Homeschooling is the ultimate way to get involved in your children's education and allows parents to tailor the curriculum to their kids' individual needs. You get to impart your values, share the excitement of learning and spend lots of quality time with your kids. But being their teacher also requires a huge level of commitment, so take a good look at what's involved before you step up to the chalkboard.
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Analyze your lifestyle to see how well suited you are for home schooling. Since lessons are so individualized, you'll be able to fit a lot of education into just a few hours each day--but you have to be supremely organized and able to devote your full attention during those hours.
Ask other homeschooling parents about the pros and cons of teaching their own children. Find homeschoolers in your area at HomeSchoolCentral.com.
Contact parents who tried but gave up homeschooling to get another perspective. A nearby public school may be able to put you in touch with parents in your area.
Buy ready-made plans, take online classes, check out software or video lessons, use an "unschooling" approach that teaches through real-life activities or incorporate a mix of all of these.
Join a local support group. Some groups study together, go on field trips and take turns teaching each other's children.
Ask your school district whether it will provide you with books, materials or other educational support. Some districts allow homeschoolers to attend school part-time and participate in music or sports programs.
Create and maintain a comprehensive portfolio for each student, which will provide the basis of assessing your child's academic progress. Keep a daily record of your lesson plans and his or her activities, with specifics such as "English, chapters 6 through 9, To Kill a Mockingbird." Note field trips taken and special assignments completed.
Find out what standardized tests (if any) your child is required to take each school year. Keep detailed academic records, including a list of the texts used for each grade level. You may be required to keep these records under state law, and show them if your child decides to enter high school or applies to college.
Be aware of college-entry requirements. Most colleges place particular emphasis on standardized test results. Some colleges require homeschooled students (but not other students) to submit a GED score, SAT and ACT scores as well as SAT II scores in multiple tests: English, math, chemistry, foreign language.
Tips and warnings
- Get new ideas by chatting with other homeschoolers online or subscribing to a homeschooling magazine. Also check out The Complete Idiot's Guide to Homeschooling by Marsha Ransom for tips and ideas.
- Research your state's laws that govern homeschooling. For example, in California, parents must establish a private school in their home and complying with the state's private school requirements. Parents who have established a homebased private school cannot be prosecuted for truancy.
- If you homeschool children of different ages, they can share some activities but will need separate lesson plans.
- If you're not confident about your teaching skills, a satellite school can offer help and guidance. Search online for "homeschool satellite."
- Critics say homeschooling parents may not be as effective as credentialed teachers. Ask yourself whether you have the patience and personality for it--and whether you can provide a high quality education.
- Homeschooling materials can be expensive. Share with another family or a support group to lower the cost.