Thursday, February 23, 2017

Afraid of Homeschooling? 5 Reasons to Kick those Fears to the Curb

I regularly hear from Latino parents who are struggling with the idea of homeschooling their kids. They really want to try it, but they have so many fears and doubts that they just can't convince themselves to make the decision to give it a go.

I totally understand. Because the reality is that I NEVER had any intention of homeschooling my children. I worried that I wasn't qualified. And I thought that I wouldn't be able to put up with having my kids around all day long every day. I worried that we wouldn't be able to afford the curriculum. And I worried that they would wind up socially awkward because they wouldn't be interacting with other kids every day. Actually, it came down to my oldest's first day of kindergarten before I finally committed to giving it a try. That was eight years ago and I have never regretted that decision.

Here are the top five myths or fears I hear from parents.

#1 You do not have to have a teaching degree to homeschool your kids.

There are over 2 million families homeschooling in the United States today, and the vast majority of them are parents who have never taught a lick of school or even gone to college for an education degree. No state requires you to have a teaching certificate to homeschool your kids, with the possible exception of Washington (which requires you to meet one of four requirements: "1) be supervised by a “certified” person. 2) have achieved a minimum number of college credits. 3) have taken a course in home-based instruction. 4) be deemed qualified by local school board." Dude. What's up with you, Washington??)

And no, you do NOT have to understand all those tricky math/science/grammar concepts your kids will learn. It's okay if you don't like a particular subject. There are SO MANY resources available now for homeschoolers, including (free!) online sites like Khan Academy or in-person tutoring companies such as Sylvan Learning. You can find tons of support if you need it.


#2 Your kids will not fall behind their classroom counterparts.

According to Strengths of Their Own: Home Schoolers Across America, a study by the National Home School Research Institute, “Regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, parent education level, teacher certification, or the degree of government regulation, the academic achievement scores of home educated students significantly exceed those of public school students.” In fact, the study revealed that on average, homeschoolers outperform their public school peers by 30 to 37 percentile points—across ALL subjects.

Let me share something: I have two kids that I homeschool. One is in 7th grade and the other in 5th. I DO NOT teach to the test. That is to say, I don't even know what is on the tests that are given to students these days. (And to be honest, I don't care.) But I am required in my state of North Carolina to administer an end of the year test starting in 2nd grade. I've done so each year. I order a test online, it arrives, I give it to my kids, and I send it back in to be graded. Every year, the results come back with high achievements. This is in comparison to their public school counterparts. I'm not saying my kids are exceptionally gifted. I think the one-on-one instruction and the fact that we take the time to make sure they understand each concept before moving on to the next makes all the difference in the world.

I don't have to give them the complete test with all the different subjects, but I do it because crazily my kids love being timed and filling in those little bubbles, and because I want to know which areas they are weak in and that I need to concentrate on. For me, the test is just a way for me to see where we are and where we need to go.


#3 It is not illegal.

Each state has its own laws regarding homeschool. Some states are more relaxed and have little to no regulation, while others are more restrictive. For example, I have to officially declare my intent to homeschool my kids if they are 7 years old or older. I have to give them an end-of-the-year test. And I have to keep attendance records, vaccination records (many states don't require this), and their test scores in case anyone from the Dept of Education wants to verify that we're homeschooling (no one has ever contacted me). For me, all of this is easy. I declared our homeschool twice: once when each child was old enough. I keep records of attendance anyway since I keep notes of what each child does each day. And I give them the test and keep the test scores. No. Big. Deal.

To find out the laws in your state, you can visit ResponsibleHomeschooling.org or this page on ProPublica. Both have an easy interactive map to help you.


#4 Your kids will not be social misfits.

Seriously. This cracks me up because it implies that my kids just sit around in a box all day not interacting with anyone, including each other. Homeschoolers come into contact with so many different people of all ages. Our kids are probably better socialized than traditional school children who spend all day interacting only with other unsocialized kids their age. Haha! Really, homeschool families are usually involved in so many activities (museum classes, sports, 4H, homeschool co-ops, music lessons, STEM classes, ballet, volunteer work...the list goes on and on), that they get tons of exposure and interaction with other people. Homeschool co-ops frequently do monthly field trips and programs such as science fairs, lego clubs, and talent shows.

Remember: data shows that “on average, [homeschool] children are engaged in 5.2 activities outside the home, with 98% involved in two or more.” So stop worrying about that!!


#5 It doesn't have to be expensive.

Yes, some curricula are expensive. But I'd prefer to invest that money in an annual curriculum rather than in spaghetti suppers, the latest fashion trends, or the lunch money, or whatever. And you can also find a lot of these curricula for sale on eBay (gently used or otherwise) or homeschool trade sites. You can even piece together your own curriculum for practically nothing using free internet materials and your local library.

(The average homeschooling family spends around $546 per student each year and yields an average 85th percentile ranking on test scores. By comparison, the average annual expenditure of $5,325 per public school student yields on average a 50th percentile ranking.)


If you have concerns that I haven't addressed here, leave a comment below or contact me! I promise that if you are considering homeschooling your kids, you're halfway there and it is worth a try. If it turns out that it isn't the best fit for your family, big deal. You just put your kid back in school, no?

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post! My biggest concern is the younger siblings. How do I spend quality time preparing for homeschooling or sitting down with my homeschooled child when I have babies and toddlers running around that need constant supervision?

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    Replies
    1. Hey, Marissa!
      Great question. The main thing is to spend time with the little one first doing a special activity like reading or playing together. Then there are quite a few options here:
      1) You can purchase a no-prep curriculum (or one that requires little preparation on your part) if you are limited on time.
      2) You can plan your lesson time around your younger children's naptime.
      3) You can create a "quiet time" box of goodies. This would include special toys that your younger children can ONLY play with while you are doing school with your homeschool child.
      4) Invite the younger child to "do school" with you. Give them their own assignment(s) - drawing, coloring, playing with clay. Usually, this only works for one activity because their attention span is so short, but you might be able to squeeze 15 - 20 minutes out of them and then give them a snack that you prepared earlier. That's another 10 - 15 minutes.
      5) Hire a Mother's Helper. I've never done this, but I've read of homeschool families who do. This might be a teenager or adult who spends time watching the younger children while you are focused on your older child's schooling. They may read to the little ones, play with them, feed them, etc.
      Your older child should be able to get out and complete at least one or more activities/subjects on their own.
      And check out this comprehensive Pinterest board dedicated to this subject: https://www.pinterest.com/LaurenVHill/keeping-the-littles-busy-during-school/
      I hope this helps! Maybe I need to do a post on this one. ;)

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    2. These are all great ideas--thank you! I like the idea of making it a point to spend time with the younger child first.

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