When most people find out that I was home-schooled for high-school, after the initial surprise or confirmation towards my perceived idiosyncrasies, they then pose the question as to why my family made that decision. They wonder if it had something to do with my conservative christian upbringing or if it had something to do with my parents and a need to shelter their children. A few who don’t know me have even wondered if I had a learning disability or was kicked out of school for behavioral issues. The answer is none of the above.
The main reason my mother decided to home-school me and the rest of my siblings was because my three year old sister was too smart for school.
Let me explain.
First you must know I was struggling in school in the sense that it was not challenging enough. In junior high I was making straight A’s, I was on the National Junior Honor Society, I was taking a few advanced classes and still I found myself bored and yet the teacher insisted I not move ahead because I needed to stay in pace with the rest of the class. During junior high I often spent the last fifteen minutes of a class doing the next week’s homework, writing fiction short stories or just reading the chapters over and over because there was nothing else I was allowed to do. (You would be shocked at the volume of short stories I wrote during my time in junior high during those last 15 mins of class!)
Luckily my mother would also give me assignments when I came home. She was very involved in my education. She often have essays she wanted me to write, worksheets to complete and more books to read.
During this time, my younger sister was home with my mom. From an early age, my mother began working with her in the same ways she had always work with me. She would print free worksheets like the sample below off the internet and work with my sister on them. Due to the intentional efforts by my mother to always engage her children, my younger sister Bianca was reading at the age of two. Yes, two years old!
By three years old, Bianca was ready for kindergarten. Unfortunately, we were told Bianca was too young for kindergarten. In that same sentence we were also told she was too advanced for pre-school. My mother asked what could she do. The school admin stated that my mother could put my sister in day care for two years until she was old enough for kindergarten. My mother was NOT happy. Weeks after this incident, my mother noticed my sister wasn’t doing her little worksheets anymore. When we finally asked her why Bianca said, “I want to be dumb so that I can go to school.”
That was probably one of the most heartbreaking things my mother had heard in addition to my difficulties at school. Immediately after that my mother began researching alternative ways for us to learn.
I won’t get into the statistics behind homeschooling and I’m not interested in dispelling the myths because those who give into them are coming from a close minded perspective any way. What I do want to share are just a few little tips, reflections and so forth that I recall from 12 years ago when I first began homeschooling during my freshman year of high school.
You should know that a lot of the work is done for you. You can actually purchase full curriculums for every grade for every subject from multiple vendors. You can even mix and match curriculums. Saxon Math is better than Alpha & Omega. However, I recall A&O’s bible class being really interesting. You can have all your classes via computer software or you can purchase the books. I found that I liked to blend of them. Some classes seemed to flow better off the computer and others needed a workbook instead.
Rather than keeping tally of every single grade, test and paper, you can purchase software like Home-school Easy Records to track all your official paperwork. After the initial set up, simple keystrokes generate your reports, transcripts, grades and lesson plans. These documents were perfectly suited for my college applications.
If you are not even sure where to start regarding what sort of classes your child should take, specifically in regards to a high schooler, just print out your child’s top ten list of colleges. Compile all the requirements from each college and use that as your guide towards planning your curriculum. That’s what we did. Whichever school had the toughest standard for each course, we used that as our guide. So if one school said two years of science and another said three, we aimed for three. We did this for every subject.
Use every opportunity as a chance to learn and create real classes based on that moment for true credit. Once my family took a week long trip to my Aunt’s ranch in Tennessee. Rather than considering it a vacation from school, we considered it a field trip with homework and everything. It may take work to take the every day things and create courses around them but with a little work, your family vacation to Disney World can actually be used towards credit in a variety of classes.
Don’t go at it alone, join home-school groups. Long before MeetUp.com existed somehow there was an online network of home-schoolers. I don’t know how my mom found it but she did. Sometimes we’d get together with other local home-schoolers for social events, to do a group class or to work with each other in learning about resources, opportunities and ideas. Find a network of home-schoolers in your area and work with them.
Make sure that you research the different laws and policies regarding homeschooling for your state. They differ state by state. Some states are so strict and require you to send your completed weekly work into the state for observation. Other states just require that you have so many days of “school.” Field trips can be considered a day of school. It is important that you are in compliance.
While it is important to figure out your teaching style, I find that its just as important if not more, to find out your child’s learning style. You child’s learning style will determine the types of curriculum you purchase and the way your classes are structured. Those factors then determine how you will teach. Take the time to figure out how your child learns..which may differ depending on the subject. Child are complex wonderful creatures.
Take advantage of field trips..with most of them being free. Because your legal “private” school has such a small size a lot of companies are apt to handle your request for field trips and sample materials. Take advantage of that.
Take all the time or as little time as you need. I remember there once being a statistic regarding the amount of time children are being taught in the classroom. When you take into account the time spent going from class to class, going to lunch, study periods and electives…the teacher taking attendance, collecting homework and babysitting some of your ill behaved children…I think the number came down to 12 minutes of teaching per class. This statistic was back in 1998. I don’t know if its gotten better or worse. But that fact that only 12 minutes of each class was being use towards teaching and learning is crazy! I enjoyed that some classes took two hours while others only needed thirty minutes. The flexibility involved regarding my learning style and what was needed was perfect for me.
Investigate your local laws or practices regarding your child’s involvement in extracurricular activities such as sports via the local schools or community centers. Your child can still be involved in varsity sports with the local high school depending on the local policies. It takes a bit of research but I was on gospel choir and the high school newspaper at the local school in my neighborhood.
One of the things I enjoyed more regarding homeschooling was the flexibility. The flexibility with my schedule was great. By the time my senior year rolled around, I only had classes three days a week! Mondays were used to volunteer in a low income housing project in Cabrini Green, Chicago and Fridays were just an extra day off. That flexibility translated into my summer schedule as well. Rather than just goof off for the entire summer, I’d take one or two classes a day. This was one of the reasons I was able to graduate at 16 and go straight to college. I enjoyed the flexibility in my classes, the curriculums we chose and the various ways I could turn every day living moments into classroom credit.
Another thing I enjoyed about being home-schooled was that once my mother and I learned my style and her style, by my senior year her approach was to step away. My mother would print out two weeks worth of assignments and apart from checking in a few times here and there, she’d just ask for the assignments at the end of the second week. WHAT!? Yup. I just said my mother took a step back, gave me two weeks worth of work and let me do my thing. With the way she raised me, if I had a problem before asking her for the answer, I’d look it up online, go to the library, email a college friend for help, call my pastor regarding a theology question…I’d do everything I could before going to my mom…you know that whole thing called research. If I was completely stumped, then I’d go to my mom and she’d help me find the answer. While this two week step away approach might frighten you…keep in mind this approach is similar to how college works. Just saying.
For those who question the legitimacy of homeschooling or wonder if my mother ever cheated in regards to my grades, the standardized test required for college admission stood the test of time and put to rest any concerned. No matter how lenient a parent may be, those test scores will speak towards some of the things your child has learned. My score…near perfect. 34.
Do away with the ridiculous notion that home-schoolers are not socialized properly. There are children from every walk of life who are not socialized properly whether they are home-schooled or in a private or public school. I had plenty of friends from my involvement in church, to my involvement in various volunteer groups to the people I knew in the neighborhood. Having friends and having an active social life was NEVER an issue for me.
Do away with the notion that home-schoolers sit in the family room all day reading books. Maybe you are imagining that I just sat at the dining room table with my notebook and read all day. If so, you are wrong. Sometimes I read in bed. Sometimes the entire day of school was outside of the home. Sometimes the spirit moved me to take my books to a park and read. Other times the activities involved in my classes had little to do with a table and a book anyway.
DID YOU KNOW
Colleges love home-school students. The structure of homeschooling especially the independent study is similar to what is found in college. Some colleges, like Judson even offer scholarships specifically to home-schoolers. Check out this article Homeschoolers are Successful in College.
Homeschooling and UnSchooling are different. I can’t speak on unschooling. But just know there are differences.
Are you considering homeschooling? I don’t believe home schooling would work for everyone. While it may be perfect for the parent, perhaps it’s not for the child or vice versa. Be honest with yourself. Can you commit the time, money, and relationship that goes into educating your child full time?
US Department of Education and the National Center for Education Statistics put out a report in 2009 titled: 1.5 Million homeschooled students in the United States in 2007
(Brown Girl Speaks writes eloquently about the concept of afterschooling which I describe in the post above regarding what my mother would do with me while I was still in public school. Check out her post written today!)