Homeschooling is now legal in all 50 states, but regulations governing how parents teach their children vary widely. The number of children being educated at home has grown steadily throughout the last decade. There are now approximately 1,576,516 American children being educated at home by a parent or guardian.
The reasons why parents choose to homeschool their children are as diverse as the manner in which the youngsters are taught. Some parents opt to teach their children using a virtual online curriculum, while others prefer to choose the academic curriculum themselves and infuse technology into the home classroom as they see fit.
Regardless of how or why a parent chooses the homeschooling education option, embarking on such an endeavor can be daunting and filled with obstacles. Research and preparation are the keys to having a successful first year homeschooling — and avoiding unnecessary pitfalls, A2Z Homeschooling notes.
Top 10 Homeschooling Tips For Beginners
- Know the laws of your state. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), there are 50 different state laws defining how homeschooling is permitted to occur. Some states require written permission from the local school district before a child can be educated at home, but some do not require even a phone call notification of such plans. Standardized testing or annual academic reviews are also required in some states. Failure to follow state guidelines could not only end the homeschooling experience for the child but get the parents in a host of legal trouble.
- Research local homeschool groups. Experienced homeschooling parents might be able to offer some valuable advice about dealing with state regulations, developing a curriculum, and even extend an invitation to educational field trip outings and social events for both children and the home educators.
- Decide on an educational approach. Before creating or paying for a homeschooling curriculum, determine if the home education plan will be entirely or partially religion based, guided by the child’s interests, have a computer-based component, include a tutor for specific subjects, or be done entirely alone or as part of a local network where parents teach their children in small groups on a daily or weekly basis.
- Do not try to duplicate a traditional classroom environment. New homeschool parents often try to turn a portion of the home into a classroom and simulate the desk and textbook version of learning. Survival Mom maintains there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to learning or creating the perfect homeschool environment, and also stated that conventional classroom methods are not required to teach children.
- Infuse plenty of flexibility into the learning environment. Many veteran homeschool parents recommend teaching one subject a day or in half-day blocks and not necessarily changing subjects every hour on a school bell schedule. Such a lesson plan could allow deep exploration of a topic or enhanced practice of core subjects.
- To prevent boredom, takes subject breaks. The learning does not need to stop during seat work breaks. Children can take a hike with a parent to help meet their physical education requirements and gets some hands-on experience relating to the earth or animal science topics they have been learning about. Music curriculum requirements could also be met during the breaks by getting up and singing and doing movement to music, especially if simple instruments are incorporated into the activity.
- Join youth or school activities to foster peer interaction. In most states, homeschool students are permitted to engage in extra-curricular activities and sports offered through the local school district. Scouting and 4-H groups also offer opportunities for the children to socialize and expand their learning.
- Plan field trips which reinforce what the children are learning. Networking with other homeschool parents might make such activities more fun and increase socialization, but the trips can be done independently as well. Some local businesses and groups may be willing, or even eager, to invite older children to volunteer or start an internship to further their learning about a particular career or topic.
- Join a homeschool association or league. Formal homeschool groups, both on the national or international level, typically require a membership fee but provide a host of services and resources many parents find useful.
- Take advantage of free college courses for high school age students. In many states, high school students are permitted to take college courses either on campus or online without paying tuition. The classes can garner dual high school and college credit. Most of the post-secondary education programs also cover the cost of textbooks and lab fees.
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