Homeschooling is when your child is educated at home, rather than at a local private or public school. It's an option for schooling that's gaining popularity. Is it right for you and your child?
There are dozens if not hundreds of reasons why parents may choose to homeschool their child, such as:
- Dissatisfaction with the learning environment or quality of education at local public schools
- You don't share the same religious beliefs as the private school in your area, or you can't afford private school
- The bus ride to school is too long
- You don't want to "miss anything" as your child grows up, but want to share in her experiences and spend as much together as possible
Whatever the reason, homeschooling is becoming more and more common across the US. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in 2007, the number of homeschooled students was about 1.5 million, an increase from 850,000 in 1999 and 1.1 million in 2003.
In every state, children are required to go to school for a certain number of years. This is called "compulsory schooling." Home schooling is legal in all 50 sates and the District of Columbia. However, the laws in your state may be quite different from another state. So, one of the first things you need to do is familiarize yourself with your local laws.
There is help, though. In any state you probably can find dozens of homeschool support groups online, or you can check your local library. Your state's department of education should have some information and resources to help you.
The Home School Legal Defense Association (HLDS) can help you understand the laws, too.
While we can't go into or summarize each state's laws, there are some general things you're likely to see:
- Many states, like Colorado, don't require you to have any particular educational background or degree in order to homeschool your children. However, some states may require you to have a high school diploma or equivalent. New Jersey is a good example
- In some states, such as Texas, parents don't have give the department of education or other state agency any types of reports about the child's progress. Other states, like Georgia, require periodic reports on a student's progress and attendance
- Some states have strict requirements of what classes or courses home schooled children must be taught. New York is a good example
- Many states require home schooled students to pass the same standardized proficiency tests students in the state's public schools have to pass before moving up a grade level
There's no preset way to home school. Most often, it's a parent who takes over the role of the "teacher." There are other options, too. For example, you may hire tutors to come into your home for all or part of the day to teach your child. Another option is to send your child to a local school for part of the day one or more times a week. This is a good option for parents who worry that homeschooling may deprive their children of socializing and making friends.