Traditional homeschool parents select a curriculum which they follow throughout the year. There are tons of different curriculum choices available, with some more structured and some more of a loose guideline for parents. Curriculum choices can be tailored to suit religious or other preferences. Many areas offer homeschool conventions where parents can come and see first-hand what the different curriculum options are and get help deciding what would work best for their family.
Another homeschooling option is called unschooling. Unschooling does not involve curriculums or lesson plans. Instead, the unschooled child is encouraged to pursue knowledge about whatever he or she is interested in it and all of life is viewed as a learning opportunity.
With advances in technology, a new method of schooling has evolved that is a mixture of homeschool and traditional public school. Virtual academies allow children to follow public school curriculum while learning within their own homes and often on their own schedules. While some parents do not like the idea that the public school system determines what your child is expected to learn during the year, other parents love knowing that their child is learning the same things that their public schooled peers are learning. In addition to providing the curriculum, many virtual academies also supply students with learning supplies including books, science material, art supplies, and even computers in some cases.
For parents who feel overwhelmed with curriculum options or unsure about their ability to teach their child, virtual academies can be a great way to test the waters. The child is assigned a virtual teacher who helps ensure that the child is on track for the year and to help assist with any challenges or questions that the families may encounter. They also offer field trips throughout the year so parents can connect with other homeschool families. While there are many potential benefits to participating in a virtual academy, there are also some drawbacks, especially for families of certain belief systems. It is also not uncommon for a virtually schooled family to learn that they are not welcome to join their local homeschool group, as some feel that virtual schooling should not be considered homeschooling, but rather public-schooling-at-home.
When considering your homeschool options it will always be critically important to consider your child, his or her learning style, your family values, and your teaching style or preferences. In addition to those core concerns, it can be helpful to determine how much time you want to spend on lesson plans, what your views are with standardized tests (if your student will be required to take them), what your state laws are, the future educational goals of your child, and what your social support group is like. Being involved in a local group or being part of a virtual network of families can be a tremendous source of support as you begin your homeschooling journey.
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