What is homeschooling?
Not too many years ago, homeschooling was seen as a strange educational choice taken up by fringe groups -- either right wing religious fanatics or left wing granola crunching hippies. Nowadays, with a nationwide homeschool population of two million, which is growing at a speed of at least 8% each year, homeschooling has entered the mainstream consciousness. Homeschooling is just another educational option like public, private or charter school.
Many homeschool parents say that they have chosen to homeschool their children because it is such a flexible and diverse educational option. There is no "right" way to homeschool. Homeschool parents may choose to replicate a traditional school environment at home or they might choose a child-led approach to learning like unschooling. Homeschoolers are proud of their ability to tailor their schooling to the needs and interests of their children.
As explained by Earl Stevens in his book Getting Started with Homeschooling: An Introduction to Home Education, "What if you don't want to play teacher, but prefer to let your children go on living and learning as they have from birth? Homeschoolers are fond of saying that children like to learn, are good at it, and don't need to be forced or coerced into learning."
Stevens continues, "Consider a toddler of two years. His natural daily activity is searching, probing, feeling, climbing, testing, trying to learn all he can about the world and how it works. Are we to believe that this fantastic capacity for seeking and growing fizzles out at the age of minimum compulsory attendance, and must be thereafter propped up by disciplined teaching and homework assignments?"
The many benefits of homeschooling
Homeschoolers are excited about homeschooling. From the academic benefits and social skills to flexibility and more time for family bonding, the benefits of homeschooling are many.
When asked to compare homeschooling to other educational options, Valarie Atwood, homeschool mom and founder of Homeschoolers East Co-op said, "I really appreciate the ability to tailor materials to the learning style, interests and pace of my children. I often say that homeschooling is 'private tutoring' and that each subject area is specific to the readiness and abilities of the child. My kids get to focus on their passions and talents and I am there to provide the means and support to facilitate that."
Is homeschooling legal?
Interested in homeschooling, but concerned about the legality of home education in your state? Rest assured, homeschooling is legal in all 50 states -- but policies vary widely on what and how much you will need to do to document your child's homeschool work. In some states, there are no requirements at all. In others, parents are required to use a state approved curriculum, be state certified as a teacher, send regular notification and achievement test scores, and submit to home visits by state officials.
The Home School Legal Defense Association has a state-by-state breakdown of homeschool laws.
How to get started homeschooling
Want to learn more about how to get started on a home education plan for your family? Here are a few good homeschool resources to get your headed in the right direction:
- A to Z Home's Cool: An excellent homeschool community website with everything from tips on how to homeschool and local support groups to curriculum options and community discussion groups.
- Home School Legal Defense Association: A nonprofit homeschool advocacy organization established to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children and to protect family freedoms.
- Homeschool: #1 Homeschool community on the web with links to local homeschool support groups, articles, curriculum and discussion boards.
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