receive detailed study, with systematic theology and apologetics courses also being taught in high school.
- Humanities—Everyone should learn how to think, which means they should take a basic logic course. High schoolers should add to this philosophy, economics, and government. These subjects help students understand the world we live in.
Our modern society desires to emphasize what is called the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, math). Though these subjects are important, they ought not to crowd out a more general education. Most students will not go into STEM fields, and if they do, they can study these subjects further at the college level. A high school education ought to provide students with a well rounded knowledge of the world, and that means students need training in the humanities—literature, history, theology, language, philosophy, and economics. Homeschoolers have a major advantage here because of the neglect of these subjects by most secular schools.
Now you have a better idea of how and what to teach your children—but where do you get the materials for study? This is the most difficult part of homeschooling. It’s also something this site is devoted to, as I make it an aim to review resources for parents. I am continually updating the site and finding new resources to recommend.
There are two ways to get homeschool content. First, there are complete educational programs. The best example I know of is Ron Paul Homeschool. For $250 per year (plus $50 per course), an entire family gets access to this site, which provides video lectures and assignments for all subjects K–12. This is probably the best way to go, as it will be the easiest on parents. The program can be supplemented as parents like. (I also recommend Liberty Classroom for history and economic courses. It is aimed at adults but works well for high school age too.)
The second way to get content is to piece together an entire curriculum. This is a lot of work on parents, as it takes more money and time. However, it can be done, and it has its benefits. Parents can find the best books, videos, and courses for each subject and for every level for their children. And then they can pass down these materials to their younger kids. Parents should also get more efficient at teaching subjects after having taught them before to their older children.
My recommendation would be to use a full program like Ron Paul Homeschool and then supplement it as needed. It’s only $250 per year for an entire family plus $50 per course, and you can sub in other resources that you like. You will probably need to supplement Ron Paul’s program for subjects like language and theology. Look over the recommended resources on this site to help in those areas. There is a homeschool resources page, a host of curriculum posts by category, and a top books page for K–6 and for middle and high school.
Once students get to the high school level, they also have the option of taking courses at a local community college. This is a great idea for courses like calculus, biology, chemistry, or even history.
Homeschooling is not easy. It requires parents to be informed in order to make good educational choices for their kids, and it requires them to work hard in schooling their children. This explains why the majority of parents today pass off education to the so-called “professionals” at the local public school. But this is far too important of a task to simply pass off to others, especially if they are providing a secular education.
The effort put into homeschooling is worth it. It is better to have control over your children’s education than to have others decide what and how your children will be taught. So put in the work, and take advantage of the rich resources out there.