This article was contributed by one of our fan favorites, Elaine Dalton.
Back in the 1970s and 80s, homeschooling was considered to be another one of those weird hippy-dippy things that people did. Now, it is considered to be another viable option for parents looking for the best educational opportunities for their children. But what exactly is homeschooling and do you have to be weird to do it?
The answer to the second question is easy, no you don’t. The majority are normal and mostly down-to-earth individuals. Depending on where you live and what time of day you’re out and about, the chances are good that you’ve seen some ordinary homeschoolers doing their thing and avoiding the crowds. Homeschooling is very introvert-friendly. It takes a little bit of extra work for the extroverts but it all balances out in the end.
What Is Homeschooling?
Basically, homeschool is when school occurs at home under the parents’ guidance and direction. There are several forms this can take—from charter schools to full-on unschooling (unschooling is where the primary studies are dictated by the child’s interests rather than structured tests and lesson plans).
As long as the children are doing the bulk of their educational requirements at the dining room table (or the couch, their bed, etc) and the parents are the designated teachers and have filed the appropriate paperwork with the state, then the family is—for all intents and purposes—homeschooling.
The majority of the parents doing the teaching are not necessarily college-educated or certified teachers. They are just regular parents putting in the extra effort on behalf of their children’s education. With all the resources available nowadays, you don’t need to be a certified educator to homeschool your children. About the only requirements you really need are state required, some caffeine and a reliable WiFi connection. A printer also helps a ton but isn’t strictly necessary.
Why Would Anyone Want Their Kids Home All Day?
There are several reasons to homeschool. The biggest reason is that you as the parent feel that your child would thrive and learn better in a relaxed home environment compared to a public or private school one. The rest of the reasons after that are fairly minor and vary from person to person.
There are some people who homeschool because where they are located geographically isn’t suited for the normal school attendance. Instead of driving 45 minutes twice every day for five days a week, they opted for high-speed internet and educating their children at home.
There are other people who disagree with what the public schools were teaching or the rate at which children progress from grade to grade and decided to do things at a speed more comfortable for their family. And there are families who have one or more members with autoimmune diseases and they decided to homeschool to reduce the chances of spreading infections to their weaker members. Almost everyone who homeschools has a good reason for doing so.
How The Heck Are You Gonna Do It?
Homeschooling is fairly easy to start on your own. There is some research to do first, of course. Mainly, you want to know what your state’s requirements are.
For example, to homeschool in Rhode Island according to the state laws outlined on the Homeschool Legal Defense Association’s website or HSLDA, you need to file a notice of intent and receive approval from your local school district and then maintain a record of attendance and teach the required subjects (which are pretty basic and straightforward).
To homeschool in North Dakota, you still have to file a notice of intent (this time, yearly) and teach the required subjects for the required age period (7-16, unlike Rhode Island’s 6-18 years). In addition to this, you also have to be qualified to teach and have to have a high school diploma or GED. Grades 4, 6, 8 and 10 are also subject to standardized tests by the state which you have to follow through with. There are special requirements in place to homeschool if your child has a learning disability.
Once you are familiar with your state’s requirements, all you really need to do is some internet research and formulate an educational plan for the school year. This can be as loose or structured as you like, just as long as it covers the required topics.
Help Is Here
This is the easiest part of the whole homeschooling adventure. Simply typing in “homeschool resources” into any internet search engine will bring you millions of results to sort through and poke at. It helps to know what exactly you are looking for to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
If all you want is alphabet coloring pages for your preschooler, refine your search a little and borrow grandma’s printer the next time you visit. If you are looking into a home-based charter school or similar program, be sure to look up how much it costs and compare prices before purchasing.
Other places to look for resources on the great wide web are Pinterest and social groups on Facebook. It is highly recommended that you find a support group (local or online) which can answer any questions that come up in the transition process of beginning your homeschool.
Show Me The Monies
A frequent consideration when pondering the decision to homeschool is the question of cost. In a broad sense, it can cost more than public school but less than private school.
When it comes to homeschooling, you are in charge of the budget rather than the state and district officials so you have a lot more leeway and flexibility at play than public school teachers. For example, depending on the age of your student, you could do a low-cost curriculum of libraries, museums, online freebies, documentaries, and hand-me-down workbooks. eBay and local book sales and support groups are great for gently used books and other school supplies.
For regular things like paper and pencils, you can hit up the dollar stores or brave the crowds and take advantage of the back-to-school sales. Some hidden costs to consider when budgeting are extracurricular activities like gymnastics, music, karate, horseback riding lessons, swim lessons and the gas to drive to all these events plus field trips to museums.
Add to that the library and the big warehouse store two towns over (yes, grocery shopping is a field trip—you can divide the shopping list and send older kids off on a real-life scavenger hunt and then have them compare the price of butter between three or four different stores to find the cheapest one).
Another thing to consider is that homeschooling requires at least one parent to home most of the time, which can result in a loss of income. With older independent children it is possible to work from home but not with babies and toddlers so much.
But What About Socialization?
Given the fact that public schooled children spend six hours a day in a class of children their own age in one room, socialization is the last problem to consider for homeschoolers.
Homeschoolers are exposed to people and children of all ages and are not confined to one room or one age-group for the duration of their studies. This leads to improved verbal and social skills with many children often preferring the more mature company of adults over those of their mow rowdy peer groups.
For the more extroverted of homeschoolers, there are plenty of outside classes and social groups such as music practice, gymnastics, book club at the library, fencing club, etc. that your students can enroll in and get their extrovert needs filled.
Academic Success Prevails
Recruiters for top universities and jobs are actively seeking out homeschoolers now because they are more mature, have independent and creative thinking skills, and higher academic preparation levels. They ace their SAT scores; often take on college credit courses during their high school years (which give them a boost over their peers) and they perform well in athletic conditions too.
For the record, my husband and I were both homeschooled growing up. My parents used a combination of curriculums which included Saxon Math, the Robinson Curriculum, Charlotte Mason and Far Above Rubies High School Curriculum which ultimately melted down into a lightly structured version of unschooling.
My husband’s parents purchased a full course of education from Our Lady of Victory which included tests, workbooks and a tutor he could call with questions. This was a more structured version of homeschooling which worked for his family.
With our children, we are blending the two extremes and meeting somewhere in the middle. With preschoolers, the education is more unschooling than structured while high schoolers are considerably more structured. It all balances out in the end.