Yesterday I gave six reasons why parents should consider homeschooling, or at least getting their children and teens out of the public school system.
But for most people, this doesn’t seem possible. If you and your spouse both work or you’re a single parent, you simply cannot stay home and teach the kids. Or perhaps you don’t feel qualified to teach them.
Private school is expensive and doesn’t actually solve all the problems with standard schooling models.
Usually, homeschool conjures images of children sitting around a table, doing schoolwork, as if transported from public school to a home environment. Maybe they are wearing Amish-style clothing and referring to their parents as Ma and Pa.
Let’s leave that image behind.
The entire point of removing your offspring from public schools is to benefit them.
So first off, do they even want to stop attending public school? If the answer is no, then that is where you need to start. Forcing them to part with friends and teachers they like, and activities they enjoy will seem just as oppressive as the public school itself. It would miss the point of giving them back their freedom to use their own time as they see fit, and personalize their studies.
But that’s another whole subject. For this list, let’s assume your child or teen loves the idea of getting the hell out of that dystopian institution called public school.
Now the question is, what are they interested in? This will vary wildly. For some students, it will be obvious where they will channel their interests and energy. For others, it will require some digging to spark the first interest that can replace the wasted classroom hours.
You don’t have to be a genius professor. You just have to be a supportive facilitator of their own natural quest for knowledge. That knowledge does not have to come directly from you. But the tools and will to find and explore their passions might.
Keep in mind that some states have requirements for testing and other proof that students are learning enough from homeschool.
But 27 states have minimal or low requirements for homeschoolers. The stricter requirements of the other 23 states can generally be completed using online resources in a relatively short amount of time.
These should be minor obstacles compared to 30 hours per week in school, plus homework and studying. No matter where you live in the USA, homeschooling can still increase the student’s freedom to tailor their education better for their individual needs.
I use the term homeschool, but feel free to substitute “unschool.” That means you aren’t designing a lesson plan so much as allowing them to pursue their own interests.
Let’s start with the most obvious and simple solution.
Are these young adults we are dealing with, who could be left home alone?
Obviously, this won’t work for everyone.
But there is some percentage of parents out there who have teens that are A) capable of looking after themselves while you are at work, B) responsible enough to direct their own studies and, C) won’t get into trouble.
Of course, you’ll still want to make sure they aren’t lonely or bored.
As I said, this won’t work for every situation. But there are certain teens who would be thrilled with and thrive under these circumstances.
The whole point of exiting the public school system is to tailor the situation to best fit the individual student.
So if you think this might work, figure out a plan together.
$25 per hour, six hours a day, five days a week is $750 per week. For 36 weeks per year, that comes to $27,000 per year.
Sounds like a pretty good part-time gig for the right tutor. But that is way too expensive for most families to afford (although about the same price as sending two high schoolers to private school).
But could you afford that if you split it with another family? What about two or three other families?
For three families with three children each, that comes out to just $3,000 per child, per year. That is far below the cost of tuition at a private school, and far below the cost for an individual tutor.
Yet the tutor’s time, divided among 9 students means each child gets 40 minutes of individual attention each day–over 3 hours per week.
Compare that to public schools, where class sizes are routinely over 20 students each. A public school student will be lucky to get any individual attention from a teacher.
Kids will be able to pursue their own interests but have a resourceful adult to guide them when they need help. The tutor could also offer specific lessons if you aren’t convinced an entirely self-guided education would work.
And this would solve the age grouping issue we discussed yesterday. It is more beneficial for children and teens to spend time with people that are not all the same age as them.
And this plan has ample room for modification and expansion. Pool money for a van for field trips. Have the tutor deliver kids to afternoon extracurriculars. Or rotate with other parents to be home a couple hours earlier to watch the kids.
Not that you necessarily need to supervise your children 24/7. Maybe that’s a job better fit for one of the older students–and for less than $25 an hour.
A homeschool cooperative is where multiple homeschool families join together to trade responsibilities for educating their kids.
This could mean that each day, sessions are held at a different home. If you have five families involved, and everyone takes one day of the work week, then you could work four full days each week, and still perform your homeschool duties.
Maybe you know a homeschool parent that would be willing to supervise your kids during the day, in exchange for supervising their children nights and weekends.
Or perhaps your work is flexible, and you can work out a schedule with other homeschool parents.
Remember, homeschooling should not be super labor intensive. The idea is to let the children and teens free-range, and find what they are interested in. Let them come to you with questions instead of insisting that they learn specific lessons.
Start looking in your area for already existing groups for co-op homeschooling. Check social media, local churches, or community centers. They may already have a structure that works for you. Or you might meet the right people to partner with for a new arrangement.
Do some networking, make some friends, and you might find that there is a robust community ready to help liberate you and your child from public schools.
It’s not like homeschooling takes constant attention. It’s not about drilling facts into your student’s head. And if you have to stand over them and force them to work, you’re doing it wrong.
This entire philosophy of learning is that kids and teens should be pursuing whatever they find most interesting. It’s not about checking off the boxes–math, social studies, literature.
Maybe one day they decide to read all day, and another they build ramps for their skateboard. Even the occasional full day of video games isn’t a big deal.
The challenge for homeschool parents is setting up the proper environment. You can’t just sit a kid in an empty room and expect them to learn something.
But you could work remote and be there for them, without requiring constant attention.
If you already work from home, or have that option, problem solved.
Maybe this is the perfect time to pursue those crazy dreams you’ve always had of starting a business, becoming a freelancer, or self-employed.
With most of these ideas, your kids have to be on board and excited. That’s kind of the whole point… you are allowing them to pursue their own interests.
And sometimes those interests will align with yours.
Starting a physical or remote business requires a broad range of skills. And doing is the best way of learning.
Check out our article on the 18 Best Skills for the Gig Economy and Financial Freedom to get some ideas on what might interest you or your teens.
More and more people are becoming self-employed freelancers every year. If this is something you have considered, see if your kids or teens might be interested in helping you make the leap.
They will be able to complement your business with their talents and interests.
That could mean graphic design, product research, advertising, website maintenance, or physical maintenance. They might help you with manufacturing, public outreach, or social media.
You might need photography or video production to get your business going.
If you aren’t ready to leave the security of your full-time job behind, maybe your teen wants to start freelancing or begin a home-based business.
Start by looking for gigs on Upwork, Freelancer, or Fiver. Whatever interests your teen, chances are they can find a demand for that skill online.
Millions of Americans make a living this way, and even a number of young people have produced enormously successful companies in their teen years.
At least they will be training for the modern economy, instead of wasting time in public school.
The best way for kids to learn is to do something productive in the real world. Young teens can handle the responsibilities of working.
And despite what the media might portray, they get satisfaction from being useful. Earning money ain’t so bad either.
Reward your teen if they can find their own internship. This means it will be more tailored to their interests, and part of the lesson will be convincing a business to take them on.
The trick here is to get around restrictive labor laws. 14 and 15-year-olds are generally prohibited from working during school hours, or more than 3 hours per school day, and more than 18 hours per school week.
That is why an unpaid internship might be necessary.
Or maybe you are able to find someone who is willing to do some “creative scheduling.”
The internship, say, lasts from 12-3, and work from 3-6. Instead of getting paid $8/hour for 6 hours, they could get paid $16/hour for 3 hours.
Of course, you could always go under the table–I think civil disobedience is a great lesson itself.
But you will have to take into account the risk to you, the employer, and the student. Don’t do anything that would get more than a slap on the wrist if you got caught.
Or if you have the right employer, take your kid to work. Let that be their internship. Let them lighten your load, or fulfill the office odd-jobs. Start a trend–this could be a great way to connect with your teens, and give them something useful and fulfilling to do.
It will certainly lead to overall more productivity for you, and great skills training for the teen.
And then you can reward them for their hard work on your own terms.
Get creative. Isn’t that what education is all about anyway?
For instance, you can throw a tutor into the mix for specific lessons or specialization for a couple hours each week. Or your student could take a couple classes at a community college.
Maybe your teen will work a part-time job or internship but also have some free time home alone without your supervision.
Maybe your new home-business involves taking on responsibility for other homeschoolers in town, leading the co-op.
Perhaps you have some flexibility with work, could work remote sometimes, or shuffle hours to better fit a homeschool schedule.
You could do the co-op, and then hire a tutor to fill in any gaps where no parents are available to supervise and act as a resource.
There are too many variables to prescribe the perfect plan. And once again, that is the entire point of removing your offspring from the factory one-size-fits-all public school system.
If your teen wants to get out of public school, task them with coming up with a plan.
Let them tailor their education to their own needs. Spend some time planning with your children and teens, and find out what would really make them thrive.