There’s no question that more and more people are becoming concerned with the quality of our education system in the United States. We, as a nation, have slipped to an “average” ranking among 30+ countries in reading, math and science. And while politicians debate when and how much money to cut from their state’s education budget parents are left wondering how to give their children the proper education they deserve.
For some parents, private schools or charter schools offer a nice alternative to the public system. However there is a growing alternative for parents who wish to educate their children outside of the traditional “brick and mortar” school setting. These parents are choosing to home-school their children.
There are many reasons to home-school your child. Perhaps you want to instill your religious, cultural and moral values into the way your child learns. Another reason is that you want to know your child is in a safe learning environment. (By the way, when did we, as a society, say it was OK to install metal detectors in schools?) And yet another reason could be related to the social settings you want your child in. As varied as the reasons are almost every parent would agree that they simply want a better education for their children.
Homeschooling can be an exhilarating experience for both parent and child. Bonds can strengthen. Relationships can improve. Discovering the world together can be life-changing – for both parent and child. The only requirements are patience and a sincere desire to learn. You don’t have to be a credentialed teacher to home-school your child. But you must have the time and willingness to plan, explore, teach, tutor and adjust to your child’s individual learning style if this experience is going to be successful.
The best part of homeschooling is that there is no “typical” day. You can spend part of the day with a textbook; or you could spend it at the local park. You may want to utilize a specific curriculum or design your own. That’s the beauty of home-schooling – each day can be a unique learning experience. Imagine going to a local farm to learn how vegetables grow (instead of just reading about it in a textbook) or taking a hike in the hills to discover all the new plants you’ve just read about!
There are different approaches to homeschooling – and many parents find a combination of techniques works best. For example, utilizing a math book to learn how to multiply and divide can be enhanced with a trip to that local farm to see how many tomatoes can be planted in 5 rows of soil. Whether you study one subject a day or several at a time, home-schooling offers parents and children the opportunity to make it come alive!
Home-schooling is on the rise! In 2010 it is estimated that there were about 2 million children who considered themselves to be home-schooled. While it can be a truly rewarding experience for both student and parent it is not something to be considered lightly. As with any major life decision this topic needs the time and attention it deserves if it’s going to be successful.
Each state has their own laws concerning education and homeschooling your child. You should check with your state’s legal requirements before you consider taking your child out of public school in order to home school. There are several websites available to help guide you – just Google “homeschooling laws” and you should be able to find several sites with good information. Remember, you must follow your state’s law as it relates to homeschooling.
Once you’ve figured out the legal requirements it’s time to decide what kind of curriculum to follow. Again, there are many sources available to help you with the actual materials you’ll need. You know your child better than anyone else. Ask yourself what materials will make this learning experience the best for my child? Do I need textbooks? Do I need videos? Can I utilize what I already have access to (my home, my office, my local library, etc.)?
When you have your materials together then what? Just begin teaching and learning together! Remember, there is no “typical” day – make each day a unique experience. While it’s important to have a plan don’t be surprised if you don’t follow it exactly each day. And don’t elevate yourself to the position of “superior know-it-all teacher.” Even the best teacher doesn’t know everything about everything. You’ll need the help of other people with knowledge and expertise you just don’t have. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Remember you are not alone in this experience. There are also support groups available for parents new to homeschooling. You’ll find you’re not alone in the home-schooling arena – whether you’re just starting out or in your 5th year of doing it.
It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that you, personally, are making a difference in someone’s life. To see a child connect with a subject, to have that “ah-ha!”moment together is life-changing. Education is the key that unlocks everyone’s possibilities. If you’re one of the growing numbers of concerned parents seeking another alternative to the public education system, home-schooling may be the choice for you. It’s not a decision to be made lightly as it will require time, patience and the desire to truly learn about the world around you. But if you’re ready for it, a new experience in education is waiting for you!