Many homeschooling families find it helpful to outsource one or more high school subjects. As we discussed in part one of this series, outsourcing may be an easier way to meet the needs of an advanced or struggling learner, may improve student motivation and may help make homeschooling more time-efficient. However, outsourcing can be a mixed bag, and the quality and cost of outsourcing options vary widely. In this article we explore outsourcing options and pitfalls to avoid when outsourcing.
Homeschool Outsourcing Options
Homeschool Co-op Courses
Some communities have very well-developed homeschool co-op programs. These may be highly structured programs that make it easy for the homeschool parent to outsource some or all high school subjects. Every co-op is different. Some use primarily homeschool parents as teachers and others employ instructors from the community. Some co-op courses are primarily intended to be a supplement to your homeschool course and others are a complete course for a subject. To be a complete credit, a co-op class should provide structured assignments and evaluation. The cost and the level of academic rigor of the courses will vary widely.
Hiring a one-on-one or small group tutor is an option many homeschool parents explore. Using tutors can be one of the more expensive ways to outsource, but it may also be highly effective, particularly for struggling learners who benefit from more one-on-one time. One strategy to keep tutoring costs down is to hire another homeschool parent. If you are able to tutor you may also wish to explore barter arrangements with other homeschoolers in your community. Perhaps you can teach your friend’s daughter how to write a research paper and she can help your son learn geometry. Barter can be a free or inexpensive way to access the advantages of outsourcing.
The availability of online courses has exploded over the last five years. There are a myriad of choices from private vendors and universities. Some of these courses were created directly to serve the homeschool market and others to meet the needs of students in public and private schools as well. Some states also give homeschoolers access to free or low cost virtual courses.
Dual Enrollment Community College Courses
In some states homeschoolers have access to college courses through post-secondary enrollment or dual-enrollment courses. With this option, homeschoolers take courses for both high school and college credit at the same time. Costs vary widely depending on your location and the policies of your state. Your cost may be free, the price of books only, or up to a thousand dollars per course entirely out of your pocket. Dual enrollment is a great way for your student to gain classroom experience and it can help validate your homeschool transcript.
Potential Downsides of Outsourcing
Your Time is Not Your Own
Homeschoolers can get used to the freedom of dictating our own schedules. That may mean enjoying the flexibility to travel or take time off school during the traditional school year. Outsourcing can put your student on a more rigid school schedule. College schedules in particular can be quite demanding, both for homework and time required on campus.
If you going to pay to outsource a course, you typically want it to be higher quality than what you’d do on your own at home or what your student would get in a standard public school education. While there are some fantastic opportunities available through outsourcing, there are also some courses that are more about hoop jumping and checking off boxes than challenging education. Students who have been homeschooled for a long time often get the expectation that their learning time be productive. Busy work, often found in some virtual school online courses, may not be what you are looking for. Research your options carefully, examining course outlines and seeking feedback from other homeschoolers.
Homeschool parents often complain that the outsourced course very quickly becomes the top priority and the student becomes unmotivated to do other homeschooled subjects. It can be easy for students to focus on outside deadlines and decide the home courses can be skipped for the week. Therefore, it is important when you choose to outsource that you a plan how you will balance outsourced and homeschool work.
Not Always a Magic Cure for Motivational Problems
Some teens really respond to the expectations of an outside teacher and to the excitement of being in the classroom. Outsourcing can provide a needed spark to ignite new interests and provide a confidence boost when the student does well in the course. On the other hand, if the student does poorly there can be greater consequences than if they struggle at home. If the student gets a poor mark or fails a course provided through the public school, that grade will remain on the student’s transcript if they later enroll in school. All college grades, even if taken through dual enrollment, must be submitted as part of college applications.
Most homeschool families choose to outsource at least some subjects during the homeschool high school years. Outsourcing can be a great relief to parents and teens. It can be an effective way to cover some high school subjects and support the homeschool transcript. Outside instructors can also serve as a source of college recommendations. You should remember that outsourcing options vary greatly in quality and cost and you’ll have to do your research and make your decisions carefully. Has your family outsourced? I’d love to hear more about your experiences – please post a comment below.