Thinking about homeschooling next year? Our Kidding Around team and our readers got together and asked local homeschool moms and an option 3 association director questions about homeschooling. We chatted about getting started, how you legally homeschool, strategies for schooling multiple ages, curricula we love and whole lot more.
Watch the Homeschooling in SC Q&A session here:
We mentioned and discussed a lot of resources and curriculum in our session. Here is some of what we mentioned:
This article includes:
Option 3 SC Homeschool Accountability Associations
Minimum Requirements for Legally Homeschooling
Helpful Facebook Groups and Websites
Online Public Charter Schools
Considerations for Temporary Pandemic Homeschooling
Choosing Homeschool Curriculum
Q&A Homeschooling Video Clarifications
Option 3 Associations
In order to homeschool legally in South Carolina you must choose one of 3 legal options. The simplest is option 3, which requires joining an option 3 association, also called a Homeschool Accountability Association.
- You can find a full list of SC Homeschool Accountability Associations at the South Carolina Department of Education’s website.
- Rebecca spoke about her Option 3 Association- Mountains to Sea Homeschool Association
- Maria’s family is a member of Carolina Homeschooler for their Option 3 Association. Here’s a Q&A interview for new South Carolina homeschoolers with Carolina Homeschooler director, Dianna Broughton.
- SC Homeschool Accountability Associations vary in prices and offerings. Some offer field trips, online clubs, transcript services, or class rankings. Many offer support and advice for new homeschool families.
- Each SC Homeschool Accountability Association is required to ensure that their members are fulfilling the SC minimum homeschool requirements. Some homeschool associations prefer to check on their members as minimally as possible whereas others require more proof of meeting requirements from members.
The Minimum Requirements to Homeschool in South Carolina
We received a lot of questions about what the requirements are to homeschool in South Carolina. Of course, these requirements do not necessarily represent everything your child may need for their education but are just the minimums for legally homeschooling in South Carolina.
- You register to homeschool via one of the three legal options in South Carolina.
- It is generally advised if you are pulling your child from public school that you officially withdrawal your child by sending a letter from your association.
- “a parent must hold at least a high school diploma or the equivalent general educational development (GED) certificate”
- your homeschool year must be at least 180 days
- the curriculum includes at minimum “the basic instructional areas of reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies, and in grades seven through twelve, composition and literature”
- you must keep educational records including: “a plan book, diary, or other record indicating subjects taught and activities in which the student and parent-teacher engage”, “a portfolio of samples of the student’s academic work”, and “a semiannual progress report including attendance records and individualized documentation of the student’s academic progress in each of the basic instructional areas”
Option 1 has additional requirements that must be met.
Under Option 3, South Carolina does not legally require you to log a certain number of instructional hours or subjects to count a day as an instructional day.
Standarized testing, curriculum choice, or scope and sequence are also not regulated under Option 3.
Helpful Facebook Groups and Websites
- Morgan runs the South Carolina Homeschooling Mom Facebook group for homeschool families to connect and communicate.
- Don’t miss the Kidding Around Greenville Homeschool Guide with homeschool classes, activities, co-ops, field trips and more in the Upstate, SC area.
- If you are interested in a particular method of homeschooling or a curriculum, finding a group focused on that topic can be helpful to learn homeschool advice specific to your needs or interests.
What About Online Charter Schools?
Online charter schools are not homeschooling. Instead, they provide an opportunity for children to continue to be enrolled in public school while learning from home.
- Online charter schools are free. You may be required to provide a computer and internet access, but your child will receive their textbooks and educational instruction for free.
- Online charter schools do have limited enrollment. They also do not necessarily accept new students at any point in the year.
- In South Carolina, the online charter schools tend to be very computer-work focused. Most learning may take place on a screen.
- In online charter school, you are the facilitator not the teacher. You do not grade your child’s work or determine your child’s curriculum or assignments. As the parent, you are responsible though to ensure that your child completes all required work and attendance.
- Most online charter schools do try to facilitate in-person outings and field trips as possible.
- Online charter schools are more flexible than brick-and-mortar schools. Your child may be allowed to adapt their schedule around other activities, and your child may be allowed to learn at a faster or slower pace than other students.
- Online charter schools are less flexible than homeschooling. You may have required hours that your child must attend class online. Your school may require you to learn at specific times or at specific paces. You can be marked absent or truant in an online charter school just as you can in a regular school.
Some advantages of online charter school are that they provide your child with access to qualified teachers. Your child will still be in public school which means that they will earn an accredited South Carolina diploma (if in highschool) and may have less difficulty transitioning back into public or private school if they choose to.
Some considerations for those considering pulling their children from public schools temporarily due to the pandemic
Does your child participate in school sports or arts? They may be able to continue to participate at their local public school via the equal access law, but there may be a waiting period enforced. Also, some activities such as band may not included under the equal access law if they require class credits.
If your child returns to public school, they may be tested upon returning. Homeschool credits or classes may not be accepted especially on the high school level. Policies can vary from school to school and are not uniform across the state.
It’s important to realize that many homeschool curriculums are not based on state or national standards. Sometimes a curriculum may focus on a different topic than peers are studying in public school. For instance, a homeschool history course may focus on modern history in fourth grade while students in South Carolina learn about state history. Some curriculums may move at a faster or slower pace than public school curriculum.
If you plan for your child to return to public school, you may want to consider how these differences could affect your child’s placement upon return. You can review the state standards online for each grade and subject and sometimes you can find specific school or district scopes and sequences online.
For these reasons, we believe that parents who are temporarily homeschooling should research their district’s policies so that they can be aware of any potential issues upfront.
Things to Consider When Choosing Homeschool Curriculum
We mentioned a lot of curriculum in this session. The best way for you decide what will work for your family is first decide the type of curriculum you want.
- Are you looking for a lot of hands-on manipulatives?
- Does your student love to read independently?
- Do you need curriculum written directly to the student?
- Might video instruction be useful in your homeschool?
- Do you plan to school students in multiple grades at the same time? Will you study any subjects as a family?
- Are you looking for religious or secular curriculum?
- Would an online program that offers planning, instruction and grading be beneficial?
- Is your child planning to return to public school where they will be possibly tested on a specific scope and sequence?
There are pluses and minuses to all curriculum types and there’s no one right answer. Some options offer you greater flexibility, others offer more independence for students, others offer a way for students to learn unconventional subjects or things which parents might not be familiar.
No curriculum choice will be perfect. Curriculum is merely a tool and will likely need to be adapted to your own family needs.
Homeschool Curriculum and Educational Materials We’ve Used
Here are some of the curricula we mentioned and a few more we’ve used in the past. Note that this is not a recommendation for your family, but simply what we are familiar with.
Sonlight- Maria used this for her first year schooling her children. It’s an all in one program. It does all the planning for you. If you purchase a package it includes all the books and materials used in the lesson plans. It’s intended to be an open and go set up. It is a Christian program, but there is a secular version called Book Shark. The benefits to this program were many, including having everything on hand without planning. The lessons were clear and thorough. There was a lot of reading aloud and that was hard to keep up with at times. I wish I had been willing to skip some of the daily tasks to leave time for diving deeper into areas where my kids really lit up and showed a lot of interest.
BiblioPlan– This is a history and literature combined curriculum. It’s cheaper than something like Sonlight because you are not buying all the books in the lesson plans. You only purchase the guide (lesson plan), text book and the supplements you may want like coloring books, craft book, chapter questions, timeline and discussion guide. Each unit in the guide has a book list with a required book or two and several suggested independent reading books for kids in different age groups. You can use the library to get many of the books and look ahead to order used books for the ones you can’t find at the library. In my opinion, this curriculum is very easy to use across different ages and offers a lot of flexibility to add elements or leave elements out. (In fact, I attended a workshop on this curriculum and the writer specifically said you should NOT do all the things in the guide. They list many texts and books to provide options to families.)
BJU Press– BJU Press is a Christian curriculum developed for traditional schools and homeschooling. One advantage is that BJU Press has a store located in Greenville where you can see and purchase the curriculum in-person (The Educators Marketplace). It is a more expensive choice, but discounts are often available through local homeschool consultants. One unique offering of BJU Press is their Distance Learning Online where parents can purchase a full subject kit that includes instructional videos, textbooks, handouts, and access to an online portal. This option allows older children to work more independently and provides parents with support in subjects they might not feel comfortable teaching. This is the curriculum Bethany plans on using because she knows it will challenge her kids academically, and she can implement it while working from home.
Monarch and Alpha Omega Publications- Both Rebecca and Maria mentioned products from Alpha Omega Publications. They offer a number of options for full year subjects including their Horizons texts, the smaller Lifepac books which when combined create a full year’s instruction per subject, as well as their online platform called Monarch. You can purchase a grade level subscription to all the subjects on Monarch or go course by course. These are all in one and also provide grading for the multiple choice parts of the assignments and assessments. Parents have to log in to grade written questions and assignments. The material covered in Lifepac and Monarch are essentially the same.
RightStart Math– Maria mentioned RightStart Math. It is a very hands on math with a lot of manipulatives and games. The nice thing about the games is that kids can play together, while younger kids learn new concepts and older ones practice older arithmetic skills. This curriculum requires a lot of hands on from the parent, with the exception of the 6th and 7th grade books which are written directly to the students. We really enjoyed this curriculum. In retrospect we should have played more of the games more often and we’ll do that over the summer to keep skills sharp.
Dreambox Math- This isn’t really a curriculum so much as it is a bunch of excellent math games online that teach concepts in a very visual and hands on way. The thing I love about this is that the program keeps track of standards kids meet by grade level. Parents can view progress and the program emails you if your child hasn’t been participating much or is struggling. You can subscribe annually or monthly.
Evan Moor History Pockets and Literature Pockets- There are many topics for a variety of grade levels. Each one has some reading, but it’s the projects that all fit inside a unit pocket that’s really cool. I especially loved their nursery rhyme pocket book when I had preschool and kindergarten age kids, but we also enjoyed many of the history pocket books, too.
Handwriting Without Tears– This is a handwriting program written by an Occupational Therapist. We’ve used it all the way through, my favorite has been the cursive books.
Building Writers- These are guided writing books from the same people who publish Handwriting Without Tears, so they work together nicely.
Draw, Write, Now- These books make handwriting interesting because they also include a drawing to learn with each practice page.
Evan Moor Spell and Write- These grade level books are aligned with national standards. They cover spelling, some grammar and writing.
Veritas Comprehension Guides- We’ve used these reading comprehension guides as a family. I also loved the First Favorites comprehension guides when my kids were in kindergarten and 1st grade.
Teachers Pay Teachers- This is a website where teachers put the materials they have created for sale. If you are looking for guided reading assignments for a specific book, something to reinforce a math or grammar skill, or even just a summer review packet, this is a great place to look.
Once a Week Unit Studies- If you like the idea of studying a history or science topic together as a family, consider unit studies. These unit study guides list recommended books, movies, art projects, field trips, writing assignments, vocabulary, service projects and more that help guide your family through a topical study.
A note on science: You might notice I did not include much in the way of science curriculum here. Our first year homeschooling we used Sonlight for science. After awhile I got tired of hearing the kids say, “We already learned that on Wild Kratz!” Remember how I said there was a lot of reading in Sonlight? Well when I realized the kids had indeed learned about the animals on Wild Kratz, I stopped reading those books and made room for other things.
We do a lot of independent study for science now, plus hands on experiments and field trips, My husband is an engineer so many things often turn into a physics lesson anyway. That’s not to say a full grade level curriculum isn’t a good idea. Next year my oldest is taking Life Science online through The Potter’s School.
Some Clarifications from our Homeschool Q&A
Wow! So many people tuned into this homeschool Q & A. After some conversations with some of you we thought we’d better clarify a couple of things.
1- The documentation for legally homeschooling under option 3 is very simple. However, especially if your child is older you should keep high school, career and college goals in mind and document accordingly. Many colleges list admissions requirements for students from homeschools and with non-accredited diplomas and transcripts. They may base admission on things like transcript grades from any accredited classes that have been taken, SAT and ACT scores, plus educational experiences. As you make decisions for and with your child, it’s wise to keep those things in mind,
2- Homeschooling means the parent is in charge of what is being taught. For some kids this may mean a more relaxed pace, for others it can mean a significantly more rigorous program depending on goals and abilities.
3- Learning happens all the time. Most years my family plans a road trip and so much learning happens on these trips. Homeschooling is really a misnomer. They ought to call it mini-van schooling or road schooling. It’s my desire that my kids realize that there is always something to learn and that no knowledge is ever wasted. There’s an entire amazing world out there to discover. All of that can be documented for homeschooling.
4- Homeschooling is not all sunshine and roses. There will be hard days. Today was one of those days for me, so I’m just going to leave that there. Tomorrow is a new day.