Search for a list of famous people who were homeschooled, and you might be surprised at what comes up. It reads like a Who’s Who of the brilliant, the talented, and the successful. Of course, a search of famous people who attended school outside the home will net equally impressive results. The point is, homeschooling has proven itself to be as effective, if not more effective, than traditional means.
Homeschooling is a method of educating children in which one or more children are taught by their parents at home. Occasionally two families may combine their efforts and divide teaching duties. Also, tutors may be employed to supplement parental instruction. By carefully considering a variety of relevant factors, you can decide if homeschooling your child is the right option for your family.
There are many resources available to parents who want to learn more about homeschooling. Your quickest resource will be the many websites that focus on homeschooling issues and practice. You will also find a helpful variety of magazines and books on the subject. These resources, however, are more general as they apply to all homeschooling families.
Your most valuable resource will be other parents. Families who are already homeschooling can give you a firsthand account of what to watch out for and how to do it effectively. If these parents live nearby, so much the better! They will be able to advise you on local laws, testing requirements, and helpful resources in your own community.
You may also want to find a local homeschooling association; they can help you better understand legal concerns and other issues surrounding the practice of homeschooling.
Wherever you go to gather information, here are some of the considerations you will need to explore to help you make your decision:
- Laws – There are laws and procedures in place to set apart the homeschooled child from the truant child. Check the laws in your state or province, as they vary regionally. Many areas have laws regarding documentation of your child’s status as a homeschool student, as well as testing requirements. You have the legal right to homeschool your child. By making sure you are on top of all necessary legal requirements, you will save yourself potential difficulties in the future.
- Family Finances – At least one parent will need to be home to teach. In some cases, this may mean chopping family income in half. Some parents have found that staggering their work schedules or developing a home-based business allows them to maximize income and continue with career goals while meeting their homeschooling priorities.
- Homeschooling Costs – Once you have decided where in the home you will be conducting your lessons, you will need to assess your furnishing needs. Chances are good that you will not need to buy additional furniture. You may already have adequate technology as well; if not, planning computer time in the public library may mean crossing off another potentially pricey expenditure. The biggest expense you will likely find is obtaining current textbooks and teaching resources. Normally schools buy these as a school-wide or even district-wide adoption, significantly lowering the per-child expense. While sharing with other families is one possibility, you will need to keep in mind the timeliness of the information.
- Increased “School Time” – In addition to the time spent in one-on-one lessons with your child, there are lessons to plan, assignments to grade, and enrichment activities (like field trips and science experiments) to supplement what you are doing.
- Decreased “Me Time” – Directly related to the time involved in planning, implementing, and assessing homeschooling is the fact that you won’t have those six hours to yourself every day that other parents have when their children are attending traditional schools.
- Your Child’s Socialization – Students in a traditional school automatically have 20 or 30 other children, at minimum, with whom to socialize each day. In a homeschool environment, your child’s opportunities for interacting with others may be limited to siblings or neighbors. You may need to put extra thought and effort into providing additional opportunities for your child. Of course, this also gives you more control over your child’s social circle.
- Family “Buy In” – With all the work, time, and resources necessary to make homeschooling successful, it requires agreement and support by both parents. Similarly, while not all children will be 100 percent gung-ho for homeschooling, your child needs to be at least somewhat cooperative, if not enthusiastic, for it to be successful.
- 13-Year Plan – Does your family plan on homeschooling from kindergarten through high school? Or is it best suited for your children’s elementary years? Or have you decided that your gifted eighth-grader requires the one-on-one tutoring you can provide for an accelerated curriculum? Whatever your family’s plan, it is not set in stone. You always have the option of returning to traditional education. Nevertheless, it is good to have an idea in place to help define your goals.
- Curriculum and Instruction – Just because you do not have a degree in education does not mean you are not well equipped to teach your child. In fact, the personal interest you have in your own child’s success can be more valuable than any amount of certification. Your best bet to meet the challenges of curriculum and instruction is to familiarize yourself with national and state standards, as well as local curriculum documents. Also, there are many books available that give tips on how to teach a particular subject. Classroom teachers refer to these all the time!
- Challenging Subjects – Many parents are put off by the idea that they will need to teach (fill in the blank with whatever subject gave you particular grief during your own school experience). This need not get in the way of effective homeschooling, thanks to a variety of resources available online and in the bookstore. Hiring a tutor or bartering with another homeschool parent (“I’ll teach English literature if you’ll teach calculus.”) is another option.
- College Admissions – Just as homeschooling laws vary among communities, so do entrance requirements vary among institutions. Checking with schools your child is interested in will ensure you are on track, especially as your child enters his high school years.
Deciding how to meet your child’s educational needs is always a tough decision. With all the options out there, it’s easy to worry about choosing the perfect route. But by thoughtfully considering the many issues surrounding homeschooling, you can make an informed decision that is right for your family… and for your child.