When GSHE says that families create a customized learning plan and environment, we mean...
- YOU are in charge of your child's learning
- YOU set the goals and objectives
- YOU decide the what, where, when, and how for the child's education
- and YOU determine how and when to measure progress.
We suggest asking yourself a series of questions to help create this individualized learning plan, such as
- What are your child's needs and goals?
- What do you want to achieve?
- What is important to your family?
- Are there values you want to incorporate?
- How does your child learn best?
- What approach to homeschooling works for your family?
- What instruction can you provide directly and what needs to be outsourced?
Homeschoolers that follow RSA 193-A do not need to fulfill credits, take particular courses or tests, or maintain a transcript in order to graduate; they do not need to replicate public-education at home. Homeschoolers are not required to follow the public-school calendar year, standards, scope/sequence, grade levels, attendance minimums, or anything else. Instead, homeschoolers have a simple requirement to cover a list of broad subjects found in statute at some point in the child's learning -- science, mathematics, language, government, history, health, reading, writing, spelling, the history of the constitutions of New Hampshire and the United States, and an exposure to and appreciation of art and music. Families determine the what, how, and when for their children's learning. For more information on self-certifying the completion of high school, see our Graduation page.
For older students, we encourage families to work with their child to help answer these questions and discuss learning needs and goals. Our High School & Beyond page has additional information and resources that may be particularly helpful.
We are often asked for curriculum recommendations, or which one is "best" or popular. The truth is that the best one is whatever one fits your child's needs and goals. That will be different for each family, maybe each child within the family. We hope this page will help you figure out what style or approach is best for your child.
Also, reference our Affordability page and extensive resources to help bring costs down and make every dollar stretch. We have a large list of free resources and links to educator discounts that are available to homeschoolers.
Before You Begin
Many families find that it is helpful to "deschool" for a period of time as they transition from the former school environment to home education. It is an opportunity to reset, refresh, and rethink. Parents, as well as the students, can shift their mindset from the one-size-fits-some style of learning to a fully customized learning plan and environment that is built around the children's unique learning needs and goals. Because home education does not need to replicate "school at home," this transition time helps reframe the child's learning into your vision of what it can be while you explore options and begin to pull together your plan. Our video on deschooling gives some helpful advice, and here are a couple good articles: Raising Life-Long Learners and Homeschool.com.
Common Styles of Home Education
Several common methods of homeschooling are listed below. Although each approach is broadly defined, the beauty of homeschooling is the flexibility to custom design learning to fit the needs of both child and parent. The same applies to the approach used; adapt, adjust, and alter whenever necessary. Regardless of the method chosen, modification is always an option and changes need not be restricted in any way. For more information on homeschool approaches, Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers, Homeschool.Com, and Fearless Homeschool are three excellent sources.
There are numerous quizzes available online to help you identify which approach may be a good fit for your family; here's one from Eclectic Homeschooling. Another on TheBestSchools.org has a short quiz along with pros and cons of several major homeschool approaches; another quiz is at Homeschool On.
Once you determine the approach that is best for your child and family, you may wish to consider various curricula that fit that learning style. There are numerous reviews available online; this article reviews over 100 options for a place to start. CathyDuffyReviews.com is another excellent source for curriculum reviews. SEA Homeschoolers also have extensive curriculum reviews. Homeschool On reviewed 10 of the major math curricula with a handy chart comparing them by several features. Note that homeschoolers are not required to follow Common Core (aka College and Career Readiness) standards. You can find lists of which curricula are aligned here.
If you have a child with special needs, we've compiled curriculum suggestions that may be helpful to consider. We have more resources on our Developmental Testing & Counseling Services page as well as our Gifted & Talented page.
Many curricula providers have online tools to figure out the right placement level to begin your child's learning with their materials; check their websites for specifics. Some families use a standardized test, like those for year-end assessments, to gauge their child's learning levels across subjects. You can find more information about testing here. There are also several listed on Year Round Homeschooling.
GSHE also has a video to help you customize a home education learning plan. You can find it at the end of this page. The video covers the Equal Access statute, online learning, special education issues, and ways to make home education more affordable.
If you intend to homeschool a short time and re-enroll your child in your local public school, we have several suggestions compiled here. Homeschoolers have no requirement to replicate public school pedagogy, standards, scope/sequence, calendar, or schedule. That said, some families choose to use public school information as a benchmark or to as a guide. It is totally optional.
Math is often taught using either the spiral or mastery approach, and they are very different. Understanding this will help you identify which materials are a better fit for your child's learning. There is no one "right/wrong" way to learn math; what's best is whatever works for your child.
School at Home
It is a common assumption that home education is a replication of the traditional school approach and style, that is has an adult providing direct instruction to the children using textbooks, workbooks, frequent quizzes, and other common elements of a traditional education setting. Most families who follow the school-at-home approach purchase boxed curriculum containing textbooks, study schedules, teacher answer guides with grades and record keeping journals. This approach might be a comfort to parents just starting out and can prevent “what to teach” anxiety, but can also restrict creativity. Some families use the school-at-home approach, but choose to create their own lesson plans and find their own learning materials. There is an abundance of worksheets and activities to be found on the internet as well as homeschool curriculum websites. School-at-Home can be an expensive method of homeschooling and can contribute to rapid burn-out for parents. Another point to consider is that prepackaged curriculum may be cut and dry in its materials with little flexibility; not all students learn at the same pace and adjustments may be required to fit the needs of the child.
Unschooling is also known as natural, interest-led, and child-led learning. Unschoolers learn from everyday life experiences and do not use school schedules or formal lessons. Instead, unschooled children follow their own interests and learn by pursuing that interest or curiosity. Unschooled children learn their math, science, reading and history in much the same way they learned to walk and talk; by doing. Unschooled children, with a very flexible schedule, use the benefit of time to passionately research and bolster abilities in order to become experts in the area of their interest. Families need to give extra attention to documenting the child's learning for NH's portfolio requirement. For a detailed look at Unschooling, John Holt, American author, teacher and founder of the unschooling movement, is an excellent resource for this approach. Kerry McDonald is another good author to follow. She hosts a Facebook page, Whole Family Learning, and is the author of Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom.
Unit Studies approach a theme topic from several angles, encouraging activity and love of learning as well as discipline and responsibility. Unit studies, sometimes called thematic units or integrated studies, are popular with homeschoolers and are typically based on topic of interest and are often a hands-on, literature-based program which typically encompass all of the scholastic subjects through the study of one topic. Since it is easier to teach different ages the same topics with multi-level unit studies, unit-studies are often used by parents who want to keep all of their children on similar topics at the same time. A wide variety of unit-study activities and “prepackaged” programs, with numerous resources, are available. The popularity of this approach offers the flexibility to tailor the curriculum to the child's interest. The downside for some is that unit-studies can require a great deal of a parent's time. It can also be an expensive approach and a child's interest may change before finishing a unit.
This homeschool approach is entirely based upon Dr. Art Robinson's concept of self-teaching. The emphasis of this approach is in teaching a child good study habits and the provision of quality learning materials. The ultimate objective of the Robinson Method is the child learning to learn. It is interesting to note a large percentage of families this method are those who have been homeschooling for a long time. For a clear understanding of the Robinson Method, please visit The Robinson Curriculum.
This style of home education is based on a three-part process often called the "trivium." The first stage is the foundation and focuses on memorization and repetition. The second stage progresses to analytical thinking and logic. The final stage is rhetoric which uses the knowledge and reasoning skills developed earlier to express original thought and abstract concepts. Latin is often incorporated into a classical education. Some popular classical curricula include Classical Conversations, Veritas Press, Tapestry of Grace, Compass Classroom, and Well Trained Mind.
This rapidly growing method of learning is now a feasible and sometimes popular approach for many homeschooling families. From music and art to math and the sciences, all courses of study are available on the internet there. Many offer grading and transcript services as well as placement help. While we are all familiar with this option, the vastness of the online world of classes can be overwhelming. Word-of-mouth can be helpful when researching online programs and many of the learning websites have student and parent reviews. While many online classes are free of charge, some can be quite costly. It is advisable to research any company standings that require payment for any prolonged program. Be sure to check refund policies and guarantees. GSHE has additional information about online learning here. The Virtual Learning Academy Charter Public School (VLACS) is a popular option for many homeschoolers in New Hampshire. We have extensive information about it here. We also compiled an extensive list of free resources here, many of which are online classes and programs.
The eclectic approach, which is also referred to as “relaxed,” is a mixed style and popular among home educators. Basically, eclectic homeschoolers use a little of this and a bit of that, relying on any mix of resources for the topics they study. It may include textbooks or workbooks for the core subjects of reading, spelling and math but apply more of the unschooling approach for the other subjects such as history or science. It can include more structured learning for part of the day or week, and allocate opportunities for hobbies and special projects. Field trips, enrichment classes, as well as co-ops and small-group learning communities are often incorporated into an eclectic homeschool program.
There are many more styles of learning, and homeschooling families are free to explore any approach that suits their children best. Here are some additional ones that may be of interest.
Charlotte Mason -- based on Charlotte's belief that the child must be educated as a whole person. She believed education is more than academics.
Montessori -- emphasizes individualized, self-paced learning, based on the belief that children are naturally curious.
Gameschooling -- learning is through play and games.
Waldorf -- based on Steiner Waldorf's belief in the mind, body, and spirit need to be educated as a whole.