My husband and I are second-generation homeschoolers so we remember what homeschool was like before outsourcing. There were no online classes and co-ops didn’t exist in most places until the end of our high school years. While some curriculums offered VHS classes or grading services, and some kids dual enrolled in community college, none of that was really common.
Homeschooling’s reputation was built in that era. Thousands of non-outsourced kids rose to the top of their classes in college, became master tradesman, and/or opened successful businesses.
There are also centuries’ worth of famous men and women who were homeschooled. They did just fine without online classes.
At the same time, I know those early homeschool parents would have given their right arms for the resources we have today!
Why We Outsource
With a large family and a chronic illness, outsourcing is a lifesaver for us. It lets me build solid foundations for my younger children, knowing that my older ones are in good hands.
It also cuts down on accountability issues. Teens will almost always do better work for someone else than they will for their mom!
We can still talk about what they’re learning, but I don’t have the pressure of teaching and grading those classes and they don’t feel like I’m always nagging them.
Deciding Which Classes to Outsource
Your reason for homeschool outsourcing will affect the classes you choose, but most moms aim for classes they’re uncomfortable with or don’t enjoy teaching.
In order to keep stress levels down, I outsource classes that would need extensive self-study for me to teach, classes that would require a lot of one-on-one time to do well, or classes that I don’t enjoy grading:
Latin. I don’t have a background in Latin, but I’m comfortable teaching the early levels. We sometimes use streaming videos for those, but it depends on the child and is just to save me time. My comfort level ends at Second Form, so we officially outsource after that.
Middle/High School Science. Many moms don’t feel qualified for upper level science, but my background is even less than most. Outsourcing is a necessity here.
Middle/High School Composition. I’ve taught the first three levels of the progymnasmata, but when my oldest sons reached Refutation/Confirmation, I wasn’t in a place to keep that as a home subject.
On top of that, I prefer feedback-based assessments for writing. High school requires grades. Assigning numerical grades for compositions takes me a long time and it really stresses me out, so I continue outsourcing this subject.
High School History. It’s critical for our children to have a solid grounding in true history; but our current life keeps from teaching this subject as well as I would like. Our family naturally tends toward deep historical discussions, but we outsource the actual classes.
What Grades to Outsource
We don’t rely on homeschool outsourcing until the kids are around 8th grade. In-person opportunities can be an option when they’re younger, but online classes tend to be long and I know my younger kids would have a hard time staying focused.
That being said, every child is different and some might do well at a younger age. Even for those students, I wouldn’t recommend more than one or two online courses.
There’s a lot to manage besides class time!
Resources for Homeschool Outsourcing
We used to be part of a wonderful co-op, but now we use Memoria Press Online Academy and Homeschool Connections.
Over the years, we’ve used MPOA for Latin, composition, science, and pre-algebra. This coming year, one of my seniors will be taking a Latin translation course, Novare chemistry, and a Senior Seminar on Lewis and Tolkien. My rising freshman will take composition.
Homeschool Connections has a recorded, Unlimited Access option and we use that for Philip Campbell’s high school history courses. We also used it when one of my sons needed a conceptual physics course rather than Novare.
A word of caution on HSC: the quality of classes can really vary. Some teachers also rely heavily on YouTube resources. We don’t allow the kids on YouTube without us, but the course’s tests included items from the videos. I ended up needing to find a test booklet we could use for the course.
How We Afford It
There’s no getting around it: outsourcing is expensive!
Even if you’re blessed to have a cottage school or academic co-op nearby, the time commitment can be extensive. You will also have typical school costs such as lunches, travel, supply fees, and possibly uniforms.
Online classes don’t have those extra expenses, but the classes themselves are more costly since they’re hiring outside teachers, providing grading and record-keeping, maintaining an online learning platform, etc.
Tips to Make Homeschool Outsourcing Affordable
- Know all your limits, not just financial. What is the number of classes your child can realistically take, given their personality, focus, and maturity?
Keeping within that number, which subjects are most important for your family to outsource?
Shiny object syndrome kicks in when I see all the available courses! Focusing on our limits helps me navigate that.
- Take advantage of early registration discounts. MPOA offers a 10% discount through March 15th. The discount code is usually available in the winter issue of The Classical Teacher.
Homeschool Connections offers periodic discounts. They recommend signing up for their email list to be notified of those.
Many cottage schools and academic co-ops offer early registration discounts as well.
- See if your provider has a payment plan. This is what we do for MPOA. As long as you are taking more than one class, you can place the required deposit and have payments automatically withdrawn each month.
Depending on the program, cottage schools and co-ops may offer payment plans or scholarships as well.
- Check for Recorded or Self-Paced Options. MPOA now offers self-paced courses and Homeschool Connections offers several options for this, including an Unlimited Access plan for $34.97/mo (pricing as of July 2022).
The Cons of Homeschool Outsourcing
When we think of outsourcing, we tend to think of all the time we’ll save, especially if we’re teaching multiple children.
But there are some definite downsides to outsourcing!
- Less flexibility. Travel plans, field trips, family visits, and other opportunities are all affected by an outside class schedule.
- Classroom pacing. When your child hits a tough concept, they won’t be able to spend an extra week or two on it. If most of the class is doing well, the class moves forward.
- Managing expectations and deadlines. While you won’t be teaching the class, you will be teaching time management skills, following up on assignment deadlines, coaching your student on meeting different expectations from different teachers, and ensuring your child is studying enough! This lessens significantly as your child gets older, but it never goes away completely.
- Less control. Your child’s sequence of study will depend on what your provider offers each year. You may not be able to register with the teacher that fits your child best. Your school routine may have to change to accommodate available class times.
Do Homeschoolers Have to Outsource?
Remember what I said before: homeschoolers are known for being excellent students, employees, business owners, and citizens. That reputation was built when outsourcing wasn’t even an option!
Outsourcing can be incredibly helpful, but it’s something we re-evaluate each year.
My rising freshman will only have one online class because he does better with one-on-one teaching. This means he won’t get the full depth an outside class provides, but I know he’ll still receive an excellent education.
I have centuries of homeschool outcomes to back me up!
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