Recently there have been a large number of people asking questions about homeschooling. With the start of the new school year, children’s allergies are acting up, and those who can’t find a solution for the renewed school allergies are considering other options. Having homeschooled my own daughter for a year now, I’d like to provide an overview of the basics.
Who can homeschool?
Homeschooling regulations vary by country and even province or state. The easiest way to determine if homeschooling is legal in your area is to search, “Is homeschooling legal in _______”. Beyond just whether it is legal, different areas have different requirements. In some, there is no oversight or registration requirement, and in others homeschoolers must submit curriculum and scheduling plans, receive regular inspections, follow government curriculums, or even visit local schools for tests. The plus side to this is that often the higher levels of oversight are matched by more support and even sometimes financial assistance for purchasing curriculum. Homeschooling occurs at all levels of public schooling, from preschool right through to the end of secondary school, though what it tends to look like changes as children grow and develop, just like public school changes as children move from primary grades through to secondary school.
What does a typical homeschooling day look like?
Well, we wake up at 7 am sharp, get dressed, eat from 7:30-7:45, and open our books…no. Actually, this is some peoples’ reality, but the truth is that homeschooling is as unique as each family and child. The biggest benefit of homeschooling is the opportunity to tailor your child’s education to the child. For some, this means scheduling regular lessons or periods of time to work on specific subjects, for some it means spending most of the time outside the home volunteering, doing sports, visiting other homeschoolers, and participating in community or wilderness programs. Some homeschooling families place learning activities within the child’s environment and allow the child to choose what they want to do. The spectrum of homeschooling activity hits the extremes and everything in between.
In a typical school situation, children spend only a small percentage of each day learning. Between distractions, not being interested in the classroom activities, finishing early or needing help with the work, and other classroom factors, the public school classroom isn’t the ideal place for many students to learn. On the contrary, at home, with a low student-to-teacher ratio and teaching tailored to the way the child learns, many families find that a few hours a day of schoolwork is more than enough to keep up with public school expectations.
But I’m not qualified! What if I don’t know about what we need to learn?
Don’t worry! Teachers in schools aren’t always matched to their focus subjects either. The great thing is that many of the things your child needs to learn you have already learned, and can pick up really quickly again. If you’re not prepared to do this, many homeschool co-ops will share topics – one parent will teach a group of children English, another math, etc. Another option is online homeschooling, either through signing up for online schools or using computer programs and apps. There are many companies who publish complete or partial homeschool curricula to cater to your family and child’s specific desires and needs. Some homeschool curricula can even be obtained for free online from a number of websites, though this sometimes takes a bit more vetting and preparation.
What about socialization?
This has to be the biggest question any homeschooler is asked. There is a prevailing belief that children need to socialize with kids their own age, to the point that children are pushed ahead when not ready for the next grade or held back from the grade that matches their educational level so that they can be with their “peers.” Due to the high student-to-teacher ratio, these interactions are often unsupervised and can be unhealthy (bullying, teasing, etc). In life outside of school, children need to learn to interact and get along with people of all ages, and homeschooling is ideal for this. Homeschooling co-ops, programs, and get-togethers are fabulous ways to meet and spend time with friends, and after-school activities like sports are great, too. Most homeschooled children are better “socialized” than their public school peers because they have learned how to interact with children of all ages and adults respectfully.
I’ve heard the word unschooling. What’s that?
Unschooling is a concept related to but at the extreme end of homeschooling. It relies on the concept that children have a natural curiosity. You know how toddlers ask question after question after question? They want to know and learn. In the right setting, this curiosity flourishes and children learn about their areas of interest. Unschoolers are entirely child-driven. If a child shows an interest in a particular topic, the parent acts as a facilitator, helping them to find resources so that they can learn.
Come back Friday for part two, where I share more questions about homeschooling and ways to find more information.
Allergies Interfering with Life: Homeschooling Basics Part 2