What is homeschooling?Tammie Bairen
DIY Education = Homeschooling
DIY has become a way of life for some folks. From landscaping to minor home repair, there are entire websites and even TV networks dedicated to encouraging people to do it themselves. But what about teaching your children? Could you do that yourself? Today, an estimated 2-3 million children are taught by their parents at home. The reasons range from wanting to provide individualized instruction that builds on a child’s strengths and interests, to health issues or special needs, to avoiding school violence, increasing family time, and many more. One big reason is that the public schools are rapidly descending to an agenda far away from Christian principles. DIY Education happens when you take what you have and put your own brand on it.
In the 1970s, a few courageous parents decided to DIY their children’s education. There weren’t a lot of resources available back then, but with ingenuity and determination, they successfully taught their kids. Today, that generation of homeschoolers is all grown up, and the resources available for them to teach their own children have vastly increased. There are complete boxed curricula, online courses, DVDs, homeschool co-ops, homeschool magazines, and hundreds of companies that cater directly to the needs, learning styles, and varying interests of students and their parents. When you start to think outside the “box,” you’ll see that you really can educate your kids yourself.
So, when it comes to your child’s education, there’s no reason you can’t Do It Yourself, especially since it’s completely legal to do so in all 50 states. And with an estimated 2.5 million children currently being home educated in this country, an enormous homeschooling community is standing by to help. SchoolhouseTeachers.com is one such resource of support: it’s the curriculum site of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Now is the time to bring your kids home, and we’re glad you’re here. Come explore homeschooling!
“A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher” Luke 6:40.
Where do I start if I’m considering homeschooling?Tammie BairenIf you’re looking to homeschool one or more of your children, your first stop should be the website of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA.org) where you can check out legal requirements for your state. Homeschooling is legal in all fifty states, but there are different requirements in each state. For example, South Dakota requires parents to fill out an annual exemption form, do standardized testing in certain grades, and teach at a minimum the topics of “language arts and math” for “an equivalent amount of time” as the public school. If you are planning to withdraw your student from public school after the school year has already started, you should certainly join HSLDA and follow their instructions. While withdrawing during the school year is legal, you must make certain to follow the correct notification process so you aren’t accused of truancy. HSLDA keeps an eye on state and national bills that may affect homeschooling and advocates on behalf of its members if they ever come into conflict with local school districts, which unfortunately still happens on occasion. Your peace of mind and legal support is well worth the $10-12 month that a membership costs.
Does SchoolhouseTeachers.com tell me what to teach?Tammie BairenWe are a curriculum site that provides a wide variety of choices for your family. We have developed a Scope and Sequence that lists the academic goals traditionally held for each grade level and where to find that information on SchoolhouseTeachers.com as well as areas where you may wish to supplement.
How do I know which curriculum to choose?Tammie BairenUnlike the days when parents had to pull together a curriculum from whatever resources they could find, today’s parents are blessed with many resources to choose from. Textbook companies now offer complete boxed curriculum by grade level (with optional DVDs) designed for homeschoolers, such as Abeka and Saxon. Companies such as Veritas Press, Memoria Press, and Classical Conversations (CC) offer products that follow the Classical style, with CC having weekly co-ops for students to meet together one day per week. Memoria Press and Veritas Press also offer select online courses in addition to their independent homeschool courses. Sonlight and Living Books Curriculum follow the Charlotte Mason method and provide books you can purchase individually or with detailed lesson plans based on grade level. Another possibility is www.SchoolhouseTeachers.com. It’s an online one-stop resource that can be used for your entire family at one low monthly price. You don’t have to purchase additional books, just access online and print off what is needed for the lessons your child needs to do. Many families use this as their sole curriculum, but it can also be used to supplement other programs. Members have access to almost three hundred courses (preschool through 12th grade), from core subjects like math, science, history, and language arts, to classes like computer programming, Shakespeare, foreign language, fitness, and even filmmaking. Take a look at all the courses by visiting our All Courses directory. Cathy Duffy’s http://cathyduffyreviews.com/ has hundreds of curriculum reviews and even an online tool to help you choose books that fit your style and meet your children’s needs. Your public library most likely has a section with books on homeschooling that could also help direct you to the style or curriculum that would work for you. And don’t forget, some people homeschool using library books almost exclusively! Talk with homeschool parents in your area, or online, and find out what has worked, or not worked, for them. The biggest thing to remember is that if you find yourself or your child frustrated with a particular curriculum, you don’t have to stick with it! Don’t torture yourself or your kids with a book you don’t like. Sell it or pass it on to a friend. Someone else may like it just fine.
What should my homeschooling program look like?Tammie BairenThere are many different styles of homeschooling. You will likely find a style that fits your family’s needs, or you may decide on a blend of two or more styles. In some families, you may see that one style works great for one child, but another child responds better to a different style. Knowing your particular style is not required to homeschool, but it can help narrow your search for curriculum and provide structure as you are becoming more comfortable with homeschooling. Just remember that if you start with one style, you are not bound to stay with it forever. The beauty of homeschooling is that you are free to adjust to the varying needs and interests of your children. Below are some of the styles to research further:
- Charlotte Mason: Based on a method introduced by nineteenth-century educator Charlotte Mason, this approach includes nature studies, journaling, narration, and living books.
- Classical: Based on Dorothy Sayers’ The Lost Tools of Learning, in which child development is broken up into three “stages” of learning commonly called “the Trivium.”
- Delight Directed: This puts the learning in the hands of the child based on his or her interests. Parents help facilitate this type of learning with appropriate instructional materials.
- Eclectic: A mix of philosophies and curricula to accommodate each child’s abilities and interests. Parents choose from any method or style only those components that fit their specific needs.
- The Principle Approach: An approach based on the principles of our Founding Fathers and an emphasis on God’s Word as the basis for every subject.
- Traditional Textbook: Normally uses a full-range, packaged, textbook-type curriculum that also may include a scope and sequence, testing, and recordkeeping.
- Unit Studies: All, or most, important subjects are covered while studying any one topic or unit of study, using a variety of resources and supplemental activities.
- Unschooling: A relaxed setting where learning is directed by the child. Parts of this philosophy are based on research by John Taylor Gatto and John Holt.
What types of online resources are available?Tammie Bairen
There are many blogs and websites that focus on homeschooling families. One such site is TryHomeschooling.com, where you can download articles on organizing your homeschool, issuing report cards, creating high school transcripts, keeping a portfolio, dealing with special needs, and much more. The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine is considered the “trade magazine” for homeschool families and is available for free online at www.TheOldSchoolhouse.com. It provides dozens of encouraging and valuable homeschool articles with each issue.
Where do I find state and local resources?Tammie Bairen
Almost every state has annual homeschool conventions where vendors, speakers, and parents get together to swap books, ideas, and encouragement. Search “homeschool convention [your state]” online.
Many states also have state-level homeschool organizations that can offer guidance on state laws, direct you to local support groups (sometimes called co-ops), and advocate on behalf of homeschoolers in your state legislature.
Even if your state doesn’t have an overall homeschool organization, small independent groups can be found within driving distance of just about every family in the country. Our local all-volunteer group serves a wide range of families from up to an hour away. We have field trips, “Friday Classes,” holiday parties, and public service events. Many of our members found us via our Facebook® page or a Google® search.
You can also find some information on different speakers here: homeschoolspeakers.com.