The news is constantly filled with the various problems associated with public schools: violence, harassment, and poor educational standards, for example. So it’s no surprise that many parents are looking for an alternative way to educate their children. For many parents homeschooling is the solution. According to a study released by the US Department of Education in 1999, there are approximately 85,000 children who are homeschooled in the United States; 697,000 of these children do not attend any classes at regular schools. But although homeschooling has many benefits, there are also some significant disadvantages; homeschooling is not right for every family. In order to decide whether or not homeschooling is right for you, you need to know what it takes to become an effective homeschooler.
If you’re at all interested in homeschooling, then you’re probably already familiar with the benefits. By homeschooling your children, you can give them an education in the safety of your home. Bullying and harassment are common at public and private schools, and more serious incidents occur at alarming rates. According to the Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2003, released by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice, 20 percent of all public schools experienced a serious violent crime during the 1999/2000 school year.
Parents who homeschool can also ensure that their children receive a quality education that meets their individual needs. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 26 percent of eighth graders had reading levels that were considered below basic in 2002. And in 2003, 32 percent of eighth graders had math skills that were considered below basic. The National Center for Educational Statistics found that in 1995, the average classroom had 17.4 students per teacher. Although parents who want smaller classrooms and higher standards can enroll their children in private schools, these schools are usually very expensive and may not be financially possible for some families.
In addition to the academic and safety benefits, homeschooling also offers flexibility. This means that children will have more time to pursue other activities, such as sports, music, or art. Families that homeschool can also take vacations when it suits them, and they are able to spend a lot of time together.
At the same time, there are some significant drawbacks to homeschooling. Although children who homeschool can potentially get a great, personalized education, whether or not this happens depends largely on the parents. Additionally, children who homeschool get their information from one main source – their parents. They may not hear the conflicting views of various teachers, and this can limit their education.
One of the biggest criticisms of homeschooling is that homeschooled children do not have enough opportunities to socialize with other children their age. Homeschooled children often spend a lot of time with adults, and even though they may be very well behaved, they may also be missing out on important friendships and normal youth experiences. Many homeschooled children are denied access to public school activities like sports, bands, and dances.
In addition to the socializing benefits, school activities are important for a number of reasons: through them, students can increase their skill in a sport or art form, and they can gain experience in extracurricular activities that look great on college and scholarship applications. Therefore, many parents contest decisions to exclude homeschooled children from public school activities. In some cases, the protests are quite successful; in Pennsylvania, the state Senate passed legislation that would require schools to allow homeschooled students to participate.
Before you decide whether or not homeschooling is the best choice for you, you should know exactly what will be required. Equally importantly, you need to know how to provide your children with a quality education in which the potential drawbacks of homeschooling are lessened.
Each state has its own laws regarding homeschooling; the laws specify the hours students must spend in instruction, the methods used to assess students’ progress, what subjects students must study, and what qualifications the parents must meet in order to act as their children’s teacher. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association provides information on the laws in every state.
As stated, the qualifications that parents need to meet in order to homeschool their children vary from state to state. In most states, having a bachelor’s degree, a certain number of college credits, or even a high school diploma is enough. Parents who do not have an acceptable educational background can usually take a class in education or get special approval. Many states, like Vermont and Kentucky, have no requirements for parent qualification.
Before you begin homeschooling your children, you will need to pick an approach. Specifically, you must decide what types of materials you will use, how you will assess progress, and which subjects you will cover. Parents can buy complete curriculums that include all the textbooks and tests that will be needed. This is a great option for parents who are new to homeschooling, although more experienced parents may want to customize the lessons.
You will also need to pick a teaching method. There are a variety of teaching methods to choose from, including the traditional textbook method that most prepared curriculums will follow. Or, you could choose an alternate method, such as focusing on one subject at a time or letting the children shape their own curriculum based on their interests.
You should also research learning styles. There are three basic learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic/tactile. Most people are a combination of two styles. You should determine what type of learner you children are and present information accordingly. For example, if you have a child who is primarily a visual learner with kinesthetic leanings, you should provide that child with plenty of reading assignments and graphs and pictures to analyze, as well as interactive activities and projects.
In addition to the basic lessons, you will need to ensure that your children are getting a rich and varied education with plenty of opportunities to hear alternate view points and socialize. If your local school district allows it, you should have your children join some of the school’s extracurricular activities. If this is not an option, you can enroll your child in private classes and clubs.
Field trips are also a great option. By taking field trips to local museums and historical sites, your children can learn in a hands-on, interactive manner. Additionally, it will be good for the children to hear information from someone else occasionally.
There are various organizations, reading clubs, websites, and magazines designed to help parents who homeschool their children. These sources can be extremely helpful; they provide up-to-date advice on homeschooling, information on teaching methods, curriculum suggestions. Homeschool World (http://www.home-school.com/), for example, sells curriculum products and has information about homeschooling events and organizations.
Additionally, you may decide to homeschool with the help of an online program. These programs are similar to the distance learning programs that have become popular for adults, but they are for kindergarten through high school education and are designed to supplement homeschooling. For example, Connections Academy is a free online public school that supplements homeschooling for grades K-9. Key Stone National High School is a private school that offers a similar program for grades 9-12. Because Key Stone National High School is a private school, students must pay tuition.
While you are homeschooling your children, you will need to take care of your own needs as well. If you allow yourself to become too stressed, you will not be an effective parent or teacher. Take advantage of the aforementioned organizations; in addition to providing you with information on homeschooling, they can also provide you with support.
If you feel unqualified to teach a subject, you can seek outside help. In addition to the online programs, you can hire a tutor. Depending on your local school district’s policies, your children may even be able to take some classes at the local public schools.
Make sure that you have enough time for yourself. Homeschooling can be a fulltime job, but you need to make sure that you set aside for your own hobbies and friends.