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Parents choose homeschooling over traditional schooling for many reasons. Sometimes it’s a personal choice – they’re not satisfied with the local school system so they decide they’ll do it themselves. Other times it’s a necessity – a child may have a special need, which the local school system can’t effectively manage.
--A “one-size-fits-all” education does not meet their expectations
--A “testing-focused” education doesn’t match their child’s learning style
--The current teacher or administrator does not meet the parent’s expectations
--Various health issues are impacting the child’s attendance in the classroom
--The school does not address the child’s learning differences sufficiently
--The school does not address the child’s special needs sufficiently
--Parents want to customize a child’s education
--Parents do not agree with the secular worldview taught in schools
--Parents are religiously or morally at odds with the influences in secular schools
--The child may be involved in athletics or art. They may also have higher academic standards, which makes attending a traditional school unproductive
--Families may also have travel, humanitarian reasons, military, missionary, or other reasons that hinders the child from attending traditional schools
Your children may have started in a traditional school, but for whatever reason, that environment is not working. Many homeschooling experts believe about half of today's homeschoolers started in traditional schools. The parents become what is known as “Accidental Homeschoolers.”
“Accidental Homeschoolers” have many things in common, including:
--They believe homeschooling is the best option for their child
--They fell into homeschooling because of a circumstance with their child, the school, or maybe with their family dynamic
--They’ve given up hope with traditional schooling but do not yet have a good idea of what homeschooling is
--They are nervous about making the transition from traditional schooling to homeschooling and question if they can successfully educate their children
These feelings are not unusual because homeschooling is a challenge. But once you understand it better and realize the advantages and flexibility it offers, your apprehension will subside. Most accidental homeschoolers felt the same way but quickly become veteran homeschoolers with children who thrive in this vibrant educational environment.
Homeschooling has become more popular over the past decade. One reason is the growing awareness of how many benefits this schooling method provides. These benefits are unlike anything that traditional schools can offer, because homeschoolers are not confined to a set schedule, fixed curriculum, and the like.
Established homeschoolers are even known to use the environment around them as teaching tools. You can visit the library, a zoo, a museum or any other place where your children will learn about history, science, math, and more. Some parents contact local business owners and ask them to take on their child as an apprentice. As you establish yourself, you gain a sense of freedom.
The benefits that homeschooling parents are grateful for include:
--The ability to choose their own curriculum
--The quality time they spend with their children
--The opportunity for children to learn at their own pace
--The chance to develop into a respected role model and leader for their children
--The freedom to adapt their teaching methods to meet their children’s learning abilities
--The power to design a flexible schedule
--The satisfaction of providing a safe environment
--The capability of utilizing various activities outside the home by joining homeschooling groups and other social clubs and organizations
--The sense of satisfaction that they’re better preparing their children for college or a career field
And here are a few statistics that potential homeschooling parents should consider:
--Homeschooled children generally score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests (1)
--Homeschool children score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of education (2)
--A homeschooled child’s academic achievement does not correspond to their parent’s formal teaching skills or teacher certification (3)
--Homeschooled children generally score above average on the SAT and ACT tests that colleges consider for admissions (4)
--Homeschooled children are aggressively recruited by colleges (5)
As you can see, the academic achievements and performance homeschooled children have accomplished is impressive. As a matter of fact, homeschooled children not only enjoy a rich and rewarding social lifestyle, they also tend to receive a more rounded and dynamic educational experience – especially if the parents embrace the various resources that are easily accessible.
Homeschooling Resources and Tools
Many homeschooling professionals believe the high academic standards achieved by homeschooled children directly corresponds with the vast resources and technologically advanced tools that are now available. There is one problem though: Sifting through the information can get confusing.
With that in mind, here’s a break down the major resources you can use.
Online courses: Rather than traditional textbooks or workbooks, homeschoolers can find PreK-12th grade lessons, quizzes, and tests online. Time4Learing, for example, is a complete curriculum that offers the core subjects and more — math, language arts, science, social studies, foreign languages, electives.With online curricula, you and your child decide which program fits your educational goals. In the case of Time4Learning, coursework is automated, so it actually does the teaching. You can join in, or review the work as your child progresses.
YouTube: YouTube offers free tutorials, clarification on math problems, science experiments, and more. One word of warning, not all tutorials are safe and credible. Do your research before your child uses them.
Free community resource memberships: Libraries, parks, zoos, museums, historical societies, and more offer classes and programs that homeschooling parents can use for additional educational purposes beyond their core studies.
Distance learning: There are many distance learning methods. One method includes a “live” teacher on the computer teaching the class. Another method is a computer-based instruction program, which requires students and teachers to communicate through email. All courses take place on the computer and the teacher provides assistance if your child has questions.
Dual enrollment: This is for high school students. Local community colleges offer junior and senior students classes at a fair price. The courses vary and the volume of courses is large. The courses also count toward a college degree.
Published curriculum: For a more hands-on approach, there are books, workbooks, teacher guides, and other written material, which will help you educate your children. Many parents will use these resources along with online programs.
Virtual schools: Although similar in some regards to online curricula programs, there are distinctions between virtual public and private schools. In the case of virtual public schools, which are offered by many states and are usually free, it's essentially public school at home. There are also many virtual private schools throughout the the U.S. that offer tuition-based K-12 programs and is essentially private school at home.
With virtual schools, parents and students mostly adhere to a defined school schedule/calendar. You don’t have the freedom that other homeschool options offer, but it’s a viable option for some parents and children.
Tutoring: Local homeschool parents or teachers are always a great resource. You can also utilize online services where certified teachers provide comprehensive tutoring on most any subject.
Local internships and apprenticeships: Some childrenknow what they want to do at an early age. Others develop that understanding over time. Either way is fine because many local business owners will provide an internship or apprenticeship opportunities for older children. You may also be able to attribute it as a high school credit – check with your state’s guidelines.
Over the past 10 years, the resources available to homeschooling parents has exploded. It’s really amazing – you are no longer just using your home as a classroom setting. You have the whole outside world at your disposal as well as the internet universe.
If you’re seriously considering homeschooling, here are four steps you need to prepare for:
--Exploring your state homeschooling laws
--Joining homeschooling co-ops or groups
--Considering the way your child learns best
The first thing you should explore is your state’s homeschooling laws. They’re not as rigid as many people believe, but the laws vary by state. What you’ll notice is most states focus on three sections:
It’s recommended that you visit your state’s Department of Education website. They have the appropriate information available. You can also use other resources such as Time4Learning, which provides a State Homeschool Information guide. Lastly, lean on seasoned homeschoolers in homeschooling groups or co-ops to help guide you through the homeschooling laws in your area.
Joining homeschooling co-ops and groups
Co-ops (or cooperatives) and support groups provide assistance, guidance, advice, and in most cases, lasting friendships. There are differences between the two, though. A homeschool co-op is usually defined as a group of families who meet and work “cooperatively” to accomplish educational goals. Classes and activities are offered in a group setting and the parents teach them. Parents are expected to partake in teaching duties and provide dues or cover the costs for certain elements the co-op shares.
A homeschooling group is not usually as programmed as a co-op. Children still take part in activities but many times groups will meet in places like a park or other settings where children and parents can socialize. Both groups and co-ops offer valuable support to homeschooling parents. They also provide an environment where parents can ask questions and receive advice from veteran homeschoolers on curriculum, teaching styles, or any other subject.
Co-ops and groups are respected tools and most homeschooling parents highly recommend them. They are easily found throughout the U.S. You can simply do a quick Google search in your area and find them, or you can start your own homeschool co-op. One word of caution though: Finding a support group that shares your beliefs may take time. The homeschooling community is diverse; just keep investigating and you will find a match.
How your children learn best
This is a heated topic in the homeschooling arena, but it’s something that most parents feel is necessary to investigate. Let’s make one thing clear, though – no one approach is better than the other. You may find that your child prefers one, or a combination. Whatever works for your child is the correct way. The most commonly discussed “learning styles” are:
--Visual (spatial): Use of pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
--Aural (auditory-musical): Use of sound and music.
--Verbal (linguistic): Use of words, both in speech and writing.
--Physical (kinesthetic): Use of your body, hands, and sense of touch.
--Logical (mathematical): Use of logic, reasoning, and systems.
--Social (interpersonal): Use of group learning or in group settings.
--Solitary (intrapersonal): Use of solitary settings and self-study.
If you don’t know where to start with discovering how your child learns best, start with yourself and experiment from there. Many times, children will learn math better with visual techniques, such as web-based programs, while reading is best done in a group setting.
As mentioned in the “resources and tools” section, you can pick many different methods that will help your child thrive. From traditional school book learning to the more dynamic web-based programs, you and your child choose the methods that best meet their learning styles.
You should also think about yourself when evaluating resources and tools. As the teacher, it would benefit your child’s learning endeavors if you felt comfortable using tools that bring out your hidden talents. Remember, be creative and use as many different methods as possible – if that suits you and your child. You’ll find that by combining web-based tools and the outside environment such as museums, for example, your child’s learning experience will become more dynamic and rewarding.
Parents are using the internet and web-based tools more often now, especially with the curricula becoming more accessible and captivating. Time4Learning is one of those curriculum options, which parents use not only as a supplemental aid, but as a complete curriculum for their PreK through 12th grade children.
Time4Learning.com combines 3000+ multimedia lessons, printable worksheets and graded activities in an easily understood format where students can learn at their own pace. What’s also helpful for parents is the math, language arts, and science lessons are matched to state standards, and provide a robust selection of content.
There are also extra educational options available such as foreign languages, writing, and vocabulary and spelling which can easily be added to a Time4Learning membership. Parents can receive lesson plans, printable worksheets, teaching tools (located in the parent administration section), comprehensive reporting, and parental assistance through the online Parent Forum. Students are able to access the curriculum 24/7 from any computer with an internet. The ease of use, and challenging and entertaining programs make learning an adventure.
Sources: (1) (2) National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), Research Facts on Homeschooling, March 23, 2016 (3) Academic Achievement and Demographic Traits of Homeschool Students: A Nationwide Study, February 3, 2010 (4) National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), Homeschool SAT Scores for 2014 Higher Than National Average, June 7, 2016 (5) Business Insider, There's a New Path to Harvard and it's not in a Classroom, September 2, 2015
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