Guide to Homeschooling

What is Homeschooling?

Imparting education to children (by parents or private tutors) at home and out of the formal setting of schools is known as homeschooling. It is not a concept novel to our times; even in ancient times the majority of children were schooled at home. Formal schooling in its present form has only been around since the early 19th century. One of the earliest and most influential critics of the western formal education/schooling system, John Holt, advocated homeschooling, "I want to make it clear that I don't see homeschooling as some kind of answer to badness of schools. I think that the home is the proper base for the exploration of the world which we call learning or education. Home would be the best base no matter how good the schools were."

Why Homeschooling?

A few major reasons for choosing homeschooling include:

  • the parents' belief that they can provide a better education to their children at home
  • poor learning and social environment at public and private schools
  • better religious and moral environment at home

Sometimes children start at formal schools then move to homeschooling for reasons mentioned above.
A Home Education: A reference point for information on home schooling. It offers articles on a number of questions related to the issues impacting home education.
Time 4 Learning: A comprehensive guide to homeschooling from the reasons of homeschooling, to the mechanics of it and the associated challenges.

Legal Status of Home Schooling

Most countries have compulsory education laws requiring parents to provide their children with recommended levels of education. These laws make many parents believe that schooling can only be done through formal schools and home schooling may be against the law. However, homeschooling is considered a legitimate and legal option in most countries. Parents need to follow certain guidelines and file relevant documentation with the authorities to show that their children are receiving a satisfactory level of education. If you are considering homeschooling for your children, it would be a good idea to contact your local education department to find out about the legal requirements.
Homeschool in the USA - State Information: This site provides legal information, organizations, support groups, community events and online resources related to homeschooling for every state of the US.
Complete Homeschool guide: A useful site for finding information on various aspects of homeschooling such as: reasons in favor of it, the negative effects of homeschooling, statistics about homeschooling, choosing a curriculum, etc.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Homeschooling

It would be helpful to learn about both sides of the coin by reviewing the following advantages and disadvantages of homeschooling.

Advantages:

  • Parents can spend more quality time with their children and develop a better understanding of their individual needs.
  • Children don't need to alter their pace of learning based on the capabilities of other kids.
  • Children don't have to deal with a one-size-fits-all teaching style because parents can customize it according to the child's needs.
  • Homeschooled children don't have to give in to peer-pressure, which can often be traumatizing.

Disadvantages:

  • Parents are completely responsible for all aspects of the child's education, which can be quite stressful. If something goes wrong, there is no one else to blame but you.
  • Homeschooled children are always around so parents may feel that they don't have time for themselves.
  • Children may feel alienated because their life doesn't fit in with the mainstream student population and they may have difficulty relating to them.
  • Children may not have all of the tools and facilities available at home as compared to schools.

Design Your Homeschool: A very good place to learn about designing a home schooling curriculum.
About.com Homeschooling Guide: A great collection of information about homeschooling.
Educating.net: A nice list of resources for home schooling

Figuring out if Homeschooling is Right for Your Family

Many factors need to be considered before taking the plunge into the world of homeschooling.

  • Homeschooling requires serious time investment; it is much more than just sitting with children for a few hours and tutoring them. There are many other associated activities such as lesson planning, assessments, scheduling, etc.
  • The parent, who is the primary teacher, has to be available almost all the time. This means not only sacrificing personal time but they also can't work a full time job. Therefore financial sacrifices may also have to be made.
  • Responsibilities of the parents considerably increase and they need to strike a balance between schooling related tasks and household chores. All of this requires a lot of extra effort.
  • Parents have to work extra hard on maintaining a proper social life for the children which involves arranging activities and gatherings with other homeschooled kids.
  • Is the child convinced of the idea of homeschooling? In most cases children love the idea of not going to school, but the parents may have to deal with some of their reservations.
  • One of the most difficult things for most homeschooling parents is the task of teaching. Many parents are intimidated by the idea and feel that they don't have the knowledge and skills to do the job.
  • Parents also need to be entirely convinced of the idea of homeschooling because it often meets stiff resistance from the family, friends etc. If you decide to quit after a while, it could really cause problems for the child

Getting the Ball Rolling

If you have thought it out and are certain that homeschooling is the way to go, this is what you will need to do.
Set clear goals: You need to clearly identify the goals you wish to achieve from homeschooling your children. Clear goals lead to the desired outcomes and the desired outcomes help in developing the strategy to achieve the outcome.
Choice of a Curriculum: The parents, who are new to homeschooling, often find it daunting and confusing to choose a curriculum. A common misunderstanding is that they have to use a complete package just like in schools but that is not the case. Following a complete curriculum package at home can be a tough and time consuming task. The choice of the curriculum should be based on the learning style of the child.
Successful Homeschooling: A great resource by an individual sharing their personal homeschooling experience together with lots of information and resources.
Unschooled: How One Kid Is Grateful He Stayed Home: An interesting account of the experiences of a home schooled kid who appreciated this opportunity.
Parent Guide to Homeschooling: A nice collection of articles on various aspects of homeschooling.

Teaching Approach

There are numerous teaching approaches that are used by teachers around the world. You don't necessarily need to subscribe to any specific approach; you can use trial and error to figure out the best approach for you and your child. A good thing about home schooling is that the parents can modify approaches as and when needed. These are some of the commonly used approaches:

  • Textbook approach: This is a systematic and sequential approach which is commonly used in formal schools. It suits the students who are methodical learners and like a routine, and the teachers who like to proceed step-by-step.
  • Unit study approach: This approach is in contrast with the textbook approach because it concentrates on a particular topic or theme in an integrated way over a period of time. It combines different subjects around one theme and teaches with the help of text, activities and other fun learning ways. Children often find this method better than most others.
  • Classical method: This method is also called Trivium which is divided into three parts according to the child's development. The first part is Grammar stage in which student learns reading, listening, observation and memorization. The second part is Dialectics, which teaches logical discussion, debate and deductive reasoning. Rhetoric stage is the third part where the student learns to properly use language.

In addition to these approaches there are several others such as all-in-one curricula, natural learning/unschooling, Charlotte Mason, delight directed, Thomas Jefferson education, self-directed, etc.
Home Schooling Today: Learn about the pros and cons of home schooling along with articles on other aspects of home schooling.

Jon's Homeschool Resources: This page was one of the earliest online non-commercial resources on homeschooling which has been around since 1994.

A to Z Home's Cool Homeschooling: This is almost an encyclopedic resource for home schooling providing information about all aspects of the subject.

Keeping Records of the Child's Progress

While home schooling gives parents considerable freedom to choose the best way to educate their children, they still need to monitor the progress and evaluate the children. Parents are required to keep records of their child's progress by adopting a proper method of record keeping. Some of the commonly used methods include:

  • Journal: Just like a journal for any other activity, this is a log of what happens on a day-to-day basis including any observations or comments.
  • Planner: A detailed plan of what a parent intends to do for a specific period of time, which is updated as the tasks and activities are completed.
  • Record keeping software: Since computers are used in virtually every aspect of life, it might be a good idea to use a good software application to record and organize the progress of your child. Software applications generally offer a lot of good options for reporting and doing other things with the data that is collected.

10 Reasons to Keep Records: A detailed article about record keeping while home schooling

Keeping Things Fun

It's important for children to enjoy their learning experience. The more fun they have, the better they learn.

There are loads of different inexpensive resources you can use to make home learning more enjoyable. One clever trick is being able to turn an entire glass top table or frame with chalkboard contact paper into a writing surface using liquid chalk markers. This type of marker or 'chalk pen' is perfect if you have a non-porous substance and wish to turn it into a creative, art project that can be drawn again and again.

Will there be Tests?

Although we are used to the idea of exams and tests as an integral part of schooling, this may or may not apply to homeschooling. Some places require parents to test their children while others don't stress on it. You will need to find out the requirements from your local education department.

Even if testing is not required, it may be a good idea to have your child tested to see if she is on the right track and is at par with her peers so that there are no surprises at the time of college admissions. In the US, there are a number of standardized tests such as Stanford Achievement Test, California Achievement Test and Iowa Test of Basic Skills. There are certain requirements for administering these tests so if you decide on a specific test you will need to make sure that you meet the requirements. Alternatively, you can seek professional help for test administration.

The Complete Homeschool Guide: A downloadable homeschooling guide which includes homeschooling basics, advantages and disadvantages, different ways of homeschooling, daily routine and a lot more.
Unschooling Conversations: A list of some widely read and liked books on homeschooling.

Additional Resources:
Answers to Objections to Home Schooling: A detailed description of some of the most common objections to home schooling.
LD OnLine: This site presents information on a variety of topics, including the challenges of home schooling, how home schooling affects a child, and home schooling statistics.
U.S. Department of Education: Home schooling information and statistics from the department of education.
Homeschooling research and Scholarship: An excellent site by a University of Indiana professor that provides a comprehensive look at the research data on homeschooling.
Creative Kids on the Move Great collection of educational links to homeschooling parents.

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