Idaho: The Best State to Homeschool in the US?
Hey, Dave Edwards, Treasure Valley Dave here in Nampa, Idaho. We’re doing something special right here in the office today. We have Julie Freeman and her three homeschoolers to talk about why Idaho is the best state to homeschool in the United Staes.
A little background: Julie is a mom of four children. Her eldest has already graduated, and she still has three girls — Faith, Kaylee, and Clara — at home. They’ve been homeschooling for 12 years now and going strong with it.
Talking about homeschooling is essential. Are you already living in Idaho? Are your kids in a regular school? Are you considering looking into something different for them? What is it like to homeschool in Idaho? Is it something that you can do? Is it something that you want to give to your children?
I’ll let Julie start talking about their homeschooling experience so far.
Julie Freeman: Homeschooling Is Not Scary
It’s not as scary as most people think. You don’t need a special education. Your heart needs to want it for your family and your kids. Idaho is the best state to homeschool in because it’s not regulated.
You decide you want to homeschool, and then you homeschool your kids. The only requirement is that you teach the main subjects they teach in public schools. The recommended subjects are math, science, language, arts, and social studies. How you want to teach those is up to you.
If there’s any elective that you want your kiddos to take on, there are opportunities here in the Valley for that.
Idaho Homeschooling Program
Julie: You can pick whatever curriculum you want for the required classes. It can be secular or religious. Whatever you want, it does not matter.
Dave: I remember when our daughter was quite a bit younger, and the thing back then was this new math, which didn’t make sense to us. But you have the option when you’re homeschooling. If you prefer to avoid new math, you could teach other maths.
Julie: Yes, we don’t do any Common Core or CRT curriculum. Our curriculum is faith-based. God is intertwined into their education, and we love it that way.
Dave: Do you have to grade them every quarter and then give them report cards?
Julie: I don’t do report cards. I keep track of grades for the teenagers for high school, though. This way, they can have transcripts and graduate with a diploma if they choose to go to traditional college and whatnot. But we generally keep grades on math, and I have my finger on everything they do. It doesn’t always need to be assigned a grade.
Dave: Okay. Well, that brings up a great point. If the students want to go on to traditional higher education, is there any impediment because they were homeschooled?
Julie: No. Colleges seek out homeschoolers. They want homeschoolers. If you keep up with those records for them, showing that they’ve done the work, they will scoop them up in a heartbeat.
Dave: Are there any scholarship opportunities when they go because you guys are much more intelligent and can benefit the university?
Julie: Possibly. There might be opportunities based on community service and other things they’ve done. But I haven’t looked into that.
Dave: Okay. What about some activities that require more than three or four students to do, like sports teams or band?
Julie: There is a massive community here in the Treasure Valley. That’s another reason why the best state to homeschool in is Idaho. We call them co-ops, but it’s where you go to a class day once a week. They’re usually parent-led — moms or dads. Some dads on campuses choose what classes they want to provide.
Sometimes, there’s history, science, cooking, or debate. Other times, there’s a cotillion for learning formal dancing and etiquette. There are a lot of opportunities here where it’s more than just us at home. We’re out there, engaging and playing sports in the community.
Why Would You Consider Homeschooling in Idaho?
Dave: Is there any negative aspect of being homeschooled? I have heard people say, “Why would you homeschool? Your kids won’t become socialized.”
Julie: I would ask what kind of socialization you want for your kids.
My kids are socialized in a way that they can interact and have quality conversations with someone of any age. They can converse with grown adults and know how to interact with children. So, I want that kind of socialization for my kids and not just have them interact with their peers.
Dave: That’s a plus! When you go to a job interview or something like that, and you’ve only ever talked to somebody your age, it must be scarier than heck. But your children would be prepared.
Julie: They would be comfortable doing that outside of normal interview jitters. Yes.
Kids' Extracurricular Activities
Dave: You said horseback riding is something you like to do, Faith. How does that work in your school? Do you get graded for how well you do that?
Faith: No, it just counts as an extracurricular activity that I like doing on the side as a hobby.
Dave: So then you have to take care of the horse. You have to do some textbook learning about horses and how to take care of them.
Faith: Yes and no. I have a lot of horse books that I’ve already read, but we have horses, so I’m around them a lot. I get to learn every day about new things.
Dave: Nice, and what about you, Kaylee?
Kaylee: I enjoy being around our animals and riding our horses.
Dave: What animals do you have besides horses?
Kaylee: We have sheep, horses, dogs, a cat, and chickens.
Dave: Wow, you guys are all responsible for maintaining and caring for them, getting the eggs.
Julie: Mm-hmm, that’s Clara’s job.
Dave: Is that right? Wow. Is that scary?
Clara: No, not unless the chicken’s broody.
Dave: Yeah. You get out of there if they come after you and start pecking.
Dave: Wow, do you teach driver’s ed?
Julie: That’s one thing that I cannot do. We went through Nampa Christian High School, which has a great program there. We sent the girls there. They’re both driving and have their permits.
Dave: But you guys probably have been on tractors and stuff like that since you were this tall, right? It’s no big deal for your kiddos.
Idaho Homeschool Funding
When you talk about homeschooling, there are two kinds. The first one is on-your-own homeschooling, where the government is not touching your family. They have no part in your schooling.
Your second option is the charter schools. They’re publicly funded, and you can join those. You would get state funding but must abide by their rules. They follow a secular curriculum, and you have to do submissions and state testing to receive the funds.
However, most traditional homeschoolers don’t feel that charter schools offer proper homeschooling. After all, the government has a hand in it, and it’s an online virtual school. Then, you have all the requirements that you have to meet. If that’s what you need, there is that opportunity, but the state does not fund homeschooling on your own.
Julie: That all depends on what you choose to do. Curriculum-wise, there’s a vast ocean of it, which can be overwhelming. The best thing to do is go to a seasoned mom or dad and ask them to help you sort everything.
As for expenses, homeschooling in Idaho is cheaper than sending your kids to a private school. There is an investment in your curriculum. However, you can pass it down if you choose to use it for each child.
Most of the curriculum is broken down, telling you what to do each week for how many weeks. You can divide the lessons per weeks of school.
Dave: So it’s not a matter of lacking resources. Instead, there might be too many.
Julie: Yeah, there are too many options. But if you know what you want in your homeschool, you can narrow it down.
Why Did You Choose Homeschooling?
Julie: We put my eldest son in public school. Kindergarten — that was a great experience. He did well; he loved it. First grade was slightly different because my son had a rough year with the teacher. Second grade came along, and we were just done. He was getting bullied in first and second grade. And even with me being on campus and helping in the school, it didn’t stop.
That’s why we decided right then and there that that’s not what we want for our children. We want better for them. We want a better education for them. And we like our kids. We don’t like to send them off all day long.
Dave: Nice. So, was it that the teachers weren’t supportive when your son was in those grades? Or is it just the other kids and the atmosphere of how kids interact?
Julie: Yeah, one of his teachers struggled with a personal issue, so I know that came out during class. But it was more of that socialization that I didn’t want for my kids. I like to control their environment somewhat and ensure that they’re not exposed to things we’re not ready for them to be exposed to.
Dave: I’m just playing devil’s advocate here. Are you controlling what your kids learn? Do you guys feel there’s stuff you want to know more about that homeschooling can’t offer? Or are you guys satisfied that you’ve learned everything you ever wanted to know?
Faith: I’m satisfied. If there’s something I’m interested in, I will go after it on my own. I will look into it when I have free time.
Kaylee: We’re not being held back on what we’re learning. Just like she said, if there’s anything we want to know about, we research it.
Clara: Well, we’re not being held back, but it’d be nice to play more sports because you can’t do as many as them when homeschooling.
Julie: Yeah. In our family, we have one sport per season per kid. That way, we can control the family dynamic and still have dinners together.
Dave: Right. Otherwise, you’d be driving all over the place.
Julie: Yes. We value that family time together.
Dave: Right. Is that a good or bad thing that you’re always with your children?
Julie: It can be good and bad. I’m sure we all get sick of each other. But our relationships are wonderful, and we’re very close. Like I said, we love spending time together.
Dave: Do you have two different hats: your mom’s hat for after 3:30 and your teacher’s hat?
Julie: Absolutely. Coming out of summertime and trying to get back into that routine, putting on the student/teacher hat is tough. It takes about a month to get back into the swing of school.
Dave: Ah. There’s probably no summer off because you’ve taught your kids to be inquisitive and not be afraid to pick up a book.
Julie: Anytime something is presented to us, we take the opportunity to learn about it. We do take the summer off, though. Several families do school year-round, but I need a break. And they work hard. Some of the big girl’s schoolwork is at a college level, and they deserve a break.
What's Next After Homeschooling?
Dave: You’ve probably talked with many people who have been through the experience. Have you talked with any adults homeschooled through high school and how that impacted their lives?
Julie: A few parents in our community were homeschooled, and they loved it so much that they wanted it for their children. Before they even had children, they decided that that’s what they wanted for their family. Homeschools have changed a ton in the last 30 years. It’s just very different now — in a good way. The children are not as isolated as maybe they were a while ago, so I’ve heard positive things.
But I’ve also heard things shared with me that they weren’t truly homeschooled. It was like the parents’ intentions were there to homeschool, but it wasn’t a priority. And if it’s not a priority, then you’re robbing your children of the education they deserve. You must set and stick to those priorities; otherwise, you can delay their education.
Dave: So it’s a conversation you must have before pulling the trigger. As a parent, are you committed? You have a conversation with your kids as well. It’s like, “Can you be committed to this?”
Julie: Yeah. And at the end of every year, we evaluate, “How was your year? Did you like it? What did you not like? Would you like to try something different next year?” And we always are open to having that conversation with them so that they’re involved in the decisions on their education.
Dave: Wow, your kids must be mature regarding these big life choices.
Julie: They are mature, yes.
Home Schooling in Idaho vs. Other States
Julie: We’ve homeschooled in California and Oregon. Homeschooling in California is very regulated. You have to do state testing and keep better track of grades and things like that. So it’s very different.
I’m not big on test-taking, so it’s not the best state to homeschool for us. Besides, my children were so young when we were in California. Only my son had to test once because it starts at a certain age. However, you must fill out forms stating that you’re going to homeschool so the government knows where your children are and what they’re doing.
Julie: It’s the same thing in Oregon. You must fill out forms and do state testing to homeschool.
Dave: And are there homeschool communities in Idaho?
Julie: There are, yeah. There are several co-ops and different groups in California and Oregon, so the support is there. There’s just more paperwork that you have to do.
Dave: If anyone else is still in one of those states, and you’re not happy with your kids in public school, check out homeschooling. Even though it’s not as free and liberating as it is in Idaho, it’s a step towards that.
Julie: Yes. We do classical conversations, which is a classical school. So they’re learning classically, entirely different from how our children are taught in regular public schools.
Dave: Is that like memorization?
Julie: Yes, lots of memorization. A lot of things are through songs. I won’t have them break out in song for you, but they have so much memorized and plugged in their brain. And as they progress in their grades, it’s just a memory peg for them to build on what they’ve learned. So it’s worked very well for our family. I know it’s not for everybody, but there are classical conversations in California and Oregon.
Dave: That’s fantastic. My wife talks about how kids nowadays don’t know their multiplication table because everyone has a calculator on their phone.
Julie: We could sing those for you, but we won’t.
Dave: Nice. Well, it’s great that you guys are being exposed to all these different things.
Dave: What does a typical day look like?
Julie: We do about an hour for each subject. That’s generally about what we do.
Dave: And you start at, say, 8:30 or so?
Faith: Around nine-ish.
Dave: Oh, you’re studying to be a real estate agent.
Julie: The beauty of homeschooling is that you don’t have to start extremely early. High school students spend about five to six hours daily studying but no homework. So they do their work, and then they’re done for the day. Then, they have the freedom to get up as early as they want to and be done with school when they’re done.
Dave: That sounds like there is a lot of extra time in the day for those other things to do.
Is Homeschooling Worth It?
Julie: Absolutely. I don’t regret a second of my time being geared towards the kids and homeschooling.
Dave: If you were to give some advice to a kid that’s not getting homeschooled or maybe in another state, what would you tell them?
Clara: You should do homeschooling because I like that you can try and race your siblings at it and have all the extra time left in your day to do anything you want.
Kaylee: It’s a great experience to learn many different things. In public schools, there are set subjects. You can learn them at home, but you have a bunch of homework to do. I also enjoy all the extra time you get.
Faith: It’s a fantastic opportunity, but you must be devoted to learning. That’s one thing that I’ve learned that I needed to do. And the extra time is fantastic. You can do anything once you’re done. You could start early in the morning; you could start later.
Got Homeschooling Questions?
Dave: So, Julie, what else should parents need to know?
Julie: Parents looking into it should go to the HSLDA website. There, they can learn about homeschool requirements in Idaho and other states and get their questions answered. There’s just a lot of information on there for them. It is a great starting point.
Dave: Wow, Julie, thank you for bringing the class here. You’ve provided a lot of information for people to consider. Maybe you’ve given them that little spark if they consider moving to the best state to homeschool kids.
Contact us if you’d like to learn more about homeschooling and other educational information before moving to Idaho. Your Treasure Valley Dave Team is your real estate expert by your side, helping you get home.