How Does Home Schooling Work?

In general, a home schooling curriculum must follow a state- or federally-designated course of study that covers topics ranging from reading, writing, science, social studies and art, among others, but the basic subjects offer flexibility in interpretation. States offer varying paperwork requirements, with many necessitating families to formally declare an intent to carry out education at home before beginning.

Paperwork requirements vary by state, but many states compel families to fill out forms to withdraw a student from school, followed by completing an official intent to home-school. Teaching qualifications also differ. In the state of Washington, parents must meet one of four criteria to home-school that range from achieving university credits to working privately with a certified teacher, while Montana has no specific regulations in place.

Home schooling curriculum includes parent instruction either offered alone, or in conjunction with private tutoring, especially for specialized subjects. Hired tutors or teachers may make up the majority of instruction.

Home schooling practices vary by family. Some follow a strict lesson plan that stays in step with the state education curriculum, while others allow curiosity to dominate the student's course of study, following a more flexible interpretation of curriculum standards.

A number of states oblige families to keep records of hours studied in order to fulfil the schooling requirements, and some require annual testing to assess the child's progress in state-mandated topics.