How to Homeschool As a father of six homeschooled children, I get a lot of questions from people on how to homeschool - where to get started, how “legal” is it, what type of curriculum to use, what does the father do as compared to the mother, what about socialization, and how to actually, functionally, do it on a day-to-day basis.

Rather than email each person separately as I have been doing, I thought I’d develop a series that anyone can read so that hopefully they can benefit from what we’ve learned - and our mistakes.

I will try to answer the above questions and more (feel free to leave comments / suggestions if I’ve overlooked something). But first, a few disclaimers.

1. Homeschooling is not for everyone. While it certainly takes no unique skills other than love and concern for your children, it may not be the best solution for all situations. Sometimes people look to homeschooling to solve other problems in their family life beyond the scope of homeschooling. If your child has been enrolled in school already and you are thinking of homeschooling him or her, make sure you are doing it out of a commitment to the child. You will have less free time than you did when they were schooled by others - far less. And the time you do have with your children may not be the kind of time you envisioned. It isn’t all free love and learning. Sometimes, it is just a lot of work. Redundant, repetitive work - and I’m talking about for the parent here - not the child.

2. Trial homeschools aren’t a great idea. Sometimes you may simply have to “try” it to get into it, but if at all possible, refrain from short-term trials of homeschooling. The benefits won’t be as immediately noticeable as other schooling options. You will make the most out of homeschool if you can prepare for a reasonably long haul. A two-year investment would be what I would call “a bare minimum”. And it isn’t just an investment of your time and energy. Your finances will be better put to use, and your children will feel more confident and apply themselves more if they sense your commitment. This is especially true for parents of children who have been previously schooled elsewhere. When things get tough or discouraging, the child often will look longingly back at the old method of schooling as superior. They may even be complicit in self-destructing your attempts if they believe it will result in them returning to their alma mater. The “grass is always greener” syndrome can easily sway both the child, and eventually, the parents. If you must try it, I’d recommend a 3-month homeschooling summer session. Pick a subject or two that you would like your child to improve upon, and use the summer (full-time) to homeschool him or her in it.

3. This series is largely for Floridians. While homeschool is legal in nearly all 50 states to some degree, I want everyone to understand that I live in Florida and so all this information - and our experiences - are based on the laws in the state of Florida. Some of it may apply to your state, but the laws and compliance rules vary from state to state. A great resource to find out more about your state’s laws is the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. They are a Christian organization, but if you aren’t a Christian family, don’t let that stop you from using their website. The HSLDA is feared by school administrators in every state and is the single most powerful group that is fighting to keep and improve homeschooling rights for parents. Believe it or not, some parents in this country still don’t have the right to educate their own children.

4. I’m 100% in favor of homeschooling. We never tried homeschooling or thought of it as an experiment. I personally abhor the state education system and look forward to its demise. I also don’t believe in abdicating my personal responsibility of raising my children to others - even really good private schools. I state this at the outset to be fair. I don’t want anyone thinking I’m going to give a balanced evaluation of other schooling options. I won’t lie to you. If this series was a “Homeschooling vs. Anything Else” type series, I’d spend most of it obliterating the other options as even viable. However, having said that, I still point back to my point number one: Homeschooling is not for everyone. There are a small number of situations where homeschooling would not be in the best interest of the child. Even within homeschooling, it is sometimes necessary to bring in outside help. Your child may have to see a tutor if they are struggling in an area and you are not equipped - or are having a tough time - to help them improve. Your child may be gifted in a certain area that you have little skill in, such as music, and you would be wise to provide the best learning opportunity for that child to help them grow and to encourage that special gift. And there are opportunities in many communities for homeschooled children to get together to play intra-mural and competitive sports - not to mention the usual channels such as little league, AYSO soccer, etc. I’m not advocating a complete withdrawal of the child from all outside educational influences - rather the contrary. Plug your child into as many things as they can grow, develop, and build character from. Just be picky, stay involved, attend, and check up on your child’s tutors, coaches, and teachers. I’ll address this further later on.

Learn more about the best ways to Home School. There are a lot of things to keep in mind when Home Schooling your kids, so seek advice on different theories and Home School Curriculums to make sure your Home Schooling experience is beneficial to everyone.

5. I believe in homeschooling from K through 12. Not every homeschool parent agrees with this, so I want to be fair to other opinions. But in our case, we have personal and religious beliefs that our children should begin their homeschooling at a young age and continue until they earn their high school diploma. I’ll address later socialization concerns, as well as any concerns about higher levels of education that may be beyond the parent’s comfortability of teaching.

6. Both parents must be equally committed. While this may not matter as much in a single-parent household (although it will be much harder only because one person is doing all the work), it is going to be disastrous if both parent’s aren’t equally committed to homeschooling. Often times, one parent may be the idea generator, and that’s okay, but they have to get the other parent on board - totally. In other words, if they have such a passion for the idea of homeschooling, they need to sell that idea to their spouse. If their spouse doesn’t buy at first, they need to be patient and keep trying (gently). It is a mistake to force the other spouse to go through with homeschooling. Most often, fathers will “decide” that homeschooling would be best and they simply inform their wife that “we” will be homeschooling the children next year. The “we” quickly turns into the “she” - assuming the father is employed outside the home. If she is committed to it, they will get through it, and the children will begin to reap the benefits. If she is not committed to it, the father is not only putting the children’s education in jeopardy, he may also be putting his marriage into a rough spot as well. Give great latitude and consideration to your spouse’s ideas. If you think your spouse only wants to keep the children in some other form of schooling so they can have a lot of free time and goof off, that is a topic outside this series - the problem may be more than just whether or not your children are homeschooled.

7. Ideally, something should be driving your motivation to homeschool. For my family, it is both a religious goal and a belief in the disregard of other forms of schooling for the overall well-being of the child (more on this later). But you can have many other motivations to homeschool besides these. However, if your motivation to homeschool is that “little Johnny’s teacher is a moron and picks on him unfairly and any fool could do better than that teacher”, I personally don’t think you’ll last long as a homeschooling parent. Eventually your hatred will wear out (we hope, right?), and you’ll have an ingrate child whose parents overprotect him (or her! - watch out Dads!) from tough work and high standards. I’ll be the first to agree that there are some truly incompetent fools masquerading as teachers - especially in public schools. However, sometimes even a fool of a teacher can have a profoundly positive effect - in the long run - in developing an attitude of perseverance and character in a child. But, even if such a result doesn’t come about, there can be no positive benefit in snatching little Johnny away. If you absolutely must, make sure your child doesn’t know why. Your child may be relieved to no longer come home in tears from such a mean and nasty teacher, but just make sure you don’t let them know that you are the one who relieved them.

8. Speaking of standards, set them high. Homeschooling, despite its vast acceptance into modern society, despite overwhelming evidence of its considerable superiority in teaching children knowledge, despite its growing recognition among universities and businesses… despite all of this, it is often still viewed at a local level in a negative light. Your local school board likely frowns upon homeschooling. Many in academia believe, even to this day, that only “certified teachers” should ever be allowed to educate your children. While it may be true that a certified teacher has some benefits over the average parent, those benefits will never come to light in a school system that pays them for their time, gives them 25-35 children at a time, doesn’t allow even good teachers to “live” a good example to the children - allowing only for teaching the subject material and nothing else, and gives them some of the most horrendous curriculum materials - including some that are full of errors. And I’m speaking here of good, quality certified teachers. So, you will need to decide from the outset that you will set your standards high - considerably higher than the standards of your local school board - and then you’ll need to set out to make sure your standards are upheld. I’ll talk more about audits and exams later, but for now, if you are going to homeschool, you might as well do it with high standards in mind. Again, for parents of children who have been previously schooled elsewhere, this may prove to be an even bigger challenge as your children may not take too kindly to the additional challenge. While homeschooling often frees up a lot of time for most students - when contrasted with other learning systems - it can take a while before a student begins to apply him or herself in such a way as to benefit from the extra time. Without bells and classes, time can be a child’s worst enemy. Homeschooling takes learning power and concentration - something that other school systems do not emphasize. Instead, they give plenty of time for students to have breaks, socialize, goof off, congregate, and in general, to relax. A homeschooled student, to best benefit from a homeschooling system, should be diligent in his studies and able to concentrate for longer periods than his peers.

That’s all the disclaimers I’m going to give upfront. Next, I’ll go into the details of how to setup a homeschool system in your… uh, home.

Technorati : homeschool

Posted in: Homeschool