What is homeschooling?
No two children are the same. They are born with their own personalities and strengths.
My labor with my fourth child was easier than writing this blog post. Much easier! I sat up tall in the hospital bed and felt some pressure and the hubs leaned over to adjust the sheet over my legs and I had to bat his hands way, saying, “She’s here! She’s here!”
The hubs would have smothered our tiny babe without knowing it (not really) because she was lying there between my legs, looking at me. No doctors, no nurses, no screaming or even pushing.
If all of my births had been like her, I could have had ten or twenty!
And she has been the absolute most pleasant and joyful child you can imagine. We tease her that she has a happy laugh and a mad laugh, but she really only laughs. I worry about her being too pleasant and getting taken advantage of!
My seventh child is pretty much the opposite. You’d think that birth would get easier as time marched one. Nope!
I honestly and seriously begged the hubs to please just hit me and knock me unconscious so my body could do all the laboring without me being aware. My 7th daughter is ferocious and she was born that way. She came into the world kicking and screaming (well, once she was resuscitated) and she’ll probably go out that way.
As a mother yourself, I’m sure you know exactly what I mean. No two children are alike. I’m sure that if I had ten or twenty kids I’d be saying the same thing. It’s really remarkable!
Children are so unique, individual and remarkable that there is no single, effective way to educate them all.
The hubs and I were talking about this last week. He doesn’t really keep up with education stuff, so I was explaining Common Core and educational standards.
If you look through the core standards on your state’s website, you’ll see that there’s nothing terribly nefarious in there. The standards themselves are all pretty innocent, if a little dumbed-down.
It makes sense that they need to be a little dumbed-down because teachers are required to move at the pace of the slowest students. So why all the uproar about Common Core?
That’s another whole post for another day. Suffice it to say, lots of parents are upset about the way math is taught, while other parents claim that the framework of Common Core has been used to introduce a series of National Sexuality Education Standards with highly objectionable content. Still others object to the lack of testing and the fact that the standards were designed by people with private interests while parents and teachers were denied a seat at the table.
I think they’ve all missed the point. The point of Common Core was to unify standards across the states, to make sure that all kids are taught the exact same content at the same point. The objective is for children to graduate with a uniform education across the board.
That’s how you program a computer to run algorithms, or a robot to perform a simple task.
The universal standards are the problem.
That’s not how you educate exquisitely unique children.
And that’s where homeschooling comes in.
What is Homeschooling?
Homeschooling is simply the education of children at home by their parents. It’s the most flexible and easy way to individualize education. There are a multitude of homeschooling styles and methods, which can be mixed and matched (or ignored completely) so that each family can find their own perfect paradise (totally kidding — don’t expect paradise or you’ll be severely disappointed).
Here are a few of the Most Common Homeschool Methods:
Reggio Emilia Approach(also known as project-based homeschooling)
Unit Studies Approach
Parents choose to homeschool for a wide variety of reasons. Some parents have concerns about the academic quality of local public schools and feel they can do a better job. Some parents have children who have experienced bullying or have special needs that the school can’t meet.
Others want to instill their own values and beliefs in their children. Some believe their children will learn better outside of a classroom setting and others just enjoy the flexibility of homeschooling.
I heartily agree with all of the reasons above, but the reason I chose to continue to homeschool, after serendipitously being thrust into it the year before was just that I loved it. I never intended to homeschool, but when my oldest was distraught over missing the kindergarten deadline, I had to do something to make her stop crying. I promised we’d have school at home.
During that year, she learned so much that she would have been thoroughly bored at school, plus we enjoyed our time together so much, that we just decided to continue. I never decided to homeschool my kiddos all the way through or anything, we’ve just taken it year by year, and so far (17 years now!) we haven’t looked back.
How does homeschooling work?
Homeschooling can seem very mysterious. As a product of the public school system, I wondered how our homeschooling neighbors (we had two homeschool families in our neighborhood) got everything done. It seemed like a lot for the mom to have to teach all of her children and get her own work done in addition.
Thankfully, homeschooling looks nothing like public school. Kids are capable of learning independently, so it doesn’t have to look like public school at home.
The actual, physical process of homeschooling looks different for each family. It depends on the ages and interests of your children, your preferred schedule or routine, and numerous other factors.
That’s exactly what makes it so beautiful. You create the perfect homeschool for your family and you individualize it for each child. Here’s a peek into our very relaxed homeschool schedule.
The first step you should take is to research your states homeschool laws and to make sure you are in compliance. Utah, where I live, only requires us to file a one-time affidavit and there is no further oversight.
We have friends in California who use an umbrella school for support as well as for accountability. Their assigned teacher checks in on them weekly and oversees everything from the learning plan to assignments.
Once you know what your state requires, you’re ready to choose curriculum and dive in. Most homeschoolers choose curriculum according to their children’s learning styles as well as their preferred homeschool method (outlined above).
You’ll probably also want to look for a few extracurricular activities or classes, based on your children’s interests. As introverted as we are in my household, we all enjoy some social interaction with other homeschoolers in our community.
Is homeschooling effective?
Do homeschoolers measure up? That was one of my biggest concerns when I was considering homeschooling. I knew in my heart that I could give my kiddos a better education than I’d received.
But I wanted data and hard evidence. I’m a numbers person, and I wanted to know, unequivocally, that I was not going to ruin my children for college and ultimately for life.
I wanted to know how well homeschoolers performed on college admission tests, what percentage of them were admitted to their preferred universities, and whether they eventually worked in their chosen fields. I wanted to know about academic performance.
I wanted to know how homeschooling affects college admissions. I wanted some homeschooling statistics to tell me the exact likelihood of success or failure!
Unfortunately, at the time there were very few homeschooling statistics available because studies hadn’t been conducted. (Statistics are still rather sparse because homeschoolers are a difficult bunch to study). It’s too much information for this little space, so I compiled my findings here.
I’ll just tell you, though, (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) that the results of the studies they do have are very promising.
What does homeschooling look like?
Let me tell you what it looks like at my house. We have a very relaxed and minimal schedule, because that’s what works best for us.
We generally start school at 9 am at the kitchen table. I try to always have something high-interest to bring my kids running to the table voluntarily and on time. Often it’s a math game. Sometimes it’s a read aloud and a cup of hot chocolate, other times it’s a puzzle or a YouTube video or an art project. We call that morning time and it takes about 20 minutes.
My children each complete a math assignment every day, immediately following morning time. Math takes about an hour to 1.5 hours. We use Saxon. My kiddos learn the lesson independently and work through the assignment. We check it together and then they correct any problems they’ve missed. I sit at the table with them and am available for questions and help.
Following math, my kids are free to work on whatever else they have, including instrument practice until lunch. Sometimes they’ll be excited about science and they’ll continue to work straight through the afternoon, but to be completely honest, most days just consist of math and practicing.
They also live life with books in their hands. They almost never don’t have a book. So a holy ton of reading happens at our house, voluntarily, and I never hesitate to sneak educational stuff and really excellent literature into their stacks.
Afternoons are when we schedule music lessons, classes and extracurricular activities, but I always make sure to keep a couple each week free. I’m also careful to keep evenings free for family dinner and family time.
Is homeschooling legal?
Homeschooling is legal in all fifty states. However, every state and province has its own laws regarding homeschooling and some are more restrictive than others. I haven’t researched legislation or requirements for other countries. Before beginning, you’ll need to research your own states or countries particular laws and requirements.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of homeschooling?
As much as I love homeschooling, there may be some families for whom it isn’t ideal. Homeschooling can be expensive, extracurricular activities require extra time and effort, it’s less structured and it can be just plain hard.
In my opinion, however, the advantages of homeschooling far outweigh any disadvantages. Homeschooled children have more time to explore and develop their interests, they have unlimited academic opportunities and they have more opportunity to truly develop a deep and abiding love of learning.
What about socialization?
Funny you should ask! That’s one of the most frequently asked questions — just ask any veteran homeschooler.
You know what’s even funnier? The expectation that public schools are churning out kids who are “normal”. I don’t know about you, but the high school I attended was comprised of about the same percentages of socially backward children as the homeschool community I am currently a part of.
The only difference is that within the homeschool community those socially awkward children are embraced, for the most part, instead of ridiculed. And their parents, with whom they spend the majority of their time, treasure their oddities as unique and special.
So the socially awkward children have the opportunity to grow up confident and supported, instead of broken. My good friend growing up, James, was socially awkward and freaking brilliant.
I’m so glad our school was unable to “normalize” him because the world would be less without the real, authentic James in it.
How do I get started homeschooling?
Over two million students are currently being homeschooled in the United States! Their parents are just regular people like you and me. They don’t have teaching certificates nor any special credentials nor any more experience than you.
Even after we homeschool moms do have experience (I’ve been homeschooling for 17 years now), we’ll be the first to tell you that each child is unique. What worked for my older children will not work for my younger children. What worked yesterday probably won’t work tomorrow.
Homeschooling is a lot like parenting in that you’ll never have it all figured out. However, there are a few critical steps to follow in order to get started. Here are some great articles to get you started.
Here is a huge list of fantastic homeschool blogs to help you out.
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