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Getting Started
Last Revised: March 10, 2009
The following are questions that are often asked
by new homeschoolers or families considering
homeschooling. If you do not see your question
here, it may be covered separately and have its
own button on the homepage or it may be listed
under the FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)
button on the homepage.

.
  1. How do I start homeschooling? (A Summary)
  2. Is homeschooling legal? —  Please click here to visit www.HomeschoolingLegal.com.
  3. What subjects do I need to teach?
  4. Is there a set time or number of days?
  5. How do I know what to teach each day?
  6. What about grading? How do I grade an assignment? Who do I report the grades to?
  7. What about tests and testing? What about standardized tests?
  8. How do I know what material must be learned for my child’s grade?
  9. What qualifications do I need as the teacher? Do I need to be certified? Am I really able to teach my child?
  10. How do I know which curriculum to choose?
  11. What about record-keeping? How do I keep track of our homeschooling? What records do I need to keep?
  12. Decision to Homeschool - Audio - 4 minutes 10 seconds

1 — How do I start Homeschooling? (A Summary)

Short Answer
Each state sets its own regulations for homeschooling, and these vary from state to state. So the first step is to find out your state’s regulations and what procedures must be followed to get started.

Explanation
Some states are more regulated than others. Those that are regulated often require some sort of registration, may specify subjects and topics, and may mandate testing, the number of days of school, and the number of hours per day. Some have specific notification forms and procedures that must be followed.

At the very least, you will need to contact the school your child currently attends to let them know you are withdrawing your child. The school has to account for the child in some way because of truancy laws. We recommend writing a letter and sending it return receipt so that you know the school received it.

Once you know your state’s regulations and the basic structure you must follow, the second step is to research which curriculum you want to use and the approach you want to take.


Families decide to homeschool for a variety of reasons. Such as:
  • Your specific situation, family needs, your reason for homeschooling, and your view of education (what you want your homeschooling to accomplish) will determine your choices.
  • So will the amount of structure you need, and whether you will be homeschooling for the long-term or only for a short time.
  • Another major consideration is your child’s learning style. Learning style refers to the fact that children learn in different ways. Teaching is more effective and more efficient when you can match the method to the child’s learning style.
Don’t panic if you don’t know the answers to these questions. That’s typical. At the same time, you probably have some ideas; it’s just a matter of thinking through the issues and writing down your answers so you can plan accordingly. We recommend that you take the time to research homeschooling, find a support group, and attend a curriculum fair in your area. If your time is limited, you may want to schedule a consultation with a veteran homeschooler, support group leader, or homeschool supplier.

If you are pulling your student from a group classroom situation, then you will probably need a period of adjustment where the student transitions from being in a controlled environment to being taught at home by the parents. Common problems include peer dependency, lack of self-motivation after having been told what to do each minute of the day, distorted self-esteem, and poor attitude toward learning. For some families, it may mean getting reacquainted with the child and re-establishing parental authority.

Once you have a general plan for your homeschooling, then it is a matter of obtaining the curriculum and getting started.

KEY WORDS: getting started, how to start, what to do, what do I do

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2 — Is homeschooling legal?

Short Answer
For now, the answer is yes. It is legal in every state in America and every province in Canada.

Explanation
Each state sets its own regulations for homeschooling, and these vary from state to state. Some states are more regulated than others. Those that are regulated often require some sort of registration, they may specify subjects and topics, they may mandate testing, and they may specify the number of days of school or the number of hours required each day.

So the first step in considering homeschooling is to find out your state’s regulations.
  • These will give you the boundaries in which you have to operate.
  • You can do an Internet search for your state’s homeschooling law.
  • Usually you can find at least one major state-wide homeschooling support group in the search. The support groups usually list the state’s requirements and laws.
  • We provide links to the major state-wide groups on this website; click on the Support Groups button on the left side of the homepage.
  • You can also contact your state’s Department of Education or your local library.
  • We recommend that you begin with a homeschool support group since they tend to have updated information, offer explanations of the laws, and any forms that may be needed.
The state regulations will tell you what procedures must be followed, such as registration and notification letters. At the very least, you will need to contact the school your child currently attends to let them know you are withdrawing your child. The school has to account for the child in some way because of truancy laws. We recommend writing a letter and sending it return receipt so that you know the school received it.

The state regulations will also tell you what subjects must be covered. Most states require the same core subjects offered in the public schools. The core courses are:
  • English or Language Arts (including phonics, reading, literature, spelling, penmanship, grammar, and vocabulary)
  • Science
  • History or Social Studies (including geography)
  • Math
Electives vary from state to state, and may include art, music, physical education, computers, civics and health. Apart from these requirements, the courses you choose will depend on your view of education, your goals, the homeschool approach you use, and your child’s learning needs and interests.

KEY WORDS: legal, legality, laws, regulations, withdraw

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3 — What subjects do I need to teach?

Short Answer
Most states do not specify a particular curriculum, but they do require the same core subjects covered in the school systems. The core courses are Language Arts/English, Science, Math, and History/Social Studies.

Explanation
At this point in time, there is no set curriculum or federal standards for courses. Every state has standards that must be met by the curriculum the individual school systems select. These standards tend to be general, and allow for some leeway as to what is covered. Highly regulated states often have a list of topics, some of which must be covered in certain grades. If you live in such a state, you should be able to find the list as part of the homeschool law, as part of the supporting documents released by the state, or in the information provided by the state-wide homeschool support group.

The specific topics presented in each subject will vary with the publisher. This is known as the scope of the curriculum. The order of the topics and in what grade level they are covered is known as the sequence. Most publishers have a Scope & Sequence available so that you can match the program with your state’s regulations or your own homeschool goals.

Some states also recommend certain electives be covered. These may include physical education (gym), music, art, computers/technology, health, state history, and civics (citizenship). All states consider Bible an elective. Apart from these recommendations, any electives or other topics you choose to cover should be based on the student’s interests and talents, and your family’s educational goals (which is another reason for having written goals for your homeschooling).

How you schedule the core courses and electives is up to you. You may choose to teach the core subjects everyday and the electives on alternating days. Some families use block scheduling. Others keep one day for hands-on activities, experiments, and field trips.

KEY WORDS: subjects, need, teach, schedule, required, courses, classes, taught, requirements

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4 — Is there a set time or number of days?


Short Answer

It depends on your state’s regulations. Some specify the number of days per year, while others state the number of hours per day. If your state does not require a set time, then it is up to you how and when you homeschool.

Explanation
You can follow the typical 9-month academic year or you can homeschool year-round. Some families do block scheduling, where they set aside a large block of time for one subject and cover only a couple subjects at a time. Others cover every subject every day. Some families take longer holiday breaks and then start earlier or go longer in the summer. Still others do the bulk of the work during the typical 9-month academic year, and then follow a reduced schedule during the summer to keep key skills current and sharp. From a practical standpoint, some families find it easier to follow the same schedule as the local public school system so that the children are on break at the same time.

Generally speaking, one-on-one teaching is more efficient, so it doesn’t usually take as much time. In a group classroom setting, a portion of the class period is spent managing the group (such as taking attendance, passing out papers, and getting everyone quiet). Studies have shown that the typical high school student is “on task” – learning what he or she is supposed to be learning – for 25 minutes out of each class period.

Most families spend between 4 to 6 hours a day homeschooling. But this can vary depending on the method used, the topics covered, and the ages of the children. For younger children, you will need to break up the day, doing more varied activities in between structured learning.

Which subjects you cover when will depend on the method you use, how many children you have, the grade levels involved, the child’s readiness, and your educational goals. Since reading and math are such important skills, you will probably want to do these subjects every day. You may want to schedule an afternoon for science labs or a “game day” where you use games and hands-on activities to reinforce learning.

When you are introducing a new topic, the lesson will take longer because you need to show the student exactly what is involved and what to do. If the lesson reviews a skill, then it will take less of your time as the student does the exercises to reinforce learning. By the time students are in high school, they should be able to learn on their own, with the parent guiding and checking progress.

In one sense, this could be considered a trick question - for a true homeschooler, learning is a lifestyle. It happens everyday, all day long! That’s because education is more than just academics and formal instruction.

KEY WORDS: time, days, hours, school year, schedule, number, required, requirements, regulations, instruction

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5 — How do I know what to teach each day?


Short Answer
The answer depends on the method of homeschooling you choose. Most states require a minimum number of instruction days, usually based on a 9-month calendar (36 weeks or 180 days).

Explanation
  • Structured Curriculum/Textbook Approach - the program will be divided into lessons. Most publishers give a suggested schedule in the teacher’s guide or introduction. Some include detailed lesson plans. The vast majority are designed to do one lesson per day.
  • Workbook Approach – divide the number of lessons in the workbook into the number of weeks of instruction for that time period. This will tell you how many lessons need to be done each week. Be sure to look at the lesson itself to see if it is divided into daily activities or if it can be done in segments or all at once.
  • Real Books Approach – divide the number of pages in the book by the number of weeks of instruction. This will tell you the average number of pages that need to be read each week.
  • All Other Approaches – you will need to plan what gets covered each day, combining the suggested schedules from any structured programs, number of pages to be read from real books, and any activities, field trips, or assignments you want to include into one planner.
Since there is no one way of doing homeschooling, there is no one way to schedule your day.

One of the major differences in homeschooling approaches is the amount of planning needed by the parent. If you do not have a lot of time available for planning, if you are a highly disorganized person, or if you feel you cannot possibly plan a program on your own, then you will want to choose a structured curriculum that includes detailed teacher’s manuals and/or lesson plans.

There are many organizers, planning forms, templates, and even software programs available to help you plan. In short, the tools exist to help just about anyone plan a program. So don’t let this task become a major stumbling block for you. The particular type of planner you use doesn’t really matter.
  • Teacher Planning Books (usually set up for multiple students, but can be easily adapted for homeschool use)
  • Year-At-A-Glance, Month-At-A-Glance, Week-At-A-Glance
  • Daily Calendar Sheets with five to eight columns for different subjects
  • Weekly Calendar Sheets, one for each subject
  • Assignment Sheets
  • Journals
  • Computerized Tracking System
At the very least, you can buy a binder, fill it with notebook paper, and keep a simple journal of what each child did each day. The key is to use whatever format or organizer works for you and helps you complete any documents required by your state.

In short, your planner is a tool. Use it to make your job easier, but don’t become a slave to it.

As the homeschooling parent, you direct the program and you control what gets done each day. The planner does not. You want to maintain enough flexibility to take advantage of “teachable moments” or opportunities that arise for special activities. The role of the planner is to keep you basically on track and to help you make adjustments when changes are made to the day’s schedule. You may find that your child needs more review to master a concept. Or your child may have already mastered the concept in the lesson and does not need to do all the exercises or problems. A lesson may take longer than expected or your child may be able to “breeze right through” the material.

Every child learns at his or her own pace. One of the problems with structured programs is that they are designed as “one size fits all.” Chances are you will need to make adjustments along the way to fit your child’s needs. Even if you are designing your own program, the whole point is to observe how your child is doing and respond accordingly.

KEY WORDS: what to teach, subjects, course, class, schedule, content, lesson, plan, curriculum, required, requirements, regulations, taught

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6 — What about grading? How do I grade an assignment? Who do I report the grades to?


Short Answer
This depends on your state’s regulations and the method of homeschooling you are using.

Explanation
  • Only a few states specifically require that grades be kept; usually the grades have to be reported to a certain education administrator by a set time. Check with your state’s Department of Education or your state-wide homeschool support group.
  • A few more states require some sort of periodic evaluation; the type of evaluation varies from state to state and may include grade reports, informal evaluations with a certified teacher, submission of tests, or standardized testing. The evaluations may be once a year, every two or three years, or several times during a year, in the case of some special needs children.
  • If your state does not require grade reports, then it is up to you to decide how you will keep track of your children’s progress, whether with formal grades or informal evaluations of goals and objectives.
  • Grading and correcting a child’s paper is not necessarily the same thing. You will always want to check the student’s work as quickly as possible to ensure that he or she understands the material and to give immediate feedback. Most families check the work daily before the student does the next lesson.
  • Grading is assigning a letter grade to each exercise and recording it. The grades are then averaged together for a specific time period and recorded on a report card (or progress report).
  • Most umbrella organizations, correspondence schools, on-line courses, and homeschool academies have their own grading system that must be followed. In some cases, the parent still grades the daily work, but then sends in the assignments and/or grades at a pre-determined time. A few programs have you send in the student’s work for grading by the company; the obvious disadvantage to this is the time lag in giving the student feedback.
Is Grading Necessary?
The whole point of grading is for a classroom teacher to be able to monitor how a group of students is doing. As a homeschooler working with your child one-on-one, chances are you already know this. You will know whether or not your child is grasping the material. And you will probably teach the material until the child masters it, so it’s very feasible that your child will end up with all A’s and B’s.

If you do not have to report grades, then you can consider other ways to track progress or assess your child’s work. Some families do not bother with grades or report cards until junior and senior high; they begin grading and testing in high school to prepare the student for college and to make it easier to put together a transcript.

Choosing a Grading System
If you still feel you need to assign grades or are more comfortable doing so, then you will need to decide what grading system to use. The easiest is the percentage system – assigning a grade based on the number of problems correct. Divide the number correct by the total number of problems. At the end of the marking period, add all of the percentages and divide by the number of assignments. This will give you the average grade for the period. Most families use the 90-80-70 percent system (90% and above is an A, 80% to 89% a B, and so on). You can set the scale higher or lower.

Other systems are: the plus/minus (+/-) system, a coded evaluation system (such as Excellent/Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory), a point system (each assignment or project is worth so many points which the student earns upon completion), and a combination of the above.

Not all assignments have to be treated the same. You can give more weight or consideration to daily work or to tests. Or you may give more consideration to projects instead of daily work. The system you use will depend on your educational goals and homeschooling method. And whether or not you grade will depend on your view of education. That’s why it is important to think about your purpose for homeschooling and what you want to accomplish through it.

KEY WORDS: grades, grading, assignment, report, records, regulations, required, record-keeping

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7 — What about tests and testing? What about standardized tests?

Short Answer
Once again, the answer depends on your state’s regulations and the method of homeschooling you are using. If you live in a state where you have to report grades, then giving tests is part of that process (see the article on Grades & Grading). Some states also require standardized tests, which is a separate issue. If a state mandates standardized testing, then it will say which tests are accepted. You must follow the state’s directions for having your student take that test.

Explanation
  • If your state does not require grading or testing, then you can decide what kind of tests, if any, to give. Most structured programs include tests as part of the curriculum, but that does not mean that you have to use them.
  • Some families give the tests, but treat them as just another daily exercise. This gives the child experience in taking tests. In this case, you will want to review the test afterward to show the child how to think through any questions that were answered incorrectly.
  • Giving tests is a lot like assigning grades. The whole point of testing is for a classroom teacher to be able to monitor how a group of students is doing. As a homeschooler working with your child one-on-one, you already know this. Chances are you will know whether or not your child is retaining the material, or if he or she knows it one day but not the next.
  • Whether or not you give tests will depend on your view of education, your homeschooling approach, and the child’s learning style.
Testing and Assessment
A test or other form of assessment is designed to see if the material has been mastered. The key word here is mastered. If all you are trying to do is introduce the child to a new skill or provide more practice, then you’re not ready to test.

There are many ways to tell if a child has mastered the material. A structured test is not the only way – although it is probably the easiest way for the teacher. Ideally, you should test in a way that matches the student’s learning style, using his or her preferred sense or method. You can have a hands-on child do a project. For an auditory child, you may discuss the material or have the student do an oral presentation. The point here is that how you determine if a skill has been mastered will depend on your educational goals and the teaching method.

Standardized Tests
Standardized tests are general knowledge tests that are based on typical age-level responses called norms. Examples are the Stanford Achievement Test and the Iowa Basic. The norms or “standards” are like a nationwide grading curve. When you get your test results, your child is compared to the “norms” or average for that grade. By the way, these norms can vary from year to year in the same way that a grading curve can change from class to class.

The questions on standardized tests are drawn from a set number of publishers’ programs so that you end up with “generic” questions. These generic questions may or may not match your curriculum. That’s why classroom teachers “teach to the test” rather than focusing on the curriculum. This tendency is one reason why standardized testing is controversial.

Another reason is that there is a lot of debate about whether standardized tests even measure what they are supposed to measure. Standardized tests are based on “average” questions drawn from major curriculum publishers. If you do not follow this “average,” then your child is at a disadvantage. Plus, many children are unnerved by the whole test-taking process - the tests are not an accurate measure of what they know. If your state does not require standardized testing, then chances are you won’t want to bother with it because it may not give you the information you are seeking.

Generally, what you need to know is if there are any major gaps in your child’s education. These can be identified more effectively through diagnostic and placement tests. These are often available through the publisher. There are also “generic” diagnostic tests available.

If you are unsure what grade level curriculum to buy, then start with a diagnostic or placement test. In most cases, you can assume that your child is “grade-level” and start there. You can always make adjustments along the way, either using simpler or more challenging materials, or a different grade level for certain subjects. Most skills and concepts are reviewed across three grade levels. So unless your child is really struggling with a certain subject, then chances are there will be enough review in the grade level curriculum.

If you still want to do standardized testing, it is available through a variety of sources. Depending on the type of test, it may require a certified proctor or administrator; a few standardized tests can be administered by the parent. This information can be obtained from the testing company. You can do an Internet search to find testing companies or check with your local homeschool support group.

College Entrance Exams
A specialized form of standardized testing is the college entrance exam. The most common are the SAT and ACT. There are also practice versions for each test (PSAT and PACT). Each college decides which test it will use as part of the application process. You can get information about and register for the college entrance exams directly through the college boards online (search for SAT or ACT).

Some colleges have their own entrance tests. You will need to make arrangements with the college to take the test at the pre-determined times.

Some states also have merit exams. These are used to ensure competency before graduation from the public school systems and for awarding state scholarships. The scholarships can only be used with that state’s universities and colleges. You will need to register with your state or local school system to take these exams.

State Tests
Some states require public school students to take curriculum assessments. These are state-wide tests that measure how well students are absorbing the specific curriculum used by the state or meeting the specific standards set by the state. Examples are the FCAT in Florida and the MEAP test in Michigan. The state may or may not require homeschool students to take these tests. Check with your state Department of Education or state-wide homeschool support group to find out.

KEY WORDS: tests, testing, exams, standardized tests, merit exams, assessments, evaluations, college entrance, ACT, SAT, required, requirements, regulations

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8 — How do I know what material must be learned for my child’s grade?

Short Answer
At this point in time, there is no set curriculum for each grade. Each state sets its own standards, and these tend to be general guidelines only. This means each publisher decides what is to be covered. If your state has specific subject requirements, they will be listed in the regulations. Otherwise, you can follow the sequence provided by the publisher. Or you can design your own.

Explanation
This question actually has to do with a specific philosophy of education known as essentialism. This view of education says that there is certain information, skills, and concepts that are essential; every person needs to know the material in order to be successful in life. You can find a number of books that attempt to describe what is essential or what your child needs to know.

The problem is that no one can know everything. Information is mushrooming faster than we can categorize it and search for it. Consequently, decisions have to be made as to what gets covered and what doesn’t. What material must be mastered and what material can be introduced but not mastered? In order to make these kinds of decisions, you have to make certain assumptions about what is important and vital. And that depends on the worldview of the individual author or publisher.

What you think is important may not be what the publisher thinks is important. For example, a major secular publisher has one page devoted to the war on the Pacific Front during World War II and one page devoted to the war on the Western Front. A Christian publisher devotes four pages on the Pacific Front and five pages on the Western Front. The text specifically explains that the detail is provided so that students understand the extent of sacrifices made and the amount of effort that went into fighting the war and maintaining our freedoms. That same secular publisher makes no mention of Thomas Edison, despite the number of inventions he produced that greatly impacted our society. Why is that?

The point here is that what is considered essential will vary depending on the worldview and the underlying assumptions of the author/publisher.

Most people would probably say there is a core of information that everyone must learn. Examples would be knowing how to read, knowing how to do basic math, having a basic understanding of how science works and the world around us, and having a basic understanding of the chronological flow of history. But how do you define “basic?” Does the child have to know the specific date that an event occurred, or is knowing the general timeframe sufficient? Are there some dates that must be memorized, while others don’t need to be? Hopefully you see the problem here.

Ultimately, you as the homeschooling parent must decide what your child needs to know and to what extent. There are tools available to guide you: the publisher’s scope and sequence, skills checklists, or books that attempt to define what needs to be known. Use these as guides only. And don’t panic if you haven’t covered a specific topic yet. I can tell you right now that you will not be able to teach your child everything he or she will need to know throughout life. There will always be some sort of gap somewhere. The key is to teach your child HOW to learn so that he or she can learn whatever is needed whenever it is needed.

Learning takes place in stages.
  • The first stage is to introduce the child to the skill or expose him or her to the topic under study. Most of the early elementary years are spent introducing the student to the basic skills.
  • The next stage is to let the child practice the skill or interact with the material in some way. Most of the upper elementary years are devoted to giving this sort of practice for the basic skills. The amount of practice needed will depend on the difficulty of the material, the child’s learning style, and the importance of the skill.
  • The last stage is mastering the material. Not all information has to be mastered; what needs to be mastered will depend on your approach to education, your goals, and the student’s needs and interests. Certain skills such as reading and arithmetic must be mastered. Most families recognize that a child needs to have a basic understanding of the other subjects in order to function well in society. Whether or not every detail in each textbook must be mastered is up to you.
Remember that what matters most is the child’s learning, not the grading. That’s why most families teach until the material is learned.

You may see the term Scope & Sequence used to describe a program or certain grade level. To put it simply, scope and sequence means what gets taught when. The scope tells you what topics are covered and the sequence tells you in what order those topics are covered. Publishers use a scope and sequence when they plan their textbooks. Some school systems do the same thing. State standards often reflect these plans.

But technically speaking, there is no one set scope and sequence. It varies with each publisher and each curriculum. One publisher may cover a topic in third grade while another publisher covers it in fourth grade.  Remember the exposure-practice-mastery process? That influences scope and sequence as skills and topics are covered across several years in order to provide the necessary practice. Most publishers spiral skills over a three-year span, covering the same topics over and over, but with more detail each time.

Certain subjects such as phonics or math are sequential – each skill is based on a previous skill. What is taught at what grade is pretty consistent from publisher to publisher. Other subjects such as history and science are topical – each topic can be studied on its own in whatever order you want. What is taught at what grade varies quite a bit from publisher to publisher.

Instead of thinking of specific grade level skills, think in terms of broad categories such as early elementary, upper elementary, intermediate and high school. Set your goals to have key skills practiced during certain years and mastered by a certain time if necessary.

KEY WORDS: standards, curriculum, guidelines, subject, learned, needs to know, must be learned, topics, material, grade level, essential, scope & sequence, scope and sequence, required, requirements, regulations

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9 — What qualifications do I need as the teacher? Do I need to be certified? Am I really able to teach my child?

Short Answer
For most states, the only qualification for the parent is a high school diploma. A few require a college degree. Any qualifications will be listed in the homeschool law or regulations. Check with your state’s De partment of Education or state-wide homeschool support group.

Several states allow someone other than the parent to teach the child at home (usually a grandparent or other relative); if the person is not a family member, then these states usually specify that the person be a certified teacher.


Explanation
The reason most states don’t require anything beyond a high school diploma is that they recognize that parents are teaching their children from the day they are born. It’s a part of parenting. So adding academic instruction to what is being taught is natural.

The reason you may be questioning your ability is because society as a whole has accepted the idea that only “professionals” can teach our children. The fact is, throughout history parents have been teaching their children successfully. Professional teachers really came into being as a result of compulsory education laws, and these laws were designed primarily to teach the influx of immigrant children whose parents were working in the factories. By the way, not every teacher in the public school system is certified!

So let me ask you this: Is your child walking? Is your child talking? Is your child potty-trained? Can your child get dressed in the morning? How did your child learn to do these things? Congratulations, you’re a teacher!

Teaching is primarily communication. When you teach, you build on the child’s natural curiosity and ability to learn by showing the child what needs to be done and then encouraging and working with the child to practice it. Before long, the skill is mastered. That’s the process.

As for the content, few of us actually remember everything we learned in school. If you don’t use it on a regular basis, it’s natural to forget it. In most cases, just reviewing it brings it back to your memory. If not, then you can relearn it as you work together with your children.

Now that homeschooling has become so prevalent, there are many more resources available, including comprehensive curriculum all the way through high school. If you are unsure about teaching a certain subject, then select a program that is all-inclusive and offers extensive teaching helps. Many high school programs are designed to be self-taught by the student; these publishers often include on-line helps or contacts for assistance.

In other words, the tools are available to help you teach your child. Linking up with a local homeschool support group is very helpful, not just for the information but for encouragement along the way. Many groups offer workshops that are similar to the in-service training that teachers receive through the schools.

Finally, most people would accept the idea that whenever a person receives one-on-one instruction, it is more effective. What your child will get by having individualized attention and curriculum designed specifically to meet his or her needs will more than compensate for any lack of professional training on your part. Of course, this assumes that you are actively involved in training your child.

KEY WORDS: qualification, teach, teacher, teaching, certificate, certified, professional, required, requirements, regulations

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10 — How do I know which curriculum to choose?

Short Answer
Since there is no set way to educate a child and there is no set way to homeschool, there is no set curriculum. There are a variety of curriculum types and formats, and each of these has its strengths and weaknesses. The different types fit different situations and conditions. The key is to choose whatever materials fit your educational goals and your child’s learning style.

Explanation
There are a variety of curriculum types available.
  • On one end of the continuum are the structured curriculum programs. These use standard textbooks or workbooks with daily lessons and student exercises. They offer extensive teacher guides that give learning objectives, scripted lessons, teaching tips, and the answers to the exercises. Most also offer structured tests and test answer keys. They require little planning, but they tend to be “one size fits all.” There is less flexibility. They tend to be more expensive because they include so much material and are comprehensive.
  • At the other end of the continuum are real books or “living books” and real-life experiences. Living books are books that are written by someone who is passionate about the topic. Hopefully that passion comes through the book and excites the reader more than a dry textbook written by a committee. The topic comes alive to the student. Obviously, there is no structure here. No tests. No study guides. It’s a much more relaxed form of homeschooling. It is very flexible, but it requires a lot of planning.
  • In between these two are all sorts of variations. There are structured programs that use less intensive workbooks. There are “real book” programs that incorporate study guides to evaluate learning. There are hands-on kits and activity books that can supplement the real books or guide learning through exploration. Which method you choose will depend on your view of education, your family’s educational goals, and your child’s learning style.
Finding the Perfect Curriculum
There is no perfect curriculum. What works for one family may not work for your family. And you don’t have to use the same program for every subject. You can draw from a variety of programs, publishers, resources, and activities. That’s why it is important to spend some time researching what is available, rather than just picking a curriculum by price or name only.

There are many curriculum providers and the choices can be overwhelming. Be sure you know who you are buying from. Not all providers are equal!

KEY WORDS: curriculum, program, textbook, material, class, course, choose, buy, select

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11 — How do I keep track of our homeschooling? What about record-keeping? What records do I need to keep?

Short Answer
It depends on your state’s regulations. Some states specify the types of records that must be kept, including attendance; some even have forms that must be completed. These can be obtained from your state’s Department of Education or state-wide homeschool support group.

Explanation
If your state does not mandate specific records, you will still want to keep track of what you have done. Your records can help you track progress, show improvement, and identify areas that still need work. They are a precautionary measure in case there are any questions or complications. Some sort of records will be needed to document the student’s work and for placement purposes should you ever need to put your child back into a group classroom situation.

As the homeschooling parent, you are responsible for keeping adequate records.
  • At the very least, you should keep a listing of the curriculum you use, with complete bibliographical information such as title, author, publisher, and copyright date.
  • You will want to keep a record of the activities done each week; this can be in the form of daily or weekly lesson plans or a journal.
  • Keep all tests, projects, and lab reports. Most families keep a portfolio that contains a sampling of the student’s work, including writing assignments. A simple way to collect this information is to have a file drawer, file crate, or file box for each student, with a folder for each subject.
  • Most families have a way to keep track of progress (grading system), whether with formal grades or informal evaluations of goals and objectives.
KEY WORDS: records, record-keeping, keep, kept, report, grades, track, required, requirements, regulations
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