Grand Rapids has Exceptional Support for Homeschool Families
Homeschooling parents have it all on their shoulders. Figuring out what are the best math, science, language arts, and history homeschool curriculum for your children is hard enough.
What about extracurriculars like art, music, and making sure your kids get some kind of physical education?
That’s where the incredible homeschool community here in West Michigan comes in.
Pandemic or not, West Michigan is probably one of the best areas to homeschool in our country. Partly because of the excellent homeschool education laws in Michigan, we have an extraordinarily large number of homeschooling families – some of whom have been teaching their own kids for more than 20 years.
We all have questions about the upcoming school year, even homeschoolers. If you are looking to see what is normally available to homeschoolers in West Michigan, you may be surprised by the numerous options.
Homeschooling 101 – Q&A Video
Considering Homeschool This Fall? You can Totally do It!
Given COVID 19 and all of the uncertainties surrounding the novel coronavirus, it doesn’t look like school this fall will be what many are accustomed to. That is leading many parents to consider homeschooling for the first time ever, and it can feel very overwhelming.
If kids are allowed to go back to the classrooms, is that even an option you want, given the uncertainties? What will your next school year be like? Should you officially give Michigan homeschool a try, even temporarily?
One of the great things about homeschooling in Michigan is flexibility. Another great thing is the community. You are very fortunate in that if you do give this a go, even if you intend to only do it for a single school year or a semester, you are surrounded by resources that can help you make this work for your family.
For the past 20 years, I’ve been educating my six children at home. There will be an adjustment period and you’ll have hard days, but you can do this. Homeschooling can be so rewarding. You just need to find what works for your family.
So, what do you need to know about Michigan homeschooling?
Grand Rapids’ Homeschool Community is Thriving
Though not a homeschool “pioneer,” I’ve been a homeschool mom for 21 years. Back in the day, my circle of friends and I would bring our little preschoolers together to do crafts, go on field trips, and have playtime. We even put on a rather “extravagant” pageant one Christmas.
Those kids are all adults now and looking back, we did just fine. We stumbled, fumbled, supported, corrected, and cheered one another on as we figured out just how to make this work and make it work well.
Today new homeschoolers have options upon options. Read on to find some jumping off points for you to find great ideas to add to your homeschool curriculum.
Legally Speaking, It is Rather Easy to Homeschool in Michigan
The legal requirements for Michigan homeschool are few. Most of us homeschool under the Michigan homeschool statute, which requires parents or legal guardians to cover:
Parents aren’t required to notify local government or school systems of their intent to homeschool, but it would be courteous to let your former school know in writing. You do not need the approval or permission from your school district to homeschool, nor do you need a teaching certificate or a certain level of education yourself. State or local testing are not required.
In Michigan, parents have the right to homeschool. Period.
How to Find Homeschool Curriculum in Grand Rapids
My littlest guy is starting fifth grade, so I’m still deeply in the trenches. I’m learning every year about what’s happening with homeschoolers.
I guarantee I will not list everything here, so if you have a homeschool curriculum resource that you love, but I’ve missed, please reply below in the comments.
Finding Homeschool Curriculum is Easier Than You Think
If you are overwhelmed thinking about this, you are like just about every other homeschool parent. There are so many resources for advice and purchasing. But if you’ve never done this before, you have the added stress of feeling clueless. How do you even know what you need?
You should definitely call HSB for advice and good deals. Their new and used bookstores could make this a one-stop shopping experience, and I am not kidding about their helpful and supportive staff.
Not only for homeschoolers, HSB is a go-to resource for all families who are looking for educational materials for their children.
The local Facebook groups listed above can help you with advice and also purchasing since many of the members sell their used materials.
Also, I was so happy to find this article. It lists all my favorites resources that I have used over the years.
Bought the Wrong Curriculum? No Problem
I remember I used to get so worried about buying the “wrong” curriculum. You know what happens if you get something you don’t like? Nothing. You put it up for sale and try something else.
One thing you really should do, if you are able, is ask your homeschool friends and acquaintances. I was lucky to have homeschooling friends a couple of years ahead of me when I was first starting out. It was very helpful to see the books and hear about how they work.
(If you find a good chemistry curriculum for a science-smart kid and a science-dumb mama, please let me know. I’m looking.)
Join Facebook Groups for Recommendations and Support
There are several local Facebook groups where families get advice, announce activities, and buy and sell homeschool curriculum and other related items. While each group serves a different purpose or has a different emphasis, they are a great place for information.
- GRAIN- Grand Rapids Area Inclusive Network for Homeschoolers
- Michigan Homeschoolers (Previously West Michigan Homeschoolers)
- West Michigan Area Homeschoolers/Grand Rapids Area Homeschoolers
There are also many Facebook groups that are not West Michigan specific. In these groups you can get a broader array of opinions, trends, and information.
- Hip Homeschool Moms Community
- Homeschooling with Netflix
- Moms for All Seasons
- New/Used Homeschool Curriculum, Books, Manipulatives
Enroll in Hybrid Homeschool Programs
Some schools in the area offer hybrid programs, in which a student divides time between attending the school and learning at home. Such programs allow families to enjoy the perks of both homeschooling and enrolling in a school where extracurricular activities are also offered as part of the program.
- Hamilton Community Schools
- Jenison International Academy
- NorthPointe Christian Schools
- Sacred Heart Academy
- Trinitas Classical School
What If I Work? Can I Still Homeschool Well?
The short answer is “Yes.”
Can it be tricky? Also, “Yes.”
I think the biggest hurdle for a homeschool family to overcome is the notion that you must operate a traditional classroom. Homeschool classrooms do not look like traditional classrooms.
You do not need to be the only teacher. You do not need to teach your children all at once. You do not need to start school at 9 AM.
Homeschool families get to think outside the box. They get to reimagine the learning experience.
Divvy Up Tasks Between Parents
Every homeschool works around the dynamics of the family, and the same will be true for a family with two working parents. Because you are not restricted to certain hours of the day for instruction time, you can arrange your school day however you like.
Plus, it takes far less time to teach only a few kids than it does a whole classroom. This is not an 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. gig. It’s perfectly fine to have an unconventional way of doing things when you homeschool.
If there are two working parents at home, divvying up the teaching and tag-teaming instructional time may be the answer.
Use Tutors & Other Instructors for Tough Subjects
Tutors, both online and in-person, are also an option, especially with so many college students and other homeschool parents in the area.
Eventually, the many local homeschool co-ops will be up and running again, and that will be an excellent resource for you, too.
Do you have a homeschool friend who’s really good at English, whereas you’re more of a Math mom? Consider a teaching swap!
You may have to pare down your life for a bit in order to focus on the really important stuff, and you may often feel like your brain is on fire.
Once you realize that you can be flexible with how you run your school and that you are not running a public school in your home, you can give yourself and your family the grace to adjust to your unique homeschool life.
Making the Switch
Diane Hehman is a local homeschooling mom who also is an administrator for two homeschool Facebook pages. She works as a freelance homeschool education consultant. She said the requests to join the groups and use her services has been steadily increasing, with a sharp bump up this past week, when social media began to speculate that public school will not be normal in the fall.
Whitney Timmer, the HSB media coordinator, said HSB has definitely seen an increase in interest for their services. She said the HSB staff has been so busy filling orders for curbside pick up that they often have days that they don’t ever sit at their desks. They are ready and excited to welcome families of all educational methods to HSB.
“We are prepped and ready for an uptick in customers,” Timmer said.
Homeschool Extracurriculars Make Each Child’s Learning Journey Unique
Being a homeschool student means you can build your learning interests into your school day. Take music lessons, practice a sport or learn how to cook. Here are some places students can enhance their homeschool curriculum around Grand Rapids.
Join a Homeschool Co-Op
West Michigan has a large number of cooperative programs (co-ops) for homeschoolers. Some require parental involvement (teaching, childcare, or miscellaneous tasks) and some do not.
Most are weekly programs where students have multiple classes, though many offer the a la carte approach where students can take only one class.
These are especially helpful for families that don’t feel equipped to teach the upper-level courses. I recently signed one of my girls up for a chemistry class at Four Square where this veteran homeschooling mom will be a newbie.
These programs are an excellent source for extracurricular classes – especially the arts, home economics, and foreign languages.
- Classical Conversations (search for “Grand Rapids” area groups – there are several)
- Epic Homeschool Academy
- Four Square
- GRACE Home School Association
- Koinonia Home School Group
- Lingual Learners
- LINK Homeschool Co-op
- Parent Teacher Co-Op
- West Michigan Homeschool Fine Arts
Use Local Businesses That are Homeschool Friendly
Many local businesses and organizations are aware of the large homeschooling population in the area and offer day classes targeted at homeschoolers.
- Blandford Nature Center’s Nature in Action: Homeschool Program
- Camp Roger Home School Program
- Discovery Wilderness School
- For the Kidz: Gymnastics
- Venture Action Sports
Michigan Homeschool Kids can Still get Special Needs Help
Become a nonpublic school to access special needs services through the state.
Many families who desire special services provided by the school system become a nonpublic school. If you have a child with special needs, services are available to you if you want.
The nonpublic school option has different requirements as far as reporting and teacher qualifications. You will need to file this form with the Michigan Department of Education and work with your district regarding the services you require.
You, of course, are able to seek out private solutions for your special needs, and that is where the homeschool community will come in handy. Check out some of the contact links in the next section.
Home School Legal Defense Association is a popular resource for families, and right now they are busy helping COVID-concerned families research their homeschooling options. I highly recommend you check them out. This page is Michigan-specific and is particularly helpful.
Since so many of our resources (curriculum, information, support) need to be found online during the pandemic, here is a list of some Facebook groups to check out:
- Frugal Homeschooling
- Grand Rapids Area Inclusive Network for Homeschoolers (GRAIN)
- Hip Homeschool Moms Community
- Homeschooling Parents of Children with Asperger’s Syndrome
- Homeschooling with Dyslexia
- Homeschooling with Netflix
- Michigan Homeschoolers
- West Michigan Homeschoolers
Take Advantage of HSB, Inc.
I sort of saved the best for last.
Your next stop will be to check out HSB, Inc. This is a great place to learn about homeschooling, and it is sort of our “hub” for networking and community.
If you are not comfortable in a public place quite yet due to the pandemic, HSB’s two bookstores (new and used) are operational for curbside pick up, or you can schedule a 30-minute personal shopping appointment with one of the very knowledgeable staff members who work there.
The HSB staff is well-known for being helpful educational advisors. You can give them a call for curriculum and other resource questions, and you should also sign up for the weekly HSB Connections email newsletter.
Not only does this building serve the community with classrooms to rent, two book stores (used and new books), a gymnasium, it most importantly provides a connection that we all can plug into.
Many groups meet here and use the facilities. Just a few of them are:
You can also rent out space at HSB for your group or event, and to do so, it doesn’t need to be homeschool related.
Located in Wyoming, HSB is staffed by experienced homeschool adults who are happy to help families in multiple ways with their educational needs. There are monthly meetings to help new homeschoolers and a weekly newsletter that is full of useful resources – I highly recommend it.
I would love to hear about your favorite homeschool resources in the comments section below. I love hearing about how this community continues to grow and offers more options every year. We are not in this alone!
You Are Uniquely Qualified to Teach Your Kids
I have really just scratched the surface of some of the aspects of homeschooling. Because of the pandemic homeschoolers’ “normal” is uncertain, too. We are missing our vigorous and active community and are looking forward to its return.
You may be very uncertain about all this and hesitant about what this fall will bring, but don’t doubt for a minute that you can’t somehow make this work, whether you plan to do it temporarily or long-term. You know and love your child best, and you are able to figure out how to get them what they need.
And there’s a whole bunch of homeschoolers out here who’ve got your back.