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the home education debate
As a homeschooling parent I've heard all the little snide comments, heard all the questions, and had to convince my family it was the right course for us to take. Homeschooling isn't right for every parent. The educator ends up with zero personal time, having to clean up more science experiments than doing dishes and having to be creative in turning an already stressful event like grocery shopping into an educational experience. So, it does take a very high level of dedication to make it through with ones sanity intact. All that being the case, homeschoolers are statistically 4 grade levels ahead of their public school counterparts. On top of the daily stresses of handling the children's education, the educator must also become the advocate; arguing the pros against cons with spouse, family, friends, strangers and sometimes the school board itself. This is quite often the hardest part for the home educator. While we feel in our hearts that we know whats best for our children, it can be difficult to put our arguments into intelligent words that will convince those that care and discourage those that judge. The following are a list of arguments I and many home educators have had to deal with.... Aren't homeschoolers religious zealots? We're not overly religious, isn't that a requirement? While it may be true that many choose homeschooling to influence their children with their own morales and religious beliefs, it is by no means a prerequisite. Yes there will be some who will assume we belong to some kind of cult that forces us to live in a cave of tradition, those who express this sentiment are only displaying their own ignorance. I agree whole heartedly with the separation of church and state; mostly because the teacher in a public school would only be a single representative of a single religion - which may not be my own. Since it would be impossible to have a religious holiday for every religion, or to teach the practices of every religion, than I agree religion should not be a part of public school. On the other hand, when teaching in my own home, we can freely discuss our private beliefs, as well as introduce the beliefs of the world. I can ensure my children follow my philosophical path while respecting the other paths of their fellow humans. So, yes, some like homeschooling due to its freedom from the separation of church and state. They like to be able to instill their morals in each of their lessons. But, again, it is by no means a required subject. Only 75% of homeschoolers attend religious services.* How can a homeschooled child get into college? This is a big question and one that needs to be considered carefully with secondary level (high school) children. There are several ways for a homeschooler to get into college, but the bottom line is most colleges care more about ACT and SAT scores than transcripts. Now, a homeschooled child can choose to get a G.E.D. or an Adult Education Diploma, just to have that documentation available for the college. Others will enroll in an accredited home study course through a private school or Charter school (run by the district) again to have the paper in hand when approaching colleges. But, a homeschooling parent can prepare for the inquiries a college might send out, for transcripts, by keeping detailed records. The conflict come into play that a homeschooling child will generally 'graduate' high school at the age of 16*. So, while his compatriots in public school are completing the 8th grade, he is essentially ready for college. This can mean getting a head start on entrance exams, or it can mean having the freedom to take a couple of years to work building a realistic view of life as an adult. We don't have a lot of money, isn't it expensive to homeschool? This is quite possible the biggest misconception about homeschooling. The average income of a homeschooling family is only $40,000 - 50,000 per year,* with 18% making $25,000 and 44% between $25,000 - 49,000 per year**. Furthermore, the average homeschooling family spends only about $450 per year on education.* Whether a home educator chooses a purchased curriculum - which comes complete with teaching and learning tools - or to create their own, is up to the goals of the family. Each student learns differently, and thrives in different settings. Some children need strict structure provided by a purchased curriculum, while others thrive in a more hands on setting.
Almost all homeschoolers agree that younger children, younger than 6th grade, learn through a combination of book learning, and the use of their senses. Touching, experiencing, experimenting and feeling are better teachers than any book. Some home educators choose to allow this principle to rule their educational style, taking their children out into the world to learn by doing. This costs virtually nothing and can be rewarding both in the level of the child's knowledge as much as the building of memories. We didn't go to college, how can we expect to be a teacher? Well, chances are your 6 year old wont starting off with college level physics. The number one thing I've told new homeschoolers over the years is that I've learned almost as much as my children, as I have a college education. The reason for that is learning by doing, by breaking the knowledge down so your little one can grasp it, will give you a better understanding of the concept than you may have ever had through straight book learning. Can homeschooling really give as good an education as public schools? In a word, No, homeschoolers achieve higher than public schoolers. In public schools, higher standardized test scores generally coincide with income levels. This is not the case for homeschoolers. Further, white vs. minority standardized test scores are virtually the same (87% in reading, 82 & 77 % respectively in math*) where as they vary in public schools (61 to 49% in reading, and 60 to 50% in math respectively)*. So homeschooling crosses the financial and socio-economic boundaries much more effectively than public schools. The why is a bit of a debate, even among homeschoolers. Many believe overcrowding and underfunding in lower income public schools results in children falling through the cracks, whereas in homeschooling the ratio is closer to 1 on 1 education. Peer pressure, which can get in the way of education in public school, is diminished greatly in homeschool. What about sports and music or all the other extra-curricular activities available in public schools? This tends to be an important sticking point with dads especially. The truth is most districts offer the extra-curricular activities to all students within the district - whether they attend the public schools or not. Further, many towns have separate teams and orchestras which cost very little money to join. There are many options out there for sports. Even if your district or town has no alternative or leeway for homeschooling, you can usually find a homeschooling group in your area that will have sporting events or play groups available. Recent studies show 98% of homeschoolers belong to 2 or more social/community events such as Scouts, Ballet, 4-H, Bible Clubs, Music Classes, Group Sports, etc. The dreaded question: What about socialization? Every homeschooler hears this question so often it becomes irritating. It is therefore ironic that the number one reason for homeschooling is the conflict of social issues in the public schools. Socialization is the term used to describe how peer groups interact with each other in a social setting. Many homeschoolers don't see how this describes public schools, where children must sit quietly in their chair and speak only when spoken too. Conversely, homeschooling turns education into a much more social event. Homeschooling children have the freedom to develop their communication skills with various adults and siblings of various ages in a setting that promotes interaction. Further, as the above question addressed, most homeschoolers are also involved in social activities outside the home that offer children the opportunity to interact with their peer groups. The reality is, homeschoolers have the advantage over public school children in social situations. They are encouraged to develop their own identity, to not fear asking questions or interacting with someone new. Many have never been in a situation that abuses their self image or identity, which further strengthens their self image. The homeschooler leads their public school counterparts with a strong vision of imagination, creativity, academics, social skills, sense of self, commitment to family, a respect for but not cowed by the government. How does one get started in homeschooling? Each state has different requirements for the homeschooling family. The first step for those interested in investigating home education, should find out the requirements in your state. Some states have high requirements, which means a family must be approved for homeschooling, then what subjects are taught and how as well as standardized tests are all regulated by the board of ed. Where as some other states have zero requirements, meaning a family need not even notify anyone of their intent. There are pros and cons for both states. The high regulations can seem intrusive to the family that wanted to homeschool for the freedom of learning what and how their liked; but those states with higher requirements also generally have many more resources...including Charter Schools - which are curriculum's and lessons designed by the school district, they tend to be very low cost or even free. Those states with low to no requirements have very little resources available to the homeschooling family. You can find out your states requirements through such web sites as www.hslda.org the Homeschool Legal Defense Assoc. How many hours a day should we homeschool? Again this differs from family to family. One should not view homeschooling as public school at home. Sure some subjects will have the home educator standing before the students instructing them, but most of the learning is done hands on. Further, with the ratio of educator to student being so much lower in homeschooling most homeschoolers only end up "schooling" about 3 hours a day. If you consider a public school which averages 6 hours long, with a class of 30 to every 1 teacher, each student only gets an average of 45 minutes 1-on-1 attention. With the personal attention less time is required to teach. Also, the way a subject is approached in homeschooling, is molded directly to the learning style of the student. This can not be done in a class of 20 or 30, they must approach a subject from the most usable manner, but in homeschooling, the home educator can mold and shift the teaching manner to best suit the students needs, which further decreases the amount of time necessary to learn. How do we approach homeschooling, once we know the laws and requirements of our state? Well, to determine if homeschooling is right for you is going to take a bit of trial and error, of learning what will work from you - the educator- and from your child - the student. Essentially, you need to learn to communicate in a new way. This learning curve will be greatly decreased if you analyze your situation prior to getting started. It will also help you decide what type of curriculum would be best for your family. To analyze your needs write a list of your vision, your needs and your child's needs/personality. Answer such questions as: Why are we homeschooling? What do we want our children to learn? Do we hope our children will attend college? How much time (daily/weekly) can we devote to learning? How long (years) do we hope to continue it? How much money can we invest in homeschooling? What traits in our child will affect their learning? (they get bored easily, don't follow directions well, get focused on a single topic to the exclusion of all others, etc) Furthermore, analyzing your child's' learning style will greatly assist you in determining the best avenue of education available to you... Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence Interpersonal Intelligence Linguistic Intelligence Logical-Mathematical Intelligence Musical Intelligence Spacial Intelligence Most children display one or more of the above learning styles. Understanding how your child's learn can guide you in what curriculum you choose. The definitions can be found at http://hmt.myweb.uga.edu/webwrite/bodily.htm Homeschooling Definitions: Charlotte Mason Method: Charlotte Mason was a British educator and an observer of how children learned. She determined children should be out of doors experiencing nature in all its glory at least 4-6 hours a day, and children over the age of 12 should have one full day devoted to outdoor activities each week. She believed education should be much less about book learning and more about being in touch, experiencing and learning from the world around them. This does not mean there is a lack of actual "school work" as The Mason Method also has daily practice of Copying (working on spelling, grammar, writing) and such, but much of her method is based on the child's experiences through life rather than life being taught to them. Charter School: This is an innovative approach to Public School. This is not considered homeschooling, but public school within the home. Essentially its attending public school via the computer and is supported through the school district. Classical Education Method: The basis of the classical method is the belief that all children, no matter their learning styles, go through 3 phases of intellectual or educational development. K-6 = memorization, Grades 7-8= more argument oriented, Grades 9-12= independent thinkers & communicators. Furthermore, students learn through the classical subjects: literature, philosophy, Latin & Greek, etc. Classical teaching methods range from class lectures, to debates, to Socratic (discussion-oriented) teaching. Independent learning skills are sharpened at all grade levels. Classical teaching methods range from class lectures, to debates, to Socratic (discussion-oriented) teaching. Independent learning skills are sharpened at all grade levels. Curriculum: All the courses of study offered through the educational process, or through a single major or system. Eclectic Schooling: This is a spattering of all the methods. Home educators use whatever method seems the right one at the time, or based on the subject. For instance, an educator might choose the classical method for teaching their child Latin, and a Charlotte Mason Method for teaching the life-cycle of a plant. Lesson Plan: A detailed description of instruction for an individual topic or lesson. Montessori Method: Montessori emphasizes learning through the use of the 5 senses, each child is encouraged to learn at their own pace. Education is seen as an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning. Children can attend Montessori private schools or a home educator can study to become an accredited Montessori educator. Unit Studies: A unit method of learning is all about the connectedness of all things..for instance, when learning about sharks a home educator can also teach math in the measurements of shark sizes or the number of teeth, they can teach science with the habitats and life cycles of sharks, geography in the migration patterns, spelling through writing the over 80 family names of sharks, etc. Unit studies is about choosing a topic then molding all other aspects of the lesson plan around that single topic. Unschooling: Each unschooler will give a different definition of what unschooling means. There is no definite description. Essentially, an Unschool Educator is more concerned with the process of learning than with the content. There is no set rules, basically anything goes. It is also focused on not pushing any subject on the child. It is also often referred to as Child-Led Learning, where the child discovers the next stage in learning when they are ready to discover it. Waldorf Method: The founder Dr. Rudolph Steiner firmly believed learning should not just involve the minds of children but their bodies and spirits as well. Instead of using traditional textbooks children are encouraged to develop their own textbook. *http://www.chec.org/Legislative/News/HomeschoolingStatistics/Index.html ; Christian Homeschoolers of Colorado, Brian D. Ray, PhD, Home Schooling on the Threshold (NHERI Publications, PO Box 13939, Salem, OR 97309), and HSLDA, Home Education Across the USA (HSLDA, 17333 Pickwick Dr., Purcellville, VA 20132), and HSLDA, Home Schooling Works, Pass it on! Rudner Report, (HSLDA, 17333 Pickwick Dr., Purcellville, VA 20132). **http://homeschoolinformation.com/homeschooling/homeschool_statistics1.htm ; Heart of Wisdom, Homeschool Information, Statistics; Findings of an independent study by Lawrence M. Rudner, Ph.D., Director of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation.