Years ago when homeschooling was relatively new, we didn’t have to worry much about choosing homeschool programs. Only a handful of them existed!
Fast forward to 2023, when our website lists about 20 area homeschool enrichment and athletics programs in the Kansas City area alone. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed before you even start!
If you’re wondering which homeschool programs are best for your family, consider these seven tips from area homeschool veterans:
1. What is the program’s mission and vision?
It’s critically important to consider the homeschool programs’ values, teaching philosophies, overall history, and any statements of faith (if applicable).
Since many families choose to homeschool for faith-based or even values-based reasons, it stands to reason that your homeschool program should share those same values or (at least) not oppose them.
2. How much parental involvement are the homeschool programs looking for?
For people new to the whole idea of homeschool programs, co-operatives (or co-ops), and other “homeschool enrichment groups,” here’s a little terminology to consider:
- On site. For these programs, parents need to remain with their children throughout the duration of the co-op, group or program.
- Drop off. Parents don’t need to stay with their children, but can drop them off and pick them up as needed. (Check to see whether drop-off programs even have an option for the parent to stay.)
- Parent led. Students learn from a parent rather than a professional teacher.
- Teacher led. Professional teachers, not parents, direct the classes.
Pros and cons exist with every method. For some parents who work outside the home as well as homeschool (see our “MPE Homeschool and Work” support group here!), dropping off their kids may be exactly what they need and want.
Other parents may prefer staying with their children for the whole time, learning from professional teachers and gaining confidence for their own homeschool methods.
3. What’s the time commitment?
Beyond the initial meeting dates and times (typically a Monday/Wednesday/Friday or Tuesday/Thursday schedule), make sure you understand all the assignments, field trips, social outings and parental meetings associated with the homeschool programs you’re considering.
You may also want to consider sick-day policies. Perhaps you have other friends or families in the same homeschool program who can help you (or your children) get to and from locations if some of your family members are sick, but the rest of your family are still healthy.
4. Where’s the location?
Ideally your homeschool program of choice will be close by, but maybe you have other factors to consider. What are the academic policies and guidelines? Do your children already have friends in the program?
If the program meets only once a week, you may want to drive a little farther if it’s your favorite for other reasons.
If the program meets two or more days a week, however, you may want to re-evaluate the costs and time of traveling there.
5. Is there a ‘community factor’ the homeschool programs provide?
Some programs require very little of their members, teaching only one or two enrichment subjects as needed (e.g. art, history, or crafts).
Others design their programs to be whole communities, including such services as clubs and special events, game nights, open gym days, field trips, field days, recordkeeping, and more!
The more you invest and commit to your homeschool program, the more benefits you’re likely to get out of it. Make sure your whole family understands the commitment you’re making, as well as any impact it will have on your schedules.
6. What are the subjects/areas you’re most interested in, for your child(ren)’s needs?
Maybe you’ve already purchased a particular curriculum, but the homeschool program you’re considering requires a different one. Or maybe the program is fine with your curriculum, since it blends with multiple curriculums or learning approaches!
Perhaps you want a homeschool program that teaches multiple classes as a package, or you just want one or two electives to enhance your current homeschool.
Whatever the case, it helps to have some questions prepared ahead of time before you commit.
7. What’s the cost, and are there discounts you qualify for?
When it comes to pricing, you have multiple options to consider, including:
- Incidental fees. These can include application fees, supply fees, facility fees, and more.
- Tuition fees.
- Payment terms. Is the entire semester or year’s tuition due at the beginning of the year, or mid-year, or monthly? Are there withdrawal fees?
- Tutoring/referral discounts. Sometimes if a parent signs up to be a tutor at the homeschool program, or refers other families to the program, they can qualify for special deals.
- Time of enrollment. Some programs may offer discounts or waive certain fees if the family commits to a year of enrollment in the early spring, rather than at the beginning of the school year in August.
We have updated this blog post, originally published in 2019, for timeliness and detail.
Anything we left out? Feel free to suggest any additional questions in the comments!