What Home Schooling Parents Want To Know

by Becton Loveless

Here are some of the most common questions asked by parents who are already homeschooling:

I'm not using a set curriculum. Where can I find quality materials that won't cost me an arm and a leg, particularly for older students? Is homeschooling cost-effective for high school students?

There's been a huge increase in the number of resources available to homeschooling families recently. There are more curriculum companies offering a wider variety of teaching tools and resources than ever before, which can really help you round out your lessons.

But, thankfully, you don't need to purchase everything you need these days. The library is a veritable gold mine for homeschoolers, especially when you take advantage of their interlibrary lending system. Not only can you access practically any novel or reference book you can think of, many libraries also offer a large number of audiobooks, movies, music, games, and more. In some library systems, patrons can even borrow electronic devices such as Kindles, Nooks, or mp3 players. There's a wealth of resources available from the library, and, best of all, it costs you nothing (provided you return everything on time).

The library, in addition to offering free books and materials, also provides classes, workshops, and activities in a range of subjects. Many of these activities are in after-school hours, but many take place during the day, allowing for a good deal of scheduling flexibility. Furthermore, many libraries are a gathering place for the local homeschooling community. Activities, support groups, and parent-taught classes from fellow homeschoolers can be great supplement to your own curriculum.

Other than the library, the Internet is a homeschooling family's best friend. The resources available online are practically limitless, provided you know how to sort out the gems from the junk. If you do, you'll find numerous resources, activities, lessons, videos, tutorials, projects, and more which can keep you and your child busy year-round.

If you're looking for a way to get out into the community, check out some the learning opportunities available at local schools, museums, businesses, and colleges. Many of these establishments offer classes available to the public, and many offer classes specifically for the homeschooling community. Additionally, many school districts offer after-school community education classes in a long list of subjects, from advanced German to beginning guitar to computer technology and more. These classes are generally very affordable.

What if I struggle with a subject myself? How do I teach that subject?

Many parents feel overwhelmed because they think they need to teach everything by themselves. Luckily, this just isn't the case. One option is to find resources and materials that kids can use by themselves, such as online courses or guidebooks. These can be found from any of the sources listed above, and don't require you to have a mastery over subjects that you struggle with.

If you're looking for a real-life, face-to-face teacher, there are plenty of options there too. Consider a homeschool co-op, for example, in which parents of different homeschooling families trade lessons. For example, you might teach a class in algebra to your own children and to the children of another homeschooling family, and the other parents, in exchange, might teach a class in Spanish. These co-ops are a great way to pool knowledge, and distribute the teaching burden amongst many willing parents.

There are still more options: private tutors can be very helpful for teaching more difficult subjects, such as higher math. Private tutors may be local college students, public school teachers, or professional tutors online or at commercial tutoring centers. You could also try distance learning at an online college, or attend a local private school part-time (many private schools offer this part-time option to local homeschoolers). It may take a bit of time to find the option that works best for you, but there's a lot of help out there that you can take advantage of.

My Child Doesn't Want to Write. How Can I Encourage Him?

Often, children don't want to write because they associate writing with a frustrating pile of rules. Rather than an avenue of self expression and communication, writing becomes an odious chore. A great way to cultivate writing skills, therefore, is by removing all the rules. Let your child be creative. Don't worry about spelling errors or grammatical mistakes. Even the most reluctant of writers will fill page after page if they don't need to worry about the technical details.

While this may seem counter-intuitive, it actually can be quite effective. When children are given the freedom to use their imagination and develop their own unique voice, grammar and technicalities often naturally fall into place later on.

One of the hardest parts about writing, for writers of all ages and levels, is simply getting started. Here are a few strategies to overcome this hurdle and inspire some creative imagination in your student:

  • Give your student the first sentence, or part of a first sentence. Then let them take it wherever they want to.
  • Show your student a picture, news article, or illustration, and then have him adopt the perspective of one of the people in that situation.
  • Let your student start by drawing an illustration of his story first, then writing the corresponding story. This works particularly well for younger kids.

Another way to motivate your children to write is by publishing their finished work. This can easily be done at home, with the kids making their own cover and binding it together with thread, brads, or staples. Or, you can lay out the text of their story or book in a word processing program, and send it out to be professionally bound. There are a number of companies, online and in your community, who can do this for you for a reasonable price. For your kids, seeing their work become a real book can be highly motivating.

Also, remember that the best way to learn how to write is by reading. Make sure your kids have access to a wide range of different writing styles, and encourage them to read for pleasure. The more they read, the more they'll absorb different writing strategies, and the more they'll be able to construct clear and thoughtful sentences on their own.

What sports can my child play if we can't join the school sports teams?

The answer to this question varies depending on where you live. Homeschoolers can join public school sports teams in 30 states, but the requirements and regulations may be different across different school districts. Check with your local school district to see what your options are. It's possible your child can join the sports team with no problem at all. In addition, many states have enacted, or are considering enacting, "Tim Tebow laws," which allow homeschool children to join public school sports teams.

Beyond public school sports teams, though, there are a large number of options for you and your kids to play sports and exercise without worrying about state laws and regulations. Community sports teams, for instance, are open to children from all backgrounds. Through these leagues, your child could play baseball, basketball, football, soccer, or swimming, to name a few. There are also many homeschool leagues out there, which offer competition in a number of team sports exclusively for homeschooling families.

A popular option for many homeschooling families is a regular Outdoor Games Day. Homeschooling families gather at a local park once every week or so and have a day of outdoor play and exercise. The children decide which games to play, how to organize teams, and how to adapt the rules to accommodate the participants. It's a great way for your kids to get outside, play with their peers, and get some exercise.

Plus, don't forget the many other options for recreation available in your area. This might include hiking, biking, kayaking, rock climbing, or visiting a community fitness center. These not only offer great exercise, but can be a great way to strengthen family bonds as well.

Does every homeschooling family hold the same religious and political ideals?

Homeschooling is an option available to everyone, and no one religious or political group can claim exclusive ownership of it. True, there are some who choose to homeschool for religious or political reasons, but there are many others who choose to homeschool simply because they find it to be a good fit for their family and lifestyle. The homeschooling community is very diverse, with members of practically every religion and political group imaginable represented.

If a spokesperson of the homeschooling community champions ideas which you don't identify or agree with, remember that they don't speak for all homeschoolers out there. And if you find that your local homeschooling group adheres to a set of religious or political beliefs that you don't share, find another inclusive group which welcomes all perspectives and all backgrounds. If you can't find such an inclusive group in your area, start your own. You don't need to change your ideals and values in order to homeschool.

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