You require art and music but some of your homeschooling friends do not. Their kids take foreign languages instead, but you don’t see the point — at least not until your kids are older. You’ve heard that some families give credit for phys ed and living healthy lifestyles. But then again, you already cover most of that in your practical arts class. And while you don’t want to blindly copy what everybody else is doing, you don’t want to seem like you’re swimming completely against the tide, either. Besides, what if you forget a requirement and don’t even realize it?
Is there really a right way and a wrong way to homeschool? More importantly, are there some courses that are required, or is everything just optional?
Check state laws
Always look first to your homeschooling laws. Though many states do not require a traditional core, some do. If yours is one of those states — at minimum – you’ll need to include those subjects in your annual curriculum plan. Though there is much flexibility in how these requirements are met, the subjects must be addressed nonetheless. When it doubt, consult a homeschooling representative or trusted advisor to be sure you have covered the basics.
A la carte learning
Beyond state requirements, a homeschool course of study is very much ‘a la carte’. What this means is that you may choose what to teach, and when — or even not at all. A la carte learning is one of the very trademarks of homeschooling. Understanding this concept is what turns an ordinary childhood education into an extraordinary lifelong experience.
Do what works for your family
Take the example of Janet, a homeschooling mom who is developing a homeschool program for her 6 kids. Janet learns that state laws require she provide instruction in reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science. She and her husband also determine the children should learn keyboarding and basic household and automotive repair as a part of the yearly curriculum. Based on her research and their personal goals for the children, Janet’s annual homeschooling plan comes out looking something like this:
Now Jenny, in her third year of homeschooling, has a different plan. Where she lives, science and social studies aren’t even required. Though she sees these as important, they may or not be prominently featured in her homeschooling plan this year. Though her laws require citizenship, this area is easily covered through the family’s many civic and church activities already. Opting for a literature-based program, Jenny plans to tackle all of the major subjects as part of a single unit. In this way, all of her children may school together, making sure to touch on any required subjects as they go. She’ll also include any electives the children express a desire to study.
Jenny’s plan looks different from Janet’s. In fact, it may not even look like a traditional plan to some people at all:
By combining required courses with additional ‘a la carte’ learning, the result is a plan that is customized for every student and every family. And with a world full of learning topics to choose from, homeschool plans become as varied and different as the families who use them.
Required or optional? In some cases, perhaps. But requirements aside, by looking at homeschooling as a collection of ‘a la carte’ learning experiences, it is clear how a homeschool education becomes the optimal education for every student!