Not Everyone Hates School at Home

Whatever the motive for considering home schooling, here’s how to make the decision.

How do your children learn best? What setting will give them the best possible education? Those questions are key, but so are slightly more practical considerations like: How will home schooling affect your family dynamic? How will it fit around your work? Can your family embrace a philosophy of all-day education?

As Amy Zimmel, of Simsbury, Conn., pondered keeping her 7-year-old twins out of public school this fall, she messaged a home schooling acquaintance for help. “She’s been super open with, ‘Ask me any questions you have, this is what we tried, this is what worked, this is what didn’t work.’” Ms. Zimmel has also tracked down online home schooling groups for her geographic area and for educational styles she’s curious about.

You can go religious or secular, buy scripted plug-and-play lesson plans, cobble together hands-on projects, or join a home school co-op to share teaching duties. Some school districts offer hybrid options that bring students into regular classrooms for part of the day. Virtual learning options have surged, as well, with choices as varied as Stanford’s selective online high school or one-off lessons from Khan Academy or Outschool. “Each scenario has pros and cons,” Ms. Fagen said. “The question is, which pros and which cons are most valuable to us as a family?”

When friends ask Rick Clark, the undergraduate admissions director at Georgia Tech and co-author of “The Truth about College Admission,” whether home schooled kids can get into good colleges, he says yes; in fact, he and his wife are considering home schooling their 12- and 9-year-olds this fall. But he said that for home schooled teenagers to have the best shot at selective universities, they should either enroll in an accredited online high school, like the Keystone School or the University of Texas at Austin High School, or plan to take AP tests or SAT subject tests that demonstrate their competency.

In some states, home schooled children take regular standardized tests to make sure they’re on track. But home schooling metrics can be a lot more personalized, like watching a first-grader solo-read a “Magic Tree House book, or being trounced by your teenager in a debate about election-year politics.

As tricky and momentous as the decision to home school feels right now, “you’re not joining the Army,” said Brett Kennedy, an independent college counselor in Atlanta whose two children are home schooled. “You can home school for a little while and try it, and if it doesn’t work, put them back in the public schools when this is over.”

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