FAQs about Homeschooling

From HUUH

Choose from the following:

Why do people homeschool?
What kinds of people homeschool?
Is it legal? What are the laws in my state or province?
How does homeschooling work?
What about money? Is homeschooling expensive?
What if my child wants to learn something that I don't know?
What about the social life of homeschooled kids? Aren't they isolated?
What about high school and college? Where do homeschoolers fit in?
I think homeschooling would be great, but my partner/parents/relatives/friends are skeptical. What can I do?
My child has been labeled "learning disabled" or "ADHD" -- can I homeschool?
OK, I love the idea of homeschooling -- but what about me? What about my interests and my career?
Where can I learn more about homeschooling? What resources are available to me?

Why do people homeschool? There are as many answers to this questions as there are families who homeschool. Some homeschool for educational reasons, some for religious reasons, others becuse they like to be together as a family. Some families who are challenged by living with a child with a physical or emotional problem find homeschooling to be easier and more consistent than public schooling. Still others may homeschool due to where they live -- too far from a school -- or because they are travelling for an extended period of time. These are not the only reasons; it is up to each family to decide why homeschooling is an important choice for them.

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What kinds of people homeschool? All kinds! While the vast majority of homeschoolers come from white, two-parent, Christian families, this is not the only model. Single parents are able to homeschool as well as lower, middle and upper class families. More and more families of diversity are homeschooling -- African-Americans, Latinos, gays and lesbians, Jews, Muslims, and Unitarian Universalists -- and they are creating their own support groups.

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Is it legal? What are the laws in my state or province? Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states in the U.S. as well as in Canada, the U.K., Australia, France, New Zealand, and elsewhere. However, each place has a different law. Write to your State or Province Department of Education or check a law library's Statute Book for exact wording. In some areas you register with the state, others with your local school or school district. Some areas require you to submit a plan of study and have your child be evaluated each year by testing, teacher evaluation, portfolio or other method. Other places have no requirements beyond registering. In any state, you do not have to be a certified teacher to homeschool your children. The best source of information is your local homeschooling group. These folks know the ins and outs of the laws that pertain to your area.

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How does homeschooling work? This, too, is individual depending on each family's choice. These choices run the gamut from using pre-packaged curricula with scheduled "classroom" time at home to doing nothing formal at all. Most families fall somewhere in between with a certain amount of time devoted each day or week to "the basics" plus whatever else the children are interested in at the time. Homeschooling is whatever you make of it. There are no bells to ring at 9 a.m. -- homeschooling happens 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There is always something to learn, and the flexibility of homeschooling allows families to take advantage of local educational events, off-season travel, and children's individual interests. Do some reading -- there are many books and magazines on homeschooling -- and talk to other homeschoolers to get an idea of how they do things. Then find a way that works best for your kids.

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What about money? Is homeschooling expensive? Homeschooling can be as cheap or as expensive as your family's budget allows. Libraries are a never-ending sources of books and reference materials. Yard sales and used bookstores are great places to buy books for your own use as are homeschoolers' swaps. Homeschooling families find they have the time to volunteer at museums and theaters in exchange for free admission. Look around in your community -- you'll be amazed at what you find. The other side of the money coin is that homeschooling requires a parent or other responsible adult to be with the kids all day. Each family handles this differently. Typically, one parent stays home and the other parent works to earn a living for the family. Other parents choose to each work half-time. Some adults are fortunate enough to have a home business so that they can work and still be available to their children. Single parents often arrange with babysitters, relatives or other homeschooling families to have someone to be with the children while they are working. In any case, if homeschooling families are challenged by a living with lower income, it becomes a learning experience for everyone.

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What if my child wants to learn something that I don't know? One of the reasons that many adults love homeschooling is that they get to learn along with their kids! For those things we "learned" in school -- but maybe don't remember -- homeschooling is a time for everyone to learn together. If you and your child want to know about the life of the raccoon, for example, you can check the encyclopedia, go to the libabry and look for books, call your county extension agent or game warden or veternarian, visit a natural history museum, take a walk in the woods. For more specialized subjects such as foreign languages, advanced science or a particular art form, it may work best to hook your child up with another adult that is more "fluent" in the subject. Many homeschooled kids become apprentices or are individually tutored by such an expert. For the older child, don't forget community classes sponsored by a recreation department, wellness center or community college. Look around your community -- there are a wealth of resources available.

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What about the social life of homeschooled kids? Aren't they isolated? On the contrary, homeschooled kids have a rich and varied social life. They feel more free to interact with people all ages, from the very young to the very old. How many six-year-old schooled children would throw a birthday party and invite a bunch of kids ages 2 through 13? This kind of social interaction is common in homeschooling circles. Besides making friends with other homeschoolers -- either through support groups or word-of-mouth -- many children participate in the usual gamut of "extracurricular" activities such as Scouting, 4-H, Little League, gymnastics classes, community theater or music groups, church activities, etc. Plus homeschooled children interact and make friends with a wide range of adults that they come in contact with -- the bank teller, the business owner, the elderly neighbor, the librarian, staff at places kids volunteer, the music teacher. Homeschooled children are not limited to their age-peers in a classroom, one adult teacher, and the neighborhood crowd. Thus homeschoolers are not drawn into cliquish, exclusive behavior that so often permeates the school setting. Homeschooled children are also often much closer to, and have a better relationship with, their siblings than schooled children.

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What about high school and college? Where do homeschoolers fit in? The teen years can be an exciting time for homeschooling. Many homeschoolers continue to stay home, while others are leaving school in increasing numbers. Teens are beginning to have a sense of the direction of their lives and can move into learning more specialized subjects in preparation for college and/or career. Homeschooling offers them a unique opportunity to apprentice, to travel, to start taking a few select college courses, to increase their volunteer activites, or to begin paid employment. Homeschoolers who want to attend college do so! Most colleges and universities are delighted to enroll homeschoolers. They have found that homeschoolers are more motivated to learn and less interested in partying than many of their schooled peers. Each college has a different admission process for homeschoolers, so do begin to look into this early so that your child can prepare for whatever is required --SATs, references, a homeschooler's version of a transcript, interviews, etc.

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I think homeschooling would be great, but my partner/parents/relatives/friends are skeptical. What can I do? Be patient, and be prepared to educate people. Many folks are misinformed about homeschooling. Do your research! Talk with other homeschoolers about how they handled such a problem in their own lives, read some of the homeschooling literature, and be prepared to answer concerns about college, and social life, and your (supposed) inability to teach. Homeschoolers are everywhere these days, and there are often stories about them in local and national media. Share these articles with your skeptics. And, be patient. With time, they will see how your kids are flourishing in the homeschooling environment and are not deprived of friendships, social activities, and learning experiences.

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My child has been labeled "learning disabled" or "ADHD" -- can I homeschool? Yes. Interestingly, many parents with children so-labeled find that once their child is removed from the school atmosphere that the "learning disability" often disappears or is greatly diminished. The individual attention that a parent can give, the quieter setting, and the flexibility to work within your child's strengths and limitations, often allows children to learn better at home. And, in some cases, children are so-labeled if they are not following the school's timetable. Many homeschooling children, for example, do not learn to read until they are 8, 10, even 12, yet in a school classroom they would be labeled "learning disabled." There are many useful resources within the homeschooling community to deal with this challenge. Don't let it stop you!

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OK, I love the idea of homeschooling -- but what about me? What about my interests and my career? Homeschooling your children does not mean giving up your own life. On the contrary, homeschooling gives you time to pursue your own interests and be a good role model for your children. Younger children obviously need more direct supervision, but older children often are happy and motivated to work on their own with periodic help and direction from you. Many parents find they finally have time to write, do art, learn a foreign language, set up a home business, start a garden -- whatever interests you. And, depending on your career, you may be able to continue working part-time. In today's atmosphere of "downsizing," many adults are choosing to work at home, work part-time or begin free-lancing anyway. In an ideal situation, you and your partner can each work part-time and each share in the homeschooling responsibilities, thus leaving you both time with the kids and time for your own pursuits.

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Where can I learn more about homeschooling? What resources are available to me? There are resources galore and they are growing in numbers. HUUH email list has a list of resources in its archives. If you have been sent this via email and are a member of HUUH-L, the list manager can send you this information by request.