Today I would like to welcome Dionna, who has written a guest post on the frequently asked questions of parents considering homeschooling. She is a lawyer turned work at home mama of an amazing son, and is one of those crunchy liberals her parents warned her about. You can normally find Dionna over at Code Name: Mama where she shares information, resources, and her thoughts on natural parenting and life with a toddler. Today, I have a guest post there. So, once you’re done reading Dionna’s thoughts on the FAQs of potential homeschoolers, head on over to find out some of my thoughts on unschooling.
My husband and I are leaning heavily toward homeschooling our son. Because we both attended public school, we have many questions about the mechanics and practicalities of homeschooling. I’m sure that most of our questions are common ones, so I asked several homeschooling mothers for their input.
If you are a homeschooling family and have time to provide your input to any of these questions, or if you are considering homeschooling for your children and have other questions, please leave a comment or contact me directly.
1. What are the major homeschooling “philosophies,” and how will I know which one will match my family’s personalities/learning styles?
Charlie broke the philosophies into these helpful categories:
1. All in one curricula school-at-home (Sonlight, A Beka, K12 virtual schools, etc.)
2. Alternative education schools (Montessori, Waldorf, Charlotte Mason)
3. Eclectic/build-your-own style programs (i.e. unit studies)
4. Unschooling/radical unschooling
Before you really start researching the different philosophies, take some time to discuss why you want to homeschool. Is it for religious reasons? Do you find the classroom too confining? Do you want your child to be free to learn based on his interests? The answers to these questions may help guide you in a certain direction.
It may also be helpful to talk to other homeschooling families and find out what works for them. What you will probably find is that no homeschooling family uses one philosophy to the exclusion of all others; they use a little bit of several theories.
Research a little of everything, try a little of everything. Watch your kids and see what they enjoy. One of your children might thrive on a text-based math program, while the other learns basic math more easily by working with real life situations (a trip to the grocery store, cutting up pie, etc.). You can learn and evolve as you go, no one starts out as an expert.
2. What are the main advantages and disadvantages of homeschooling?
*The freedom to make your own schedule (daily – when to wake up, when to go out and about; and globally – when to schedule vacations, etc.)
*Kids can socialize with adults and children of all different ages rather than being forced into a group made up of children the same age
*Kids learn at their own pace
*You are free to explore the world, the only boundaries are self-imposed
*Homeschooling creates strong families
*Not the extreme exposure to stereotypical problem behavior in public schools (drugs, bullies, etc.)
*Children are not tied to the expectations of school personnel with respect to expected development
*Families have more time together
*Less pressure for kids to conform to peers
*More individualized attention
*Immersion and learning in the real world
*The ability to give your children a healthy diet
*Parents should take time for themselves to avoid burnout
*Loss of time for parents to do other things
*Hard to balance everyone’s needs
*Parents work harder than if the kids were in school away from home
3. How do you help your kids learn the subjects that you aren’t comfortable with? In other words, am I smart enough to homeschool?
No school teacher knows everything, and neither do parents. Parents do not need to rely on themselves for every facet of their child’s homeschooling. Check your community for homeschooling cooperatives, community classes (from the library, community center, community college, etc.), and tutors. The library and Internet are also incredible resources.
Unschooling parents trust that their children will learn exactly what they need to know, when they need to know it. To paraphrase Summerhill, if a child is interested in music you could not keep her from learning it, and if a child is not interested in music then there is no need for her to learn it. Parents who unschool do not teach, they facilitate.
4. How do homeschooled children connect with other kids?
Again, homeschooling cooperatives/groups are an excellent way to find opportunities for socialization. You can also look to the library, community centers, sports programs, churches, your neighborhood, etc.
5. Do homeschoolers have opportunities to participate in extracurricular/organized activities (orchestra, sports, etc.)?
Homeschoolers have many different opportunities to be involved in traditional extracurricular activities. Here are a few ideas:
*There are school districts that allow homeschoolers to participate in activities
*Traditional non-school based activities like Girl/Boy Scouts, karate, community theater, etc.
*Homeschooling families often form their own teams/groups
*City and community programs
6. How do you find your curriculum/resources? How much do you need? Are they expensive?
Many homeschooling families do not use traditional curricula. Instead they utilize the Internet, the library, various community resources (zoos, aquariums, festivals, etc.), and their own local cooperatives. If you are interested in traditional textbooks/curricula, you can often find materials used.
Almost all of the respondents said that homeschooling can be as inexpensive or as expensive as you make it.
7. Alone time for parents: how important is it, and how do you get it?
As Darcel reminded me, it’s important to stay connected with your partner regardless of whether you are homeschooling. So true!
Otherwise, the responses differed on the question of how important alone time is. Some people need more, some people need less. Those who need more mentioned doing things after the kids are in bed, hiring trusted babysitters, utilizing time when the kids are in homeschool park days or other activities, and taking turns with partners watching the kids.
8. Where can I find laws about homeschooling, and are they are to understand?
Call your local school district to find out what you will need to report. You can Google homeschooling laws for your state or find a local homeschooling store – they should have resources on local laws. Join Yahoo homeschooling groups, cooperatives, and get to know the local homeschooling community.
You can find a list of laws by state at HSLDA.