Q Are there African Americans who homeschool?
A Yes. Many African-American families are turning to homeschooling to ensure excellence in the education their children receive. An African-American homeschooling mom giving a workshop at a conference a few years ago was asked why so few African-American families homeschool. She stated that since the group fought so long and hard to be included in the full public school system they were not in a hurry to leave it. The African-American homeschooling community is growing quickly as they, along with people of other ethnicities, choose homeschooling as a means of retaining their culture.
Q Should I get involved with the independent study program (ISP) with a public school?
A People who begin homeschooling often feel they need the warm hand of a certified teacher on their shoulder, guiding them along until they get the hang of doing it themselves. That is exactly what the public ISP appears to do. In most states, the ISPs use the same curriculum that children at the local public school would use. If you choose such a program, you are assigned an ISP counselor, a certified teacher for the public school system who usually keeps track of between 100 and 300 families like yours. You are given the curriculum to follow and must report to the counselor weekly, bimonthly, or monthly. Most families find, after two or three months, that they love the freedom of homeschooling and want to be their own drivers.
Q I’ve never been a bookish person and did not like school, how can I possibly teach my children?
A We repeatedly hear that homeschooling has afforded many parents the opportunity to educate or re-educate themselves in certain subjects. For example, Mary wasn’t interested in early history or word roots and grammar because of the negative feeling she carried from school. But upon reading about these to our son, she found herself becoming more interested as time went on. She also never considered herself artistic (in school she couldn’t sketch an apple even if she wanted to!). When our son was about seven, we obtained the Usborne How To Drawart series, which gives you the exact layout of different objects. Mary was so amazed at how well her rockets, spaceships, and buildings came out that she actually considered taking drawing classes! Use homeschooling as an opportunity to learn new things and add dimension to your life!
Q Homeschoolers seem to occupy the far left or religious right, whereas I am somewhere in the middle. Where or how do I fit into all of this?
A You are right on point. Possibly your perception of the political orientation of homeschoolers is left over from an earlier era. In the ‘70s (and even earlier), most homeschoolers were of a religious persuasion or were leftist radicals who wanted to “drop out” of society. Since the late ‘80s, however, homeschooling has become increasingly mainstream, attracting more and more professional or upper-income parents (along with lower- and middle-income families) opting to teach their own children at home—especially as they approach high school age.
Q Don’t teachers know something about “teaching” that we as parents should know to teach our own?
A As mentioned above, a schoolteacher’s job is to present the curriculum chosen by the school administration to 25 or 40 children in a classroom setting, moving them through the school year on time. A homeschooling parent’s job is very different. You will be working with your child in a setting you choose and recognize to be what is right for him or her. You can adjust your focus at any time to meet the changing needs of your student and your family. You can work more during one part of the year, less during another (provided your state doesn’t require school-year-strict attendance records). You can spend more time on a “weak” academic topic and less time on a “strong” one. The list of reasons we are most qualified to teach our own is long and different for each family.
Q If I have three children I want to homeschool, do I have to teach three levels of math, science, and English each day?
A Probably not. One great thing about having two or more children in a homeschooling setting is that the younger ones want to keep up with the older ones. There is less total work when children are fairly close rather than far apart in age. Some families report that their children set up a natural, healthy competition among themselves. In the case of English, the younger child may have to catch up to be on a par with the older, but will do that on his or her own. A few subjects may require individual, separate teaching; but that is probably the exception rather than the rule.
Q When will my child ever use calculus, trigonometry, algebra, or geometry?
A For two years we’ve been trying to find a mathematician to write a column for The Link. Parents often ask us whether we think the higher math subjects are valuable. Do my children really need algebra, other than to get into college? The mathematicians we asked to write a column have declined, saying they can’t offer valuable use except for students meeting college entrance requirements or pursuing degrees in math-heavy subjects such as architecture, engineering, or computer programming. It’s not necessary for families homeschooling children in the early teen years to stress out about the higher math subjects.
Q I enjoyed school activities like the prom and the science fair. Aren’t we denying our children these things if we homeschool them?
A Homeschoolers tend to be very innovative. Most homeschool groups have science fairs and social activities, and some even have graduations for their students. The beauty of something so grassroots is that you can make it anything you want it to be. Parents whose children are in the public school system often comment that they like a particular activity—a dance or what-have-you—but they don’t like the music played. In homeschooling, we can create these activities for our children in an environment that is in harmony with our beliefs and values. I don’t want to mislead anyone that you can have these things for your children without putting in work and effort. It takes all families in a group to contribute to the grand scheme. If you are not the doer type, you can always join an ISP, and most of the planning and prep could be done for you. Such groups usually cost $160 to $800 per hear and will advise you if the services they provide when you sign up. Be sure to ask, however; don’t assume.
Q Are we losing a sense of community when we remove our children from school?
A No. You are building a true sense of community when you decide to homeschool if you also choose to meet with other homeschooling families and participate in the field trips, park days or play days, and any special programs they do. Through programs like Goals 2000, the government is trying to make public schools into synthetic “village centers,” so to speak. We think individual parents and families doing it themselves is better. If you are used to having community activity planning done for you, you may have an adjustment to make. It is not difficult, however; most homeschoolers have phones, many are on the Internet, and most have cars. You can communicate with them as easily as with someone in the PTA, Boy Scouts, or other community organization. It all comes down to this: You make the community—not homeschooling.
Q What about homeschooling an only child?
A As parents of an only child, we can answer, “Yes, it can be done very successfully.” We won’t say it is easy; in fact, we believe it’s harder to homeschool an only child. (Most of our homeschooling friends have two to eight children.) Much depends on the type of child as well. If the child is incredibly social, it takes extra effort to plan a social life in which the child feels he or she interacts enough with other children. At least one parent must be the social type to plan a social life for the homeschooled child. Most home-schooling functions are not “drop-off” activities. If you are the parent caring for the child, you might find yourself spending hours on end with other homeschooling parents (mostly mothers). If you are not comfortable with this much socializing, it could be a problem for you.
From the academic standpoint, homeschooling an only child can be loads of fun. It is much easier to jump into the car and take off to the desert to see the wildflowers with one than with five or six children. One is also cheaper; you may be able to afford lessons that a large family might not be able to afford.
Another advantage to homeschooling one child is the closeness that develops between the parents and the child. For us, spending day in and day out with our son gives us hours to talk and get to know each other well. Mary has taken him along on many jobs to which she would not be able to take two or three children. She’s even attended college classes with him right alongside her.
Q Will my child have a high school diploma?
A Depending on your state’s laws, probably yes — if you choose to obtain one. But check first. Generally speaking, your child can acquire a GED diploma through your state, or you, as the principal of your own certified, private school (if you establish one), can create your own high school diploma. You may also use a nationally recognized, certified correspondence school to obtain a diploma. Check with the parent-run organization in your state to find out firsthand your state’s requirements and guidelines.