Homeschooling once had a stigma; it was relegated to weirdos, farmers, and religions fanatics. But not anymore. In fact, many professionals homeschool their children. Today, over 2 million kids in America are taught at home – this number represents a 75% increase since the year 1999.
There are many reasons parents decide to homeschool their children. Teaching at home saves time and money; it also gives parents the opportunity to teach a particular set of values. If you’re thinking about homeschooling your kids, keep reading to learn more.
Homeschooling laws vary by state. For example, states like Indiana, Illinois, and Texas require no contact between the parents and the state. Other states simply require the parent to notify the state. The next tier, exemplified by states like Oregon, Florida, and Colorado, requires parents to send test scores and other data to the state. States with the highest regulations, like New York, require parents to have a professional evaluate their children’s progress as well as use specific curriculum. Click here to read how homeschooling parents campaigned to change the laws in Pennsylvania.
Saving time: Some families can finish lessons in about 4 hours. With no traffic and no driving, this leads to more play time and more family time. Homeschooled families also have the advantage of being able to visit museums, libraries, etc. during they day when they aren’t crowded. They can take vacations anytime they want and have flexibility when scheduling doctors appointments, music lessons, etc.
Money: Some parents choose to teach their kids at home because they can’t afford private education. Not only do you save money on daycare and gas, many homeschooling parents have a part-time job. You also save in tax money. The National Home Education Research Institute reported that homeschoolers saved taxpayers over $15 billion in the year 2006.
Learning: Children learn at different rates. A kid taught at home has an advantage because he or she is not lumped in with everyone else. The parent can enrich his or her strengths and supplement his or her weaknesses. Progress continues as fast or slow as needed. If you have a child with special needs, services like speech therapy are still available. Homeschooled kids can attend school for special classes like music or art and can even join sports teams.
Parenting: Homeschooling gives mothers and fathers much more time to be parents. Instead of seeing your kids between school, sports, and friends – you see them all day. This gives parents and siblings an incredible bonding opportunity. Furthermore, children tend to respect their parents much more when they are seen as teachers. If done correctly, this leads to less fighting and a happier household.
Discipline: Teaching at home provides a great opportunity for parents to help children with their work ethic. Again, because he or she isn’t lumped together with everyone else, there is time to focus on special problems. For example, most parents only see the results of tests and homework. With homeschooling, you provide special attention throughout the day and can spend more time addressing problems than a teacher who has 20 students ever could.
Homeschooling also gives parents an opportunity to erase bad habits and teach values ranging from religion to the importance of recycling.
Life Skills: Not only do homeschooled kids learn their lessons, they also learn parenting skills, home maintenance, cooking, budgeting, and time management. Many parents worry that a homeschooled kid won’t develop social skills. However, learning at school eliminates bullying and unhealthy peer pressure. Homeschooled kids have plenty of opportunities to make friends. Consider boy scouts, homeschool co-ops, music lessons, and public school sports.
Health: Not only do homeschooled kids get much more sleep than other children, they are exposed to fewer germs and are therefore much less likely to get sick – making them in better shape to learn.
Homeschooling is becoming more and more common as the general public comes to distrust the education system. However, here are a few reasons you may not want to teach your kids at home:
- You are not a professional teacher
- Your kids’ curriculum will not match national exams
- Causes lots of stress on parents (time management, lesson prep, research, etc.)
- Can cause animosity between parents and children
- Can you afford to have one parent without a full-time job?
- Can have a negative effect on social skills and communication
- Children may regret missing out on experiences like prom
- Other kids might think your children are “weird”
Are you Ready?
Most parents who teach their children say that it isn’t as hard as they thought it would be. In fact, it’s quite fun! Remember that you are not alone. Homeschooled families often join together for field trips and play dates. There are also state wide learning programs for homeschooled children that provide an opportunity for them to study and interact with peers.
Before you make your decision, do your research! Read about homeschooling and talk to parents who have done it. Ask your children what they think. Explain to them that it isn’t all fun and games; it’s just going to school in a different room. In the end, it’s up to you and your family’s needs.
Many parents wonder how on earth they can teach different grades at the same time. It may be impossible if the children are too far apart in age, but if they are 2-3 years apart it is very doable.
Let’s say you have a 2nd grader and a 4th grader. According to homeschooler and mother Elizabeth H, the two older kids can share history, language arts, and science topics but have different assignments. Math depends on their respective skill. There are some games and drills that can be used for both.
Elizabeth also has a preschooler, and worries that she won’t be able to handle all 3 in a couple of years. In this case, it is probably the oldest that will be sent to traditional school. While some curriculum companies advertise material that works for a wide age rage, it may not be effective to teach 3 different ages at once, especially if they are several years apart.
Another perspective: Public schools enforce the idea of segregation between grades. But it doesn’t have to be so. Nancy, mother of 3, says she loves having her boys work together (they are 16, 12, and 7). While the youngest might not fully understand everything that is discussed, some of it rubs off and he benefits from repeated exposure to topics. The older kids benefit by repeated practice when they help him with basics. Nancy considers grade levels to be arbitrary. Teaching 3 levels is possible with the time and effort, she says.
According to Deborah, a mother who teaches 7 children, you don’t have to teach all the time. For example, 2 kids are studying phonics while 2 others are working together on a science assignment. In the other room, an older child reads to a younger child. Nearby, the eldest works on the computer with a math tutor. It really depends on the time available, the ages, and the skills of the parent/teacher.
Although it depends on the state, you can purchase “box curriculums” from homeschool vendors. Everything you need is right there. You can find supplemental material on sites like Dreambox, YouTube, and Khan Academy. Many states provide free online material that parents can use to homeschool children K-12. A great way to purchase textbooks is to attend homeschooling book fairs, where you can buy used books for low prices and sell books you’re finished with.
In addition to materials, you will need a schedule and supplies. You must follow your state’s rules for standardized tests, enrollment requirements, and number of days “in school.” You can find all this information on HSLDA.org.
You’ll also need a very good computer, especially if your kids are enrolled in online schools/classes.
The decision to teach your children at home should not be taken lightly. Teaching at home, done the right way, can result in a happy, flexible family. Doing it the wrong way can result in children with no social skills who will forever resent you for taking the traditional school experience away from them. In the end, it really depends on the family, the state’s rules, what the children want and need, and how much time and effort the parent can put into the teaching process.