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What Is Homeschooling
Last Revised: January 7, 2009
Someone said to me the other day,
ďI hear a lot of different terms used for homeschooling. Iím confused.
What exactly is it?Ē

If your would like to hear our Audio Version of the "Short Answer" for "What is Homeschooling," please click here.

If your would like to hear our Audio Version of the "Explanation" for "What is Homeschooling," please click here.

Short Answer
The traditional definition of homeschooling is that the parents teach the child in the home, providing whatever instruction is needed to train the child. The parents decide what subjects will be covered, the approach to be taken, the curriculum to be used, and how progress will be evaluated. The parents do the teaching and are responsible for all records, grading, testing, transcripts, and diploma.

The confusion comes because the traditional definition has become blurred, especially during the last few years - partly because parents are exploring different ways to provide instruction, and partly because private educators and public school systems do not want to lose the students and corresponding funding to traditional homeschooling.

All sorts of alternatives exist, including co-ops, enrichment classes, drop-off classes, tutoring programs, dual enrollment, charter schools, satellite schools, courses offered by the public school system in the home, on-line courses, homeschool umbrella organizations, homeschool programs connected to private academies, and correspondence courses. To add to the confusion, some public school systems allow students to attend several schools throughout the day, calling the school where the student first reports to class or homeroom as the home school.

The extent to which these alternatives can be classified as homeschooling in the traditional sense of the word is debatable. To state the obvious, the key component of homeschooling is the home. Yet many of these options take place elsewhere, with the teaching done by someone other than the parents.

In response, some people have redefined homeschooling as the parents taking the primary responsibility for their childrenís education. Period. The parents still make the decisions and direct the instruction, but they donít necessarily do the teaching, and the bulk of the studentís learning may happen outside the home.

Thatís the definition. Now the practical stuff.

Many people think homeschooling is just doing school at home. It can be. But it can be so much more. If you think of homeschooling in this way, then you tend to recreate the classroom in your house, complete with a student desk, chalkboard or whiteboard, textbooks, book reports, and tests. Maybe even a pop quiz!

When I say the word school, what comes to mind? Probably a classroom with a group of students sitting in rows of desks being taught by a teacher. Thatís because this is what most of us are familiar with; itís how we were schooled. The teacher gives a lecture, possibly using some visuals. Then the students do some pages from a workbook or textbook to learn the material. Eventually, they take a test or write a report to show what theyíve learned. The teacher grades the test and gives the student a report card at the end of the marking period.

This group classroom approach works for about one quarter of the students. Another one quarter can get by. That leaves half of the students trying to learn in a way that doesnít work well for them. Plus, one person teaching a group of students is not very efficient. A lot of time is spent just managing the group, not to mention the paperwork involved.

Needless to say, recreating school at home probably isnít the best approach. So what do you do? The first step is to change your thinking. Donít think of homeschooling as school at home, but creating an atmosphere in which learning can take place. And donít think of learning as just academics. Think of it as training a child to be a successful adult. Obviously academics are included, but so are life skills, character training, values, discipline, physical training, appreciating the arts, relationships, thinking skills, and spiritual development.

Itís helpful to think of homeschooling as a lifestyle Ė a lifestyle that builds on a childís natural curiosity and ability to learn.

One of the major advantages of homeschooling is the flexibility it offers.
  • You can adjust your educational program to fit your childís needs.
  • You can develop skills in specific talents and interests.
  • You can work on weak areas while building on your childís strengths.
  • You can use real books instead of just textbooks.
  • You can explore the world around you directly without the hassles of a group field trip!
  • Your child can learn by doing in a way that wonít disrupt the rest of the class.
  • You can spend more time on a skill, teaching it until your child learns it.
  • If thereís a topic that interests your child, you can spend more time on it, delving into it more deeply.
  • You can tie subjects together in a way that makes more sense than studying each subject separately.
In other words, thereís lots of different ways to learn. And part of the joy - and challenge - of homeschooling is learning what works best for your child and your family.

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