Parents in the U.S. are taking their children out of traditional schools now more than ever. In the last ten years, the number of students homeschooling has more than doubled. There are many reasons parents are doing this, from wanting a better education for their children to avoiding bullying that school officials seem to ignore.
In traditional homeschooling, the parents generally follow a structure close to that of a brick-and-mortar school. They purchase textbooks and a teaching guide and closely follow what a traditional school would teach. The parents can either buy a complete homeschool curriculum from a number of places or put one together themselves. This way of teaching can be a great way to focus on a student’s natural abilities and interests. In a typical school situation, when a regular lesson is over, it’s over. In a homeschool situation, however, the student can do more or work until their curiosity is satisfied.
There is another relatively new form of school-at-home that is becoming very popular. It is an online, state-sponsored school system. Online schools operate by using a virtual classroom. The students are assigned to a class with peers from all over their state and have a licensed teacher guiding their education. As with traditional school, they cover the same subjects and operate on a traditional school calendar. The school sends a computer, textbooks, and any specific tools or supplies the student may need, along with a teaching manual to help guide the parents. Regular school supplies are purchased by the parents. Most of these online schools offer a reimbursement for Internet connection fees and supplies.
Since the schools are funded by the state, proof-of-residency forms are required from the students. The teachers grade students based on their online work as well as other submitted work. Teachers generally accept work sent physically through regular mail or scanned and sent via email. The students are required to complete all state testing just like traditional students. In some instances the parent can act as a proctor and give the test, while in other cases the student may be required to travel to a testing site. This usually takes no more than one week.
For younger students, there are opportunities that may not be available to traditional students in the same grade. They may be able to study foreign languages or take extra classes that spark their interest. Parents have many options for dealing with physical education. Students can choose to do a sport they like and have the coach or organization sign a form of participation, or they can do a more structured form of exercise. They can change what they are doing every quarter or stick with the same thing over a long term.
Students also have scheduled time to participate in online classes with other students and one-on-one with the teacher. Many of these virtual schools offer field trips for the students to get to know one another on a more personal level. Typically, field trips are scheduled several times a month in various parts of the state, to try and accommodate many families. The families can decide which ones best fit their schedule and are within a reasonable driving distance.
Online virtual school can be perfect for the parent who is uncomfortable with teaching their child by themselves. Although the parent is greatly involved, the teacher is always there for any guidance that may be needed. The teachers grade the same as if the child were in a regular school.
For a parent who is considering homeschooling their child, it can seem like a big task. A parent who may be nervous about going at it alone can greatly benefit from an online school. Parents who are former teachers or just love the idea of teaching their children can choose to go the traditional homeschooling route.
Whichever option you choose, there are a few things that must be done first. The first thing you need to do is to contact any other people you may know that are currently homeschooling. They can be a valuable resource as they have already been through it all, and they will be familiar with local laws (which vary from state to state). If you don’t know anyone else who homeschools, the best thing to do is call the state school board or board of education. Most state websites will give a list of things that need to be done before starting and during the time the student is homeschooled. For example, some states require the family to provide a letter of intent to homeschool to the local school district.
Many states require homeschooled students to take nationally standardized tests to show achievement levels every other year, usually starting in the third grade. While the national tests may be required, most states do not require the students to take state standardized tests.
The state school board can also give guidelines as to the minimum basic requirements for each grade level. Most homeschooled children far exceed these basic requirements, and many function at a higher grade level. The one-on-one attention and individualized teaching greatly increases the speed at which a child can learn. The parent can go as fast or as slow as the students needs. There is no wasted time waiting for others to catch up as in a traditional classroom.
Parents must also keep records for the student, including information like the number of days in class, test scores, and immunization records. Although there are a required number of days a student needs to be “in class,” the school day is generally much shorter. There is no travel time, no time going between classes, little wasted time going over information they have already mastered, and, as mentioned earlier, the individualization makes learning most subject matter quicker. Homeschooling can be an efficient system, leaving time for many other activities such as dance, scouting, volunteering, or sports.
One big decision for parents who decide to homeschool is in regard to the curriculum. There are many companies that have premade curriculums for purchase and include everything that is needed. These can vary in their approach to learning, and many can be rather costly. Some families choose to use a premade curriculum and supplement where they feel necessary or where the child shows more interest. The other option is for the parent to do the curriculum themselves and to purchase or find all of the necessary resources. This can include books, testing materials, videos, etc. There is a great amount of flexibility when choosing this route, but it does require more time to put together lesson plans.
Regardless of which type of school-at-home system parents choose for their child, the choice to homeschool has many benefits. The parents have much more control over what information their children are exposed to. There is no need to worry about bullying or negative behavior that seems to be rampant in schools these days. The option to include any religious teaching is up to the parents. There is also incredible flexibility for taking vacation days when you want.
When children attend traditional schools, they can be gone for many hours at a time, under the influence of others. Parents have little control over who or what their child is exposed to. While there can be other benefits aside from the ones listed, one of the best is the wonderful connection naturally built by families that are able to spend so much time together, learning, and growing.