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Parents choose to homeschool for a variety of reasons, religious, political, personal, medical, or simply because they feel their child’s needs are better served in a home education environment. When these new homeschooling parents seek the advice of other homeschoolers, strong-minded advocates provide a million and one reasons why homeschooling is the best option.
There are challenges to homeschooling. Make sure you are fully aware and committed to the process before gaking the plunge. You may be concerned about the lack of socialization for your child, but that aspect is of little concern to most homeschooling families as it has easy enough remedies. There are much more complex issues you will face as a homeschooling parent you need to be aware of.
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Reason #1: Part Time Teacher, Full Time Detective
Parents whom homeschool their children must first and foremost have a willingness to play detective when it comes to their child. Every child, even those in the same family, has his or her own learning style. Some are visual or auditory learners. Other children do better with hands-on learning. As a homeschooling parent, you must be willing to dig in with your child and try a variety of curriculums and delivery methods to see what works best for your child.
Not every parent is cut out to play educational detective. Not every parent is willing to experiment with different learning times, environments, or curriculum delivery methods. It takes a great deal of research and hands-on work to find the best approach or best learning environment for your child. If you think simply ordering curriculum and assigning work is all there is to homeschooling, you might be surprised that it takes much more than that, at least in the beginning.
On the other hand, homeschooling proponents would argue that parents have a much keener insight into their child's strengths and learning styles than a teacher who has spent much less time with them.
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Reason #2: The Paperwork Shuffle
Homeschooling involves a fair bit of paperwork, depending on your particular state. Some states require nothing more than a notice of intent and monthly attendance reports. Others require parents to homeschool under the supervision of a private school, also known as an umbrella school. Most states also require homeschooled students to take standardized tests throughout their school years to monitor their progress. Add in the responsibility of tracking yearly progress, building portfolios for college admissions, and other record keeping and a parent can easily be buried in paperwork.
For those parents who have a hard time remembering to balance their checkbook each month or making payments that don’t include a monthly statement or payment reminder, remembering to submit an attendance sheet every month can be a challenge. Likewise, tracking when standardized tests are due, recording grades, and keeping projects for a portfolio can be difficult when there is no one to remind you to get it done. In some states, not keeping up on homeschool paperwork can even result in court appearances.
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Reason #3: Structure and Scheduling
Right, wrong or indifferent, some people simply do not thrive in a strictly structured environment. If the idea of adhering to a daily schedule gives you the heebie-jeebies, then homeschooling may not be the right choice for your family. Homeschooling, even when you use unschooling methodologies, does require structure. Each homeschooling approach requires varying degrees of structure and scheduling, but all require some kind of routine.
That is not to say that every homeschooling family wakes at the same time and plans their daily lives down to the minute. In fact, one of the beautiful things about homeschooling is the ability to create a flexible schedule that works for your family. However, children need to learn discipline and enjoy the security of a steady, stable household. Therefore, if you prefer to fly by the seat of your pants, have a great deal of upheaval in the household (moving, divorce, employment changes, etc.), or otherwise abhor the idea of a structured lifestyle, this could be a reason to re-consider.
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Reason #4: Homeschooling Is Not for the Faint of Heart
Regarding homeschooling, there are many who have strong opinions both for and against the concept. In fact, the Future of Freedom Foundation discusses just such opposition as presented by Scott McPherson in response to an article appearing in the USA Today on September 3, 2003. Parents who choose to homeschool must understand that not everyone in their family, social circles or general population shares their opinions with regard to homeschooling. In fact, there are many with passionately displayed opinions on the matter.
As such, parents must have the confidence in their decision to be able to stand their ground when others question their choice. Confidence plays an important role for any parent who chooses to take on the responsibility of educating their children. Parents need confidence not only in terms of their choice to homeschool, but in their willingness to find the best path for their child. Parents who are willing and confident enough to be creative in meeting their child’s needs and working with their strengths, weaknesses, and abilities stand the best chance of success. That same confidence allows parents to face head-on those who question their choice.
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Reason #5: Advocacy and Active Participation
Parents have options for a variety of homeschool curriculums. Many of those curriculums provide far less involvement, with automatic assignment grading, record keeping, and computer-based tutorials for teaching material. However, even when a parent selects low-involvement curriculum, they must remain active in their child’s day-to-day educational activities. Not only do parents have to keep up on what their child is learning and how they are progressing, but must be actively involved in other areas of their child’s development such as physical education or social activities.
Unfortunately, eliminating public educational institutions also means cutting access to PE classes, organized sports, state-funded driver’s education programs, and a host of other programs and services readily provided to public school students. Even if a parent selects curriculum or teaching methods that provide little involvement, they must still find or advocate for extracurricular programs and services for their child. If a parent is not willing to challenge policies that bar their child’s participation or seek out alternatives, the child’s development beyond academics suffers.
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There is no absolute right or wrong reason or method for homeschooling. A home education environment has many benefits. Realistically, even with a long list of benefits, not all parents or households are cut out to homeschool. If you are on the fence about homeschooling, consider all the reasons both for and against. Choosing one way or the other does not reflect on your capabilities as a parent. Rather, your choice reflects the best approach for your child and your family.
- McPherson, Scott, for The Future of Freedom Foundation, To Homeschool or Not to Homeschool, How Both Sides Got it Wrong.
- Indiana University, Homeschool Research and Scholarship
- Image Courtesy of stock.xchng user, Ned Horton of Horton Group