Homeschool Information Library
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(Frequently Asked Questions About Homeschooling)
Q. What does it mean to homeschool?
A. 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
Q. What are some of the benefits of homeschooling?
A. 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?
A. 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?
A. 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?
A. 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 useage
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?
A. 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.
Q. What if my child wants to learn something I can't teach?
A. Children have the most amazing ability to want to learn the one thing
about which we know absolutely nothing! It's a universal attribute.
Homeschooling families are blessed in having 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
businesspeople in your community - most people are delighted to have a
young person around who is sincerely interested in what they do and
Q. How will my child learn to get along in the world?
A. This is the question homeschoolers often grimace about and call the
"S" question (socialization). The real concern, it seems, is whether
homeschooled children will be able to function out in the world if they
don't have the experiences schooled children have.
Think for a moment about what schools really do. They classify and
segregate children by age and ability, reinforce class, gender and
racial prejudice, and strip from children the right to any real
interaction or private life. Socialization, in this respect, becomes
submitting one's will to that of the group (or person in charge). This
is not the basis for healthy relationships. Home educated children,
because they spend so much of their time out in the real world,
generally are able to communicate well with both adults and children and
to have friends of all ages. They choose to spend time with others
because they enjoy their company or have a similar interest - just like
Q. Can I work at a job and still homeschool?
A. 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?
A. 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?
A. 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?
A. Hundreds of colleges, universities and vocational institutes all over
the nation are accepting homeschooled students. Most are thrilled with
these intelligent, responsible, capable young people and many are
actively recruiting them. 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" can be great helps to families working through
these decisions. It should be noted that college is not neccesarily 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?
A. The American Homeschool Association maintains files with information
about homeschooling for all 50 states and several foreign countries.
The files are available at the AHA website:
A complete listing of homeschooling support groups, organizations,
listservs, websites and helpful individuals can be found at the Home
Education Magazine website:
If you're thinking about homeschooling, contacting your state or local
homeschooling support group is the best place to start. Often local
public libraries can assist in locating them. The support groups usually
have copies of the state law, information about getting started, lists
of activities and resources and many offer a newsletter as well. They
can offer opportunities for getting together with other families,
activities for children and adults, advice and help with resource
materials and even cooperative classes for children. Some have a purely
social focus - others have an academic or religious focus as well. Every
support group has a different 'flavor,' - be sure that, if you choose
to join one, the one you choose is compatible with your own needs and
beliefs. And remember that many families get along just fine without
belonging to a support group at all.
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