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.
The latest NCES figures show in 2007:
- A large majority (84 percent) of homeschooled students received all of their education at home, but some of them went to a school for up to 25 hours per week, primarily for socialization: Eating lunch, recess or play time, and other activities unrelated to education and instruction
- 11 percent of homeschoolers attended a school for less than 9 hours per week
- 5 percent of students schooled at home went to a school between 9 and 25 hours per week
If you'd like your child to go to a school for any amount of time during the week, you'll need to see which schools, if any, in your area will work with you on it.
In some states, homeschoolers may be taught with other homeschooled children from other families, too.
Other Things to Think About
There's a lot of other things to consider when making your decision about homeschooling, such as:
- Finances. While homeschooling is much less expensive than private school (public school is free, remember), the parent-teacher likely will have to devote all or most of her time to teaching, preparing lessons, grading papers, etc. There probably won't be time for work, even a home-based job. So, if your family is used to two incomes, homeschooling may have a big impact on the family budget
- Time. Cooking dinner, cleaning the house, and other daily chores and errands are things you need to schedule around schooling
- Your child. It's best if you're child likes and is excited about the idea of homeschooling. If he doesn't want to do it and would rather be in school with his friends, the odds are it's going to be difficult to teach him. Give it a year, and if it works out, keep at it. If it doesn't, be prepared to enroll him in a regular school
- Lesson plans. Be prepared to change how, what, and when you teach several times, especially when you're first starting out. It's a process of trial-and-error until you find the most effective way to teach your child
Homeschooling is a big decision and a big commitment. But if you plan carefully and prepare yourself and your child, it can be wonderful experience for both of you.
Questions for Your Attorney
- I we move to another state after homeschooling our child for several years in our home state, does the new state have to give our child credit for the classes he's completed before we move?
- Do I need special homeowners insurance if I decide to homeschool my child?
- Can I charge "tuition" if several parents ask me to homeschool their children while I homeschool my own child? Are there business, license or tax issues?