Homeschooling: Homemade Education

Sarah Berson |

Amy Milstein is an Upper West Side mother who homeschools her son and daughter. She said she looked into private schools before deciding that the tuition costs were too high to justify enrolling her children. MetroFocus/Megan Thompson

According to the city’s Department of Education, about 2,550 kids were homeschooled in New York City in 2010-2011. With approximately 3,400 families in New York State homeschooling their children, there are plenty of resources and fellow practitioners to help guide the savvy parent-educator.  If you’re new to the idea of educating your child at home, this primer can get you started towards a custom-built education that reflects your child’s needs and interests.

The benefits

  • Flexible scheduling, especially for students who are heavily committed athletes or actors
  • For students with special educational needs, homeschooling can provide the right environment, care or specialized instruction. Even if homeschooled, special needs students are entitled to public school resources. Home instructors must complete the required letter of intent and IHIP (see below), as well as provide assessments. The Committee on Special Education will provide assistance in creating an Individualized Educational Learning Plan. Services will be provided to homeschooled special needs students on an equitable basis to those offered to students in public schools. The deadline for letter of intent for special needs students is June 1.
  • A curriculum can be tailored to a student’s interests


The New York State Education department in Albany determines state-wide curriculum and standards. flickr/wallyg

The drawbacks

  • Some resources are not available, such as school-issue textbooks, or access to health care from school nurses
  • Finding opportunities for socialization and group-work may be a challenge
  • Home-schooled students do not receive a high school diploma

The New York City requirements

  • Start by checking out the NY State information page on homeschooling
  • To begin homeschooling, parents must submit a letter of intent to the city, which will be answered within ten days
  • Parents who intend to instruct their students must prepare and submit an Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP) for every home schooled student each year
  • Assessments must be provided annually, as well as progress reports
  • No at-home visits are required, but may be requested by the department of schools if requirements are not met by home instructors
  • The 28 New York State Learning Standards is a good place for home instructors to start. IHIPs need to be based on achieving these standards. Required texts, skills and abilities are described by subject.

Important deadlines

  • June 1: Letter of Intent (for special needs students)
  • July 1: Letter of Intent
  • August 15: Individualized Home Instruction Plan
  • June 30 (following year): Annual Assessment
  • Suggested due dates for quarterly reports: November 15, January 31, April 15, June 30


Saturday School just got a lot more exciting with the Science Barge in Yonkers. There is a suggested donation of $3 on Saturdays and Sundays to check out the sustainable farm and environmental center. flickr/Andrea Schwalm

Blogs and Local NYHEN Groups

Any good teacher knows not to try to reinvent the wheel. Homeschool NYC is the blog of New York City-based homeschooler Laurie Block Spigel, who has tons of resources for the newcomer (her two homeschooled sons are now in college). Find what’s cheap or free in the city to both educate and entertain your students, find a support group or check out recommended books and resources.

Cityschooling, a blog by author, mother and homeschool teacher, Angela, can provide inspiration on how to make best use of educational activity the city offers. The blog’s manifesto states: “We use what we love, pursue interests, and take advantage of the abundant resources, opportunities, and experiences New York City has to offer.” And who doesn’t love free samples? Check out her sample letter of intent, 4th grade IHIP, and quarterly report. That was easy!

Teach stats, averages and percentages by watching a game together. flickr/Eric Beato

New York Home Educators Network (NYHEN) is a good resource for both content standards to meet the state’s requirements, and to find fellow homeschoolers in your area.  See the Southeastern New York section for New York City, Long Island and Rockland and Orange County support groups, forums and yahoo groups. Some groups are for certain age groups or families of color.


Books or multimedia tools
Though public schools are not required to loan books to homeschoolers, you can always ask. Contact your local school to find out if they have an extra set on hand.

The Internet is a vast expanse of information for the homeschooler. Even if you aren’t homeschooling but need extra help for your student at home, check out the Khan Academy‘s free 3,100 videos whose topics range from finding percentage, to the Krebs cycle, to the Haitian Revolution and SAT test preparation.

Keep students entertained while they put their education to good use with Cyberchase math games from PBS Kids. They can help a character read a map to get around town, sort crazy creatures into a zoo-based Venn diagram or figure out how to get everyone across the river. Even for non-homeschoolers, these games are fun and educational.

Go online for affordable textbooks that you can buy or rent. Check out for free shipping on orders over $25. Alibris offers a buy or rent program and paperbacks for 99 cents. Long-loved by college students for their cheap books, is easy access for the frugal homeschooling instructor.

Check out Bare Books for personalized notebooks, calendars and progress tracking charts. One of the greatest awards is stickers. Get them here!

Get 10 percent off with an Educator’s Discount Card at Barnes and Noble.

School supplies:

Help stimulate your student's creativity with art supplies and bug catchers. flickr/PearlsofJannah

To access to all the staplers you could possibly want, as well as pencils, notebooks and art supplies, head to Barclay School Supplies in Brooklyn to satiate you inner Milton from Office Space inside all of us with . Check out their online catalog for math books, readers and activity books.

The Scholastic Store in SoHo is a haven for all things educational. Place a special order for a hard-to-find resources, schedule your student’s next birthday party or visit the store at 11:00 am Tuesday-Thursday for free storytime.

Carol School Supplies in Brooklyn offers complete homeschooling kits for different subjects and at all grade levels. Check out their phonics kits, hands-on math materials, or science sets.

United Supply Corporation in Brooklyn not only offers an excellent variety of teaching materials and books, but it also has a range of athletic equipment. They have games and activities for all ages.

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