What kinds of people choose to homeschool their children?
Homeschoolers come from all socio-economic levels, possess widely varying educational credentials, and represent dozens of religious persuasions. Common to them all, however, is the fact that they have taken personal responsibility for the education of their children instead of delegating that job to a public or private institution. Because of the time requirement it is often difficult for single parent families to homeschool, particularly if the parent is working outside the home. Some families may also face limitations because of finances, health, or personalities that make homeschooling difficult. Parents can overcome these factors, but it requires a strong commitment.
Why do people choose to homeschool?
The reasons given for homeschooling are as varied as the people who choose this option. Many families have seen dismal headlines documenting the educational and social failings of public schools and do not want to risk their children’s becoming part of those statistics. Some have children with special needs—everything from health problems, handicaps, and learning disabilities to exceptional talents and giftedness—which they feel cannot be effectively met in a traditional school setting. Some recognize the impracticality of expecting a single teacher to understand, manage, and educate 20+ students at a time and do not want their children to “fall through the cracks.” Others want to foster close family relationships and exercise some control over the social influences to which their children are exposed. Still others cannot afford private schools for their children and see homeschooling as an alternative. But probably the most often cited reason parents choose to homeschool is the freedom it allows them to instill their personal and religious values in their children, without government interference or restriction.
Are there any requirements for homeschool?
With its constitutionally protected right to homeschool, Oklahoma is arguably the best place in America for parents to teach their children. Oklahoma’s home educators are not required by law to hold a teaching certificate, to register with any state or local authority, or to submit records to any authority. See Oklahoma law affecting home education. Another good resource for legal information regarding homeschooling in Oklahoma is the Home School Legal Defense Association.
HSLDA brings together a large number of homeschooling families nation-wide so that each can have a low-cost method of obtaining quality legal defense pertaining to their homeschooling. Membership is currently $115 per year. A 15% discount is available through OCHEC’s discount program. Benefits of membership include quality legal representation in the event that a family is challenged in the area of homeschooling, a subscription to The Home School Court Report, and the satisfaction of helping others. In order to receive these benefits, you must be a member of HSLDA prior to contact by school or other officials. To contact HSLDA, call (540) 338-5600, or write P.O. Box 3000, Purcellville, VA 20134.
Legal requirements notwithstanding, there are some personal “requirements” to be considered as well. Homeschooling is most definitely not for the faint of heart or for a family in which one spouse is not supportive. The successful homeschool teacher has a strong sense of self-discipline and responsibility, a willingness to give up a certain amount of personal freedom, and, in most cases, the ability to survive as a one-income family. It is also necessary for parents to have established respect for parental authority in their children so that Mom or Dad is accepted as a teacher. It may be wise for a family to delay home education for a semester or more to adequately research, prepare, and evaluate the commitment required. The decision to homeschool should be a positive choice, not linked only to negative circumstances involving a public school, administrator or teacher, and it should be a personal choice independent of friends, extended family members, or fellow church members.
How does a typical homeschool operate?
There is no such thing as a “typical homeschool”—except that it is often the mother of the family who is the primary teacher, even though many dads are taking up the teaching of one or more subjects. Because homeschooling is a lifestyle that seeks to provide a truly individualized education, each family customizes its homeschool to suit the learning styles of its students and the routines and needs of its members. One family may hold class five days a week, roughly following the public school calendar, while another may hold school year-round, with a week or two of vacation days interspersed here and there. One family may reproduce a traditional classroom at home, while another elects to use a video or satellite curriculum from a curriculum provider. Still another may operate under an umbrella program, or participate in a correspondence program. Still others opt for less conventional or structured methods and do their teaching via unit studies or “unschooling,” the philosophy espoused by the famed late educator, John Holt. The possibilities are almost endless!
Where do homeschoolers get their curriculum?
The number and types of homeschool curriculum providers have expanded right along with the number of home educators. Besides mainstream curriculum providers, such as Scott Foresman or Houghton-Mifflin, and major Christian publishers, such as A Beka, Bob Jones University Press, and Rod and Staff, hundreds of individuals and groups have written and/or published curriculum designed or adapted for homeschool use. For example, Saxon Publishers in Norman produces math and phonics materials for public schools but has responded to high demand by offering homeschool versions. Some of the best curriculum materials available to homeschoolers are produced by veteran homeschoolers who learned “in the trenches” what works well in a homeschool environment. Before starting, parents must take time to research the curriculum that is available, the different approaches to homeschooling, and what they believe will work best for their family.
No matter what curriculum a homeschooling family chooses, there are innumerable places to obtain teaching materials and advice: public, church, and college libraries; educational supply stores, homeschool catalogs, websites, and magazines; former and current teachers; homeschool used book sales, which are held all over the state; and, best and biggest of all, the annual OCHEC Home Educators’ Convention.
When homeschoolers need or want access to standardized tests, such as the ITBS, they are able to register their children for testing at some private schools or local support groups who offer these kinds of tests. College entrance tests, such as the PSAT, ACT, or SAT, may be taken at local high schools and colleges.
How can I find other homeschoolers to talk to?
The easiest way to find home educators is to visit a homeschool support group. Becoming involved in a local support group provides encouragement, assistance, mentoring by those who are more experienced, teaching tips, and educational opportunities for students. See Local Support Groups.
But what about socialization?
Researchers in several studies have examined various aspects of the social activities and emotional characteristics of homeschooled children. Their research has established that these children are actively involved in a myriad of activities outside the home with peers, children of different ages, and adults. The data from this research suggests that homeschoolers are not socially isolated nor are they emotionally maladjusted. Homeschooled children actually have many athletic, social, musical, and academic enrichment opportunities from which to choose! Many areas have formed homeschool bands, sports teams in basketball and volleyball, choirs, debate teams, science fairs, and field trips and activities sponsored by support groups. Some private Christian schools also allow homeschoolers to play on their sports teams or in their bands. The Informer, a quarterly magazine, and the Update E-news, a bimonthly e-newsletter, published by OCHEC, are great resources for information on all of the above activities and more. Co-op classes for science labs, art or writing classes, and unit studies groups provide plenty of opportunity for social interaction. And don’t forget community activities that public and private school students take part in. You’ll find homeschoolers playing in the Oklahoma Youth Symphonies and Oklahoma Youth Orchestras, studying at vocational technical schools, earning winning marks in major academic competitions, playing on Little League baseball and community soccer teams, and doing volunteer work in the community or through their churches.
Common sense also reminds us that the public or private school classroom is an artificial environment. Once a child graduates from school, he is never again in an environment where everyone is the same age. True socialization is the ability to interact with people of all ages, both young and old. Homeschoolers usually excel in this area because of the opportunity to interact with multiple ages in the home.
What about high school?
It is true that keeping a transcript and teaching a foreign language, laboratory sciences, and upper-level mathematics intimidate some homeschooling parents. Video, satellite, and correspondence classes may meet the needs of some families. Other families or support groups choose to band together and form co-ops. In this arrangement, families share teaching responsibilities for their teens—the mom or dad who is strong in math teaches math for the group, while another parent whose strength is science teaches that subject. For science labs, they might order lab equipment and materials together. Another alternative, one that is growing in popularity here and around the nation, is the use of home-extended classes where qualified tutors conduct classes once or twice a week (See Local Support Groups to inquire if home-extended classes are operating in your area of the state). Other high school options include enrolling a student at a vocational-technical school or even in concurrent college classes, which allow a student to accumulate some college hours while still in high school. Be encouraged! ACT and SAT test scores have shown that homeschool students score higher, on average, than their national counterparts.
So what are the disadvantages of homeschooling?
As with any responsibility, homeschooling has its disadvantages. Teaching at home does mean that the family must usually live on just one income. Mom can’t frequently run out for coffee with her friends and does not have as much privacy as she might have if her children were in school. It means finding money and space for school materials and classes and learning to shift between being a teacher and just being Mom. And it means having to navigate the college preparation road (such as keeping a transcript, finding or devising prep classes for the ACT and SAT, and finding scholarship and financial aid information) without a high school counselor. In spite of the challenges they face, however, most home educators would probably say that the disadvantages are completely overshadowed by the tremendous benefits!
And what are the advantages?
The benefits and joys of homeschooling are almost beyond numbering!
Academically, homeschooling parents have the freedom to put together an educational program that is suited for each child as an individual, tailored specifically to his learning style and needs, something that traditional schools simply cannot do because of the number of students they must serve. Parents have the time and flexibility to let a child learn at his own pace and to delve deeper into topics of personal interest. They have the freedom to study the Bible and to spend more time reading.
Socially, homeschooled children tend to be closer to their families and less peer-dependent than traditionally schooled children. They also tend to relate well to a wide range of ages of people and are comfortable interacting with adults and seniors, as well as people their own age.
Homeschooling leads to young people who are successful academically, socially, and personally—as recognized by colleges and employers everywhere.