If you’re thinking about homeschooling, it’s time for some homeschooling 101. Most parenting decisions involve asking a lot of questions and searching for the best answers. This is particularly true when it comes to making decisions about your children’s education. Today, parents have many options when it comes to choosing a type of schooling. What is the best choice? Public school, charter school, private school, virtual school, or homeschooling? Every family should conduct its own research and make a decision that meets the needs of their children.
If you’re thinking about homeschooling your son or daughter, what questions should you ask before making the decision? Here are some of the most important ones to consider:
Why do you want to homeschool?
Give some thought as to why homeschooling appeals to you. Is it because a friend or someone else in the family has homeschooled? Is it because your child came home after a bad day at school and asked to be homeschooled? Is it because you’ve read a few articles, and you’re considering trying it? All of these can be valid reasons to think about homeschooling, but they are not sufficient answers. They need support. Just because one family homeschooled successfully doesn’t mean that it will work well for you. One bad day at school isn’t enough to decide to leave it behind.
Take time to analyze why you may want to homeschool. Instead of a single bad day, is your child consistently suffering at school because of learning difficulties, bullying, or other problems? Instead of a relative homeschooling successfully, do you know multiple families who are doing it well? Instead of a few articles, have you read multiple books, attended a few workshops, or gone online and consulted multiple web sites?
John Holt, considered the original “father” of homeschooling, once wrote, “Why do people take or keep their children out of school? Mostly for three reasons: they think that raising their children is their business not the government’s; they enjoy being with their children and watching and helping them learn, and don’t want to give that up to others; they want to keep them from being hurt mentally, physically and spiritually.
What are your state’s homeschooling laws?
Although homeschooling is 100 percent legal in every state (since 1993), the laws are different in each state. The laws vary greatly from very lenient (Alaska, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Texas) to very strict (Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont). You can find the laws for your state by either checking your department of education, the Home School Legal Defense Association or A to Z Homes Cool.
How much do you personally know about homeschooling?
There are a lot of myths and misunderstandings about home education and they can be very misleading when you’re trying to make the best decision. For example, do you think that only religious people homeschool—or only hippies do? Do you believe that homeschooling costs a great deal or takes a huge amount of time? Have you heard that homeschoolers can’t go to the prom, join sports teams, attend college or join the military? None of these statements are true. Believing that they are can lead to confusion—and poor decision making. Doing solid research about homeschooling can help dispel these myths and make it easier to make wiser decisions.
How does your child/partner/family feel about homeschooling?
Any family that homeschools has to do it as a unit—if a partner doesn’t agree with the choice, or if a child is against being homeschooled, it can be a real uphill battle. To get everyone “on board” with the decision means lots of discussions and sharing of thoughts, opinions, facts, and ideas. If your child is old enough, involving him or her in the decision making will help your child feel validated and listened to. Listen to each other’s concerns and questions, and find the answers together. Homeschooling is so much easier when the family is a team.
Do you know any of the current stats about homeschooling?
While national numbers may not seem to affect you directly, they can give you an idea of how homeschooling trends are developing across the country. According to the National Centers for Educational Statistics, 1.77 million children were homeschooled in 2012, an 18 percent increase over the numbers in 2007. The numbers have continued to climb with each passing year. (Note: Many experts believe there are many more homeschooling students than this, as this statistic only reflects state-registered homeschoolers, and many of families decline to register.)
According to the National Home Education Research Institute in Oregon, homeschoolers also score above average on SAT and ACT exams. Also, according to a study conducted at the University of St. Thomas, homeschoolers were shown to graduate college at a rate of 66.7 percent, which is almost 10 percent higher than students who attended traditional public school.
Making the best choice for your children’s education is never an easy decision, regardless of what you ultimately choose. Asking the right questions and getting reliable answers is the first step to figuring out the answers. Happy researching!
To learn more about homeschooling, check out Homeschooling 101: Sports and Other Extracurricular Activities and An Introduction to the Laws and Legalities of Homeschooling.
Tamra Orr is the author of six books on the topic of homeschooling, including Homeschooling FAQs: 101 Questions Every Parent Should Ask and After Homeschool: Fifteen Homeschoolers Out in the Real World. In addition, she homeschooled her four children from Kindergarten through high school graduation.
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