Our family has been homeschooling for over seven years with six of those years being in Alaska. The Last Frontier provides unique opportunities and experiences that you’re not likely to find elsewhere. This is why we love homeschooling in Alaska.
Why We Homeschool
I won’t go into too much detail as this post is about homeschooling in Alaska but there are several reasons why we homeschool and love it. We like choosing what our children learn and tailoring studies to their tastes and abilities. We like having our own schedule throughout the year. As a military family, we don’t have to worry about switching schools often. The girls can learn about what they’re interested in. They learn responsibility and work ethic and skills around the home. They’re not influenced by what’s going on in schools. The list goes on. The debate about homeschooling is never-ending but the bottom line is we’re really glad we do it.
Alaska’s Homeschooling Programs
When we first moved to Alaska in the fall of 2015 we were just beginning our second year of homeschooling. I didn’t know anything about what Alaska had to offer for homeschooling families so I was surprised when I heard about the many programs available. We stumbled upon one program, BEST, and decided to give it a try. It was so great to have support and help since we were still new to homeschooling. The girls ended up being with that program for three years.
However, we decided to switch to another program, IDEA, and we’re currently in our third year with them. We found that they were a better fit for our family and I really appreciate all that they have to offer. They have a fantastic website and I am able to submit receipts, place orders, turn in work samples, find forms, check the calendar for activities, and much more.
There are several other programs throughout the state including IDEA, Focus, Cyberlynx, BEST, and Raven. They vary to some degree but have a lot in common as well. I have friends that are enrolled in some of these and they all really like what the program they chose has to offer. There’s something for everyone. If you’re new to homeschooling, they are incredibly helpful and it’s always nice to meet other families too.
Benefits of Joining a Program
These programs offer support to homeschooling families in many ways. Contact teachers help parents with any concerns they might have about their children’s education, offer advice when choosing curriculum, and are especially helpful with planning for high school and beyond. They also offer organized activities, groups, field trips, special classes, and other learning opportunities.
We have taken field trips to the Large Animal Research Station, the fire station, and the office of the local newspaper, to name a few. We have taken sewing, science, and art classes. There’s always something engaging going on so we can participate in whatever the girls are interested in.
Some families choose not to join one of these homeschooling programs as they would rather not have to meet requirements. We were fine with this and feel that we have to do very little compared to the benefits we receive.
We turn in work samples four times a year and grade reports twice a year. These work samples are easy to put together and usually just involve taking a photo of work that the child has completed for each subject. I take a video of them playing their instruments as well to send in. These work samples and my notes about them are filed away in our girls’ records in case they are needed in the future.
That’s it! You don’t have to complete a certain number of days or hours or keep attendance. Alaska is very flexible and not strict when it comes to homeschooling.
This is a big draw to join one of the programs, receiving an allotment. An allotment is a specific amount of money (based on your child’s grade) set aside for you to spend on homeschooling related expenses.
We use our allotment to cover the costs of curriculum, various supplies, and music lessons. We just submit receipts and receive a refund, which can all be done online.
Participating in standardized testing is not required in the state of Alaska but we choose to have our girls take the exams each year. We want them to have the experience of taking these types of tests. They will need to know how to do this if they plan to take any college entry exams in the future.
Some programs offer computer testing and some use written exams. Either way, it’s very organized, usually takes two to three mornings, and it’s a great opportunity for the kids to get together.
The main question we get is about what curriculum we use. I always tell people that we don’t use one specific curriculum but that we piecemeal. Over the years I have found what works for us and my children’s learning styles. In Alaska, you are free to choose which curriculum and even what subjects you want. There aren’t strict requirements.
Here’s what currently mainly use:
First Form Latin (We are not studying Latin anymore and have switched to German. I highly recommend taking a year or two to study Latin. It gives them a better understanding of the English language. For German, we are fortunate enough to have my dad, who is fluent, giving them weekly lessons. He writes these himself so I can’t recommend a curriculum for German.)
For science, we don’t use a purchased curriculum either. Again, my dad, a college professor, has written a study unit for each of the girls based on what they’re interested in. Sophia is studying Alaskan geography, Lily’s unit is about what it takes to become a veterinarian, and Ella is learning about geology. That’s what’s really great about homeschooling. The children can learn about what they’re truly interested in!
Regardless of how your family homeschools, there are so many things to do here in Alaska. The learning opportunities are endless. Some of our favorite places to go here in the interior include:
Beyond visiting these places, there are a lot of outdoor adventures to be had around here. You can watch the dog mushers of the Yukon Quest, visit one of the many state parks and study Alaskan plant and animal species, get your physical education while cross-country skiing or skating on an outdoor rink, visit the University, or attend a theatrical performance.
There’s hiking, fishing, hunting, foraging, skiing, ice skating, bike trails, and canoeing. There are multiple museums, displays, educational programs, and events throughout the year. You can also join groups such as 4-H or play pretty much any sport. And Denali National Park is a day-trip away with even more to offer. Just being outside in Alaska is an incredible learning experience.
Homeschooling in Alaska
Homeschooling is a rewarding experience, especially here in Alaska. There are too many opportunities to include here but I hope that this gives you some insight into all that homeschooling in Alaska has to offer.