Ideas to use when educating your children at home
Hundreds of families in the Champaign-Urbana area choose to homeschool, and many more have considered the possibility.
In this guide to Homeschooling Resources in Champaign-Urbana, we lay out some of the legal issues any local homeschooling family needs to consider before assuming responsibility for a child’s formal education. Once parents decide to take the homeschooling route, they are faced with a daunting list of decisions — how to choose curriculum, identify local groups, plan extracurricular activities, and discover additional resources? We have organized the rest of this comprehensive guide into these four general categories.
Here’s hoping this list of local resources and recommendations helps you find the information you need for your own homeschooling journey!
Thanks to The Reading Group for presenting Homeschool Resources in Champaign-Urbana. The Reading Group is a nonprofit learning center making a difference in the lives of students who learn differently. The Reading Group helps students reach their full potential in school, work, and life. Find The Reading Group on the web and on Facebook.
Does your family have that one confrontational relative who insists that all homeschooling is illegal?
Homeschooling in Illinois is in fact legal and is considered to be a form of private education. Parents who choose to educate their children at home are under a legal obligation to meet the minimum requirements stated in the Illinois Compulsory Attendance Law.
Section 26-1 of the Illinois School Code states, “Any child attending a private or parochial school where children are taught the branches of education … and where the instruction of the child in the branches of education is in the English language” is in compliance with the Illinois compulsory attendance law. These “branches of education” include “the language arts, mathematics, the biological, physical and social sciences, the fine arts, and physical development and health” (Section 27-1).
Although our state requires homeschooled children to master the same core educational material that students who attend school are exposed to, Illinois law leaves many of the details to homeschooling families. There is no curriculum that homeschooled students must follow, no set amount of time students must spend learning, and no tests students must pass.
You do not need to notify the state of your intention to homeschool. However, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has published a form you can use to notify your Regional Office of Education of your decision to homeschool your child, if you wish. They also strongly recommend sending a letter to your children’s school letting them know you’re withdrawing your child for the purpose of homeschooling.
Begin your official research at the ISBE website, where homeschooling is classified as a form of “alternative learning.” ISBE’s FAQ page regarding homeschooling has additional information on such topics as sending your children to school part-time, special education services, participation in athletics and driver’s ed through your local school, and graduation.
Other laws or requirements that might be of interest to homeschooling families include:
- Labor law. Understand that state and federal labor laws (governing how much and what kind of paid work children may perform) apply to homeschooled students.
- College requirements. Each post-secondary institution will have its own set of requirements or procedures for homeschooled applicants. Check out this FAQ from the University of Illinois-Springfield to see a nearby example.
Now that you have brushed up on relevant legal information, and you’re excited to begin your homeschool journey, we have assembled additional information in four main areas.
Your first step will probably be finding an appropriate homeschooling curriculum. You can research educational material online, talk to fellow homeschooling families, or reach out to a local homeschool group (see below). In any case, once you find out what materials you need, you’ll definitely want to check out your local library. You may be able to borrow many of the materials rather than purchase them. The Champaign Public Library has a great webpage devoted specifically to homeschooling.
Other area organizations used by homeschoolers to enrich their curriculum:
- Champaign Park District — Check out their many classes in cultural arts.
- Urbana Park District — Many options for nature programs with nature discovery packs, loan boxes, and even traveling naturalists.
- Champaign County Forest Preserve District — Includes Mahomet’s Museum of the Grand Prairie, the Homer Lake Interpretive Center, and even publishes a Homeschooling Newsletter.
- Krannert Center — Look for their Youth Series performances, accompanied by educational materials.
- Orpheum Children’s Science Museum — Remember that your Super Family Membership to the Orpheum gets you free or reduced admission to select museums nationwide.
- Spurlock Museum of World Cultures — This U of I hidden gem boasts an Educational Resource Center with artifacts and lesson plans.
- Don’t forget about the increasing number of high school (or college!) courses available online.
2. Local Groups and Co-ops
There are several local homeschool groups and co-ops in the Champaign-Urbana area. Getting plugged into one or more of these groups is a great way to learn more about the homeschooling process and meet families with similar interests. In the words of a veteran homeschooling mom, “When I was brand new to homeschooling, I was lonely and didn’t know what I was doing. Getting together with other people was really helpful so I could say ‘this is happening, is that normal?!'”
Depending on the group, families may choose to collaborate on their children’s education, either through cooperative exchanges of talent/time, through membership fees, or both. Remember that these groups are mostly parent-led. As a result, they will become more or less active as kids age out, switch to an established school, or have life circumstances change around them.
Here is a brief list of local co-ops or other homeschooling groups. (This list is offered as a resource only; we have no relationships with any of these groups.)
- Champaign County Homeschoolers — A private FB group for area home schoolers and families.
- Champaign County HOUSE — A secular homeschooling family cooperative.
- Champaign-Urbana Area Homeschoolers — A Yahoo group, open to all area homeschool families.
- Christian Homeschool Connection (CHC) — A network of local homeschooling Christian families.
- Classical Conversations — A national organization for Christian homeschooling families with chapters in Champaign, Mahomet, and others.
- D.E.E.N. Homeschool Co-op — A K-8 homeschool cooperative serving Muslim families of Champaign-Urbana.
- Homeschool STEAM Alliance — Supporting K-12 students in the Champaign County area, focusing on STEAM activities.
- Horizon Homeschool Cooperative — A K-6 cooperative for Christian homeschooling families, currently meeting at Grace Church (Mahomet).
- Joy in Learning — Academically-focused, nonsectarian group for homeschooling families in the Champaign-Urbana area.
3. Extracurricular Activities
Many organizations in the area offer classes or access during the day to accommodate homeschool families. Go to the organizations’ websites to find schedules and more information.
- Champaign Gymnastics Academy
- Stephens Family YMCA
- Decatur’s Scovill Zoo and Bloomington’s Miller Park Zoo — Both have educational programming
- Michael’s of Champaign — Did you know that this craft store has a classroom?
- The Reading Group — A resource for academic support
- First Christian Church and Windsor Road Christian Church — Hurray for indoor playgrounds!
4. Resources, Tips, and The Idea Store
- Discounts. Many places (museums, zoos, bookstores, etc.) that offer discounts to classroom teachers give the same benefit to home educators. Do the research before you visit; you may be entitled to some savings.
- Sales. Garage/rummage sales can be a great way to get books, P.E. equipment, craft supplies, etc. for a fraction of store prices.
- The Idea Store Where everyone in Champaign-Urbana gets their quality, safe reusable materials for artistic creations, the classroom, experimenting and more!