Homeschooling: Getting Started
by Terri White
In recent years, an “old original” has made a phenomenal comeback. Home schooling, an educational movement with roots that date to colonial times, remains legal in every state today.
Many great leaders, such as John Quincy Adams, William Penn, Thomas Edison, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, General George Patton, and General Douglas MacArthur, were home schooled. Dr. Frank Vaniver, past president of Texas A & M University, was educated at home after the seventh grade. Even Sandra Day O’Connor, U. S. Supreme Court Justice, was home schooled for one year.
The advantages of home schooling include:
- Low teacher-to-student ratio
- Instant feedback
- Customized curriculum
- Fewer distractions at home
- Parental values instead of peer values or false teaching
- Opportunities to relate to varied age groups
- Development of self-esteem and independent thinking
- Family unity
- Flexible scheduling
- Time to explore new interests
An essential ingredient to enjoying these benefits is that both parents agree on the decision to home school. Often, one parent only tentatively gives consent, but is soon convinced after watching the children flourish.
If you are concerned about your qualifications to teach, remember that as the parents, you know and love your children best. In the Wall Street Journal (October 6, 1986), Carl Friedman of the New York State Department of Education was quoted as saying that home schoolers are passing well above the norm. He believes that parental dedication and individual attention more than compensate for a lack of credentials.
Choosing a Curriculum
Choose and order your curriculum before bringing your children home from public or private school. This way, you avoid making a decision under pressure. The varied styles of curriculum from which you can choose include: prepackaged, structured (of your own design), co-op learning, working with an umbrella school, unit studies, and many others.
Home school book fairs (usually held in the spring) are excellent places to view the material available. Also, consult with home schoolers who have used the materials in which you are interested. Their input can warn you of subtle pitfalls or inform you of advantages they experienced. And nearly every curriculum includes teachers’ handbooks that still the fears of the most timid.
If you are a young family, do not overspend on elementary curriculum! You can make inexpensive choices with the help of seasoned home schoolers. Along with a limited amount of the “three R’s,” children under seven need to spend a predominate amount of time on ordinary things with Mom and Dad, and ample time for play with fresh air and exercise, gaining experiences that will put meaning to “book learning.” With this approach, by the time your child is seven, he will eagerly master his academic studies.
State Laws and Support Groups
While investigating curriculum options, you will need to become familiar with the laws regarding home schooling for your state. You can contact the National Center for Home Education, P.O. Box 125, Paeonian Springs, VA 22129, phone (703) 338-7600, for assistance. Also, request the name and phone number of the home school contact person in your state; she/he can direct you to the support group nearest you. Throughout every state, a network of local support groups provides field trips, various group activities, and encouragement.
They are familiar with local laws and are knowledgeable about curriculum and upcoming book fairs. Some support groups co-op teach difficult subjects, while others hire an outside teacher for group classes. The benefits of participating in a support group cannot be overestimated. Not only will your children enjoy the supervised group activities that provide constructive socialization, but also you, the parents, will enjoy a whole new wonderful group of friends.
Removing Your Child from Public School
Unless you have emergency reasons for removing your children mid-term, it is wise to let them finish out the semester or school year in the public school system. Laws vary from state to state, so before proceeding, clear your approach for pulling out your children with a local support leader.
One of the greatest threats to a successful home school is undisciplined children. If the children are out of control, summer is a good time to concentrate on bringing your children under authority.
This is absolutely essential. A rebellious child cannot be taught. If you have brought your child home mid-term, and have difficulty in this area, let your heaviest concentration be on discipline, with a light academic load. Once you have established your authority, and your child becomes more teachable, there will be more time for studies. The keys are consistency, determination, and parental unity.
Tutoring is the most efficient form of education. Early elementary children can be instructed in thirty to sixty minutes. As the academic load increases, studies can take from two to four hours. Teaching primary, elementary children is labor-intensive, but since the amount of time required is so small (not counting all those story books you read before bedtime), that leaves the rest of the day for play, chores, and other interests.
Conversely, the older children require less individual attention, but the increased course load adds to the hours. Where, then, does Mom find time to cook, clean, shop, and do laundry?
The key is remembering that home schooling is a way of life in which the home is the center of life and learning. Every child can be trained to assist in household chores. Develop a daily routine so that both academic and life skills cooperate to produce balance in your children, while you enjoy the side benefit of a well-managed home.
People are highly influenced by those with whom they spend the most time, and children are no exception. It is amazing how much easier it is to adopt a bad habit than a good one; we humans are quite skilled at it.
Thus, many child-rearing authorities are recognizing that extensive peer contact causes undesirable peer dependency. Children who spend more time with positive role models within the extended family, church, neighborhood, and family friends develop self-confidence, the ability to relate to people of all ages, independent thinking, and improved family relations. In short, you have a secure young person who will be an asset to any community.
College Bound or Work Force
G.E.D. tests are available nationwide for those who wish immediate employment after high school. Those who are college-bound take the entrance exams for college placement. You will find home schooled students excelling at Harvard, in state universities, and in small private colleges. And not surprisingly, a growing number of home schooled students are choosing to continue their higher education at home through correspondence courses.
The First Year
For a family whose children have previously been educated in a public or private school, the first year will be the most difficult. Developing disciplined children could be your most significant accomplishment. However, previously hidden problems may also begin to surface.
If your straight “A” or “B” student is found lacking in basic skills, your first year should be spent reinforcing your child’s academic foundation. Careful attention in this area will save your child a lifetime of educational handicaps.
Lack of confidence in your ability to teach your own children will sometimes sweep over you like tidal waves. This is a common problem with even seasoned home educators. Well-meaning friends, family, and neighbors may attempt to discourage you, thus increasing the pressure. Full support from your spouse, a strong link with a local support group, a consistent relationship with the Lord, and determination are musts for survival. As you experience success in your first year, your self-confidence will blossom, and with it a deepening appreciation for your choice to home school.
Every family member is challenged and stimulated in the home school. At times you will come face-to-face with weaknesses in both you and your children. These will not be despairing times, but opportunities for change and growth. With children gone all day at traditional schools, weaknesses can go unnoticed until they are in full bloom. Home schooling, however, provides the opportunity to see and correct weaknesses when they’re just tiny sprouts. In this way, true education can occur, providing well-rounded growth for the whole person.