I homeschool because: there is no one-size-fits-all education
Cassie O shares why she switched to homeschooling, how she chose her curriculum, and how she tailors her approach for each of her kids.
Cassie O is a homeschooling pro. She’s also a curriculum geek and my new personal hero as a full-time working mom and parent to neurodiverse and neurotypical kids.
As someone who grew up being homeschooled, I knew I would love getting to interview Cassie. She is hilarious and full of fun, enthusiasm, and insight.
Our interview explored why she transitioned to homeschooling even though she loved her public school experience and why she felt like school was, “getting the best parts of her child.”
We also cover how she chose her homeschooling curriculum, outsources topics she doesn’t want to teach, and her thoughts on teaching credentials vs. no credentials.
Most importantly, Cassie shares why she believes education is not one-size-fits-all and how homeschooling gives her the freedom to tailor each of her children’s learning experiences.
Editor’s note: This interview is part of our I homeschool because article series. The purpose of these articles is to showcase unique and differing first-hand experiences and approaches to homeschooling.
The goal is not to be prescriptive or to say this is the “right way” to homeschool or that this is the only valid approach. We hope this series inspires you to find what works best for your family.
Meet Cassie O: homeschooler, Outschooler, and more
Cassie O works as a Partnerships Specialist at Outschool. Or, as I like to call it, she’s an Outschool “matchmaker.” Cassie matches schools and groups with custom classes on Outschool. She also supports new-to-homeschooling families as they figure out how to use Outschool to support their needs.
She is perfect for this role because she is a homeschooling parent. Yes, she works full-time and homeschools. I am in AWE. (Meanwhile, I can barely parent and squeeze in a shower.)
Cassie and her family live in the suburbs of San Diego. She has three kids. Her oldest is 14 and just started public school. Cassie said she’s “having a love-hate relationship with that.” Her twins are 10 and are still homeschooling.
What surprised me most about Cassie’s homeschooling story is that she had a fantastic public school experience growing up and hadn’t initially planned to homeschool.
"It took me a couple of years to get out of the public school mindset. I loved school. Like really loved school – I was that kid. Several of my teachers were at my wedding."
But she decided to switch to homeschooling to better serve the needs of her family.
Why Cassie switched from public school to homeschooling
Two things prompted the change. First was the core one-size-fits-all structure of the traditional schooling experience.
"I think public schools waste a lot of time. And I think, in many cases, they kill the love of learning. It’s not necessarily their fault. I think it’s the nature of the setup. It’s very one-size-fits-all, and that doesn’t fit all kids."
Ultimately, Cassie decided that the one-size-fits-all approach wouldn’t work for her family. For example, one of her children, Ella, is neurodiverse. She has a strong need for structure and an aversion to too much sensory input, as well as a couple of other specific needs Cassie didn’t feel would be best met in a public school environment.
Most people are surprised that Ella is overwhelmed in certain environments because, as Cassie put it, "she’s so good at masking.”
"She knows some of her behaviors are different, and she’ll feel anxious about them, so she’ll suppress them until she’s no longer in public. But when she gets in the car or comes home, it all comes out. My fear with public school is that she’d spend so much energy suppressing herself and then come home and be a disaster."
Cassie’s decision to homeschool also came from watching their now high schooler, come home from kindergarten each day grumpy, exhausted, and laden with homework. “School was getting the best parts of my child,” Cassie said.
She wanted to give her children a better learning experience: enter homeschooling.
No one-size-fits-all education: find what works for you
Several years into the homeschooling journey, Cassie has become a pro. She’s a self-proclaimed “homeschool curriculum geek” and a passionate advocate for parents’ ability to invest in their children.
"A question I often get from new homeschoolers is, ‘do you have a teaching credential?’ And what I tell them over and over is that you are the best person to teach your child. There will never be a better teacher for your child than you."
But that doesn’t mean you have to do it all. Cassie isn’t afraid to admit when she’s out of her depth teaching specific subjects.
"Another question I get a lot is, how will I teach subjects I’m not good at? I tell them, listen, you don’t have to teach every single subject just because you homeschool. Use Outschool, join a local co-op, and dual enroll in community college. You have options. You can get help."
For example, Cassie leverages several resources to supplement her homeschooling, Including her local California homeschool charter school. Homeschool charters are unique because they leverage state funds to support homeschooling families. While they’re not available in every state, they’re a fantastic resource.
At her charter school, Cassie works with a state-assigned credentialed teacher and has access to a lending library where they can check out textbooks or Microscopes, etc. Charter homeschoolers also receive a digital bank account for books and teaching supplies.
Cassie also uses Outschool as an ongoing supplement for her homeschooling and to outsource certain subjects.
First, her family identifies a subject where they want additional support or want to dig deeper
Then, Cassie has her kids choose the classes they want to take
Cassie reviews their class selections, gives the final approval, and adds to their homeschooling schedule. She also uses Outschool’s learner allowance feature to let her kids search for and request classes that interest them.
It works because there is focus and input from Cassie, but her kids get to have an active say in what they learn and how they learn it, which gets them excited.
"It’s so fun to watch my kids pick things that are so vastly different and that make them so excited."
Cassie’s other daughter loves animals, so her selection was a multi-day introduction to veterinary science class taught by a veterinarian!
Cassie’s kids also take ongoing and personalized Outschool classes with friends. It’s a genius move on Cassie’s part because learning with friends helps engage her kids on topics they don’t always love. For example, Ella takes a 3-days-a-week math class with her friend, who also doesn’t like math.
Being in it together helps motivate the girls, and Cassie gets to outsource subjects she doesn’t want to teach. It’s a win-win.
One of Cassie’s favorite things about using Outschool classes is you can find unique teachers.
Rachel is just a phenomenal teacher who makes math fun. She teaches math through a lot of games and stuff like that. And I think that’s really the beauty of Outschool, you can find a more traditional teacher who teaches in a traditional, standards-based way, and you can also find the Rachels.
Teachers who teach math in a different way. Who think outside the box and try to make math fun for kids who struggle or aren’t interested in it. That’s one of my favorite parts of Outschool."
Something else I love about Outschool is that if my child finds something they’re interested in, we can do a fun one-time Outschool class and scope out the teacher and their style.
One of the reasons I homeschool is because I don’t think education is one-size-fits-all. Outschool makes that possible, I can tailor to each of my child’s needs.
Bottom line, just because you are your kids’ primary teachers doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t get help.
Credentialed vs. non-credentialed teaching
Real-world experience matters when it comes to teaching, especially to Cassie, but there’s not always room for it in traditional education.
For example, when Cassie registered her oldest for public school, she wanted her daughter to be excused from P.E. Why? Because she’s in a pre-professional ballet academy and spends several hours dancing a week. That physical exercise requirement is being met, and then some, even if it’s not happening on school grounds.
But the answer was no – her daughter’s ballet teachers weren’t credentialed instructors, even though they dance professionally all over the world.
"I think it’s about switching from the mindset that only teachers can teach. As a homeschool parent, I don’t subscribe to the notion that all teachers have to be credentialed. I think credentials are important and especially necessary in certain subjects and areas. You need to know what you’re doing if you’re teaching higher-level math or science."
Who better to learn veterinary medicine than from a veterinarian?
"Or, how my daughter took an interior design class from an interior designer on Outschool. She wasn’t a credentialed instructor, but she had all of the real-world experience. Teachers like that can give unique insights."
Cassie believes homeschoolers are especially good at valuing opportunities for learning in all aspects of life, not just at school. “We don’t see the official school setting as the end all be all,” she said.
How Cassie selected her homeschool curriculum
Cassie is an eclectic homeschooler who likes to piece together multiple resources and approaches to create her family’s homeschool experience. Like most homeschooling families, they started their curriculum journey based on suggestions from friends.
"Initially, we started with other people’s recommendations. The homeschool community is strong. You get into the homeschool community, and they’re happy to have you over and share what they do and use. So we started with recommendations. I also liked how many curriculums will let you download a week or two samples for free. So we got to try a bunch."
But Cassie was quick to point out that she avoids curriculum with too much “busy work,” especially for young kids.
"In every homeschool group I’m in, when a new person joins and asks, ‘my child is five, what curriculum should I get? All the veteran homeschool parents say: ‘none. Nothing. Go to museums and the park. Buy them play dough, play outside, travel, and go on vacations. I think so much more is gained from playing at a young age with kids than the busy work."
Other things Cassie avoids in a curriculum:
Too many books or resources in one day and or at a time
Too book-heavy and less experiential in general
Anything politically biased or skewed
As Cassie put it, it’s easy to get swept up looking for the “right way” rather than what actually works for your family or aligns with your beliefs. For example, Cassie’s family decided they wanted to move away from using a religious curriculum.
Our homeschool background started religiously. Most of the people I knew were homeschooling for religious reasons, so a lot of the curricula we initially tried were religiously bent.
While we’re religious and our faith is important to us, the religious curricula I tried wasn’t presenting the worldview I wanted to give my kids. I stepped away from the religious curriculum because I felt it didn’t accurately portray history.
Cassie found that the religious curriculum was loaded. It tended to glamorize white men – simply because they were labeled as people of faith. Cassie felt the religious curricula didn’t accurately include the experiences of all people, especially those of color.
We love how intentional Cassie is in her approach. How she works to ensure she doesn’t present a black-and-white perspective or gloss over the hard parts of history because they’re hard to talk about.
Today, Cassie’s family focuses less on finding the end-all-be-all curriculum and instead on putting together a program that serves their needs. In fact, Cassie uses multiple curricula because “each kid responds to different things.”
Even though I probably won’t end up homeschooling my kids, talking to Cassie challenged me. I’m encouraged to get out of my comfort zone. To think about what I want to teach and impart to my children.
I hope you’re inspired as well. A huge thank you to Cassie for your generosity and willingness to share your story!