(Frequently Asked Questions About Homeschooling)
What does it mean to homeschool?
What are some of the benefits of homeschooling?
Is homeschooling legal?
Is homeschooling expensive?
How do I know which materials and resources to use?
Where can I get materials and resources?
Do I need a computer to homeschool?
How do I keep up with changes and current ideas in homeschooling?
What if my child wants to learn something I can't teach?
How will my child learn to get along in the world?
Can I work at a job and still homeschool?
How do I know if my children are learning?
Should I test my child?
What about higher education?
How do I find out about homeschooling in my state?
Q. What does it mean to homeschool? - top
Answer: Homeschooling means different things to different people. For some families, homeschooling means duplicating school at home, complete with textbooks, report cards and regularly scheduled field trips. For others, homeschooling is simply the way they live their lives - children and adults living and learning together with a seamlessness that would challenge an observer to determine which was 'home' and which was 'school.' If you think of a kind of homeschooling continuum, with 'school at home' at one end, and 'learning and living completely integrated' on the other - you would find homeschoolers scattered along that line with every possible variation of what homeschooling could mean.
Q. What are some of the benefits of homeschooling? - top
Answer:A wise man once said, "We can teach our children to have courage, faith and endurance; they can teach us to laugh, to sing, and to love." For many, the deepest and most abiding benefit of homeschooling is the claiming (or reclaiming) of their family. Homeschooling families spend incredible amounts of time together living, learning and playing. They have the opportunity to develop a depth of understanding and a commitment to the family that is difficult to attain when family members spend their days going in separate directions.
Many families like the flexibility homeschooling provides both parents and children. Children can learn about things they are interested in and at a time in their lives when they are ready to learn. No preconceived schedule forces them ahead or holds them back. Vacations and outings can be planned for times when the family is ready - and often when the crowds are smaller or the costs are lower. Children can learn about the 'real world' by being a part of it - no artificial settings to 'provide exposure.' Children can receive a superior education attuned specifically to their own needs, learning styles, personalities, and interests - at far less cost than that of a private or public school.
Q. Is homeschooling legal? - top
Answer: Yes, homeschooling is legal in all 50 states. However, laws and regulations vary from state to state, and interpretations can vary from school district to school district. We recommend that you read the laws for your state yourself, in addition to asking homeschooling organizations for information. The reference librarian at your local library will be able to help you find this information. It is not usually a good idea to ask your local school district or state department of education for information before informing yourself about the laws. In many areas, local officials and even state officials will not truly understand the laws relating to home education, and may therefore ask for far more information than the law requires.
Q. Is homeschooling expensive? - top
Answer: Homeschooling can be as expensive or as inexpensive as you make it. It depends on many factors, including what kinds of materials and resources you choose to use, how many children you will be homeschooling, and whether or not you will be giving up paid employment in order to homeschool your children.
Parents can easily spend a small fortune on all the wonderful learning materials and books available. On the other hand, a superior education can also be accomplished using free resources found through the public library, interlibrary loan, and learning opportunities found in your community, such as museums and trips to interesting places. If you have only one child and decide to use real life experiences, the public library, garage sales and thrift stores for your resources, you may be talking about a couple hundred dollars or less for an entire year. If you decide to purchase a curriculum for five children you could be looking at several thousand dollars over that same year.
Q. How do I know which materials and resources to use? - top
Answer: This is, perhaps, the most difficult question to answer - be prepared for your answer to change over time and be aware that you may make choices that won't work out. Before you think about what you need, think about what learning means to you. School curriculum and methodology have evolved to reflect an environment where 25 or 30 children learn at the behest of one adult. Curriculum developed by experts for this usage has been designed for ease of teaching, but not necessarily for sparking the interest of an individual child.
As a homeschooling family, you can accept as many or as few of these materials as you like. Some families like the ease and security of having a prepackaged curriculum, while others choose to make their own decisions about what is important to learn and what is useful and helpful in their daily lives. Discuss this with your children. What do they want to do? How do they learn best? Look at sample copies of materials before you choose. As homeschoolers, you will be in charge of your learning - take advantage of all the adventure has to offer!
Q. Where can I get materials and resources? - top
Answer: Materials and resources come in all sizes and shapes - and many don't look 'schoolish' at all. Many families find their most treasured learning resources at garage sales and thrift shops. Think of building and needlework materials, cooking tools, books, magazines, motors, gears, etc... Other families frequent the bookstores and educational supply stores in their communities. Some find videos from the video rental store valuable. Most think the public library is the best possible resource. Send for the catalogs that look interesting to you. They are filled with resources which you may find helpful. If you are interested in finding out more about prepackaged curriculum or correspondence schools write for their brochures and informative flyers.
Homeschooling conferences and learning fairs are another place for looking at materials and getting ideas. Check with your local or state support groups for information about these. Perhaps the most extensive and readily available learning resource is the Internet: simply type a few words about what you're looking for - or whatever your child is interested in - into a good search engine such as Google.com.
Q. Do I need a computer to homeschool? - top
Answer: A computer is not necessary to homeschool successfully - thousands of homeschooling families have proven that over the years. But thousands have also proven that a computer can be a valuable asset to a child's learning, and a delightful source of encouragement, information, resources, networking and much more for both the child and the homeschooling parent. If you have questions about whether or not a computer would be right for your family, perhaps a relative or friend, or a homeschooling family in your local homeschool support group, would be willing to share their experience, and perhaps even help you get started - or confirm a decision to remain computerless. Generally, computers can also be accessed either freely or for a minimal charge through local public libraries, Internet cafes, and other avenues, and can be a good way to learn more about the potential without making a major financial commitment.
Q. How do I keep up with changes and current ideas in homeschooling? - top
Answer: A subscription to Home Education Magazine is one of the very best ways to keep in touch with the homeschooling community, and to get great ideas about new projects, activities and materials that will be useful to your family, as well as tried-and-true favorites. Six times a year HEM delivers inspiring and helpful articles, timely interviews, the best new resources, and useful how-to information for connecting with homeschooling families and support groups in your area, as well as tips and directions for networking with the online homeschooling communities. Your best investment for successful homeschooling is a subscription to the oldest and most reliable publication for homeschooling families: Home Education Magazine!
Q. What if my child wants to learn something I can't teach? - top
Answer: Homeschooling families have the world as their classroom. There are classes (correspondence, video, support groups, community centers, colleges, etc...) taught by experts, but many children are very capable of teaching themselves - just as adults do when they have something new they want to learn.
The most powerful learning experiences for a child is to have a parent learning right alongside the child. Parents, thankfully, do not have to be the expert in every area. Learn with your child, or search your community for resources that will help your child learn. And when searching for 'teachers,' don't overlook friends, acquaintances, and business people in your community - most people are delighted to have a young person around who is sincerely interested in what they do and know.
Q. How will my child learn to get along in the world? - top
Answer: Experienced homeschoolers often grimace about this inquiry, sometimes known as the "S" question (socialization). The real concern, it seems, is whether homeschooled children will be able to function in the adult world if they don't have the same institutional-type "socializing" experiences schooled children have. The educator and author John Holt once commented, "If I could give just one reason why children should NOT go to public schools, it would be the socialization they receive there. In general, the kind of behavior one finds most often in schools is petty, cruel, and mean-spirited." Parents who may be concerned that their homeschooled children are missing a valuable experience by not participating in the type of socialization which happens in a public school environment should probably ask themselves if that is the type of "socialization" they want for their own children.
Homeschooled children, on the other hand, have plenty of opportunities for meaningful socialization with people of all ages through local clubs, community classes and sports activities, church involvement and even through their personal relationships with their family and friends. Additional opportunities are often available through local homeschool support groups, park days, field trips for homeschooling families, and more.
Q. Can I work at a job and still homeschool? - top
Answer: Homeschooling families have often been portrayed as "Dad going to work, Mom staying at home with the kids." The reality, for many families, is much different: single parents homeschool, working parents homeschool, dads at home homeschool, parents with ongoing illnesses homeschool. Some families homeschool some of their children but not others. Grandparents homeschool grandchildren. It may take a little creative juggling, but many of the perceived barriers can be gotten around with some thoughtful problem-solving.
Q. How do I know if my children are learning? - top
Answer: Children are always learning - they just can't help it! Just like when they were babies and toddlers, you can discover what they are learning by spending time with them and observing the growth in their understanding of the world. Observation as an assessment (titled 'authentic assessment' and a big educational buzzword these days) acknowledges growth in understanding and skill level. Unlike standardized testing, it doesn't give a 'snapshot' that attempts to quantify learning at one point in time. It is fluid and flexible and has no preconceived notions about what a child 'should' be able to do. You can look at the whole person and concentrate on what your child knows, instead of what your child does not know.
Q. Should I test my child? - top
Answer: Testing, like many other educational concerns, should be a personal decision. Some questions to consider before making this decision include: which tests will be used and why, how might the testing process affect the learner, how will the test results be used, and are there less intrusive alternatives that can be utilized instead? Testing, in the home environment where parents are always very aware of how well their children are doing, is unnecessary and intrusive. Testing is under fire from many teachers and educators ,and many educational establishments are attempting to eliminate standardized testing in their schools. Very careful consideration should be taken before any testing is done to children for any reason.
Q. What about higher education? - top
Answer: Hundreds of colleges, universities and vocational institutes all over the nation are accepting homeschooled students. Recognizing the high success rate of homeschooled scholars, many colleges have actively addressed their needs with specific information, resources, and, in some cases, requirements in how they document their previous educational experience for the submissions process. There are helpful guidebooks and resources available - check your library or bookstore or simply search the online archives at this website for articles, reviews, and other information about homeschoolers and college.
Most of these institutions value ability and attitude over formal transcripts, diplomas or GEDs. Most libraries and bookstores carry a wide assortment of books, directories and guides that will help older homeschoolers get information and prepare for this next step. On the other hand, many homeschoolers ultimately choose an apprenticeship over formal schooling as a faster and more satisfying entry into their adult lives. Cafi Cohen's book "And What About College?" (Holt Associates, 1998) and Grace Llewellyn's "Teenage Liberation Guidebook," both available through good used bookstores, can be great helps to families working through these decisions. It should be noted that college is not necessarily the only or even the best route for every young person. Going to college without a clear idea of what you expect to gain can be a very expensive form of self-discovery. And for many teens who already know where they are headed, apprenticeship opportunities and other forms of 'on-the-job' training can be a faster and more satisfying entry into their adult lives. And remember, the decision to forgo college is never irrevocable. Most institutions highly value older students, since they are usually enthusiastic and focused on learning.
Q. How do I find out about homeschooling in my state? - top
Answer: If you're thinking about homeschooling, contacting your state or local homeschooling support group is a good place to start. Often local public libraries can assist in locating groups in your area. State or local support groups usually have copies of the state law, information about getting started, lists of activities and resources and many offer a website or a newsletter highlighting opportunities for getting together with other families, activities for children and adults, advice and help with resource materials and even cooperative classes which may be available. Some have a purely social focus - others have an academic or religious focus as well. Every support group has a different approach to homeschooling, so be sure that, if you choose to join one, the one you choose is compatible with your own interests, needs and beliefs. And remember that many families get along just fine without ever belonging to a support group.
A listing of homeschooling support groups , organizations, websites and helpful individuals can be found at the Home Education Magazine website. In addition, the online homeschooling community welcomes new members, and the online support network is many-faceted, utilizing most of the currently popular social networking tools such as Facebook , Twitter, blogging, and other applications. You can find these and other social media linked throughout the HEM website.