FAQ -- homeschooling
Frequently Asked Questions... get answers!
- By Kim Jaworski, Homeschool Resource Specialist
Where do I get the books?
People sometimes think that homeschoolers get their books from their school district. In fact we gather curriculum from a variety of sources. Rainbowresource.com is a wonderful resource for finding curriculum. They will also send out an enormous catalog for free. Many homeschoolers use their library, online sources and used book sales to find the books and materials they want to use in their homeschooling. There is no set curriculum or study requirements, so you are free to select the curriculum you find to be the best fit for your child and your style of homeschooling. Second hand book stores, thrift stores and even garage sales were some of my favorite places to find our supplies and curriculum.
Will my kids have any friends?
The short answer is "yes". Whether you join a homeschooling co-op for fun or classes, join 4H in your county or another club like scouts, your kids will meet other kids through these activities. Sports, Community Ed classes, Parks and Rec activities, Volunteer Opportunities, Church activities, Library special events... there's no end to the variety of avenues that will create social options for you and your children in and around the homeschooling community.
What if I do it wrong?
You can't do it wrong. There's no "right" way to homeschool, so you can't possibly do it wrong. There are as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschoolers. Browse your library or bookstore for more in-depth information on the wide variety of homeschooling styles. You'll find your own path. And you don't have to commit to any particular educational philosophy. Try things out and change options when you need to. Check out my Resources page for more ideas and options. And if you'd like to schedule a coaching session to help get you started, we can do that, too!
Who can answer my questions?
I'm happy to help. You can email me through my website. If I don't know the answer, I will surely know who can help. There are also state-wide homeschooling support groups who can help with your questions. Depending on your question, your school district may have the answer, or the Dept of Education. Online groups are also happy to respond with information so you can check with yahoo groups or even facebook groups. When hunting down legalities for your state, be sure to get your answers from a solid resource. Another homeschooler's best guess won't protect you if you failed to meet a state required deadline.
How much does it cost to home school? Are there offsets?
The cost of homeschooling depends on the type of homeschooling you decide to do. Taking classes through co-ops will cost you the tuition fees. Buying packaged curriculum also has its costs. But you can opt to purchase only what you can't find at your library, and make your purchases from second-hand options (half.com, amazon.com, half-price books, and used book sales) to keep costs down. Educational expenses are deductible in some states, on your state income tax, and some states offer subsidies to homeschoolers. So be sure to track down the specifics from a homeschool group in your state or check your state statutes.
Do I need to set up a school room with a desk for each child?
Certainly not. Many homeschoolers use every room in their house. Projects and writing can be done at the table, volcano experiments in the bathroom (easier to clean up in there!), kitchen science in the kitchen, reading and discussion in the living room, and educational video watching in the family room. If you have the space and the resources, it's certainly nice to set aside an area for books and school supplies. But this can be a cupboard, a closet or bookshelf area. Some families create a schoolroom in their home, and that's what works for them, but its not required and you don't need to invest in desks or a remodeling project to homeschool.
Can I home school my special needs child?
As your child's parent, you have the right to homeschool your child. You are an expert on your child's need and strengths and weaknesses. And what you don't know, you can certainly find out. Again, your library, online sources and whatever professionals you choose to consult with, can all help you along the way. You also have the right to special ed resources through your district (this is true in Mn. Please verify your state's policies on access to public school resources for homeschoolers). This includes assessments and IEP meetings, if you choose to use the school for these services.
How do I home school multiple grade levels?
This can be handled in a variety of ways. You can set up one-on-one time with each child and budget your time that way, or you can handle some subjects in "one-room schoolhouse" fashion. There's no reason why you can't study a variety of topics as a family activity (like MN history, animal science, art & artists). Check out my article on the "one room school house approach" found through the resources page of this site.
How many hours a day should I expect to spend on school with my children?
This will vary according to the age of your children and the homeschooling style you adopt. But homeschooling is more like tutoring, so it is briefer than most people expect. Other activities are more like playing and exploring. And many activities might require you to get them started, and then the children can be left to follow their own initiative while you are busy with something else nearby. Mn doesn't require any certain number of hours per day or per week or per year for homeschoolers. Other states may have requirements or guidelines, so be sure you have that information as you get started.
What about socialization?
This word is frequently mis-used. If you mean "playtime with friends", that's up to you. You can schedule as much or as little of that as you see fit. But true "socialization" develops as children learn to function as part of a group in our society. This happens best in the family unit. Children learn to get along, cooperate, communicate, take on responsibilities, and solve problems. Learning from older siblings and parents happens naturally. This is a much better alternative to "playground politics" which is not how most parents want their child socialized. Your child does not need to be bullied to learn how to speak up for himself. Your child doesn't need to be teased to learn that everyone is different. The peer dynamics that can develop in schools, on busses and playgrounds are not reflective of the "real world". When was the last time a co-worker bullied you at the vending machine and took your lunch? When did another adult ever take your church newsletter and rip it up, laughing at you?
Can my child go to school part-time?
In many states this is an option once children are in middle school or junior high. You'll need to coordinate attendance with your district, so you'll need to be in contact with the superintendent's office and your local school principal. You should have access to any class that interests you.
What about online schools?
There are at least half a dozen online school options. You'll want to visit their websites and compare their offerings. With an online school, you aren't technically homeschooling, in Minnesota. You are considered enrolled in a charter school and part of the public school system. I'm not aware of any online schools that offer part-time enrollment, so its all or nothing at this point. Be aware that the school will dictate the curriculum that's used and what's expected in terms of homework, assignments and deadlines. There are also hybrid schools where some coursework is online and some classes are attended in person one or two days a week.
What if this doesn't work for us? Can I put them back in school?
You always have the option of putting your child into a public, online or private school. As the parent, it's your right to choose the best option for your children. Some families only homeschool one or two children and the rest attend school. Some homeschool up to a certain grade and then the children attend school. What's right for your family can change from year to year, just as life and its demands can change. Knowing your options makes you better able to choose the best fit.If you choose to put your child into public school, expect to provide the school with recent test results and possibly a listing of curricula used this year so the school staff can determine proper placement in reading and math programs.
What if my spouse isn't really sold on the idea? Or my in-laws?
When there is someone in your close family network who has doubts about this choice, it can be a strain. I would encourage you to bring your spouse or other relative to a homeschool workshop or conference to learn more and understand the homeschooling choice. Your spouse or other relatives are also welcome at testing appts with me, and I'm happy to answer any questions they have about the test, or homeschooling in general. There are Dads groups, in some support groups and co-ops, so that Dads can get their questions and concerns addressed also. Enlist outside sources to help clarify any issues as you go forward. Lack of accurate information is the biggest cause of misunderstanding. Homeschooling is so common now that nearly everyone know someone who's homeschooling (a niece, a neighbor, a sister or co-worker). Encourage your doubtful family member to ask among friends to learn more.
How do I find other homeschoolers?
You can find them in online support groups, actual support groups, co-ops, homeschool conferences, libraries, 4H club meetings, your church, YMCA swim and gym classes, ... and just about anywhere you look. Some groups meet at churches or libraries or community centers. Ask around. It won't take long for you to locate a group near you. During the school year, my sons used to approach any child they found at our library during school hours and ask them if they were a homeschooler. They usually were.
What is a co-op or a support group?
These terms can be interchangeable. Groups of homeschoolers gather for a variety of reasons. Some are activity groups who get together for field trips and group events. Some are class oriented and gather to share the expense of hiring a teacher for Spanish or Sign Language or Pottery. Others organize to offer a variety of classes and split the workload. Still others are simply a support network for homeschooling parents to share ideas and resources. Whatever you need, you can find it or you can certainly start your own with a simple ad posted on your library bulletin board or at your church or community center.
What if my child struggles?
Most children struggle at some point with some subject (whether they're in school or homeschooled). Many of the resources I've already mentioned can help you when your curriculum doesn't seem to be the right match for your child. I share resources with parents at each testing appt, and we frequently discuss options that might be a better fit for different kinds of learning styles. Helping your child is easier when you're part of their learning process on a daily basis. Certainly easier than trying to help a child with homework that you can't decipher because you don't know what the teacher is getting at. You also have the option of bringing in a tutor if you feel like you need some specialized assistance with a particular subject or your child has specific needs you can't meet on your own.
What if I don't even know what questions to ask?
The best place to start is at your library. There are countless books on homeschooling. Check out a small stack and start skimming through them. When you find an author or a style of homeschooling that makes you think "wow, that's how I would have liked to learn" then you're on to something. Look for more by that author or on that homeschooling style. You can also familiarize yourself with the information on this website and others. Before you know it, you'll be speaking the language like a native.
What is PSEO?
PSEO stands for Post Secondary Education Opportunities. It's a program in Mn that allows qualified High School juniors and seniors to take college classes for credit with tuition and books paid for by the state.There's more information on PSEO in my "homeschooling high school" article and my resource page for older students.
What about harder classes like advanced math, biology, chemistry?
You will easily find curriculum available for these subjects, too. If it feels like more than you can handle to teach it yourself, you still have the homeschool co-op options, online classes, DVD classes or even part-time enrollment in school.
What if I'm no good at math myself? How do I teach it?
With the opportunity to choose a curriculum that makes sense to you, you may find that you learn more when you go through it with your children than when you were taught it as a child yourself. Homeschooling can be a wonderful opportunity to re-learn, or discover for the first time, many subjects! If not, make use of the experts in your life. If Dad or Grandma is the math wiz in the family, enlist their help with math instruction. And you always have the options of online courses, DVD lessons, co-op classes or hiring a tutor.
What if my child wants to go to school?
If your homeschooled child wants to go to school, be sure you talk about their expectations. Some kids expect school to be one long recess and playtime with friends. Make sure their expectations are realistic. My son once said he wanted to go to school, but when I asked him why it was because he wanted to ride a bus. I'm certainly glad I didn't enroll him without talking about what he felt he was missing. Some families decide to let their children attend school and see how it goes. Some come back to homeschooling and some don't. As I've said, its all about options and navigating those options as best you can. If it's important to you (the parent) that your child remain homeschooled, explain to your child why this decision is important to you and see if enrollment in a couple outside classes (through community ed, nature centers, community centers etc) will meet your child's need for a peer group experience. It isn't every child's right to attend school anymore than its every child's right to attend an expensive private school. Educational decisions are the obligation of the parents. Sometimes teens are looking for access to other teens, and helping them find volunteer opportunities or co-op classes can fill that need, and can be a rational compromise. It can also be possible for your child to visit or shadow a day at school to see if it's really all they think it will be. Part-time attendance can also be a workable option.
How might I find a tutor?
If you need a tutor, as opposed to a class or curriculum resource, you might try a nearby college or community college. Most will have a "jobs board" where you could post that you're looking for a tutoring situation. Scan the board for other similar offers to see what the going rate might be. Students studying to be teachers would be particularly interested, as they could get practical experience while still in college. But any student with a talent for math could make a worthwhile tutor in that subject. Another option would be to advertise in your church bulletin or newsletter. You might find a retired teacher or stay at home mom with the skills you seek. Ask around. Networking can be a very efficient way to find what you're looking for. I know homeschool families who use tutors for foreign language classes, Math, Reading help, specialty classes like pottery or painting and woodshop. If you have a child who struggles with reading and you're looking for a reading tutor, you'll want to find someone who uses a phonetically bases reading system (like certified Orton Gillingham tutors) and not a tutor center like Sylvan or Huntington. Always ask if you can speak to some current or past clients as a way or checking references.
What about sports or extra-curricular activities?
Homeschoolers are entitled to the same access to sports and extra-curricular activities as any publicly enrolled child, in Minnesota. If you're in another state, your state statutes should clarify your access to these activities. The difficulty can be in accessing the schedules, as the flyers and announcements are often sent home with students at school. You can check your school district's website or call the school office to find out more. You will be responsible for any associated fees that are part of participation and will have to commit to the schedule.
What about music lessons?
Music lessons can sometimes be accessed through Community Ed programming. But you can also contact your school office to find out how to participate. Music stores often offer lessons or will have a listing of music instructors in the area. Another resource would again be your church bulletin or newsletter to find a piano, voice or other instrument instructor.