Homeschooling is a big decision for any family, and for my family it has proven to be a great one! If you are considering homeschooling in Birmingham, or if you’ve already decided and are overwhelmed with all the methods, curricula, IG accounts, books, etc., then you’ve come to the right place! Here is what you need to know as you plan out your family’s journey of schooling at home.
Every state has different regulations, so if you’ve moved to Alabama after homeschooling in a different state, you might have different regulations here. Spoiler Alert: There are very few. I won’t write out the dos and don’ts here, but the current law can be found here. (This is the most recent legislation as of this post. Please ensure no new laws have been passed before choosing to homeschool your child.)
This might be the most overwhelming thing to new homeschool moms. It seems like every curriculum, blog, and co-op uses these terms, so you probably want to get familiar with the method you prefer just so you know what to look for. If you’re unsure, this quiz is really helpful.
This is similar to doing public schoolwork at home. It is worksheet heavy and has rigid structure. This will be a longer school day than many other homeschool methods, but requires the least parent-involvement.
Classical schooling is built around three stages of learning. The early years consist of lots of memorization, with logic and rhetoric emphasized more and more as the child grows. It is similar to the Ancient Greek style of learning and is one of the more academically rigorous options.
Charlotte Mason (CM) homeschooling is a collection of Charlotte Mason’s ideas. It involves gentle instruction, habit/virtue-formation, and has an emphasis on “living books” and nature study. Mason herself wrote several volumes describing her philosophy on education if you’d like to study the foundation of this style more in-depth.
Montessori learning is extremely hands-on. It has a strong emphasis on life skills and independent learning. Natural curiosity is very much fostered through this schooling style, but it is not the same thing as unschooling, as direction is given by parents.
This involves no formal schooling whatsoever. It is usually recommended for families who are just starting to homeschool to help break them of a public school mindset so they can focus on what is truly the best fit for their families, rather than what they feel like they should be doing. Some parents follow this philosophy for longer and practice child-led learning.
These involve teaching every subject through the lens of a single theme. For example, you could study Italy for a month. That can include geography (continents and maps), history (WWII), making pizza (math), reading Tomie dePaola books (culture), listening to Vivaldi (music), looking at works of Michelangelo (art), or learning about Leonardo Da Vinci (science and art).
This is a term used by homeschool parents who borrow ideas from multiple philosophies. If you use some workbooks, study literature through “living books,” and follow your child’s interests as you plan, you’d be an eclectic homeschooler. (In my experiece, most homeschool parents fall under this description.)
There are some online public schools in Alabama. If you choose this route, you are technically still public schooling, so you have to follow their schedule, use their resources, and do their testing. This is not a homeschooling option, but many parents initially think it is.
Co-op v. Hybrid School v. Homeschool Group
This is perhaps the most confusing thing of all. What is the difference in a co-op, hybrid, group, and cover school? First of all, there are groups that are misnamed, so double check their definition when you’re looking for a group to join. Also, some of these come with a predetermined curriculum. So, if you’re loving your current curriculum choice, you may want one of the less-planned options.
A co-op typically is not a drop-off, as they require high parental involvement. Each parent will have a role, whether that is teaching or watching younger siblings. Some co-ops play into certain curriculum choices, and some can be used with whatever. If you want to be super hands on while still having a non-traditional school group, look into this option.
A hybrid will involve drop-off schooling and often homework will be given. This option usually calls for the least amount of planning for parents, so if you are intimidated by that, this is a great choice! A hybrid will likely be picking most (or all) of your curriculum, so be prepared for that if this sounds appealing to you.
Homeschool groups are less about formal schooling and more about getting together with other families to hang out and learn together. Often, this involves some sort of hands-on activity, like nature studies on a hike. Think of these like field trip groups.
Cover schools are basically paid to keep up with paperwork. Many parents do not use these in our state, but if you would like to have more official-looking records in case you move states or want to re-enroll in public school later, this could be good for you.
If you are in a position to choose your own curriculum, feeling overwhelmed is perfectly normal! Personally, I don’t use all-in-one curricula. My kids are different grade levels in different subjects, and I like using some group learning for certain things. I have also opted for math and language arts curricula that are standalone, so I can’t use a boxed curriculum without switching those. (Do I also have control issues and refuse to be told what to do? Possibly.)
If you want minimal planning, and if you’re leaning toward traditional schooling, then an all-in-one curriculum is probably a great fit for you! There are some free options online, or you can buy all of the materials at once and have them shipped to your house.
If you’re unsure what you want to use, then check out used curriculum sales to see a lot of options up close. I typically learn about these from Facebook groups like Central Alabama Homeschoolers. Facebook Marketplace can also be helpful if you have an idea what you’re looking for but want a secondhand price. Some local libraries even have some curriculum you can check out and flip through on your own time!
Speaking of local libraries, they are, without a doubt, crucial for homeschooling families on a budget! Whether you want to do unit studies full of non-fiction books, literature-based schooling with read-alouds, or just want some free activities, you’ll want to get VERY FAMILIAR with your local library system as a homeschooling mom. (I may or may not have cards for two different county systems.)
Books & Social Media Accounts
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and under-qualified, let me just encourage you that you can absolutely do this! There are so many great resources nowadays, and I get so many of my ideas and encouragement from books (often from the library), Instagram accounts, podcasts, and blogs, like the following: