When it comes to choosing the educational path for their children, Georgia families have many options. While most people are familiar with the traditional brick and mortar public school, not all families find this a good fit. Thankfully, with just a little research and maybe some trial and error, they can find an alternative that works both for the family and the student.

You would think it would be pretty simple. The words home and school should translate into teaching your child at home. But, there are as many different styles and platforms to accomplish this as there are reasons to homeschool. Whether a family chooses to homeschool because of bullying, chronic illnesses, or religious reasons, families can have the freedom to take it into their own hands.

A newer educational option available is ‘Public’ Home School. Both the Georgia Connections Academy and Georgia Cyber Academy (a K12 school) offer free online education in our area. You can register, attend classes, and complete the curriculum they provide online. These public Charter schools will send you all the books and curriculum supplies you may need. Some of their programs may even provide a computer and printer for the student at no cost to the family. The student needs a designated “Learning Coach” who agrees to log in daily attendance and to make sure the student follows the assignments in their lesson plan. They even offer online and video support from teachers. Most of the work is completed independently.  Children get to “meet” their teacher and class in virtual classrooms. In this forum, called a Blackboard Collaborative, teachers interact with the students in “real time.” Teachers are reachable by phone/email, and offer special office hours if students need extra help. There’s even twenty-four-hour technical support, in the case of internet or computer issues.

Both the schools mentioned offer clubs and socialization opportunities, such as field trips to museums or the zoo. From music and drama to designing video games, gardening, science and STEM clubs, there are groups for almost every hobby and interest you can think of. Even though these schools do not have a building for the student’s daily classes, they work hard to provide a Parent Organization, convenient testing centers and exciting contests for the students and their families to stay engaged with each other throughout the year.

If a family decides to Homeschool, it is essential that they follow the guidelines set up by the State of Georgia Department of Education.

The Georgia Department of Education website provides easy to follow guidelines and links to the appropriate forms to help you through the process. You can find specific details about the requirements and even a sample “Letter of Intent” on the DOE website at www.gadoe.org.

There are many sources for Homeschool Curriculum. Purchasing curriculum can be costly, but it can also be completely free. A little research and each family can find one that teaches not only what the State requires, but things that are important to the individual family such as cultures and religion. Using the local public library system is another excellent way to get free lessons for everything from Math to learning a new language. Our PINES library program offers excellent links to resources for research like Galileo, The Learning Express Library, Digital Ebooks, and even more. You can also request materials from another library in the system if your local branch doesn’t have a copy.  Pinterest, YouTube, and blogs from other homeschool families are also an excellent source of ideas. It is amazing how creative families get when it comes to their kids’ education.

A family may opt to become part of a Homeschool Co-op, where they share teaching different subjects or skills with other families or even bring in a specialized instructor. Being part of a group gives families the opportunity to explore things beyond their own expertise, like foreign languages, music, and sports. The Newton County Homeschool Co-op is an excellent source of support whether you get together with other families to help teach or if you want to exchange curriculum. A lot of families will buy and sell the books and materials as their children age and accomplish courses.

With homeschooling, you aren’t confined to a specific building, in fact, a lot of families find that there are more learning opportunities in the world and the community around them. Families can learn about Life Science hands-on while exploring nature trails and the riverbed ecosystems. Companies like Chic-Fil-A, Stevie B’s, other restaurants and retailers offer homeschoolers the opportunity to see how they operate behind the scenes.

Don’t forget that our great State has a plethora of family friendly historical sites, with quite a few in the Rockdale and Newton county areas. Most are free or very reasonable. A student can learn sitting at a table or desk in their house,  With homeschooling, parents can choose their child’s learning environment: inside at a desk, or outside in the yard. Family trips can incorporate meaningful academic connections.

Students who homeschool are eligible to attend college and technical schools, often taking on dual enrollment in their high school years.  Many homeschoolers work extra hard and graduate early. From previous presidents to current day celebrities like Taylor Swift and Justin Beiber, we can see that Homeschooling can create just as successful a person as one who attends the traditional Public School system. No matter the choice a family makes in how their children will complete their education, making sure to be involved is the real key.

For more details about homeschooling in Georgia, visit www.gadoe.org