Which method of homeschooling is the most successful?
June 18, 2011 3:52 PM   Subscribe

Which method of homeschooling is the most successful?

What is the most academically rigorous curriculum available? What format has the best success rate? (online, DVD, etc...) What expenses are involved? (I assume it would be cheaper than private school.) I value education very highly and want to offer my children the best when they reach school-age. (They are currently 3 and 6mo.) I am not decided on whether to homeschool or not, but would appreciate any insights that you may be able to offer. Thank you for your time. Have a great day!
posted by gibbsjd77 to Education (11 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
There really aren't any answers to this question. The genius of homeschooling is that it permits parents to tailor their curriculum to each individual child, taking into account the learning styles, interests, and abilities of each. There is no one-size-fits-all here. Sure, there are some package curricula available, but there's no telling whether any of them are going to be right for your kids, and what works for one may not work for the next. There are also varying concepts of what constitutes "academic rigor," so that isn't a question that actually admits an answer.

Really, what you're going to need to do here is make decisions about your own educational philosophy. You get to decide what your kids are going to learn, but more than that, how they're going to learn it. What one family considers to be the gold standard for subject X may actually be completely at odds with the way you think about said subject. For example, the Saxon math curriculum is pretty well known and gets a lot of use, but it relies pretty heavily on rote memorization. The Jacobs books, on the other hand, involve less memorization and more conceptual work. You'll need to decide which you think is more appropriate, both in general and for your particular kids. There is actually a bit of a discussion about the advantages of each.

It would also probably be a good idea to get connected with the local and/or state homeschooling community. Such communities are predominantly but not exclusively religious, so that may be something you need to navigate. As a result, many of the curricula available are at least religiously oriented, if not explicitly religious in their content. But there are curricula produced by religious organizations which don't include much in the way of religious content, so don't write off a book based on the publisher until you've actually checked it out.
posted by valkyryn at 4:10 PM on June 18, 2011 [5 favorites]

This is much, much bigger than an AskMe question can hope to address. I mean, I don't even know what you consider homeschooling - I don't ever include online charter schools, but a lot of people do.

My mom did our homeschooling in a hybrid fashion - we had everything from A Beka history books (not recommended) to Saxon Math to Hooked on Phonics to junior college bookstore finds. It cost about $1500 a year for the three of us kids, which is, from what I gather, on the low end of what a lot of people do. My stepcousin Chip and his wife built their kids a schoolroom in a spare bedroom, complete with a couple of chalkboards. My friend Craig "homeschools" through a church academy - his kids go to school once a week to get things graded and to do group work and such.

We had to buy our own everything - paper, pencils, computers, desks, books, Mystic Seaport memberships, the whole nine yards. This was fifteen years ago (for me) so the online stuff was largely incidental; today (if I were teaching me) I'd stick with the hybrid thing but rely a lot more on YouTube and a lot less on whatever PBS chose to sponsor. This is because I know how to do it, and am comfortable with it, and it worked well for me. If I had to educate my youngest sister on my mother's side, I'd send her to public school.

In any case, I really suggest you talk to a lot of different people and read a lot of books and websites before making any real decisions.
posted by SMPA at 4:12 PM on June 18, 2011

We have used unschooling and it has been very successful for our family. The Unschooling Handbook has been very useful. Depending on how you choose to live and learn, unschooling could be considered very economical (or free, depending on how you look at it). In looking at these, and other unschooling resources, particularly in contrast to other homeschooling programs, I think you might begin to appreciate how broad the answers to your questions might be. You might use that as a springboard to ask more specific questions.
posted by kch at 4:24 PM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

This will sound adversarial but it is not meant to be: When you say that you value education, and that you want to offer your children the best, it's possible to read that as, "I want my kids to go to Ivy League schools in the end." If that's what you mean, I have nothing to offer.

On the other hand, if what you meant is, "I want to lead my children out of ignorance and guide them to be rational, compassionate people," my advice is the same as kch's: unschooling. It seems incredible to most people and, to be honest, I still don't know how it happens, but allowing the child to pursue his or her own path is incredibly fruitful.

This is a topic I'm more than happy to talk about, memail me if you have questions. A place to start, although I suspect you must already have read it, is John Holt's Teach Your Own.
posted by bricoleur at 5:24 PM on June 18, 2011

The thing about home schooling is that if you set out to replicate regular school at home, you might as well send them to regular school. The beauty of homeschooling is being able to do things differently-and the best way to homeschool is to find the methods that work best with each individual child.

Unschooling, unit studies, Trivium, etc....there are many philosophies. I would start out by reading this book. I think if I were you I would investigate the Charlotte Mason method as well.

I personally used Saxon Math when I was homeschooling and liked it, but I would use something else for K-2nd grade myself.

You might also want to contact a local homeschooling group and talk to someone who has successfully schooled for a long time. They may have some good recommendations.

Finally, it's wonderful that you are thinking about this. Let me encourage you by letting you know that when my son was at USAFA one of his roommates had been homeschooled totally thru the 12th grade. I know other homeschoolers who have gone on to college and done extremely well. These days a lot of colleges are looking for homeschoolers as they have learned that many of them make fantastic college students.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:51 PM on June 18, 2011

The thing about homeschooling is that it's about figuring out what's best for your particular kids, and in that respect, there's no definitive answer to questions like "most rigorous" curriculum, because that's going to depend entirely on how you and your kids define rigorous. There are homeschooled kids who get into Ivies and homeschooled kids who can't.

I wasn't homeschooled, exactly. But I grew up in a house full of books (all kinds of books), with no restrictions on what I could pluck off the shelves. There were weekly trips to the library; there were trips to museums that were fun; going to the beach (I grew up in Hawaii) sparked questions about anemones and fish and waves, which meant more trips to the library (yay!). If one or both of your kids does better in a traditional educational setting, that doesn't mean that you won't have opportunities to homeschool, because you will.
posted by rtha at 6:52 PM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Homeschooling: A Patchwork of Days and Homeschool Open House by Nancy Lande are both great resources. They both feature first-person narratives from a wide variety of homeschooling families--various philosophies, materials, curriculums, and results. Both books offer a great exposure to the many homeschooling options that are out there.
posted by bookmammal at 6:59 PM on June 18, 2011

People I know spend in a wide range. I spend a few hundred dollars a year on homeschool supplies, though there's a lot of stuff you could consider homeschooling or not depending on your view (the Snap Circuits? All that Lego? Trips to museums?). I have friends who focus on spending as little as possible, and get all their books from the library and worksheets from sites that have free stuff, and friends who buy expensive curriculum. A friend of mine whose kids were in school this year for the first time said that having kids in public school actually cost her more than she spent on homeschooling, because of the assorted fees for various things. I do think it's cheaper than private school tuition.

As far as the best method, every year or so the homeschooling families I know have a curriculum show and tell/sale. One of the themes of conversations at that get-together is how common it is for people to end up using different methods with different kids. The math curriculum that works great with one kid is a bad fit for the next one, for instance. I also know a lot of families (including my own) that move through various methods over the years, or mix things up and modify them--I'm not sure I know a single family that subscribes strictly to a single curriculum. You'll hear people say things like, "We're sort of Charlotte-Mason-ish," or "We're using Sonlight for the literature but secularizing it" and that sort of thing.

A website I like is homeschoolreviews.com, which is a good place to get people's thoughts about various curricula, though it suffers some from people posting reviews too soon (when a curriculum is new and they're excited about it). And of course for everything you'll see a mix of "this was perfect!" and "this didn't work for my daughter at all."
posted by not that girl at 11:01 PM on June 18, 2011

the best success rate?

You're going to have to define 'success', first.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:13 AM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not only is there no single answer to this question, it's not even going to be the same for both your kids. Your kids are two different people, thus the ideal educational style for them will be different. And the answer will probably change as they grow. What works in grades 1-3 may not be the answer as they get older. Hell, one of your kids may be better off going to school. What defines success may be very different for them. One kid may be inclined to follow the traditional academic success path as we define in the US. The other kid may want to be a plummer, in which case success will look very different to him.

We started with following the classical education model, and it worked well when the kids were elementary age. But as they got older their interests in what they wanted to study and the classical model diverged, so we dropped it and gradually drifted to a much more unschoolish approach.

I did an Ingnite presentation on homeschooling (self-link) just a couple of weeks ago. It may help you get your head around what homeschoolling is.

But really, my biggest piece of advice is this.

Relax. Your kids can't even walk yet. You have 4 years to figure all this out.
posted by COD at 6:11 AM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Agreeing with all the above, plus: see if you can attend a large homeschool convention, and promise yourself that you WON'T SPEND ANYTHING (unless it's on toys) the first time. It's easy to overspend, and the vendors will do their best to make you feel you're doing your child a disservice without their product. You need time to make notes on what's interesting to you, then go home and read reviews. Plan to see as many of the seminars as you can. You'll hear lots of great ideas and success stories.

Join a homeschooling group before you need it. Watch the older kids learning and succeeding, so you'll have confidence when strangers (and well-meaning family members) challenge your decision.

Know your kids. Not all children will thrive with the same learning experience. And the same child's experience can vary over the years. Example: My son liked the public school math books, which were bright and colorful, so we used those for 1st and 2nd grade (I bought them new from a teacher supply store). The pace was too slow, and I wasn't comfortable "offroading" from the text yet in math, too afraid he'd miss a core skill. We used Singapore Math (purchased at convention) for 3rd grade, but found that there wasn't enough repetition to retain skills until year end. We switched to Saxon Math for 4th grade. My son liked the matter-of-fact, clean presentation and repetition, but the pages were dull, so I spent a lot of money and time putting stickers and writing jokes on each lesson. For the last two years (6th and 7th) he's self-taught from the Saxon books. I'm here to answer questions if he gets stuck, and to check his answers. He likes to do 2 or 3 lessons in a single day and have other days with bigger blocks of free time. He's almost 13; I let him do the scheduling because I think this is such a crucial life skill.

In addition to evaluating your educational philosophy, please also evaluate your disciplinary philosophy. Then when you do look at groups to join with, you can decide which have similar goals and expectations.

My son went to public school for kindergarten, and hated it. He does much better socially and academically in our homeschool environment. There are lots of support groups and activities available here in SFL. Other areas may have a more challenging time. Are you someone who needs a lot of social interaction? Check your local groups for size/attitude before making this decision.

On specific materials: I like the history and language lessons from Peace Hill Press. Largely secular, classical education style; the history has great hands-on-activities well-suited for young learners. We primarily unschool for literature, using whatever living books we choose (Lord of the Rings right now). Florida Virtual School for science, in addition to Netflix and many science museums. We also maintain a garden and participate in wild animal rehab... it's all homeschooling. We MAY pay less than private schools, but this fall we're touring Civil War sites, so I think it'll be close.
posted by theplotchickens at 10:17 AM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

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