Home Schooling- Is it Right For Your Children?
by Kim Danger
Parents considering educating their children through homeschooling may feel overwhelmed when trying to make the decision. There are so many things to think about: How do I know what to teach? Will my child have as many opportunities as other kids? Will we feel isolated? Being able to structure your child’s education may at times seem like a welcome challenge, and at other times more like an overwhelming responsibility. Before making the decision to homeschool, it is important that parents gather as much information they can about the homeschooling experience. Here are a few aspects to consider:
If you’re thinking about homeschooling, support from friends and family is a critical element in your success. A home educators’ support group is a great idea for the homeschooling parent. Not only will a support group help you deal with the challenges and struggles of homeschooling, it can provide social contact for your children. A homeschool support group also can provide opportunities for field trips, projects, sporting events, cooperative classes and friendships. If there isn’t a support group in your area, you can start one yourself. All it may take is placing an ad in your local newspaper, or contacting a state organization for ideas.
Time and Financial Commitment
A common fallacy is that homeschooling only takes about 2-3 hours per day. While you may only spend 2-3 hours per day doing actual classroom activities and instruction, plan on homeschooling taking up most of your day. You will need to research the curriculum you present to your child, make lesson plans, and keep records, just as any well-prepared teacher would. Because of the time involved, homeschooling often means that one parent will give up a career and opportunities to make money. Plus, you will need to invest in the tools to teach your children: textbooks, software, cost of activities, etc. Homeschooling requires full-time commitment to your child’s development.
One of the strongest arguments against homeschooling is the lack of exposure to social situations. Lack of exposure to other children is easily countered by enrolling your kids in community groups such as Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts, sports leagues, library programs, church activities, etc. Some advantages of freedom from peer pressure can be self-confidence, independent thinking, and the ability to relate to people of all ages. The homeschool social world is also virtually free from the influences of drugs, gangs, sexual pressure, and violence. There have been numerous studies that have found home educated children to be as well, or better, adjusted socially and emotionally as students in conventional schools.
What Curriculum Do I Choose?
There is no one right way to home school, which can be a big advantage. Homeschooling allows you to speed up or slow down according to your child’s readiness and abilities in various subjects. You can tailor your program to your own educational philosophy and the learning styles and developmental stages of each child. If one method isn’t working, you can try another. Are you teaching more than one child? Lessons can be presented in a way that more than one child can understand. Older children can do more of their work independently, and can also help younger siblings with their lessons. You can make anything a learning experience with a little creativity. Think about the everyday activities that provide learning opportunities: helping you make cookies (fractions), shopping (decimals, adding, subtracting, money, budgeting), etc.
As your child grows, homeschooling may present new opportunities as well as new challenges. Parents may find that they may need to do more prep work to be able to explain subjects such as chemistry, calculus, foreign languages and English literature. However, at this point many children are able to study more independently, depending less on direct instruction. You may be able to call on your creativity even more when designing curriculum for the older student. Other moms in your support group or homeschooling co-op may be more knowledgeable in certain academic areas. Why not offer to swap subjects? Your child may also be able to enter apprenticeship programs designed and supervised by parents and professionals.
Before you decide to homeschool, make sure you are familiar with homeschooling laws in your state. You may be required to keep records of your child’s curriculum, take standardized tests, and teach specific topics. The Home School Legal Defense Association is a great association to look into. They provide 24-hour-a-day legal guidance by phone, legal representation at home-school-based litigation, newsletters, fax alerts, and e-lerts, a federal legislative hotline, and more.
Their contact information is:
PO Box 3000, Purceville, VA 20134.
Mainstreaming Your Child After Homeschool
As your child grows older, you may decide to send him/her to a conventional school. If the student has been in a well-rounded and well-disciplined home school program, he or she will probably excel in public school at a later point. Be sure to keep up on any specialty areas, such as foreign languages or music, or find supplemental education in those areas for your child.
The decision to homeschool is not one that should be made lightly. It is a lifestyle choice that involves a full-time commitment from both parents. While homeschooling isn’t easy, it can offer a rewarding and enriching experience for you and your child.