Why We Homeschool
All good parents homeschool their children. Some do it full time. Some do it part time in partnership with professional educators. And some do it while their kids are on break from traditional schools. If you teach your children at all, you homeschool.
Homeschoolers cut across all segments of the population. Although the movement is indisputably largest in the United States (reliable research puts the number of American homeschooled children at 1.5 million, or 1 to 2 percent of school-age children), Canadians, Europeans, and thousands of expatriated North American families in the military, in missionary service, in business, and in the civil service are also embracing homeschooling.
Homeschoolers advocate dozens of educational philosophies, ranging from strict school-at-home programs to militant unschooling. There are parents who have homeschooled from birth, parents who enroll their children in supplemental classes, and parents who embrace public or private school and supplement it with their own after- school and weekend programs.
While the homeschooling movement is often perceived as conservative in nature, a sizable number of homeschoolers are adamantly liberal. Homeschoolers cover the range of human experience. They include self- avowed "hippies," rural farm families, gay couples, single parents, grandparents, stepparents, and kindly aunts.
Some families homeschool in small church or neighborhood "co-ops," some are affiliated with charter or private schools, and some go it alone. Some homeschooling families are devoutly religious; some have no religious affiliation at all. The homeschooling community embraces Pagans and Catholics, Baha'is and Mormons, Buddhists and Sikhs, Jehovah's Witnesses and Protestant Christians, Hindus and serious atheists, Muslims and Jews.
Parents homeschool because their children are gifted, learning disabled, behavior disordered or easily overlooked, hyperactive, or just plain bored. Some parents homeschool because they feel undermined or unsafe. Most parents homeschool for smaller classes, individual attention, and customized curriculum. And most of all, parents homeschool their kids because they simply want to. Because they're good parents, and they believe it's the best thing for their children.
No matter how-or why-you homeschool, you're welcome here. And congratulations on choosing to teach your children both economically and intelligently.
Intelligently? Absolutely. In choosing this book, you're gaining access to thousands of resources that make up the best and most current information available anywhere. No stodgy, fifteen-year-old, out-of-date textbooks for your kids. By choosing to homeschool your child for free, you're also choosing to homeschool your child for now. For the world your child lives in today, rather than the world that existed in 1996, when many of her friends' out-of-date social studies and science textbooks were written. If you use this book properly, you'll also teach your sons and daughters how to find their independent way around modern technology to do the kind of research and study that will make them successful in college and the business world.
By making wise, intelligent, frequent use of the Internet, you're teaching your children two things: one, that there are answers to all their questions, and two, that those answers are within their grasp. You'll teach them how to find information, how to work efficiently, how to avoid time-wasting dead ends, and how to focus on their educational goals. Do we guarantee that this book will make your child smarter? Yes, we do. Will your child be better off if he's homeschooled? Of course. Is homeschooling the answer to all your problems? Well . . .
Here's how it works. If you haven't yet been on the Internet, it's time to start. Visit your community library, recreation center, or YMCA and ask for assistance. In most North American locations, community Internet access is available for free. And you can get help from the librarian, the neighborhood computer geek, or a friendly family member. Ask your Designated Tutor to teach you two skills: surfing the Web and using email.
Once you know what you're doing, save yourself the headache of living at the library and get online at home. Bet you can do it for free! Here's how: There's someone in your neighborhood, congregation, or family who has an unused computer. (Our own family has to find a home for one of our old computers every year or so, as we upgrade the clunker for something more current.) Put the word out that you're looking for a PC, and offer to barter child care or some other skill in exchange for that computer. To our family, taking the computer off our hands and putting it to good use would be payment enough. Your cost may vary.
If you have your own computer, it's not hard to get online for free. Here are some options:
Ten hours of free online time each month and a 1G e-mail account. Access from all fifty U.S. states. It's advertising-supported, which slows down access somewhat.
Offers ten hours of free access each month. It works in fifty U.S. states. Like Juno, it's advertising-supported
Free Internet Access Providers emailaddresses.com/email_internet.htm
Here you can find free ISPs around the world, including several regional U.S. providers. You'll also find reviews and listings for other free services.
Readers with laptop computers have even better options. Free high- speed wireless Internet access is available in nearly every community in North America, and most cities around the world. Here's how to find a nearby wi-fi hotspot:
WiFi Hotspot List wi-fihotspotlist.com
A directory of public hotspots for wireless Internet access. Type in an address, and the site searches for the nearest wi-fi point.
WiFi FreeSpot wififreespot.com
Another directory of public hotspots. This one is organized by U.S. state, and lists only those spots that provide free Internet access.
Whether or you have your own Internet access or not, you can get free e-mail from any connected computer. The advantage of using web-based email is that you can check your mail from any computer. Hundreds of organizations provide free web-based email accounts; these sites are my personal favorites. Visit one to set up your own free account:
E-mail server with organizational tools. Calendar, homepage builder, greeting cards, and more. Easy sign up, easy to use.
Relatively clean interface, good spam filters. Hugely popular.
Absolute favorite. Easy signup, an incredible thirty gigs of online storage, spam filtering, easy-to-remember domain name. Plus, it's relatively unknown, so whatever name you want is probably available.
Lycos Mail lycosmail.com
Cleanest interface, relatively unknown, easy sign up. Stores up to 3G of email and attachments. Also provides voice mail and instant messaging services
To make good use of all the free resources in the book, you'll also need good software. Until recently, free software consisted mostly of single-purpose shareware utilities that provided pop-up clocks and calendars, or fixed your non-working mouse. Today, though, free software has grown up. Full suites of software are available in two formats: online and downloadable. You choose.
Google Docs docs.google.com
Everyone's talking about Google Docs. There's a reason Microsoft wanted to buy the company. Docs includes a web-based word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation tool, with more to come.
Thinkfree is the least known of the three major online suites, but it claims to have the best integration with Microsoft products. The interfaces will be more familiar to Office users.
An entire suite of business software, free, online, ready to go. Word processor, spreadsheet, database . . . it's all there. And more. How do they do this without charging?
Open Office openoffice.org
Downloadable suite of software that runs on almost any platform, including Macintosh, and is comparable to Microsoft Office. It includes word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases, and more.
Word processor, database, spreadsheet, presentation, and drawing suite. Free to students and faculty. Runs on Windows, Linux, or Solaris platforms.
Lotus Symphony symphony.lotus.com
The third of the three major downloadable suites. Includes a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation application.
Now you're set to Homeschool Your Child For Free! This book focuses on four main areas. Chapters 2 and 3 give you the lowdown on homeschooling. In chapter 2, you'll find solutions to all kinds of homeschooling issues. Chapter 3 helps you pull together a full homeschool curriculum, from preschool through pre-college. Chapters 4 through 6 examine the essentials of education: readin', writin', and 'rithmetic. Chapters 7 through 11 provide a full liberal-arts education: art, history, music, social studies, and humanities. In the subsequent two chapters, 12 and 13, you'll find the hard sciences. Finally, we offer graduation guidance: a chapter on college admissions, careers, and independent living/home economics. From cradle to adulthood, your child will be homeschooled for free! Want more? The following resources are associated with this book, and will supplement and update the material you're holding in your hands. As long as this edition is in print, these resources will be available to you:
Homeschool Your Child for Free! hsfree.com
The largest homeschool database on the Net. Thousands of sites- reviewed, rated, and updated regularly. As an owner of the most current edition of this book, you can register for access to the site, submit your own resources, search for help, participate in the Homeschool for Free discussion area, and locate additional resources.
Homeschool Reviews tinyurl.com/hsreviews
The mailing list for homeschooling using free curriculum and educational resources. Members who contribute to the list may be eligible to win a free copy of the next edition of Homeschool Your Child for Free!
Homeschooling Step-by-Step homeschoolsteps.com
The companion book to Homeschool Your Child for Free. Topics we touch on briefly in this survey of free homeschooling resources are covered in-depth in Homeschooling Step-by-Step. How to run the legal gauntlet, the finances of single-income homeschooling, creating your own curriculum materials, and developing a learning environment, along with scores of approaches to and philosophies of homeschooling that will exactly meet your family's needs at every stage of your homeschooling experience.
There are two kinds of homeschooling families: those who approach it as a right and a duty, and those who come to homeschooling out of necessity or out of frustration with the alternatives.
Because of the great support available through publications, homeschool groups, and most of all, the Internet, it doesn't take long for those in the second category to convert to the first. And the successes their children experience in homeschool keep them coming back for more.
Joey Easley, a homeschooled teen from Gig Harbor, Washington, is an example of the success of homeschooling. Joey was homeschooled for the final nine years of his primary and secondary education and then went on to attend a local community college. This is Joey's take on the homeschooling experience: "Homeschooling has been great for me. Now that I am going to a community college I have been able to understand better the ups and downs of homeschooling. Probably the biggest plus for me was going at my own pace. Having to sit through sometimes weeks of class learning stuff I already knew was very frustrating. Then again, sometimes the class got going too fast and I got left behind. Another reason I think homeschooling is so great is that it is more focused on just learning, and not on finding out how much you already know.
"The downside, of course, is the social aspect. I have been very blessed because I have so many friends who were homeschooled. If we did our work fast enough, we could get done at noon and play the rest of the day. We also have homeschool sports clubs in which I played soccer and basketball; I also have friends who played varsity sports at the local high school. So I was not lacking at all in my social interactions.
"I think homeschooling gives me the advantage over public-schoolers because I can focus more on the things that I think (actually, my mother usually makes the decisions) would be the most useful in my life, and I get to skip things that might be useful for others but have no relevance to me."
This chapter is your initiation into homeschool. In the next chapter of this book you'll begin building a curriculum and learn about various homeschooling philosophies; in subsequent chapters, you'll find resources for every academic area you'll encounter as a homeschooler.
In this chapter, though, you'll begin your homeschool journey by learning about some of the most important issues facing homeschoolers, and finding supportive answers for your questions and dilemmas. We start with a discussion of Internet safety. We then introduce some useful teaching skills, and discuss ways to motivate reluctant homeschoolers. The subsequent sections of this chapter cover homeschooling difficulties, legal issues, standardized testing, socialization, and three kinds of support: real-life support groups, email lists, and various sorts of electronic "boards."
First, though, an introduction to homeschooling. These resources introduce homeschooling, explain its appeal, and show you how to get started. Bon voyage!
10 Steps to Achieving Your Goals lifeexcellence.com/workshop.htm
A strategy for setting and achieving goals. It's a good framework for developing your own life plan.
Active Learning Practices for Schools (ALPS) learnweb.harvard.edu/ alps/home
A Harvard University resource that will help you determine your own educational philosophies and implement them in your teaching.
Are You Considering Homeschooling? whywehomeschool.com/hsconsider.htm
A ten-step action plan for getting started as a homeschooler. Christian oriented.
Commonly Asked Questions About Homeschooling elainemcewan.com/hscaq.htm
An excellent list of advantages of homeschooling, along with a list of drawbacks and solutions.
Determining Your Educational Philosophy angelfire.com/al3/ merchandise/determine.html
Despite the misleading title, this article classifies homeschoolers into four groups, and suggests parents should approach homeschooling based on their family's convictions, values, and needs.
Develop a Strategy for Successful Homeschooling crosswalk.com/ homeschool
One of many channels on the Christian web portal Crosswalk. The homeschooling channel sponsors an active discussion forum and publishes well-done articles on teaching from home.
Goal Setting mindtools.com/page6.html
Six succinct articles on goal setting, including one on why you should even bother setting goals. Consider doing an entire unit study on goal setting, making this your starting point for learning.
Each day, find another review of the "Best of the 'Net." Greenlance tracks family-friendly resources that are made to benefit grown-ups. The site reviews many educational resources; just as many resources for responsible parents and competent adults who need to run a home and family. If the writing seems familiar, perhaps it's because the site belongs to yours truly. If a site interests this homeschooling mom, it'll probably interest you, too.
Homeschool FAQs tinyurl.com/hsfaqs
Frequently asked questions about homeschooling. It's brimming with good advice for newbies and for everyone else.
Homeschool Issues & Concerns homeschooloasis.com/article_chart.htm
Visit the Homeschool Issues and Concerns link first. One article documents the regrets of a family that didn't homeschool. What they learned, and why they wouldn't do the same thing again. Another about eight motivations for homeschooling. Much to contemplate in this list of questions.
Homeschool Journal dot Net homeschooljournal.net
Click the Member Directory link for access to an overwhelming number of homeschooling blogs-online journals where homeschool families report their journeys. You'll want to bookmark this one.
How Do We Get Started in Home Schooling? tinyurl.com/hsstart
Six steps to effective Christian homeschooling. This is a formal approach that includes membership in a national organization and keeping a clean home.
School Choices schoolchoices.org
Here's the research that demonstrates that school choice works, and that private education is more effective than public. Lots of articles, essays, and information on getting politically active in protecting your right to homeschool.
The Ten Most Important Things Homeschooling homeschool.com/articles/ mostimportant
Elizabeth Kanna responds to ten common concerns about homeschooling. An inspirational list.
Excerpted from Homeschool Your Child for Free by LauraMaery Gold and Joan M. Zielinski. Copyright © 2009 by LauraMaery Gold. Excerpted by permission of Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.