Homeschooling, as an alternative to public and private schooling, is becoming more popular and mainstream with each passing year. As parents embark on this journey they are often riddled with fear and anxiety as well as excitement and liberation. This is a quick start guide which answers the most frequently asked questions new homeschoolers have.
Is Homeschooling Legal?
Yes! Homeschooling is legal in every state in the United States, throughout Canada and in many countries around the world. It is important as you begin your research about homeschooling that you thoroughly research and become familiar with the homeschooling laws, if any, in your state. Home School Legal Defense Association lists legal requirements for each state. Knowing what is legally required of you as a homeschooler should be the first step on the path to home learning.
What About Socialization?
Socialization, of the perceived lack of socialization, is one of the biggest myths surrounding homeschooling. Endless social and educational opportunities present themselves once you are no longer bound by the school schedule of 8:00-3:00, Monday through Friday for ten months out of the year. Homeschooling support groups often provide various group field trips, science fairs, holiday parties, playgroups, community service opportunities, proms and dances, classes and graduation ceremonies. These organizations also provide the opportunity to network with other homeschooling families in your area. Outside of the homeschooling community, homeschooled children often participate in the same activities as their schooled counterparts such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, church groups, community sports organizations, dance classes, karate and much more!
How Do I Know Which Materials Are Right for My Child?
Knowing which materials to choose can pose a challenge to even the most seasoned homeschooler. As your child grows and changes, so will his or her educational needs and interests. Your child’s learning style and your method of homeschooling can help you determine which materials would be the best fit for your individual child.
Where Can I Find Materials?
If you enter “homeschool curricula” into any search engine, your results are liable to be hundreds of pages long. So how do you wade through all of this information to find something useful for your family? The best resource is often other homeschoolers. You can ask other homeschooling parents what materials they are using , where they purchased them and thumb through their copy to see if it meets the needs of your child. Rainbow Resource has over 40, 000 budget-friendly products available on their website and in their catalog that span Pre-K through high schoool. The library is also an extremely valuable resource for free homeschooling materials. You can find everything from educational videos to foreign language lessons to teacher resources all for free at your local library. Don’t forget, as a homeschooler, the world is your classroom! Be sure to take advantage of all of the learning opportunities that everyday life offers.
How Do I Know They Are Learning?
Most states will require you to submit some form of assessment on a regular basis to assure the school system that your children are in fact learning. The acceptable methods of assessment will vary by state but, no matter which method of assessment you choose to provide as a legal requirement, nothing compares to your own assessment as a parent. As a homeschooling parent you have the advantage of providing your child with an individualized, one-on-one education and being right there with them to gauge when they have mastered something and when they need more practice. You are there day to day to witness the proverbial lightbulb go off when they understand something and also for those painful looks of confusion when they don’t. The best tool for measuring what your child is learning is to have a conversation with them. The test of true learning is not being able to retain information long enough to spit it out onto a test, it’s being able to teach someone else what you have learned.
What About College?
A study done by the National Center for Home Education found that homeschoolers are routinely accepted at more than 95% of the 500-plus colleges the organization surveyed. Colleges are beginning to actively recruit homeschoolers and at some of the colleges survey, homeschoolers are admitted at higher rates than their schooled counterparts. Colleges are also beginning to offer scholarships aim directly at homeschool graduates. Many homeschooled teens begin taking college courses as early as 12 years old! This of course depends on the school and their rules. Harvard allows homeschoolers age 13 and older to take classes through Harvard Extension while others may have rules stating that your child must be at least 16. For a list of colleges that accept homeschoolers, visit Learn in Freedom’s website.
If you’d like to learn more about how to prepare your homeschooled teen for college you can check out Cafi Cohen’s books:
- Homeschooling: The Teen Years,
- Homeschooler’s College Admission Handbook,
- And What About College?: How Homeschooling Leads to Admissions to the Best Colleges and Universities.
Making the desicion to homeschool can be a time of mixed emotions–fear, anxiety, freedom, liberation, joy and great responsibility all at once. I believe John Holt said it best, in his book How Children Learn,”All I am saying in this book can be summed up in two words: Trust Children. Nothing could be more simple, or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted”. Homeschooling is not for everyone and there is no one right way to go about it. As you begin your homeschooling journey, if you always remember that homeschooling is first and foremost about retaining a child’s natural curiousity and instilling in them a love of learning, then your end result can only be success.
Leigh Vozzella is a board member of the Massachusetts Home Learning Association and a very active member of the homeschooling community. Together with her husband, Nick, she has been homeschooling their four children for the past six years. Read more about Leigh’s homeschooling and family adventures on her blog Wingbeats and Reflections.