You CAN Homeschool: All HomeSchooling Questions Addressed
Summer break is here, and the kids are home from school! Some of your friends may be complaining about having their kids home all day long, but perhaps you find yourself already dreading the end of summer. Maybe you wish you had MORE time together as a family than the traditional school year allows. If so, perhaps it's time to consider homeschooling as an alternative for your family.
Common core. Bullying. Learning disabilities. School shootings and intruder drills. Desire to travel and spend time together as a family. Freedom to teach from a particular religious, cultural, or societal world view. The reasons for homeschool are varied and diverse, but one common thread unites all homeschool families—the desire to provide a child with a fantastic education and prepare them to live in this world as happy, successful, and productive adults. It is estimated that the number of students who are homeschooled in the United States alone is as high as 2.1 million, or approximately 4%.
However, since many states require no formal “registration” of homeschoolers, that number may actually be much higher. While public school registrations have remained constant over the last decade, the number of homeschoolers has risen dramatically, by a whopping 61.8%! Nonetheless, for many parents who are themselves the product of a formal classroom-style education, the idea of homeschooling is daunting.
Is homeschooling legal?
Homeschooling is legal in all 50 United States and all ten provinces in Canada. Laws and regulations will vary from state-to-state, and province-to-province, so it is vital to read and understand the laws that pertain to your family. As a homeschooling parent, the responsibility to know and comply with the law is yours and yours alone, and when it comes to the care and education of our children, ignorance of the law is not an excuse for non-compliance. (For information on homeschooling in other nations around the world, please refer to https://www.hslda.org/hs/international/ ).
Find your reason to homeschool!
This is the number one, most crucial task for all beginning homeschoolers. As a parent, making the transition from “mom” to “teacher” isn’t always easy, and there will be days when you may find yourself staring longingly at that big yellow bus that picks up the neighbor kids and whisks them off for 8 hours every day. But when you have identified your reason to homeschool—your mission statement—you will cling to those reasons and core beliefs, you’ll grab a second cup of coffee, and your purpose will come clearly back into focus.
But I’m not qualified to homeschool! I’m not patient enough to homeschool! My kids won’t listen to me!
As your child’s parent, you are perfectly equipped to teach your child. You already have been doing it naturally their entire lives, and you just didn’t recognize it. For example, when your child was learning to tie their shoes, if the first example you showed them didn’t work, and they still struggled to get their bow just right, you naturally and automatically adjusted your message, re-worded your instructions, and maybe showed them an alternate way to do it. Right? And when their little brother or sister was learning, it’s very possible that the methods you used with the older sibling won’t resonate with the younger one… and so you will adjust and teach again in the way that this child can understand. That’s the secret. You know your child better than anyone. You know how to reach them, how to walk them through when things are difficult to understand, and how to celebrate with them when they have success in learning! Look, I’m not going to lie to you. There are some days that are filled with adventure as we learn together in the magical land of fairies and unicorns. (Yeah, right!) Homeschooling can be tough, because parenting is tough. We are all imperfect people, trying our best to live together in one house. My daughter sings incessantly while doing her math problems, mostly because it drives her big brother crazy. My son was convinced that I was an evil, torturous monster this year when he was learning long division. Sometimes we yell. But sometimes I also yell when they won’t brush their teeth and get to bed, or can’t find their shoes when we are heading out the door to church. This is real life. Nevertheless, despite my flaws and imperfections, I was somehow chosen to mother these little people…and therefore I rest assured that I am fully prepared and equipped to teach them, as well. Throughout history, children have been educated at their mother’s feet. Compulsory public education is only a recent and modern experiment, begun during the industrial revolution. For most families, the move into homeschooling is a natural and organic process. And the curriculum is only the tool we use to accomplish our goals.
How do I know what to teach my homeschooled children?
I have good news and bad news for you here. The good news is, with the rising popularity of home education, there is an ever-growing demand for quality educational materials. The bad news is, it can be quite overwhelming knowing which materials to choose! Well, never fear—there is help available! The most important thing is to first understand your children’s learning style (AND your own!). Homeschooling does not—and should not---look simply like “school at home”. Most all families find, especially in the elementary years, that daily seated work can be accomplished in a very short time each day. Remember as well, all of life is learning…thankfully, not only what we write on worksheets!
Every parent who is considering homeschooling should check out Cathy Duffy’s book, 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. She has provided extensive and exhaustive reviews of the most popular homeschool curriculum choices, and discusses which titles might be a good fit or each learning style. Talk with other homeschool moms you know. Seek out and join a homeschool support co-op in your area. Ask others which programs they love, and which ones they have left behind on their journey. If you can, register for a homeschool conference near you. These conferences almost always feature a large vendor fair where you are able to see, smell, and touch curriculum from all of the major publishers, and the smaller less-known companies, as well. They also often offer special discounts for conference attendees.
Some state regulations will specify which subjects should be taught each year, while other states offer more freedom to choose and tailor as you see fit. You can also always check your state’s department of education website for information about what public school children are learning at your child’s ages, although you are most certainly not beholden to these same standards.
What about socialization? Aren’t homeschool kids sheltered and weird?
Don’t worry. We know you’re thinking it. And not only that, this is probably the *most* asked question homeschoolers field from others! The truth is, the facts just simply don’t line up with the stereotype. A recent study revealed that on average, homeschool students are involved in 5.2 activities outside the home, with 98% of students participating in 2 or more extracurricular activities weekly. Homeschool kids are generally more adept at socializing with people of all age groups, have better relationships with their parents, siblings, and peers, and are more successful in college.
How to make homeschooling work financially for your family.
While it is true that the typical homeschooling family has one parent who is employed outside the home, and one parent who is a stay at home parent, this is not always the case! Remember—your homeschool day does not, and should not, look like a day within the walls of a brick and mortar school. There are many homeschoolers who complete their school work in the evenings and on weekends, when their parents are not at work. Many single parents still manage to balance homeschooling and their traditional 9-5 job by being flexible with school hours and expectations. I personally know of many homeschool families who have used their experience operating a small business out of their home as 100% practical education experience!
It also goes without saying that, even if one parent makes the decision to leave the workforce all together to stay home and educate the children, there are many ways a family can reduce spending and live within a smaller budget. From the expenses for a second car payment, gas, insurance, and maintenance, to expenses for work clothes many people are surprised when they learn just how much it actually costs to be employed outside the home. I will follow up later this week with more in-depth money saving tips we have employed in our family to help us to live within our means.
Homeschooling gives you more quality time with your children!
Life is short. As parents, we are all too familiar with that horrified feeling in the pits of our stomachs as we realize just how quickly our babies turn to toddlers, and how our little kids are suddenly standing on the precipice of their teen years. I will forever be grateful for the time that homeschooling has allowed me to spend with my children. There is nothing as sweet as seeing their minds open to new topics of interest, or the joy on their faces when they finally get some concept with which they have been struggling.
There is no doubt that homeschooling has become a mainstream education option for families who want a better education for their children. It won’t always be easy, but oh, it will be worth every minute.