The Strengths of Homeschooling

Homeschooling: Our Perspectives, Their Views
by Larry and Susan Kaseman
(from Home Education Magazine, March/April 2005)

Since the late seventies, homeschoolers have been working to educate the public about the strengths of homeschooling. The widespread acceptance of homeschooling today rests on the hard and effective public relations work homeschoolers have done.

However, the work is not done. Homeschooling is still sometimes misunderstood by conventional educators, legislators, homeschoolers’ friends and relatives, and the general public. Misleading and inaccurate reports continue to appear in the media. And the work is still important. The more people understand the strengths of homeschooling, the more we have won the hearts and minds of the people, the more secure our homeschooling freedoms will be.

The way we homeschoolers view ourselves, other homeschoolers, and the homeschooling movement influences how others view us. This column discusses how our perceptions of homeschooling shape the way homeschooling is viewed by others, important points homeschoolers can communicate to the public about homeschooling, pitfalls to avoid, and ways we can respond to commonly asked questions.

How Homeschoolers’ Perceptions of Homeschooling and the Homeschooling Movement Shape Public Perception of Homeschooling

Much of the general public’s understanding of homeschooling comes from us and how we view and present ourselves as homeschoolers. It is through us that the general public learns about the concrete reality of homeschooling. To be sure, the media continues to sometimes present inaccurate, misleading, or distorted reports on homeschooling. But many positive reports have also appeared. Many people now have a friend, relative, acquaintance, or a friend-of-a-friend who is homeschooling. As homeschoolers, we have influence over and responsibility for how homeschooling is understood.

As we are all aware, homeschooling has important strengths. Among those that come quickly to mind are:

• outstanding learning opportunities for both children and parents,

• opportunities to take responsibility for our families and exercise more control over our lives,

• strengthening of family ties and bonds,

• increased self-respect and confidence of children and parents, and

• greater opportunities for children to understand their strengths and pursue their special interests.

The more we focus on the strengths that homeschooling has, the more positive the public’s perception of homeschooling will be. This does not mean denying or ignoring problems and difficulties. It means dealing with the relatively few difficulties that may arise as effectively and matter-of-factly as we can and then moving back to the positive as soon as we can.

Continue reading this article at HEM.

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Homeschooling and the Military

There are many resources available for homeschooling families serving in the military, from Valerie Moon’s The Military Homeschooler to an Open Letter to the Homeschool Community explaining concerns about recent tactics by a political advocacy organization to involve the military in setting federal government homeschooling standards.

Drawing from a number of helpful sources, we present links and related articles about homeschooling and the military:

Valerie Moon’s The Military Homeschooler

At The Military Homeschooler a wealth of information is presented to help you with your decisions about homeschooling within the Armed Forces.

Military Homeschoolers Overseas
, by Valerie Bonham Moon, from the Sept/Oct, 2001 Home Education Magazine:

From 1989 to the present there has been a lack of understanding by persons in the military hierarchy concerning homeschooling. A history of the relationship between homeschooling families and the military:
“Over the years, actions taken by military officials overseas concerning homeschoolers have been uneven, sporadic, decentralized, and yet perennial. In some overseas communities military homeschooling organizations seem to have effectively kept any control at a minimum through visibility in the community, while in other cases community commanders have felt it their business to control homeschooling through restrictive policy letters.”

Discussion of Military Policies: 1998

An American Homeschool Association archived discussion list about dealing with the military, from the perspectives of military families or as teens trying to enter one of the armed forces.

An Open Letter to the Homeschool Community

August 9, 2009

RE: HSLDA and the U. S. Military

Recent events and respected publications are bringing to light the unprecedented depth of change the theopolitical agenda has created in our government. Homeschooling is always included in assessments of these actions because it is an intrinsic part of the theopolical agenda. Therefore, as homeschooling families we need to recognize our involvement and the inevitable confusion it raises in the public’s mind. We need to prepare ourselves to answer some very difficult questions.

Interview with Valerie Moon, Part 1:

I first became aware of homeschooling mother Valerie Moon via her excellent website, The Military Homeschooler. Homeschooling families in which a parent is an active member of the military face particular challenges as they deal with homeschooling laws in different states and even different countries as the family moves from station to station. Even though she’s done homeschooling her children (through two different countries!), Moon has continued to maintain her site, a wonderful resource for military families contemplating or actively homeschooling, and her family’s story is an interesting one.

Interview with Valerie Moon, Part 2:

Adrienne: My understanding is that military families are often required to follow the education laws of the country in which they’re residing: was that the case for you?

Valerie: It’s very long and drawn out.

Interview with Valerie Moon, Part 3:

Adrienne: You said that you used a boxed curriculum when you first started homeschooling and that things evolved from there.

Valerie: Yes. I liked the idea of unschooling, but it seemed too radical for me. I looked at the materials available at the time, and went with a mainstream provider.

Interview with Valerie Moon, Part 4:

Adrienne: Living in another country is an education in itself. Did your family factor it into your homeschooling in a big way?

Valerie: Yes. As a fun example, many times when I took my daughters to their weekly riding lessons (and then back home, of course) when we’d drive back over the Rhein river on the return trip, I’d pretend I was an airline announcer, hold my hand over my mouth as if I had one of those push-button microphones and say something like “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are now leaving Gaul. If you look out the windows, you’ll see the Rhein river flowing under the bridge.”

Ann Zeise’s A to Z Home’s Cool Military Homeschooling Information

DoD Education Activity Policy Memorandum 2002: It is DoDEA policy neither to encourage nor discourage DoD sponsors from home schooling their minor dependents. DoDEA recognizes that home schooling is a sponsor’s right and can be a legitimate alternative form of education for the sponsor’s dependents.

Those Picky Military Services

Valerie Bonham Moon: “In an entry at the HR3753 blog, the comment is made that although the Navy won’t accept a homeschooled candidate as Tier I, the Army will, and that this is unfair because the candidate wants to join the Navy, not the Army. The implication is that because of the unfairness, federal legislation is needed to correct the disparity.”

Yahoo Group: Alternative Military Family

Do you cloth diaper, home birth or birth your babies in a birthing center, homeschool, breastfeed, not vaccinate or choose not to rely on allopathic medicine? If you do any or all of the above and are a military family or desire to become one, then this group just might be for you.

Yahoo Group: Homeschooling Military Families

Welcome to all parents of U.S. ‘Military Brats’ regardless of branch of service. Active Duty, Activated-Reservists and Guards, as well as IRR-families are welcome.

Those of us who grew up as ‘Brats’ know that repeated moves can lead to gaps in our education, or to simple confusion when the teaching standards between school districts are dissimilar. Homeschooling, while living the ‘military lifestyle’ can be a rich experience, in addition to easing some of the bumps in the educational road.

This list does not discriminate in regards to your haircut, shoe-size, fiction-preference, sportliness or preferred after-dinner tipple … and it shows.

Actual Customer Comment: “Of all the support groups, homeschool, military, religious, etc, THIS group has been the most supportive, inspirational, and beneficial.”

So, anchors aweigh my boys, as those caissons go rolling with one helluva roar, north and south and east and west, from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli. Hoo-ah!

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What is Unschooling?

Have you ever described ‘red’ to a person who is color blind? Sometimes, trying to define unschooling is like trying to define red. Ask 30 unschoolers to define the word and you’ll get thirty shades of red. They’ll all be red, but they’ll all be different. Generally, unschoolers are concerned with learning or becoming educated, not with ‘doing school.’ The focus is upon the choices made by each individual learner, and those choices can vary according to learning style and personality type. There is no one way to unschool.

If you don’t do school, what do you do?

Read, play, sing, dance, grow things, write. All of these things and more are things unschoolers do. We do them because they interest us and bring us joy or because they help us accomplish our dreams. We do the things that have meaning in our lives and contained within those activities is real learning.

You mean I’m supposed to let them run wild?

Unschooling doesn’t mean not being a parent. Children need loving adults interested in helping them grow and learn. Choosing to build a lego village will include the opportunity to learn math and culture, maybe even history depending on the type of village. We do chores, have a family life, and participate in the wider community. The children are actively engaged in living and learning during all of this.

But what about math?

It’s easy to see how children can learn many things without using traditional, formal methods of teaching, but many people see math as a huge stumbling block, mainly, because most of us have learned to hate math because of the way it was taught in school. There are a great many ways to encounter math in the real world. Geometry can be found in quilt making, algebra in painting a room. Shifting perspectives, from textbooks to the real world is sometimes difficult, but math that is actually used is math truly learned.

Is this legal?

Yes. Each state has its own specific guidelines that many unschoolers choose to live within. Some, like NY, are more difficult than some others, but there are unschoolers in every state in the union. Below is a link to the law for each of the 50 states. Choose your state to see the law and for information on how unschoolers are meeting that law.

How do you know they are learning?

You will know by listening to them speak, by watching them play, just by being with them. You will know they are leaning at 8 the same way you knew they were learning at 18 months. You will see them use their skills and knowledge. This does take some effort on the part of the parent. The information is not contained on a worksheet or within a report. It is not all nice and neat and tied up with a grade. It’s spread out over the course of the day while the children are living their lives. You have to be observant and tuned into your child, in order to know. The nice thing about this is that it’s great fun to observe your children so closely, to be so in tune with their lives. It brings contentment to both parent and child to know each other so well.

What about discipline?

What most people mean when they ask about discipline is not the external system of punishment and rewards, but of an internal understanding of self discipline. Jumping through onerous academic hoops will not necessarily lead to self discipline. Our children gain a sense of how important self discipline is by watching us. Our ability to model a self disciplined life is much more powerful than handing in book reports in time. Helping children reach their own goals will mean there will be plenty of opportunities to discuss stick-to-itiveness, follow through, and how sometimes it’s worth doing the things that are no fun in order to reach the desired goal. These lessons have much more meaning when they are in conjuction with goals the children set for themselves.

Can unschooling be structured?

It depends on what you mean by structure. Imposing external structure onto the learner, by specifying materials and methods, is not unschooling. A person creating structure to suit his or her own purpose, that is unschooling. Some people are by nature methodical, and we want our children to respect and work with their own internal rhythms. Our job as parent is to help them create what they need. For example, it is entirely possible that one child will learn everything in a more relaxed, free flowing way, except for one subject- perhaps history. With history that child may want a time line and a access to materials in chronological order. If it works for the child and is created at the behest of the child, then structured, methodical learning is also unschooling.

Adapted with permission from the website. All content copyrighted.

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For many years Home Education Magazine has posted news and information about curfew issues around the country, reminding parents of important points about curfews. Many of us grew up in communities with truant officers, who were in charge of assuring that all children attended school every day, checking on unexcused absences. By the early 1970’s curfew laws and the truant officer had almost disappeared, but a publication from the federal government a few years ago brought back the idea that law enforcement and schools should work together to combat truancy, recommending tough policies to deal with young people who, under compulsory attendance laws, should be in school.

In July, 1996, the U.S. Department of Education in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Justice issued a “Manual to Combat Truancy.” The manual speaks of truancy as “the first sign of trouble,” and “a gateway to crime.” It encourages communities to involve parents, ensure that students face firm sanctions for truancy, create meaningful incentives for parental responsibility, establish ongoing truancy prevention programs in school, and involve local law enforcement in truancy reduction efforts.

As Larry and Susan Kaseman wrote in their 1999 1999 column for HEM: “As homeschoolers, we need to be prepared to oppose curfews, keeping the focus on the fact that curfews undermine basic freedoms and not letting the discussion shift to ways in which curfews can be fixed so they don’t interfere with homeschoolers’ community activities.”

A few helpful articles and columns on curfews and truancy, for anyone seeking information and resources:

Taking Charge: Curfews and Homeschoolers

An Open Letter About Curfews

“You Wanna Do What To My Kid?”

Truancy, Curfews, and Our Response

Being a Kid is Not a Crime!

A Brief History of Curfews

How to Fight Curfews

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On Jumping Through Hoops

A classic editorial from Home Education Magazine, circa 1991:

Most books and articles on home education are quick to point out that homeschooling is legal–in one form or another– in all fifty states. Parents might have to jump through more hoops in one state than in another, but, as long as they’re willing to jump through those hoops, they are allowed to teach their own children at home. But are these hoops actually necessary?

There is a conviction in this country that laws, rules, and regulations are centrally important to maintaining proper social stability. And there is a certainty that laws are necessary to keep “everyone else” from running amok. People who would decry the need for yet another law will also argue the necessity of ensuring that other people behave responsibly. “Legislating thy neighbor” has become a popular approach to living together in this country, and those with the most financial resources to gain adherents to their cause have generally prevailed in the legislative process.

The current homeschooling laws in this country are, at best, a poor compromise between a highly complex, two hundred billion dollar a year industry and the beliefs and principles of a handful of parents. Of those parents, the majority simply welcome the opportunity to homeschool their children and will jump through whatever hoops the Department of Education insists upon. For the most part, these are the same parents who are writing compromises into homeschooling laws. They don’t question the state’s motives for enacting regulations and accountability measures, much less its interest in determining what constitutes education.

Educational policy in this country is the result of many years of lobbying by powerful education interests, whose dedication is not to children so much as to protecting jobs, increasing benefits, and ensuring political clout. And schools are the foremost tools of social engineering. Gene I. Maeroff, education writer for the New York Times, cautions, “Make no mistake. Schools have been viewed by Congress primarily as instruments of social change.” The benevolent teacher imparting knowledge to children has been replaced with a combination of psychological goals and restructured intellectual objectives. Schools have become the primary agency for eliminating social ills in this country, and for developing personal integrity and the national character. It has been a masterstroke to veil this design with an inspired long-term public relations campaign that has turned parents into staunch allies by proclaiming that “Education is the key to ‘The Good Life!'”

The idea of education as a method of control is not advertised as such, and most people simply think that teaching children to read and write and work with numbers is a good idea, which, of course, it is. This benevolent image has lead to unquestioned support behind education in this country from many quarters, and yet our schools are in trouble, fighting to maintain their hard won appearances. While the nose-dive in American education is an inability to continue making the social engineering palatable, it is being attributed to a loss of authority, and the most common reaction to a loss of authority is more authority, more control.

What then of those parents who choose to stand in the face of these dictates and assume responsibility for educating their own children? As long as all of the proper hoops are observed and leapt through, homeschooling parents can rattle around between laws and regulations and this is called freedom to educate our children. But many parents find these hoops altogether intolerable. In Homeschooling for Excellence (Warner Books, 1988) David and Micki Colfax wrote, “Homeschooling parents can ignore what are for the most part government directives as to what shall be taught and when. Rather, parents and children can work together to develop courses of study that address immediate and long-term needs, interests, and capabilities in the context of what they, and not a bureaucracy of decidedly dubious credibility, deem important and necessary.”

They can, but in many states such action will bring them into conflict with the law–and with their peers. Too frequently homeschooling “leaders” are briskly admonishing parents who might upset their apple carts by not complying with homeschooling laws and regulations. Civil disobedience in educational matters has become a form of heresy in many support groups, and expulsion for noncompliance is acceptable practice. Parents who find themselves caught between following the law and doing what they consider best for their children are faced with disapproval and outright condemnation from fellow homeschoolers.

Why the intolerance? Fear is a strong motivating factor: fear of a loss of control on the part of the homeschooling support groups and leaders, which could potentially lead to a loss of memberships, or newsletter subscribers, or conference and workshop fees. Fear of a loss of control of others, the old “legislate thy neighbor” attitude. Fear of retribution by authorities in the form of stricter legislation or regulations. Fear of a loss of external control: a recurring theme in many homeschooling newsletters is gratitude for the laws and regulations which guide parents in their homeschooling. Fear that one wouldn’t “measure up” if homeschoolers were actually allowed to make their own decisions about education.

A few years ago, after successfully passing homeschool legislation, a major publicity campaign was launched by a large state organization with the slogan, “Homeschooling is Legal and It Works!” A catchy phrase, but I’ve often wondered if that group could have even considered spreading a slogan before the law was passed, something along the lines of “Homeschooling is Illegal, But It Works Anyway!” Not very likely. To be out of compliance with the law is to be labeled a radical, a reactionary, a rebel.

What seems to escape even the most thoughtful homeschooler is the fact that, at some point in time, someone had to challenge the law and homeschool their kids. No doubt they did so illegally. No doubt they were radical, reactionary, and rebellious. But without that first purposeful step, none of us would be homeschooling our children today–legally or otherwise. We need to look down the road to ten or fifteen years from now and try to imagine what the homeschooling atmosphere will be like then. Will homeschooling families enjoy the freedom to simply live with their children? Or will homeschooling have become a bureaucratic nightmare, with volumes of regulations and guidelines? The choice is ours.

– Copyright 1991 Helen Hegener

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Homeschooling and Research

Excerpts from Does Homeschooling Research Help Homeschooling?, by Larry & Susan Kaseman

“When homeschoolers agree to participate in research, they are also agreeing that homeschooling can and should be measured by the categories and terms that researchers choose. In other words, homeschoolers who participate in research are agreeing that the important parts of homeschooling, or at least the criteria by which it should be judged, are things like number of hours spent ‘teaching’ or ‘studying,’ standardized test scores, etc.”

“The most insidious outcome from this condition is that people no longer trust their own knowledge, experience, and judgment about themselves and their children. Homeschoolers become an illustration of some research study rather than the richer reality they really are.”

“The rights of parents to educate their own children have a solid foundation. By agreeing to research that will evaluate the ‘success’ of homeschooling, homeschoolers are implicitly agreeing that they need to be judged and assessed. They are thereby surrendering important rights that do not need to be justified.”

“…Research categorizes and labels homeschoolers and seeks out the differences among them. It divides them into lots of little subsets instead of emphasizing their common commitment to securing the best education for their children. It even divides homeschoolers by raising the question of whether to participate in research.”

“A grassroots organization is strong because a group of people realize that they can take responsibility for some aspect of their own lives, such as the education of their children, and carry it out. In opposition to this, research encourages people to turn over private thoughts and personal details to ‘experts’ who will then put them into some form (which the people could not do themselves, according to the researchers) and present them to others, such as school officials and legislators who will then decide what is best for the people to do and require them to do it. This weakens people and encourages them to become dependent, to surrender their strengths and accept the requirements of others.”

“Many important parts of homeschooling (the look of joy on a child’s face as he or she discovers something, the recovered self-confidence of a child who had been labeled ‘learning disabled’ by a conventional school) cannot be captured and recorded in quantitative or “scientific” studies. Therefore research gives a misleading picture of homeschooling when it claims to show the strengths of homeschooling but fails to study or report the most important ones.”

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Homeschooling Freedoms

“How tempting it is for us homeschoolers to think, ‘We’ll take care of our own family and figure out how we’re going to homeschool. Then when we have everything going smoothly, we can use some of our extra time, energy and money to work for homeschooling freedoms.’ Unfortunately, the world just doesn’t work that way. It is much easier to figure out how to homeschool our own children if we live in a state that has reasonable homeschooling laws and policies. It is much easier to decide how much emphasis we need to put on conventional academic subjects and when we need to work harder to help our children learn to read, to spell, or do algebra if we can focus on our family’s goals and priorities and on the needs of each individual child, without also having to worry about how well they will do on state-mandated tests, or what we will write on our quarterly or annual reports to public school officials. Therefore, figuring out how we’ll homeschool and working to maintain our homeschooling freedoms have to go hand in hand.”

From “Working for Homeschooling Freedoms: Chore or Opportunity?” by Larry and Susan Kaseman in the Jan/Feb, 2000 issue of Home Education Magazine, available to read free online at the link.

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Homeschool Support Networks

Homeschool support groups and the individuals who build networks between homeschooling families are the glue which holds the homeschooling community together. Through their newsletters, conferences, websites, discussion lists, weblogs and more, homeschool support groups and active individuals keep the lines of communication open, while offering information, resources, news and perspectives on homeschooling.

An alphabetical and frequently updated listing of homeschool support groups for each state can be found at the Home Education Magazine site.

A listing of helpful groups and organizations which support homeschooling, compiled and maintained by the staff of Home Education Magazine, is also available at the extensive HEM website.

A International Homeschool Groups and Organizations listing, again, compiled by the staff of Home Education Magazine with the assistance of the listed groups, works to support homeschooling families in their communities.

The American Homeschool Association has long recognized the valuable contributions of homeschool support groups and active individuals, and we hope these resources will help you locate, join, and volunteer to help your local support group or networking individual.

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Home Education Magazine

Since 1995 the primary support for the American Homeschool Association has come from the nation’s premier homeschool publication, Home Education Magazine. Founded in 1983 by homeschooling parents Mark and Helen Hegener, HEM has been a respected pioneer in providing news and information, resources and support, and much, much more for homeschooling families.

Their website tagline, “More than just a magazine…” hints at the incredible array of services, resources, networks, newsletters, forums, discussion lists, political advocacy and more, all provided free of charge for over 25 years. Support the magazine which has supported the AHA – and homeschooling – longer than any other.

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Homeschooling FAQ’s

Homeschooling FAQ’s
(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 mean.

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 know.

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 adults.

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. There are many good books which can be great helps to families working through these decisions. It should be noted that college is not neccessarily 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. A complete listing of homeschooling support groups, organizations, listservs, websites and helpful individuals can be found at Home Education Magazine’s Support Groups Pages.
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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