Homeschooling and a passion for learning — for both what to learn and how to learn it — often go hand in hand. At the same time, homeschoolers are a diverse group.
Many homeschooling families arrive at a virtual learning platform like Outschool looking for courses to supplement their kids’ education and for educators who offer expertise in particular subjects. Homeschoolers may take online academic classes (or even a whole year of core classes), sign up for sessions where they can socialize with others, particularly around topics they’re passionate about, or join classes on topics that pique their interest.
To design classes that are inviting to homeschooled learners and keep them coming back, it’s helpful to consider how subjects and teaching approaches align with the needs of homeschoolers.
Why so much focus on homeschooled learners? Homeschoolers are a growing group in the United States and Canada as well as on Outschool.
Homeschooler #1: New to homeschooling
This learner’s family may have started homeschooling during the COVID-19 pandemic. Homeschooling was never in the family’s plans, but now they find it’s working well for their child and family. They may eventually send their child to a brick-and-mortar school, particularly as subjects get more complex.
Parents of this learner might be looking for a more ready-made curriculum and core courses that clearly describe learning goals in alignment with standards. For instance, an educator who teaches middle school science would do well to list the topics the class will address each week and to publicize their knowledge of common requirements for science at this age.
In addition, this learner may also be seeking fun or enrichment activities that match their interests and a chance to socialize with other students.
Homeschooler #2: Unique learning needs
Another reason a family might choose homeschooling is to support a child with unique learning needs. These learners may have dyslexia or ADHD, be neurodiverse, be gifted, or have other specific learning needs that color the way they learn best.
These families want classes where educators have the interest and skills to support their child’s learning in a way that works well for them. That might be in 1-on-1 classes or in classes with learners who share a specific attribute or learning style.
Educators can let families know that they welcome unique learners by sharing this in their educator profile and class descriptions. Someone who teaches handwriting, for instance, could specify in their class summary that they have the skills to help learners with dysgraphia.
Educators should also advertise their ability to accommodate different learning needs, giving specific concrete examples. One example is to share that a class offers learners multiple ways to communicate. This could mean that learners have the option to respond to questions in chat or with a simple “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” in addition to verbally.
Homeschooler #3: Passionate about homeschooling
This family has embraced homeschooling from the start of their children’s education, and they may have more than one child who they homeschool. A love of homeschooling may come from these families’ deep-seated belief that they can provide an education that better engages their child in learning than the traditional school system can.
What can virtual learning offer these families? Like most families who come to Outschool, they want educators who are passionate about the topics they teach. Their children may be reviewing an educator’s profile and class videos and making decisions themselves about what classes they want to take. If a learner likes a subject and educator, they may take multiple classes from that person. For example, if the student loves astronomy and they find an educator who does as well, the learner may take all the classes that educator offers.
Since these families particularly value a learner-led approach to education and the ability to take a deep-dive into subjects that interest them, they prioritize classes that align with these values. They’re often less interested in traditional class expectations (it may be okay to join class in your pajamas or while having a snack) and are more focused on their child’s continued love of learning.
Experienced homeschool families often have a network of educational resources. They may use Outschool classes as part of an overall plan to meet their children’s academic or social needs and interests. They may also sign up for classes that parents feel less ready to teach, such as advanced topics like engineering or a second language.
Homeschooler #4: Advanced or “gifted” learner
Parents with a child way above grade-level standards in an in-person school setting may choose homeschooling at some point in the child’s educational journey. The parents’ main goal is often to make sure the learner is challenged and can progress at their own pace. At the same time, this learner may have areas where they need extra support, such as with social-emotional learning. This family might not choose homeschooling for other children whose needs are being met in a brick-and-mortar school.
This learner may want to join core academic online classes at the bottom of the specified age range because they’re ready to learn that content. Parents might particularly value class rigor and quality since that means their child is more likely to be able to engage their abilities fully.
A bonus for this learner on a platform like Outschool is elective possibilities that often aren’t available to them in an in-person school, such as the chance to take Mandarin Chinese or robotics. The opportunity to socialize with peers in classes focused on interest areas like cars or anime may also be a draw.
Homeschooler #5: Faith-based family
Some families who homeschool participate in a particular religion and may even homeschool because they want their children’s education to be faith-based.
Outschool is a secular and inclusive platform, and some faith-based homeschooling families whose children take classes on Outschool say they don’t need all their children’s learning to be centered on religion. Yet faith-based families may be looking for virtual classes that have a neutral perspective that is not opposed to their views.
These families may be seeking a strong foundation for their children in core classes like math and English. They may also be interested in classes that build moral character in areas like taking responsibility for one’s actions.
How Homeschool Families Might Use Outschool
To sum it up, families who homeschool may come to Outschool for:
- Core subjects (math, English, science, social studies)
- A core curriculum for the semester or year
- A supplement to a core curriculum
- Part of a network of educational resources
- A social outlet
- A change from parent-led homeschooling
- An advanced topic that requires special knowledge
- Enrichment or special interest subjects
- Unique learning needs
Because every learner is different, whether homeschooled or not, it’s always best for educators to get to know individual families and learners. But until those learners walk through the virtual classroom door, educators can start by thinking about where their classes fit in the spectrum of needs of homeschooled learners.