What You Really Need (Instead of a Degree) to Homeschool Your Child


Woman with graduation cap

Some families considering home education believe that one of the parents need to have a college or teaching degree to homeschool. They question their abilities or expertise in a certain grade level or subject area.

A teaching or college degree is not needed to homeschool your child in most states. Eleven states require a high school diploma or GED, and Washington requires some college courses or a parent qualifying course.

The eleven states that require a high school diploma or GED are:

  • Georgia
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia

It’s simply not true that a college degree is required. While some background experiences and skills you have may lend themselves better to certain subject areas, there are many different ways to ensure your children have the skills needed to be successful.

In all fairness and transparency, I do have a degree in education. However, those skills and experiences have not translated to the way we provide a home education. There are many educators who would say the same after making the transition to homeschool.

What do you really need to successfully homeschool your child?

State Guidelines for Homeschooling

First, you need to know the requirements from your state regarding homeschool. You could find state specific information on the website HSLDA and your state’s Department of Education website.

There are differences across all states but the majority require a letter or proof of intent to homeschool and periodic testing. Some, not all, may require you to submit attendance, grades and correspond with the local public school system.

Homeschool Instructional Framework

An instructional framework sounds more involved than it really is. It’s basically how and what you plan to teach. This is where a lot of parents get bogged down and stressed when it comes to homeschool decisions, but it can be as simple as “I plan to teach during the day using an all in one curriculum kit” or “I plan to teach in the evening using a free online learning program” or “I plan to teach longer 2-3 days a week using a DIY curriculum and use the other days for trips and independent studies.”

This framework can change over time as you really get to know your child’s learning preferences better. This is a huge benefit of homeschool as you can adjust the curriculum to make it work for your child as opposed to traditional public schooling where it’s more of a “one size fits all” approach.

Some parents choose not to have an instructional framework and instead want full freedom to teach their children about topics as they come along and kids show interest. That is not a framework that works for our family as we need more planning and structure. Still, it should be mentioned that this is a path that some families choose to take.

Homeschool Schedules

There is a lot of freedom and flexibility in a homeschool schedule. This is one of the most appealing aspects of homeschool that is minimal to none in a formal school setting.

  • Freedom with scheduling
  • Freedom to move faster
  • Freedom to move slower

There is no one to tell you when you have to teach certain topics or when/how to test. Still, you will want to have a general daily or weekly schedule that works best with your family, work requirements and your children’s learning styles. It doesn’t have to resemble a traditional school day of specific times, but an overall plan such as the example below will help keep everyone on track. It can be flexible, yet still sets a rhythm for getting school work done.

7:00-8:00- Get dressed/Morning routine

8:00- 8:30- Breakfast

8:30-10:00- Language Arts

10:00-10:30- Break/Play/Snack

10:00-12:00- Math/Social Studies/Science

12:00-12:30- Lunch

12:30-2:30- Electives/Independent Study/Play

Local Homeschool Co-ops and Community Groups

One other important aspect of homeschool is becoming involved with local homeschool co-ops and community groups. You can find these groups on Facebook or through referrals from other homeschool families. Connecting with a local co-op will give families a chance to meet, share ideas and form special friendships.

A rising tide lifts all boats.

John F. Kennedy

Another great aspect of local homeschool co-ops is parents who take turns sharing their skills with the group. Everything from bike repair to milking a cow can be unique lessons among the different parent backgrounds in the group.

Homeschool Record Keeping

The record keeping and paperwork part of homeschooling is minimal for meeting state guidelines, but it’s good to establish a system for documentation that may be needed for colleges or other services.

Everyone’s system may look a little different but I’ll include our record keeping documents below.

DocumentMonthlyQuarterlyYearly
Copy of Letter of IntentX
AttendanceX
Lesson PlansX
Work SamplesX
GradesX
PhotosX
Personal NotesX
Standardized Test ResultsX (Every 3 years)

These stay in a file folder labeled with the year.

For a move back to traditional public school, they will most likely ask for a transcript. That’s a copy of grades and is not really that important until 8th grade, or when high school credits can be earned. Some of the things we keep in records are from the “mom can’t help but save it” side of me.

Once you know the state guidelines, have an instructional framework and a schedule, then you can decide on things like what curriculum you will use, what space will be used in your home and what activities your children will participate in outside of the home. Having a degree is not required for any of these basic components you need to homeschool your children.

Below are some other aspects of homeschooling that do not require a degree.

Extra Patience

Much patience is needed to spend day in and day out with your children in the role of parent as teacher. Everyday will not go as planned and some days will go better than planned. It’s important to stay calm and patient through the ups and downs.

While the hard days are long, it’s also a one of a kind experience. There are many amazing opportunities along the journey. You don’t hear many people who say the time with their children went by too slowly, often it’s just the opposite. The homeschool setting provides more time allows you to take in special moments as they learn new concepts.

Boundaries

Homeschool is very different than having school at home. The rules and boundaries around public school exist because teachers are managing large group of students in a controlled environment. There are expectations for that environment that do not make sense at home.

While the home learning environment is much different, boundaries are still needed to ensure your children stay on track with their learning goals. This looks different because all kids learn differently.

Kids will need time for independent practice and self-directed learning but parents will have to provide the structure and tools kids need to succeed. A student who has been in traditional public school and transitions to homeschool will need to understand that it looks much different than a weekend or holiday did during the school year. They may be upset to learn it’s not pajamas and video games all day!

Planning and progress monitoring

Some families have rigid planning and others do much planning as they go along. Either way, there has to be some time set aside for preparing lessons and monitoring progress.

Having the year “mapped out” helps to speed up the planning process and this is also why some families choose the all in one curriculum kits. Those outline a day by day lesson so a lot of the preparation is already done. There are pros and cons to that system as well but it does help with planning.

Monitoring progress is going more in depth over a subject that your child struggles with before moving ahead to another skill.

It does not require a degree to have the traits that really set up for a successful homeschool experience. The best tool that any parent has is knowing their child’s learning style and likes and dislikes. This helps to create more experiences that a child loves to do and less that they dread.

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