How to Partial Home School: Quick Overview by Deborah Ruf, PhD ©2009

What is Partial Home Schooling?

Partial home schooling—which we can also describe as “emanating from the home schooling” or “the parent’s role as educational manager”—involves keeping the child in the regular school for part of the day and in some alternative educational situation the other part of the school day. While home schooling is currently legal in every state, the law does not generally anticipate partial home schooling, although it, too, is legal most states. In Minnesota, for example, is a law called “120B.20, Parental Curriculum Review,” which basically permits parents to provide what the school has not. The school’s permission is not required. Public tax support is still available to the school when a child is partial home schooled. Private schools do not generally reduce their fees if the child still attends part of the day, and the school’s permission is needed. The reason I recommend partial home schooling is to enable the family to provide learning experiences at the child’s own level and pace, and to keep the school aware that the school has not done so. If a family totally removes their child, the school system cannot experience that the child needed more than was being provided. Even if a parent is not “qualified” to teach, the child who still attends school part time will take regular standardized achievement tests and thereby prove that his achievement has been enhanced rather than damaged by the partial home schooling.

Who Should Partial Home School?

Families who have children who are able to work ahead of the normal pace provided by the school are good candidates for partial home schooling. It would be ideal if schools grouped children for instruction by their readiness to learn rather than by their ages, but such is not the case in most school systems for the elementary or middle school grades. Even during the years prior to the 1970’s when most elementary classrooms had three reading groups and three math groups and the junior high school years were “tracked” by learning ability, the very brightest students’ needs still often went largely unmet. If your school will not place your child in an instructional group that is doing learning at the pace and level your child is ready for—either by grouping within or across grade levels—or does not provide an individualized accelerated plan which permits your child to progress at his own pace, then you can teach your child yourself in selected subjects via partial home schooling.

When to Partial Home School

As far as partial homeschooling is concerned, there are a number of important considerations. Don’t “add on” to the school day with home school lessons, but instead, some assignments can be done when the child is in school but already done with regular class work or excused from specific class work. In other words, arrange with the regular teacher for your child to do lessons you—or someone you’ve assigned—have designed separately, lessons that are part of your plan for your child’s learning progress. I prefer that a part-time student homeschooler miss the first hour or more of school daily, though, and do such assignments at home or otherwise outside the regular classroom. This can take place at home or somewhere else on the school’s campus, and it is easier to get the student’s and the teacher’s cooperation with this set-up. Sometimes it is truly asking too much to expect the teacher to monitor one student doing something completely different
from the rest of the class. Not all students are cooperative under such circumstances, either, and monitoring at home or by a tutor or mentor somewhere else on the school’s campus is often far more effective.

It is very important to arrange a regular schedule for any partial home schooling, and a late start in the morning generally works best. There are at least two good reasons why this is true. First, the parent-in-charge will find it easier to stay on track, and the regular classroom teacher needs to know what he or she is—and isn’t—responsible for. An intermittent schedule is disruptive to the teacher, i.e., what is she to do with the child on the alternate days or weeks that he is there? Second,
the best social interaction opportunities start toward lunch, recess, and the afternoon. Kids preparing to leave for the day are looser and more relaxed, as well. If the child were to leave school early, he could have more feeling of missing something than when he arrives at a set time during the first half of the day. Finally, most highly academic subjects, the ones at which a gifted child needs less time and help and repetition, tend to be bunched early in the day when children’s focus and
attention spans are the best.

What to Study Away From the “Regular School” Day

I prefer the “Big Unit” approach to home schooling. Reading, writing, and math are the primary subjects that need to be taught at an accelerated rate for most gifted children. They can be taught in the context of interesting units. The parent or tutor can plan a unit based on a theme that interests either the child or the adult. Pull together materials (books, magazines, websites, DVDs, maps, etc.) that are at different levels of difficulty and varying formats that all center on the same topic. For example, perhaps you will choose a dinosaur theme. The books that would become part of this unit can include not only books on dinosaurs but biographies of scientists who have discovered dinosaur bones, e.g., archeologists and paleontologists. Find related materials that explain more about the areas where such research takes place. Field trips to museums and archeological digs are good supporting opportunities. While the child is still in the very slow-paced
elementary years, you should plan carefully for family trips; you can afford the time away from school! And plan note taking, notebook keeping, math problems, map reading, and photography, whatever you want to do to make the experience truly deep and broad and interesting. You can see how to add writing tasks into this, as well. Create lists and objectives together with the child on what specifically he will look for on a field trip or when watching a film or reading a book. It might not be immediately apparent where the math comes in. Even if you choose to use an on-line distance learning class or program for math instruction, every day math can still be interwoven into the big units. You can make charts and graphs, take and compare measurements and quantities, create timelines, and design different mathematically based questions, goals and problems in whatever unit you are doing. I have found that gifted children learn their math facts and procedures much better when they are already interested in how to figure something out. In other words, provide the mathematical tools when you need them. You can get math books from the school and use end of chapter problems, and always use every second or third, not ALL the problems when you make assignments. Teach children how to work on problems until they get stuck. They can then look at the reference that is printed by the end-of-chapter problems and go back and read and practice that sort of problem until they understand it. The “rote” part of math can be largely self-taught. Creating the real life problems and showing children how to solve those is more interesting and important to teach.

At What Level Should the Lessons Be?

Because most home schoolers will be in a class of one, it is not necessary yet to figure out precisely at what level to start. Instead, make sure all materials you gather are at grade level and above. Select a range of materials with a range of complexity. Sometimes you can assign parts of some books, parts of others. It is not always necessary to complete a book, or even a chapter. As you progress through your first unit, you will discover where the child can actually perform. It is
okay to include simple materials, especially if they have good pictures. But it is equally important to include some reading assignments that are stretching current abilities and experience. Sometimes it might be simpler to draw your unit ideas from the social studies and science texts being used in the classroom. You select a topic and go much, much farther in depth over a period of one to two months.

Teaching vs. Assigning

The “Big Unit” should be designed so that the teacher (parent or tutor) does a great deal of up-front planning and work. With experience and practice you will get smoother at this next step: set goals with dates for when reading and other assignments should be completed. Make note cards, calendar entries, or a detailed list of which pages must be read in which books, which part of a specific website must be reviewed, what must be written, which vocabulary words must be looked
up and used in sentences or a paragraph which reveal that you know what they mean, which paragraphs or notebooks or journals must be written in by when … these are the kinds of details that give the student the opportunity to learn to budget his or her own time. It also gives the home school leader the freedom to answer questions, participate in meaningful discussions, and to score and review the finished work while the student is working. It should be a rare occurrence when you
need to stand in front of the child and “teach.” Actual contact time can occur merely once or twice a week to be entirely adequate. Generally, for a young child, three to five times a week will be necessary until you are all comfortable with the expectations, the pace, and the logistics. Older children need less direct contact to keep on task.

Released Time During School

Sometimes the home school schedule still leaves the child in school for subjects that are inappropriate for him because he already knows how to do well what is being taught in class. He or she should be allowed to work on assignments from the home school teacher. When the home school instructor has planned thoroughly, any other adult can see what is expected by when and can take over the task of saying, “Are you on track for getting your Thursday assignments done by the
time you see Auntie?” or “You can go ahead to the media center now to work on your other assignments.” The student can stay at his or her desk or go to another location depending on what works best for the teacher, the child, and the class. The partial home schooler should attend all special classes like art, music, gym, and recess whenever possible.

Additional Resources

Most states have gifted child organizations and local affiliates. Check for a state by state list with links. Many of these organizations have chapters specifically for home schooled students, and they will have information on local classes, materials, and how-to’s for parents new at this. Mensa BrightKids is a free listserve whose online members provide guidance and support to interested parents, as well. As parents discover how much they can do themselves for their bright children, the whole process seems less frustrating or daunting.

Finally, since I wrote this article in 2009, and it is now 2016, I know that technology has advanced considerably since then. By all means, take advantage of it as you work out what works best for you and your child!