Homeschool Graduation Requirements: What Do You Need to Graduate?

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Deciding to homeschool through high school is a great choice. However, it can be confusing thinking about high school homeschool graduation requirements. What do you need to graduate? How do you graduate if you’re homeschooled? Do homeschoolers get a diploma?

Keep in mind that each state has its own specific graduation requirements, but there is also general knowledge helpful for homeschool parents and potential graduates. 

As you navigate homeschool graduation diploma requirements for your child, you may begin wondering if you have enough information. Whether you are homeschooling high school for the first time or you have a middle schooler quickly approaching high school, today we will look at some of the most important considerations regarding homeschool graduation requirements.

Homeschool Graduation Requirements: What Do You Need to Graduate?

How Do You Graduate High School If You're Homeschooled?

Knowing your state's homeschool laws is extremely important. Just as each state has its own homeschool laws, each state also has its own set of requirements. HSLDA is an excellent resource for discovering what your state’s homeschool laws are. Armed with those details, you can make a 4-year plan of study that makes the most sense for your high schooler. 

The HSLDA website’s color-coded map indicates how strict that state’s homeschooling requirements are. For example, in one of the more strict states, Pennsylvania, the requirements are as follows:

  • Option 1: Homeschooling under the homeschool statute.
  • Option 2: Homeschooling with a private tutor.
  • Option 3: Enrolling your child in a satellite of a religious day school.
  • Option 4: Enrolling your child in a satellite of an accredited day or boarding school.

In one of the less strict states, Nevada, their requirements are as follows:

  • English (including reading, composition, and writing), 
  • Math, 
  • Science, and 
  • Social Studies (including history, geography, economics, and government).

Homeschool high school graduation requirements do vary a lot by state, so make this your starting point for any decisions you make about working towards homeschool graduation. 

What Tests Do Homeschoolers Take To Graduate?

How do you get your high school diploma if you’re homeschooled? There is no nationwide test that’s required to earn a high school diploma or homeschool graduation certificate, although some states may require standardized testing during the high school years. A homeschool student can simply follow the high school requirements by state in order to graduate. 

Grade point average (GPA) is a common way to grade in high school that combines grades from all classes into a single score. Do homeschoolers have a GPA? There are many different ways to grade your student’s work, and they are all acceptable. For more in-depth help on the various methods for giving grades read A Homeschooler's Guide to Giving Grades.

Homeschool Graduation Requirements: Guidance By State

If you’re wondering who makes the graduation requirements, it’s the state. Since university admissions can be one of the hardest parts of the high school experience, it can be helpful to follow the public school's suggested course for graduation. Below you will find an overview by state of high school graduation requirements.

Homeschool Graduation Requirements: What Do You Need to Graduate?

Does Harvard Accept Homeschoolers?

While many homeschoolers dream of attending an Ivy League college, keep in mind that this is a very competitive aspiration. Homeschoolers are held to the same standards as other applicants. Harvard’s admission website outlines the requirements as such:

“There is no formula for gaining admission to Harvard. Academic accomplishment in high school is important, but the Admissions Committee also considers many other criteria, such as community involvement, leadership and distinction in extracurricular activities, and personal qualities and character. We rely on teachers, counselors, and alumni to share information with us about an applicant's strength of character, his or her ability to overcome adversity, and other personal qualities.”

So based on this explanation, it seems that yes, Harvard does accept homeschoolers.

Do Colleges Accept Homeschoolers? 

Everyone’s homeschool journey is going to be different, but homeschooling does not need to be an obstacle to college! Yes, colleges accept homeschoolers. In fact, most colleges love homeschoolers! There are many more viable college choices beyond Harvard or other Ivy League schools.

While it is up to each state to help to determine high school graduation requirements, most colleges also have their own criteria. Some colleges also require placement testing, to test academic skills for each child. 

In your exploration of the college admissions process, spend time highlighting the pros and cons of popular universities. Once your child has clarity surrounding their post-education goals, you will need to check the minimum requirements for high school graduates entering a particular school. Many homeschoolers find community colleges, technical schools, trade schools, or vocational schools to be wonderful considerations. They, too, are often excited to accept homeschoolers.

How Do Homeschoolers Get High School Credits?

There are several ways homeschool students can earn high school credits, including elective credits.

Create Your Own Homeschool High School Transcript

A homeschooler doesn’t need to go to a public high school or a private school to get a high school transcript. You, the homeschool parent, create the transcript for your senior. On it, you make a year-by-year listing of subjects covered during those high school years and the credit assigned for each course. 

For instance, here are just a few you could list as high school courses:

When you look up the state's requirements, you can come up with a 4-year plan based on those requirements. Then, you can start the process of assigning credits for each course. Courses generally earn credit based on course content, minutes of instruction time, and the amount of coursework your student completed.

What should be included in the transcript? 

  • Student and school information
  • Courses taken, credits earned, and grades received
  • Total credits and GPA
  • The graduation date
  • A grading scale
  • A signature and date

Request your free copy of Sonlight’s Homeschool High School Transcripts ebook for a step-by-step tutorial on creating a transcript for your homeschooler. 

What’s Another Way To Calculate Credit For Homeschooled High School Students?

A basic 150 hours of school a year. This also translates into 36 weeks of a 50 minute a day class. 

What Percentage Of Homeschoolers Go On To College?

As a homeschooling family, you know homeschooling through high school offers many benefits.

But what benefits does homeschool offer for those headed to college? The percentage of homeschoolers who continue on to college is one. Because of the homeschool graduation requirements, the number does depend on which state your child is in. 

But according to the study by Dr. Brian Ray, “74% of homeschool graduates aged 18 to 24 had taken at least some college classes while only 46% of the general population in that same age bracket had done the same.”  

What about graduating early? Can you graduate faster in homeschool? The answer is yes! It does depend on the child and your homeschool structure, but it is possible. You can save a lot of time and energy by taking advantage of the flexibility that homeschooling offers.

How High School Graduation Requirements Have Changed

High school graduation requirements for homeschoolers have changed a lot in the last ten years. Ten years ago, if you did not meet the high school graduation requirements, you had to take the General Education Test (GED), a group of four tests that is essentially the equivalent of a high school diploma. Now there are other options according to the state in which you live.

It seems the previously rigid requirements surrounding high school graduation for homeschoolers have passed. Generally speaking, the requirements now reflect the desires of schools, teachers, and society to allow students to succeed while exploring their interests. 

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Meet Your High School Homeschool Graduation Requirements By Using Sonlight

At Sonlight, we are committed to providing high school students with a one-of-a-kind, robust personal learning experience all the way to high school graduation. We understand your needs regarding your child's high school education and have the most comprehensive, advanced high school curriculum that will meet your teen’s needs.

Sonlight also offers college prep courses that let upper-level students think critically and perform well on college entrance exams. In the process, they discover their interests, follow their dreams, and make a difference in their world. Advanced Placement (AP) courses are a great way to bridge the transition between homeschooling high school and college. We want every student to be fully prepared for college, the workplace, or any other profession or place God has called them to.

Let Sonlight guide you through these final years before your child becomes a homeschool high school graduate.

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One Sonlight HBL with Multiple Kids: Sharing the Readers

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Combining multiple children into the same History / Bible / Literature (HBL) level can be a major time, money, and brain saver for a homeschool parent, but there are a few logistics to figure out. One is how to handle the Readers. 

An HBL has two kinds of books: Read-Alouds that the parent reads to the children and Readers that are designed for children to read independently. When combining multiple children in one HBL, it’s easy to read Read-Alouds to the entire group, but Readers are a bit more complicated

It is important to note that in HBL levels K, A, B, and C, the Readers are based on reading level. It is best if you place your child in the appropriate level based on reading skill, so you may have different readers because of this. Here you can give your child the reading assessment to find the appropriate see what reader level is best for your child. 

Because I have three children in the same HBL using the same level of Readers, I have tried all of the following strategies. 

1. Share Readers by Taking Turns or Creative Scheduling

Sharing Readers could be handled several different ways. Your children could alternate reading one paragraph out loud. By passing the book back and forth, they can share the book in real time.

Unfortunately, my kids cannot share a Reader simultaneously because they have different reading speeds and become frustrated. Instead, we use a Reader rotation that staggers reading time throughout the day. 

My children work on each subject for about 20-30 minutes or until it is completed. If one child gets done before the other that is okay, they can work on other table work, draw, or have quiet free time.

Here is what our schedule looks like:

TimeChild 1Child 2Child 3
10:00-10:20ReaderChore or Co-op workMath
10:20-10:40MathReaderChore or Co-op Work
10:40-11:00Chore or Co-op workMathReader

After each child finishes the Reader, I then go over the questions provided in the Instructor’s Guide to see what they remember. This quick verbal exchange with each child one-on-one confirms that they are comprehending the material. 

The Instructor’s Guide is my lifeline in homeschooling multiple children! It not only keeps me on track with the schedule, but also provides vocabulary reinforcement, context, and open ended questions that can trigger great discussions. It really reduces the amount of prep time I need because everything is ready to go. I just have to flip to the Reader section, and everything is at my fingertips.  

2. Swap the Order of the Readers 

If two children are sharing the same HBL level, an easy way to share Readers is to adjust the reader schedule by simply flip flopping them. So for instance in HBL E if the next two books scheduled were Old Yeller and Turn Homeward, Hannalee, one child would read Old Yeller while the other read Turn Homeward, Hannalee. Then they would switch. 

This strategy works really well for two children, but becomes more complicated when there are three or more. Flip flopping the books also works best with books of similar lengths.

3. Purchase Extra Copies of the Readers

If you find your children cannot share, or it becomes too much of a hassle adjusting the schedule, you can always purchase an extra set of readers. Sonlight makes it easy! 

Unexpected Benefits of Sharing Readers

When my family first started sharing Readers, we had a little trouble because my children were fighting over who got to read the book first. Everyone would much rather read the fun books than do math. Once my children settled into the creative Reader schedule, things went much smoother, and I started noticing some unexpected benefits. 

By combining your children into the same HBL, you are opening up the door for some great table discussions. For example, when my children read Om-Kas-Toe in HBL D, they had a great talk about how unfair it would have been if Tall Woman would not have gotten to keep both children because both girls and boys matter. Our family then was able to discuss how girls and boys are made in God’s image. This discussion all stemmed from sharing the same Readers. 

Besides the great discussions, sharing Readers is just what it sounds like, an opportunity to share. It is an opportunity to practice patience as well, and none of us can ever get too good at either of those. My children are not only learning academic subjects together; they are also learning to work together. Combining your children may seem like more work at first, but it is well worth it!

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A Guide to Homeschool Graduations: Ceremony, Speeches, and Party Ideas

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Whether you homeschooled from kindergarten through high school or only for the last few years of high school, a homeschool graduation is an immensely rewarding and personal experience for both the student and parents. Like so many aspects of homeschooling, you get to tailor the graduation to your individual student, whether you have a ceremony, a party, or simply go on a meaningful trip together. 

So how do you plan your homeschool graduation? Much the same way you would any graduation: send announcements, reflect on your student’s accomplishments, and get some good food. Here are homeschool graduation ideas to help you plan for this important milestone in your teen’s life. 

A Guide to Homeschool Graduations: Ceremony, Speeches, and Party Ideas

1. Do Homeschoolers Have a Graduation Ceremony?

Yes, they do! But they also don’t have to. This is probably the first question to discuss with your senior, months before your homeschool graduation. Does your senior want a homeschool graduation ceremony and what options are available to you? 

Why Is Having a Graduation Ceremony Important? 

A graduation ceremony a special commemoration to honor both your graduate and yourself! You worked hard to be here, too. Your high school graduation ceremony doesn’t have to include speeches and walking across a stage if that doesn’t fit your style. But having an official moment to recognize all the hard work you and your graduate put in is an important act of closure to the homeschool journey. 

What Are Some Homeschool Graduation Ceremony Ideas? 

  • State/National Organization Ceremony: Some state or national homeschool groups put on a large homeschool graduation ceremony every year with commencement speakers and hundreds of participants. If you are willing to travel, you may be allowed to join even if you live in a different state. There is often a fee, but all the organization is taken care of. 
  • Local Organization Ceremony: Sometimes local homeschool co-ops or organizations hold a homeschool graduation ceremony. Your ability to participate may depend on your being active in that group as a homeschooler.  
  • Small Group Ceremony: A homeschool graduation ceremony can also be as simple as you and a few fellow homeschool families who join together to celebrate your graduates. Having friends involved can make a big difference in the day. Each family presents a diploma and has a short commemorative speech about their student. You could even get a local speaker to present a commencement address. 
  • Individual Ceremony: Plenty of families hold a personalized ceremony for only their graduates. They gather friends and family at their home or another local venue and create a personalized celebration. 
  • Family Night Out: Perhaps a ceremony of any sort is just not your family’s style. There’s no rule that you must have a ceremony. But even if you aren’t doing an event of any kind, you should still consider sending announcements and certainly create a diploma.   

Once you find out what options are available to you, have an honest discussion with your senior to see how they would like to celebrate the occasion. 

2. Should You Send Homeschool Graduation Announcements? 

Always send announcements. Whether you have a full graduation ceremony, a quiet party, or take a family trip to the Grand Canyon to celebrate, you should absolutely send out announcements! Friends and family who supported you along the way should get to share in the celebration. And, let’s be honest, friends and family who didn’t support you along the way should get to see that you made it! 

Announcements can be as simple as an ecard, but people are more likely to send back a graduation gift if they get an announcement in the mail. Including a photo of your graduate is always a nice touch that makes the announcement feel special even if you aren’t inviting them to an event.

3. Do You Need a Homeschool Graduation Diploma? 

Yes, you need a diploma to graduate your homeschooled teen. Having a high school diploma is a requirement for many jobs and college applications, and even for being able to homeschool one’s own kids in some states. So it is definitely worth investing in an official-looking one. You can purchase one or find an online template and have it printed on good paper. Having a diploma to hand to your graduate, whether you have a ceremony or not, also gives a final sense of accomplishment. 

Make sure you are familiar with your state’s homeschool laws so you include all the necessary information on the diploma: legal name of the student, name of the educational institution (your homeschool has a name, right?), city and state, etc.

4. Do You Need a Homeschool Graduation Cap and Gown? 

Maybe, maybe not. Many graduates want a cap and gown for senior photos, even if they aren’t doing a walk-across-the-stage ceremony. If you aren’t doing an official ceremony, this is certainly up to you and your graduate. Your state or local homeschool group may be able to direct you in finding one, but cap and gowns tend to be abundantly available via online sources as they are a common photo prop. 

5. Should There Be Speeches at a Homeschool Graduation?

For some people, speeches are the first element to cull from a homeschool graduation ceremony. For others, it’s what they remember most. One or two formal speeches are certainly expected if you have a classic Pomp and Circumstance-styled ceremony; if you have a small gathering at your house, a speech is not necessary.

Whether you have actual speeches or not, however, make sure you reflect on your graduate. 
Remember, a homeschool graduation is partly your success too! You, their teacher, got your student this far and pushed through many hurdles to see this day. Look back on the journey! That might be through a photo slideshow or a homeschool showcase rather than speeches, but make sure you do something that commemorates the journey you’ve both been on.

6. Should I Surprise My Graduate With a Ceremony or Party?  

You can always pop one or two surprises, but graduations are personal and monumental; you should definitely consult your graduate about expectations. Don’t assume because you have fond memories of your high school graduation that your senior wants a similar experience. 

For many homeschool students, there is no nostalgia associated with ceremonies, so they may not want to endure a full event with lots of expectations. That’s okay! Find another way to make your student feel special. 

On the other hand, you may have a student who loves being the center of attention and dreams of walking across a stage to receive a diploma. It may be worth a drive or a full day dedicated to celebrating this momentous occasion. Give your senior space early in the senior year (or even before) to talk about what options you are capable of and comfortable with doing. Your teen may surprise you with what sounds appealing.  

7. What If My Graduate Doesn’t Want a Ceremony?

Feel free to get creative! Yes, there is a lot of tradition and expectations that surround graduations, but isn’t family freedom one of the best perks of homeschooling? If your family likes tradition, you can absolutely create a classic high school graduation. But if you are more of a free-range family, there’s nothing but social expectations to disappoint. 

  • Go on a parent-child trip.
  • Have a family bowling night.
  • Order your teen’s favorite takeout.
  • Go to an amusement park with close friends. 

You can also absolutely have a graduation celebration that ignores the ceremony part.

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8. How Do You Plan a Homeschool Graduation Party at Home? 

You’ve decided you want the party. You’ve sent the announcements. You’ve picked a date. You’ve made your choice about a ceremony. Now you need homeschool graduation party ideas. 

What Are Some Fun Things to Do at a Graduation Party?

  • Plan specific games. This is a great area to personalize to your graduate. Is she into sports? Set up mini golf or backyard volleyball. Does he like board games? Have several guests bring different board games to rotate through. 
  • Tailor it to your graduate’s academic interests. Think outside the box for activities. Gather science experiment kits and divide into teams to see who can complete the project the fastest. Pick a favorite play or novel and do a dramatic reading, assigning parts to different guests. Set up a scavenger hunt where guests have to solve puzzles to find the next clue. 
  • Have fun food. Teenagers tend to be all about snacks, and also all about not eating when they are told. Single-serving options are a great fix for this.
  • Make a memory station. This could be a photo booth to take pictures of the friends/family who came. It could also be a place with photos of your graduate’s favorite memories from their homeschool journey, or favorite projects, papers, or even books.  

9. How Do You Host a Virtual Graduation and Make It Special? 

If you have to go virtual for your graduation celebration, there are still ways to make it special and run smoothly. 

  • Set expectations with guests ahead of time. Will there be a schedule to the party? Should they come prepared to answer trivia questions or to play a virtual game?
  • Ask for guest submissions ahead of time. Someone will inevitably have tech trouble, so if you ask your guests to send favorite memories, or best life tips, etc., via email ahead of the party, you can read the submissions aloud instead of virtually passing the mic.
  • Still have snacks! If your guest list is small enough, you can send snacks to each guest ahead of time and tell them to have them handy. This can be as simple as a microwavable popcorn package or as unique as a ziplock of homemade treats. If this is impractical, suggest in the invitation that everyone have a favorite drink or snack handy during the party. 
  • Play games. You can still play games virtually. Scattergories, trivia, charades, scavenger hunts (with common household items), and Would You Rather? are all great games that still get people laughing and engaging in a virtual setting.
  • Still reflect on your graduate. You can share a video or photo slideshow virtually and let everyone look back on what an amazing person your graduate has always been and is growing into.

10. What If I’m On a Tight Budget? 

There are many ways to make your graduate feel special without having to break the bank. Even if you decide to do a party, you don’t have to follow every Pinterest idea out there. 

  • Keep decorations to a minimum. Balloons are cheap and always festive! Not everything has to have the graduation year emblazoned on it. 
  • Send ecard or social media announcements. Yes, the printed version is more formal, but you can send a few mailed announcements if you/your graduate really cares and then evite the rest. 
  • Stick to one or two food items. No one goes to a graduation party expecting a feast. A few light refreshments are fine! 
  • Plan games based on what you already have. Be that board games, dramatic readings, or scavenger hunts, it will be new to your guests and therefore a fun experience for your graduate. 
  • Embrace small and intimate. You can send graduation announcements to all your extended family, but only invite a few of your graduate’s closest friends to the celebration.

In Short, Make This Milestone Personal

The best thing about homeschooling doesn’t stop with graduation. You can make it all about your individual student and what fits him/her. Plan the homeschool graduation that fits your family and your graduate.

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Shop Sonlight for the best high school curriculum for homeschoolers.

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Choosing the Best Homeschool Math Curriculum

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When you were in school, math was either a thing of beauty or a thing of torment. Whichever it was for you, as a homeschooling parent, you get to help your children move towards an understanding of math—whether they end up doing nothing more than tracking their spending as an adult, or get a doctorate in applied mathematics.

Let's look at the big questions common to parents choosing a homeschool math curriculum:

  • What is the best homeschool math program?
  • How do you choose the right math curriculum?
  • Is X program better than Y program?
  • How do you know when it’s time to change programs?
  • How can I make homeschool math fun?
  • How do you teach something you don’t know very well yourself?
The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Homeschool Math Curriculum

Continue reading below or listen here:

1. What Is the Best Homeschool Math Program?

It’s hard to narrow down an answer with a single best program because children have different needs and learning preferences. However, here at Sonlight, we recommend these ten time-tested homeschool favorites. These are what we consider to be the absolute best, can’t-go-wrong homeschool math options: 

  1. Math-U-See
  2. Singapore Math
  3. Horizons Math
  4. Miquon Math
  5. Saxon Math
  6. RightStart Math
  7. VideoText Math
  8. Teaching Textbooks
  9. The Art of Problem Solving
  10. Beast Academy

Young people have succeeded with all of these most popular math programs. So once you’ve narrowed your choices to these top ten, the issue isn’t actually “Is this a good program?” or “What is the best homeschool math curriculum.” They all are excellent choices! The best math is the one that suits your child!

2. Is Saxon Math Better than Singapore Math?

If we take the ten top programs listed above, we could pit each one against the other and come up with 90 different Program X versus Program Y comparisons. 

  • Is Saxon Math better than Singapore Math?
  • Is RightStart Math better than Miquon Math?
  • Is Horizons Math better than Math-U-See?
  • And on and on ...

But again, the answer is both yes and no because they are all excellent curriculum choices. So Saxon Math curriculum is better than Singapore for families who want to use the same program from elementary all the way through high school. But Singapore Math is better for the parent who is more math-confident and wants to teach mental math.

There are moms who rave about Singapore Math and other moms who swear by RightStart Math. Both have chosen their ideal program...for certain years, for particular children.

The key is not to ask which program is objectively better but which program is better for certain situations or kinds of kids:

  • The best math for a visual learner
  • The best math for a struggling math student
  • The best elementary math curriculum
  • The best high school math curriculum
  • The best math for a child who is missing basic math skills
  • The best math for a child who needs tons of practice
  • The best math for a child who abhors excessive repetition

3. So How Do I Choose the Right Math Curriculum?

When it comes to choosing the best homeschool math curriculum, the issue is, “Is this a good program for me and my children?” So do a little evaluation of your preferences as you consider how to choose the right math curriculum.

Video and Computer Instruction

If you like video lessons where you, the parent, don’t have to do all the teaching, Math-U-See might be a great choice for you, as Mr. Demme’s instruction is both charming and thorough. Alternately, Teaching Textbooks offers clear and thorough instruction on a CD-Rom, and Saxon offers DIVE CDs from 5/4 and up. 

But if you know that you prefer your children to avoid screens, these programs are going to frustrate you. So choose something else.

Experimentation

Think about your early elementary children. Do they just want the instructions so they can get onto the next thing as quickly as possible? Or do they like to play, experiment, and try new things? Neither of these is bad; each is just a personality preference.

If your children like to follow the rules, Miquon is not going to be a good program for them. Miquon is ideal for children who are outside-the-box thinkers. It grows number literacy in incredible ways and allows for great success . . . but only if your children enjoy it to begin with.

Math Confidence

How confident are you in math? Some of the best math students in the world come from Singapore, and Singapore Math is both easy to use and thorough. But it is based on combining numbers to make 10 (since adding 10+5 is easier than 7+8). If you aren’t already confident in math, this is probably not a good option for you. Instead, try something more traditional like Horizons Math, Teaching Textbooks, or Saxon Math.

Math Through High School

When choosing your best elementary math curriculum, think ahead to middle school and high school years too.

If you suspect you’ll be homeschooling through high school, and would prefer to use one program all the way through, you’re looking at either Math-U-See or Saxon. Teaching Textbooks is close—it begins in 3rd and goes through 12th. 

Miquon goes only through early elementary. Singapore goes through middle school, but you can find the NEM program elsewhere if you choose to carry on past 8th grade. 

Again, it is not a bad option to pick a new program mid-way through a child’s education, but if you already know that that sounds stressful, then choose between Math-U-See and Saxon for a seamless experience.

What Is the Best Homeschool Geometry Curriculum?

There’s a quirk about Saxon Math you’ll want to know: Geometry is not its own individual course. Instead geometry is taught across three other Saxon levels: Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Advanced Math.

Our top picks for standalone geometry curriculum are

  1. Math-U-See Geometry Universal Set
  2. VideoText Geometry Bundle

Math Manipulatives

What do you think about manipulatives, the rods, blocks, or other tangible tools that your children physically move around in order to solve problems?

Concrete (not abstract) thinking is the dominant cognitive mode for children until around age seven, though it can be helpful on occasion in the older grades. For example, think of how much easier fractions are to understand when you can visualize a pie. This is why Ruth Beechick in The Three R’s recommends parents use a program with manipulatives, in the younger grades especially. 

The three programs that rely heavily on manipulatives are

  1. Math-U-See
  2. RightStart Math
  3. Miquon 

In Horizons Math, manipulatives are optional. Singapore doesn’t use manipulatives at all, though you can add them.

Color and Layout

Do your children enjoy bright, colorful worksheets? Horizons Math has color worksheets. Singapore has cheerful color illustrations in their teaching books, and black and white worksheets. Most other programs are entirely black and white, which is excellent for children who may be overstimulated with lots of colors.

Teacher Scripts

Would you feel more comfortable doing something scripted, where your words are written out for you? Horizons and Saxon are both good options for you. Or, if you are confident enough to teach with lesson plans, Miquon and Singapore can work for you.

Cost, Parent Involvement, Common Core

The math comparison chart here has sortable headers with additional features such as price, how parent intensive it is, and whether or not it meets Common Core standards.

Research the Programs

After thinking about who your children are, then it’s time to start researching the programs that you are still considering. Read about the homeschool math curriculum options they offer. Look at samples of the specific products you are thinking about. And then go with your intuition.

If two programs sound equally good, often it’s helpful to talk it all through. And if one doesn't seem to be better than the other, then choose one and try it.

Of course, if you like social proof, go with Math-U-See.  This program is more popular than all the others combined.

And keep in mind, especially if your children are young, that the math program you choose needs to be something you are happy to teach. If you like the program, you’ll be comfortable working with your children to help them succeed. But if you don’t particularly like it, you’re going to find it much easier to skip a day. As you probably know, over time, that contributes to a feeling of failure.

Make a Choice

Choose the program that looks best to you, and if you need to sometimes find a YouTube video to explain a concept, or sometimes allow your children to skip ten lessons because you know they know the content, you can do that.

When you have clarity enough, have your children take a placement test, such as the ones offered by Math-U-See, Horizons Math, and Saxon. Ideally, you’ll offer these to your children before ordering so you know what level to buy. Also, taking the tests can help you get a feel for a program so you know whether the style seems to suit you.

When it’s time to buy, will you be confident in your math purchase? Perhaps not entirely. But you’re going for clarity enough, not complete confidence. Pray for wisdom, and then act. You can do it.

4. How Do You Know When to Change Math Curriculum?

A good rule of thumb is, “If what you’re using isn’t broken, don’t change.” It’s kind of like buying a camera or a new phone—don’t bother to upgrade unless you can state clearly what the latest camera or phone will do for you.

I know it can be intimidating when you talk to a friend who gushes about her program, and you think, “Well, our program worked really well for us this last year, but do I have the same emotional attachment to math that she does? No. Maybe I should switch.”

If your gut says you should switch, go for it. But otherwise, it might just be like when a friend raves about a movie and you watch it and think, “Hmm. We have different taste.” So with math. If it’s a matter of emotional attachment, maybe don’t use that as your criteria to choose the best homeschool math curriculum.

The Best Homeschool Math Curriculum for Struggling Students

That said, don't be afraid to change math programs if you pick one and it doesn't work out. You don’t want your child to struggle to the point of feeling like a math failure. Those early messages we learn about our proficiency with math can haunt us throughout our lives! Make sure your struggling student finds success with math by switching to a different program if yours is flopping.

Use what you know from teaching your student to help you pick a new program that will better meet your needs. Where does the struggle lie? You can start the research process again if you know what specific problem you’re trying to solve:

  • This program teaches fractions in a way I find horribly convoluted.
  • I think my child is getting distracted by color illustrations.
  • There is not enough practice.
  • There is too little repetition of older facts.
  • The lessons are too abstract. My child needs concrete examples/manipulatives.
  • My child has not mastered the basics.

It’s not a big deal to change. If you need to, just do it. No guilt. You’re doing the best you can for your children. You did that with the first program you chose. You’re doing it now.

5. How Do You Teach Math When You Don't Understand It?

The short answer is: you don’t need to know it all. You just need to know a little more than your student. If you need to go back to the beginning and start anew, do what it takes.

Having said that, if math is, and always has been, a struggle for you, and you haven’t been diagnosed with dyscalculia, you might look into that. A quick internet perusal suggests that dyscalculia may be as common as dyslexia, but not as widely known. If your brain is not organized to manage numbers, it just isn’t. You should have no shame over that.

If you suspect you struggle with dyscalculia, or if you are generally stressed about teaching math, you have options.

  • You can pick a program that offers instruction as part of the program, like Math-U-See or Teaching Textbooks.
  • You can ask a spouse or grandparent for help.
  • You can hire an outside tutoring service or a co-op.

What About Skipping Math in Elementary Years?

Not everyone believes that math in elementary school is helpful. Louis P. Bénézet conducted a fascinating experiment, published in 1935. As a superintendent of a school district, he took some of the elementary schools and instructed the teachers that the children should be taught to read, reason, and recite—with no concentrated math instruction!—until 7th grade. (Meaning, if a teacher needed to approximate a distance as she told a story, she would. But she did not have a time set aside for measuring. And the students didn’t go through math workbooks.)

These students, without studying math until seventh grade, ended up far better able to calculate and think mathematically than their more traditionally educated peers.

If you want to know more, you can find numerous articles online, or read his actual report here (PDF).

Maybe your own math fears or distaste come from being forced to learn math before you were ready! Consider your child’s developmental readiness when starting with math instruction. Early is not always better!

6. How Can I Make Homeschool Math Fun?

One of the core position statements of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics is 

“to ... build in each student a positive mathematical identity and a sense of agency.” Certainly this is our goal as homeschool parents, too! Making math fun erases the negative self-talk that says, “I’m not good at math.” 

1. Play Math Games

Across the board, kids typically love games. So any time you can teach or practice math through dice, cards, board games, active games, etc., go for it! 

If the math workbook causes dread, simply modify the topic for your homeschool lesson into a game. Repurpose generic board games like Candy Land or make your own from printable templates. Get your kids involved in creating the game itself: choosing tokens, designing playing cards, coloring a game board, etc. 

If games are your favorite way to teach, RightStart Math bakes these into the program.

2. Inject Math Variety

Add novelty to practice. Sometimes all it takes to make math more enjoyable is to simply switch up the method, the place, or the tool. 

Need inspiration? Take a stroll through the crafts section of your favorite box store and look at each object with an eye to how it could be used to explore math! Watch how your kids play outside and consider how their physical fun could be leveraged for enjoyable math play. 

Family Math (affiliate link) is an excellent book to help you start thinking in the language of games. 

3. Memorize Math Facts

If a child has no mastery of the basics, math simply grows more and more frustrating. Work on memorizing facts through songs, rhymes, chants, body motions…whatever it takes. 

4. Focus on the Process

For creative right-brained children, the absolute nature of finding a single right answer can be infuriating. It’s doubly frustrating when a small computational error results in the wrong answer. 

Help kids see that while there may be one answer, there are multiple ways to get there. Allow them to explore and find those avenues. And praise their math thinking even when they don’t get to the right answer. Basically, focus on the process over the product so that math can become more playful. 

More to Read About Making Math Enjoyable

Next Steps for Choosing a Homeschool Math Curriculum

Ready to make the leap and choose a math program? Research your math curriculum options, use the placement tests, connect with an Advisor for peace of mind, and make a decision. 

We wish you all the best as you choose your best homeschool math curriculum.

shop math at sonlight
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When You Are Your Own Biggest Critic As a Homeschooler

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“I’m failing my child.” 

This thought barraged my mind the first year of homeschooling my daughter. As I fought to establish a school routine and complete assignments, I was met by the fierce will of a 5-year-old kindergartener who had other ideas about how to spend her day. Most days ended in both of us crying over schoolwork. I felt completely inadequate as her teacher, and wanted to give up. 

I quickly became my own biggest critic.

Instead of enjoying the flexibility and discovery of learning in homeschooling, I became a micromanaging perfectionist and focused on everything we were not doing. I couldn’t teach her. I couldn’t get her to listen. These thoughts severely threatened my decision to homeschool.    

As I look back over my seasons of doubt, I realize God has used these times to shape me. To see God’s truths, I needed to identify what was causing my fear of failure.  Here are three ways I have fallen into cycles of self-criticism. 

1. Unrealistic Expectations

Starting on our homeschool journey, I had only the public school model of education. I expected to get through a daily checklist of work while my perfect kindergartener listened intently to every word and attempted every assignment. I’m sure all the veteran homeschoolers are laughing right now. 

Most days were spent with me reading while she ran around in circles, seemingly paying no attention to anything I was saying. I don’t know how many times I told my husband, “I can’t do this anymore. Nothing I’m doing is getting through to her.” 

My expectations were certainly unrealistic in the beginning. My daughter was too active to sit still and listen. She learned while she was in motion. I still have to adjust my expectations to more realistic goals as we go and circumstances change.  

2. Comparison to Others

It’s also easy to compare our progress to others. Planning for that first year, I remember questioning kindergarten teachers to determine learning expectations. One teacher mentioned that her class was reading by Christmas break.

While I understood that each child is unique in their development, and that the whole class probably wasn’t reading C.S. Lewis by the middle of their kindergarten year, I still fretted when we were struggling with simple words. I wondered how I could have a college degree but couldn’t teach my daughter how to read sit or sat. My pride was certainly being broken during this time. 

3. Voices and Opinions of Others

Then voices of others in our community began to plant further seeds of doubt in my mind. Teachers from our church would comment on how perfectly behaved and well-mannered my daughter was during class. Surely we weren’t talking about the same girl, right? How could she be so well-behaved for others, and not me?

Words meant for praise I turned into self-criticism.

I thought, maybe if I just sent her to public school, then she would have to sit and listen to a teacher and in the long run get a better education. 

My husband and I even sought counsel from others, and one person advised that a school setting might give her a better structure. This opinion caused me to question my ability to continue our homeschool education. While seeking advice from others can be wise, it is also important to weigh it against what you believe God is directing for your family.  

Recognize God’s Truths to Silence My Biggest Critic

As I began to identify my negative thought patterns, I realized that ultimately my fear of failure was rooted in the lies of the enemy meant to undermine the work God had called me to accomplish with my child. I needed to replace these lies with God’s truths. I had reached the end of my own capacity and knew if we were going to continue I needed His strength. I found encouragement in words written in Homeschool Bravely by Jamie Erickson: 

“…your difficult one is a work in progress, but so are you. Homeschooling with its oftentimes moment-by-complicated-moment investment can be one of the many tools God can use to bring you to completion.” 

These words cut at the very lies the enemy had tried to use to make me feel like a failure and give up. I am a work in progress, and I don’t have to be the perfect teacher. I don’t have to check all the boxes on my daily planner. I just have to be yielded to God’s call to teach my child. He’s already decided I’m the best parent for my daughter. He planned it all before she was even born. In Ephesians 2:10, the Bible says that God has prepared my good works beforehand.  I simply walk in them. I can rest in knowing that He has prepared the way for me.

Celebrate Accomplishments

As I reflect on what my daughter and I have learned over the last few years of homeschooling, I can truly celebrate our victories and silence the inner voice of my biggest critic. I realize that we were learning even though it may not have exactly matched my initial picture of schooling. This revelation occurred when she began mentioning tidbits from stories and lessons I had read to her a few weeks prior. Apparently she didn’t need to sit still to pay attention. 

And she did learn to read. Through all of the different phonics and reading program methods I tried, the only constant during this time of struggle was the Read-Alouds in Sonlight's History / Bible / Literature programs. Having historic figures like Mary in Mary on Horseback or Louise Braille in Out of Darkness brought inspiration to our studies. And then, after being consistent in reading aloud to her, something clicked, and she started reading on her own. I am truly humbled when anyone comments on how well she reads now, because I remember our times of struggle. I am thankful I stayed committed to teaching her despite my fear of failure.  

Each year brings its own unique challenges in homeschooling. Amidst new frustrations and learning challenges (math anyone?), it can be easy to fall into another pattern of self-doubt. However, I am quicker to acknowledge these thoughts as lies from the enemy, and ask God to point me to His truth. God is using every circumstance to shape us and point us to our complete dependence on Him. So, when you doubt yourself, know that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13).

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Understanding Your Homeschool Options & Types of Homeschooling

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When choosing to homeschool, sometimes making the choice to learn at home may seem like the biggest decision. But perhaps the bigger choices come next: what type of curriculum should you choose? There are a number of homeschool options and a growing number of homeschool philosophies out there. We’ve condensed the main homeschool options and a few key questions here to help make your journey easier.  

Understanding Your Homeschool Options & Types of Homeschooling

What Are the Different Styles of Homeschooling? 

Whether you’re first starting out on a homeschool journey or you’re a seasoned homeschool family, you may get asked more often than not, “What’s your homeschooling style?” Whether you can rattle off your homeschooling philosophy with ease – or that question leaves you scratching your head a bit – you likely already fit into one or more of the types of homeschooling philosophies listed below. 

The Classical Approach

Classical homeschool curriculum families follow the Trivium, an age-old education style. Students are generally broken up into three age groups:

  •  In the grammar stage, young students focus on memorizing facts and gaining knowledge.
  • In the logic stage, middle-grade students begin to understand that knowledge on a deeper level.
  • In the rhetoric stage, the goal is for upper-grade students to turn that understanding into wisdom, applying it and learning to express themselves.

Classical homeschool curriculum prioritizes great books, subjects like classical history, and Socratic discussion.

Charlotte Mason

Devotees of Charlotte Mason homeschool curriculum may focus their schooling time on high-quality living books (usually narratives or stories, rather than textbooks), nature study, short lessons, dictation, and copy work. Based on the teachings of a British educator from the late 1800s and early 1900s, Charlotte Mason is known for her beliefs that children are born and must be educated as a whole person, not only a mind. She defined education as “an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” Many Charlotte Mason families focus on spreading a feast of ideas before their children, including art and music appreciation and handicrafts.

Unit Studies

Unit studies are a homeschool option that allow you to customize curriculum based on your child’s particular interests. Do you have a child who loves geology? Legos? Minecraft? All three? Chances are you can create a unit study on the topic, or find someone who has. The benefits of unit studies are they’re customizable, flexible, and there are many available in the homeschool community. The downside is they require significant work from parents to piece together, and may leave curriculum gaps.

School at Home

Conjure an image of traditional homeschooling in your mind. You may see school refashioned at home, built on a complete homeschool curriculum package. This image might include stacks of workbooks or textbooks, pencil and paper tests, a rigid schedule, and a predefined scope and sequence for each specific grade level. Such curriculums are common and a popular homeschool method. 

School at home may also be conducted through an online homeschool program, a public school district, or under the umbrella of a charter school.

Montessori

Montessori is often overlooked as a homeschooling method but many of Dr. Maria Montessori’s (an Italian educator) principles are easily adapted into homeschool life. Montessori homeschool families may focus on long blocks of uninterrupted time, carefully-selected environments that promote learning and hands-on activities. Montessori also encourages mixed-age classes, and incorporates home life as part of learning (such as using actual kitchen items to mix and pour instead of toy kitchen tools). The Montessori homeschool philosophy is particularly well-suited to children with special needs.

Montessori is popular particularly in early education. Sonlight’s new homeschool preschool program, for example, includes Montessori-type materials such as tactile letters, numbers, and shapes that help reinforce pre-writing, pre-reading, and pre-math skills.

Eclectic Homeschooling

Don’t feel like you fit into any of these categories? Or maybe more than one? Chances are your style may simply be eclectic homeschooling. Many families combine approaches from two (or more!) of these styles into their homeschool routine.

Sonlight is a great example. Ask a Sonlight family to describe their homeschool style and many times they may simply say, we use Sonlight! With classical and Charlotte Mason influences and a complete Instructor’s Guide, it’s tough to fit Sonlight into a particular homeschool philosophy. The beauty of homeschooling is choosing what works best for you and your family.

What Are the Best Homeschool Programs?

The best homeschool program, much like the best homeschool philosophy, is the one that works best for you and your family. There are not only different philosophies to consider within homeschooling, there are also many different curriculum choices for core subjects such as math, Language Arts, and history. Narrowing down a homeschool philosophy (or two) that you think may work for your children is a good place to begin.

Next, consider, do you want your children to spend much of their time learning online? If so, you may want to consider some of the best online homeschool programs. Or are living books more your style? Or, would you like to opt for a little of both? Do you have a child with special needs? One who enjoys being outside, or prefers desk learning? Also, consider your own teaching style. Do you prefer to plan things yourself, or do you enjoy having a curriculum ready for you? How will you handle student assessments or feedback? A helpful site to compare homeschool curriculum providers is Cathy Duffy Reviews, where you can search for various styles and types of curriculum. 

What Is the Best Homeschooling Method?

To answer this question, it may be best to ask, what works best for your family, for your children, and for you? There are as many homeschool curriculum options as there are types of homeschool moms. You can find complete homeschool curriculum packages, piece together unit studies to suit your family’s interests, or find online programs that engage your student in virtual classroom learning. There is simply no top homeschool curriculum. What is best is what works best for your student. The beauty of learning at home is that it allows you to choose.

You can also add extras into your homeschool routine, such as co-ops that help teach certain subjects, regular field trips, or extracurricular activities that contribute to learning. 

What Is Unschooling Homeschooling?

If you read through the homeschool options and didn’t see a fit for your family in the homeschool philosophies mentioned, you may consider unschooling. A shift in traditional schooling and homeschooling, this philosophy takes a child-led approach to learning, relying on students to choose their own interests and what they would like to study. Parents are responsible for providing supplies, experiences, and support the child may need to facilitate learning.

Students who might do well with unschooling are self-motivated, self-directed learners, able to be trusted to study on their own. Unschooling families don’t typically use tests, grades, or set schedules. The pro? Some call this philosophy delight-driven and say it offers students more time to pursue their passions. The downside? It may leave gaps in areas of study if students aren’t interested in focusing on a particular topic.

How Much Does It Cost to Homeschool Your Child?

Homeschool costs vary as much as families do! Whether you choose to purchase homeschool curriculum packages, track down resources from your local library, unschool your child, or enroll your child in an online homeschool program, costs can range to hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year, per child. 

When choosing a homeschool curriculum, consider the value of what you are purchasing. Investing in your child’s education is an important decision. Proven curriculum providers are a reliable resource, where less expensive unit studies may leave gaps and shortchange tweens and teens. 

If you are enrolling your child in an online curriculum, is there a fee per semester? Per course? Per year? Per child? If you are purchasing a textbook and workbook-based curriculum, how many copies of materials will you need per child? If you opt for a hands-on curriculum such as Montessori, materials are beautiful and high quality but can be expensive. If you choose a  literary-based curriculum, consider combining students who are close in age in multiple subjects to save money (and time!). Sonlight makes it easy to teach multiple children, and have fun doing so. One initial investment pays off for multiple children as your family grows and/or as your children get older. 

Can You Start Homeschooling At Any Time? 

Whether it’s the middle of the school year or the middle of summer, you can start homeschooling anytime that’s best for your family. One of the greatest parts of homeschool is the flexibility it brings to the family calendar. Your school year can even go year-round. Read more about your homeschool options and how to schedule a year that works best for you.

What about homeschooling an older student who previously attended public or private school? It’s never too late to start homeschooling if you feel it’s best for your family. There are plenty of people who would choose to learn at home if they could relive their middle school years, and there are some very compelling reasons as a parent why teaching your high schooler at home might be the best option. Taking these years to spend time with your older children, set the bar higher, tailor learning to their interests, and give them a taste of real-life before they graduate are just a few.

Do Parents Get Paid for Homeschooling?

Although most homeschool parents will tell you it is at least a part- if not a full-time job, homeschooling your own children is unpaid. A handful of states may allow parents to apply for tax benefits or stipends if educating their child under the umbrella of a charter school (which comes with its own set of requirements), but these are rare.

What is possible is getting paid while homeschooling, by working part-time from home, freelancing, or even homeschooling or tutoring a student from outside your family, if your state allows it. 

How Can I Start Homeschooling Immediately?

You can start homeschooling today! Before you begin, check your state’s homeschooling regulations and how to comply. Find other homeschool parents to connect with, who can offer words of advice as you start this exciting chapter. Sonlight has a Sonlight Connections app for homeschooling parents, where you can talk with a Sonlight mentor or advisor.

Still not sure which homeschool philosophy is right for your family? Sonlight makes it easy to get started today. Check out a sample Sonlight Instructor’s Guide. Take a visit to the local library and enjoy picking out a feast of living books. Don’t be afraid to learn more about the homeschool options on this list. Then give yourself some grace as you learn what works best and create a homeschool you love.

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Should You Homeschool Your Missionary Kid?

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Should You Homeschool Your Missionary Kid?

For missionary families around the world, the education of our missionary kids (MKs) can be one of the most challenging issues we face. The choices we parents make for our MKs can bring our families together, giving us opportunities to serve together and producing well-adjusted TCKs (Third Culture Kids) who love the Lord and are capable of serving Him in many contexts. Or it can take our families off the field and cause lifelong turmoil for our MKs.

So… no pressure, right?!

There are three keys to make a wise, educated decision.

  • Know our options.
  • Know our children.
  • Know our responsibilities as Christian parents.

The Boarding School Option

Not so long ago most missionaries felt that boarding school was their only option in educating their children. Homeschooling was unheard of, and resources were unavailable. Missionaries believed that being separated from their children in this way was one of the sacrifices that went along with missionary work.

Some missionary families still choose boarding school for one of two reasons:

  1. The child feels isolated and needs more social interaction.
  2. The parents don’t feel that they can offer the education the child needs, either through local schools or homeschooling.

While these are valid reasons, the obvious downside to boarding school is the separation. Boarding school requires that missionary parents essentially hand over the raising of their children to the teachers and house parents at the boarding school. However, Deuteronomy 6:7 tells us as parents to teach God’s ways diligently to our children, “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” From my perspective, that calling is impossible to fulfill if we don’t even live in the same city for the majority of the year.

The International School Option

International schools are private day schools. They usually offer a high quality education, but with equally high fees. My MK husband attended an international schoolthrough 8th grade and enjoyed it very much. To this day he has friends of multiple nationalities all around the world because of his international school experience.

Pros for sending MKs to an international school

  • Parents don’t feel capable (or desirous) of teaching their children.
  • Parents want their children to be a part of sports and other extracurricular activities that might not be available otherwise.
  • Parents want their children to have the friendships that a school setting can provide.
  • International schools can provide MKs with friendships with other Third Culture Kids.
  • There is an international school nearby and it seems like an easy, safe option.

Cons for sending MKs to an international school

  • International schools are typically expensive.
  • Most of the students come from wealthy international families, so many missionary kids of more modest means often feel out of place.
  • The parents want their children to spend more time in the local community with the nationals than with other international children.

The Local School Option

The idea of local school is a bit more complex. In some countries all residents are required to attend local public schools. I have MK friends who grew up attending public school in Europe who today are bilingual and feel very attached to their host country. Attending the local schools helped them be more a part of the culture in which they lived.

On the flip side, these MKs seemed to have a harder time adjusting back to life and college in America since they had been educated in a different language and culture. 

In developing countries, public education is not mandatory for missionaries. The education is lacking, and corporal punishment is extreme. For these reasons, most missionary parents in those countries steer clear of local schools.

However, because local schools are a good way for MKs to learn the local language and get involved in the community, some missionary parents still go that route for a short time in order for their young children to learn the language and culture. I have seen families have both good and bad experiences with this. It is crucial to know the situation well before enrolling impressionable missionary kids. 

The Homeschool Option

There are many reasons why missionary families choose to homeschool their MKs. Some of these reasons include

  • There are no other reasonable schooling options where they live.
  • They want their children to live at home with the family.
  • They want their children to be educated in English.
  • They want their MKs to have more freedom to be involved in the ministry.
  • Homeschooling offers stability in the transitory life of missionaries.
  • They want to have control of what their children learn and give them a solid Christian education.
  • Other reasons

Alternatively, some of the reasons missionary parents choose not to homeschool are

  • They are afraid their children will be too secluded if they homeschool.
  • They don’t believe they can effectively teach their children.

For my family, homeschooling has given my children stability in the midst of multiple international moves and allowed them to receive a quality education. Most importantly it has allowed my husband and me to intentionally shepherd them thanks to all the time we spend together.

The literature-based curriculum we use through Sonlight allows my MKs to learn about many different situations through great books, and we are able to discuss the responses of characters and compare them to Biblical responses. I love how it aids us in training our children “when [we] sit in [the] house, and when [we] walk by the way” (Deut. 6:7).

Narrowing the Options and Choosing Wisely

How can we best shepherd our children and fulfill our responsibilities as Christian parents? If we provide our MKs with a great education, great friends, and great opportunities, but fail to train them in the ways of the Lord, we have failed as Christian parents.

That is a scary thought, and the choices can seem overwhelming at first. Yet as we prayerfully seek God’s wisdom, He will guide us in making the best educational choice for our MKs. As James reminds us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).

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