I have so many people come to me for advice on home educating. Many times it’s women, but their spouses just aren’t sure it’s a good idea. There are many reasons a family thinks about home schooling, as there are many fears that stop them, but generally a few concerns predominate, especially with men. I wanted to try and help explain those concerns and give some information to help you decide if home educating is for your family or not.
First off, I want to note that there are many institutions of education, and different requirements based on your state or country. My family resides in North Carolina, which is fairly home education friendly at this time. Virginia is not, for instance, and it is a must to find out where you stand legally if you want to homeschool. Any family considering this option should first go to their states website and find out what the laws are about home educating, since that will play a major part in whether you can do it. To assist you in this, here is the link to HSLDA’s website and the homeschool laws by state.
Whatever your reasons for considering home education, there are a few concerns that seem to be predominate in peoples minds, especially fathers. First and foremost seems to be money. Many families rely on two incomes today, and the loss of one persons income will be drastic. There is also the fact that, along with the loss of one income, there will be the added expense of curriculum. This is a valid concern today, and not everybody can do it. There are other options in some states, like NC, where another family can educate your child, such as grandparent or trusted friends that are already homeschooling.
When considering the loss of income when one person decides to stay at home to teach the children, you must take into account the savings on childcare, gas, vehicles, clothes, etc. Many times we spend far more to work than we realize, and it’s very possible to save money by staying home, especially if you have young children who have higher childcare costs.
Curriculum is a definite cost, but not every family will choose to buy it. You can use a library and the internet to do about anything. The downsides of not using curriculum, especially in the beginning, is that it takes more work for the teacher and is a little more difficult to judge progress in your children. With curriculum, you often have testing and evaluation built in, and when you complete a textbook it is easy to show what you have done for your records. Our family has elementary age children, and we use math and English curriculum and teach everything else on our own. I would really recommend the new homeschooler buy curriculum in these areas at least, and science in higher grades. This will cost about $100-$300 per child for the year, but you can sometimes double up, and of course use the curriculum with the other children or sell it when you are done with it.
Ok, so that’s most of the money concern. The other concern, especially in men, is whether their spouse can do the job and how will they comply with state-required documentation and testing. It takes a lot of faith to allow your spouse to educate your children. It’s harder than being the one doing the job, and that peron will have enough fears about being adequate to teach without the same fears from their spouse. Both parents being involved is a great way to help with that, as well as having the children show off for the working parent, giving them a chance to share what they are learning on a regular basis. When we sent our eldest to public school I spent a lot of time in the classroom and observed that the children spent over half of their time in lines, eating, or waiting for slower students to complete their work. The homeschool parent will need as little as 2 or 3 hours to do as much work with their child as the school will take 6 hours. Since you would be aware of what your child is learning you will also find that you continue to teach throughout the day, thus reinforcing what the children are learning. There are exceptions, but most parents considering home education will take the time to do a good job. Not to mention that if you can’t teach something, there are usually people who you can get to teach it for you!
Testing, graduation, and paperwork are a big hold-up for many families. The fear that you will miss something in your child’s education or not keep good enough records for the state or to graduate are huge for many people. Most states do require standardized testing that is more rigorous than the testing done in the schools, but this just helps you do a better job and helps your child be better prepared for life after high school. It generally costs anywhere from $40-$150 per child once each year to get testing done, but it does help evaluate your teaching and guide you for the next year.
As for graduation, most states have a set of “credits”, or hours in a subject that must be completed. Textbooks can really help with this, as can doing community college classes after age 16. Simply requiring your teen to record hours studying a subject will help too. In all record keeping, writing everything down on calenders and journals or planning books are enough, in addition to samples of work in each subject area to show progress. Ultimately, testing will show if your child is meeting requirements. The most important skills you can give a child is a strong work ethic, time management skills, and an ability to find information and convert it to usable bits. Good study skills are quite important in the big scheme of things, since your child will need this skill if they go to college. Most of us have to do this kind of teaching even if our children attend regular schools.
Last, but not least to many, is socialization. This area is not lacking for most homeschool families. Between churches, clubs, and homeschool groups there are no end to activities. If your child is determined to have the same things as schools, you can always host dances and proms and graduations. It’s all up to you. The things you avoid are the peer pressures of all the kids being the same age, and few good role models. You can choose the families you associate with, and your children will have the chance to both look up to bigger kids and be an example to younger kids. While this seems to be a huge concern for many, it really ends up being unfounded in the end. You can control your child’s level of socialization quite easily.
Keep in mind that not all families are suited to homeschooling. It takes an effort to give all your time to your children and sacrifice things and lifestyle to do what it takes to teach at home. Also remember that deciding to home educate need not be a long-term decision. You can always take it a month at a time. If you want to see if it’s for you without pulling your child out of school, run a summer school enrichment program at home for your child to see if you can do it. You may be surprised at how easy it can be to spend time sharing and learning with your child, and it can’t hurt to encourage them to learn over the summer. I also find that I love re-learning those things I did as a youth. My understanding of the world as an adult really makes the information richer, and it helps keep my mind active. Whatever you decide, the interest you take in your child shows how much you love them, and you are to be commended!