My advice on and experience with homeschooling.

I left school when I was 10 years old. For the next seven years, I lived an enjoyable and interesting life that happened not to involve formal schools or schooling. Though I would love to take credit for this brilliant idea, it was actually my parents'. The first time I heard the suggestion, I thought it was absurd ("Not go to school? Isn't that illegal?"). In fact, it is legal, and for me, it was an ideal choice.

I regularly receive e-mails requesting information about homeschooling, especially during the teen years. I try to answer these as best I can, although I'm sure there are some that I've set aside and not returned to. If I've done this to you, I'm really, genuinely sorry. Give me another chance if you've a mind to.

To answer some frequent questions:

Homeschooling is legal in all 50 of the United States, and in many other countries, though there are certainly some where it is not. My experience has been in the U.S., and that is what I know about. Even in the United States, each state has different rules governing education and homeschooling. Some require things like annual testing or regular meetings with a certified teacher; others are more lax.

Homeschooling is not a "program" or something that you sign up for. Homeschooling doesn't have to cost any money. There are many different ways to homeschool. Homeschooling doesn't necessarily involve schooling at home. Homeschooling really just means that for some period of time when one would "normally" be in school, one isn't, for voluntary reasons.

(That said, there are a number of homeschooling programs. These are just different ways of homeschooling)

A question to ask yourself, if you are thinking about not going to high school:

Do you really need a high school diploma? Most people don't.

Are you planning on going to college, and if so, what college? Almost all colleges will accept a GED as a diploma equivalent. They have to! The GED is a high-school equivalency test. Don't let people tell you it's not as good as a high-school diploma. What's good is making your own decisions and enjoying your time on this planet.

What colleges (usually) really look for out of highschool records are transcripts. You can write your own transcripts as a homeschooler, so that's doesn't have to be a problem. Keep timelogs and records of resources you use (like I did for Clonlara--see below). There is a good book about explaining homeschooling to colleges called And What About College?, by Cafie Cohen. Judy Gelner wrote a very good book called College Admissions: a guide for homeschoolers. Homeschoolers are on average more likely to be accepted to college than schooled kids, but there could be many different reasons for that. It's not a guarantee, but neither must it be an extra burden.

Of course, college might not be the best thing for you. College just doesn't make sense for many people! It can be expensive, and it's definitely time consuming. Read up on colleges and on whatever you'd like to do. Go if you want to, or if you need to for something you'd really like to do. If you'd rather do something else, do that instead! If college isn't in your current plans, you especially don't need a high-school diploma. You'll need different background and skills depending on where you're headed. An IT job requires certain skills, starting a small business requires others, biking through South America still others. Trade schools of course also have varying requirements, and if you've got one in mind, you'll know more about it than I do. Jobs, like colleges, have to accept GEDs as high-school diploma equivalents. Often, it doesn't even come up.

In short, most people don't actually need highschool diplomas. If you really want one, and can't afford a program, check your state laws about having your "homeschool" be a legal private school. Then you can write your own diploma. Some homeschooling families have done this, but whether or not you can and how easy it is to do varies widely by state, as do all homeschooling laws.

My Experience:

For my highschool years, I was enrolled in Clonlara, an umbrella program for home-based study. Unlike other programs, Clonlara does not provide a curriculum. What they do provide is a buffer between you and un-homeschool-friendly bureaucracies and a contact person who can give you advice and point you towards resources. Their graduation requirements are a set of particular "courses" (4 years english, 1 year american history, 3 years science, etc), a list of books you read, 300 hours of community service, a portfolio, and an untimed open-book exit exam. A "course" is a carnegie credit unit, which is 180 hours of study. Alternatively, a "course" is an entire something--an entire high school or community college class, finishing an entire text book, large project, etc, even if it doesn't add up to 180 hours. Clonlara is an accredited high school, and rewards unquestionably valid transcripts and diplomas. Check their website for more information, including current costs and graduation requirements.

I basically just lived life like normal during my "high school" years. I did keep track of the time that I spent doing more educational things and formed these into Clonlara courses.

If you would like to explore some of the actual content of my record keeping, you can view my course descriptions.

I had a blast, and found a community of peers at Not Back To School Camp. I still have some very good friends from my time at camp.

I went on to New College, which I appreciate for its flexible structure. I'm surprised more college-bound homeschoolers don't go there!


The single best resource for homeschoolers of all kinds and prospective homeschoolers used to be a magazine called Growing Without Schooling. Unfortunately, the magazine went under, and it is a loss to the entire community. If you can find old issues, read them!

  • The Teenage Liberation Handbook: how to quit school and get a real life and education, by Grace Llewellyn.
    Must read.
  • Better Than School, by Nancy Wallace
    An inspiring personal account.
  • And the Skylark Sings with Me, by David Albert
    Another more recent inspiring personal account.
  • Family Matters: why homeschooling makes sense, by David Guterson.
    A very good book about homeschooling and the why and how of it. Written by a school teacher who's also a homeschooling parent and the author of Snow Falling on Cedars.