Top Curriculums for Homeschoolers: A Guide
First off I know I am not the only one who is thinking, can you even homeschool your child these days? “Homeschooling is like cooking a meal with whatever random ingredients happen to be in the pantry – it takes creativity and imagination, but you can whip up something pretty delicious if you’re motivated.” I know I am saying it lightly, but it is a monumental responsibility!
According to the UK GOV’s Department of Education parents have a right to educate their children at home, and the government wants the many parents who do it well to be supported. They devote time, financial resources and dedication to the education of their children.
Most parents who take up the weighty responsibility of home education do a great job, and many children benefit from home education. Choosing to educate children at home can represent a resolute and well-informed decision that holds the potential for a remarkably positive impact on their development.
This choice embodies a dedication to fostering an environment tailored to their unique needs and learning styles. By embracing the responsibility of home education, parents are empowered to shape a personalized and holistic learning journey, ingrained with the values and aspirations they hold dear.
This deliberate commitment allows for the cultivation of a strong educational foundation intertwined with the nurturing care that only a home environment can provide. It’s a choice that not only emphasizes academic growth but also underscores the significance of emotional well-being and character development. As parents dedicate themselves to this path, they embark on a remarkable adventure where creativity, curiosity, and close bonds flourish to shape well-rounded individuals ready to thrive and take the world.
However, the past few years have seen a very significant increase in the number of children being educated at home, and evidence suggests many of these children are not receiving a suitable education.
In the United Kingdom
While homeschooling is legal in the UK, parents must register with their local authority. The child will be subject to annual visits.
It is estimated that around 75,000 children are homeschooled in the UK.
Common reasons for homeschooling include religious beliefs, dissatisfaction with the school system, health/medical issues, and children with special learning needs.
Home-educated students can take exams as private candidates and apply to universities using the same procedures as school students.
There are many local and national organizations that provide resources and support for homeschooling families.
In the United States
Approximately 2.5 million students (about twice the population of Hawaii) (3-4% of school-aged children) are homeschooled in the US. The numbers have steadily grown since the 1990s.
Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, but regulations vary significantly between states. Some require no notification; others require curriculum approval.
Common motivations include customizing curriculum, moral/religious instruction, academic excellence, special needs accommodation, and objection to the school environment.
Homeschooled students have access to online classes, co-ops, extracurricular activities, standardized testing, and college prep resources to supplement their education.
Studies show homeschoolers often outperform public school students in testing, graduation rates, college admissions, and more. However, critics argue the data is limited.
Exploring the Different Types of Curriculums and Teaching Methods Available at Home
Traditional textbooks and workbooks – These are standard textbooks, worksheets, and educational materials from major curriculum publishers. They mimic traditional classroom teaching.
Online programs – Complete online curriculums with video lessons, assignments, testing, and record-keeping. Some examples are Time4Learning, Connections Academy, K12.
Unschooling or free-range – Child-led learning based on interests and natural life experiences, without a set curriculum. Learning is self-directed.
Unit studies – Focused study on one topic or concept at a time, integrating multiple subjects. For example, a unit on medieval history could include reading, writing, arts, and science lessons.
Eclectic – Mixing and matching curriculum based on the child’s needs and interests. Using bits from textbooks, online programs, hands-on activities, etc.
Charlotte Mason – Focus on nature study, classic literature, fine arts, and hands-on learning. Less emphasis on worksheets and textbooks.
Montessori – Child-directed learning with specialized Montessori educational materials tailored to developmental stages.
Classical – Emphasis on history, math, logic, science, language, and arts. Includes study of Greek and Latin.
A Beginner's Guide to Free-Range or Unschooling
Free-range or unschooling represents one end of the homeschooling spectrum – a more unstructured approach that gives children autonomy over their learning. With this style, there is no set curriculum. Instead, children follow their interests and learn through everyday life experiences. The child takes the lead in deciding what and how they want to learn.
However, many homeschooling families prefer more structured and traditional curriculums. These may involve textbooks, workbooks, online classes, or unit studies tailored to specific topics.
So while unschooling offers complete freedom, other homeschoolers choose to implement more formal lesson plans using predesigned educational materials and resources.
The homeschooling world encompasses a diverse array of teaching styles and philosophies. But what they share is a desire to take education out of the confines of the typical classroom.
Within this framework, families can choose anything from fully unstructured unschooling to a highly structured curriculum like conventional schooling. There are many shades of gray in between.
What is a Free-Range education
Free Range education is an alternative education movement that emphasizes freedom, creativity, and learning through life experiences rather than traditional classroom settings. It falls under the umbrella of “unschooling“.
The term was coined by British writer John Holt in the 1970s, who believed that formal schooling was restrictive and that children learn better when following their own interests and curiosities.
While not as widespread as in the United States, Free Range education has been growing in England over the past couple of decades. It is legal to homeschool children using informal methods like this.
Families pursue free-range education for reasons like wanting more family time, allowing their child’s specific talents/interests to flourish, and dissatisfaction with the public school system.
Common practices include interest-led learning, travel, household responsibilities, internships, apprenticeships, and learning with other homeschooling families. Rather than a set curriculum, the child’s passions guide activities.
Critics argue it lacks structure and content coverage compared to traditional schooling. Supporters say it allows more personalized, real-world learning that promotes independent and creative thinkers.
There are no firm numbers, but one estimate put about 20,000 homeschooled children in England around 2010, a number that has likely increased. Of those, a portion use Free Range methods.
As an alternative to homeschooling using the Free-range method, there are schools out there that implement it fully or incorporate it into their curriculum.
Here are some examples of schools that incorporate elements of the free-range or unschooling approach:
Summerhill School (Suffolk, England) – Founded in 1921, this pioneering democratic school allows students tremendous freedom to direct their own education. There are few required classes and students collectively self-govern.
Sudbury Valley School (Massachusetts, USA) – Opened in 1968, this non-coercive school gives students complete responsibility for their use of time. There is no required curriculum and students help run the school.
Albany Free School (Albany, New York) – Founded in 1969, this school has no classes, schedules, or grades. Students decide what activities they pursue each day and are responsible for their own learning.
Fairhaven School (Maryland, USA) – Students ages 6-19 actively manage the daily operations of the school. There are no classes or curriculum requirements. Learning is driven by self-motivation.
Leo Libertaire (Manitoba, Canada) – This secular school provides an unstructured environment where students take ownership of their education. There are no classes or grades.
The Circle School (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) – Students have full autonomy over class attendance, activities, and educational direction. The school serves preschool through 8th grade.
While not exclusively free-range, these schools exemplify key principles of student freedom, self-direction, and learning through intrinsic motivation that define the unschooling philosophy. This allows for customized, interest-driven education.
Summer Hill the Legacy of A.S. Neill
Alexander Sutherland Neill was a Scottish educator and author who radically reimagined schooling by founding Summerhill in 1921. Located in Suffolk, England, it became known as the first modern democratic school centered on freedom rather than control. Neill strongly opposed authoritarian styles of teaching, believing they crushed children’s natural curiosity and stifled self-motivation.
At Summerhill, classes were optional, the curriculum unstructured, and students democratically self-governed through school meetings where everyone had an equal vote. Neill trusted in children’s intrinsic will to learn when given freedom.
His approach encouraged them to take charge of their own education, following their interests and talents at their own pace rather than being forced.
While controversial, Summerhill fostered independent learning and creativity. Neill shared his vision in bestselling books like The Problem Child.
His innovative model inspired educational reformers worldwide and helped pioneer the free school movement. Neill aimed to cultivate happy, self-directed students who embraced learning as a joy rather than a chore.
Freedom not Licence “It must be emphasized again and again that freedom does not involve spoiling the child. If a baby of three wants to walk over the table, you simply tell him he must not. He must obey, that’s true. But on the other hand, you must obey when necessary. I get out of small children’s rooms if they tell me to get out” — A.S.Neill
Summerhill School is still operating today nearly 100 years after its founding. Please visit their website https://www.summerhillschool.co.uk/ for more information.
The school continues to operate out of its original location in Leiston, Suffolk England. It utilizes the same campus that was established by Alexander Sutherland Neill in 1921.
It remains committed to Neill’s original philosophy of democratic education. Students retain freedom over their time and studies, with classes and activities voluntary. There is an emphasis on learning through intrinsic motivation rather than coercion.
Twice weekly meetings, open to all staff and students, are held to democratically self-govern the school. Students and staff have an equal vote on rules and policies. This governance model remains a key pillar.
After Neill passed away in 1973, his daughter Zoë Readhead took over as principal for many years. Today, Neill’s great-granddaughter is the head teacher, keeping it a family-run school.
Please comment below if you would like in-depth information on Free Range Educational structure or if you would like a post about the other home-schooling methods written above.
Till next time, Cheerio