Homeschooling For Dummies
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So you're thinking about leaping into homeschooling. The excitement of a new life decision always brings some jitters with it. Although the idea of homeschooling intrigues you, a few questions may still nag at the back of your mind. For one thing, what exactly does an adventure like this involve? When is the best time to begin?

Reasons to choose homeschooling

Why do you want to homeschool? What propels you in this decision to alter your lifestyle so drastically from that of your neighbors? People have as many reasons to homeschool their children as there are homeschoolers.

Ensuring educational excellence

Perhaps you aren't entirely sure that your child is getting what she needs at the local school. Maybe you watch her bring home page after page of review material that you know she mastered some time last year. She may tell tales of how boring school is, what little she learns, or the last time she corrected the teacher.

Does this mean your school system is awful? Nope. It simply means that your child happens to be beyond whatever the classroom is currently covering — even if her class is at her "correct" grade level. Look at it this way: Even the best introduction to a biology course bores someone with a doctorate in biology. It may be a good course, but the successful doctoral candidate took that class long ago and now thinks far beyond its introductory limitations.

Many parents decide to homeschool for educational excellence. They see a difference between the best private schools in their community and the public schools their children attend, and they bring their children home in an effort to bridge that gap. You can homeschool for much less than the $3,000 per year (a conservative figure) that a good private school costs, and the result can be much the same if you follow the classical curriculums most prep schools cover.

Meeting your child's special needs

Sometimes the school system simply fails to meet your child's needs. If your child slips through the cracks and misses too much information, he falls farther and farther behind. Before you know it, the school wants him to undertake remedial work in an effort to make up lost time.

This situation is so frustrating for parents! You send them to school in the hope that the establishment will teach them what they need to know. By the time you find out there's a problem, though, it may be months after the issue reaches an almost critical stage.

Bringing a child like this home rescues him from the condemnation he feels at school. This alone often relieves enough stress so that your child can concentrate and make up the work with a patient parent sitting alongside. It's not unusual for a parent and student to wing through one to two years' worth of lessons in a school year and catch the student up to his current grade level.

If you rescue your child from an emotionally stressful or failure-ridden school year, he may need some time to unwind and get used to his new daily surroundings. Your best bet is to relax, take it slow, and give him some time. Think of it this way: If you bring him home in December and only get a couple months' of quality learning in before the end of the year, that's two more months than he was going to get in the classroom, right?

Retaining religious convictions

If your child's new language and altered values horrify you, and you see them in direct opposition to what you carefully teach at home, you certainly aren't alone. Parents of all faiths are pulling their children out of the public schools to teach them at home, precisely because they want those early foundations to stay solid. It's hard to compete when your child stays away from you for six hours a day. Bringing them home to school allows you to gently reintroduce and reinforce those values and traditions that guide your life.

Homeschooling your child for religious reasons gives you several options. You can

  • Locate tradition-specific curriculum. You may even be able to find a complete curriculum from science to history tailored to your particular belief system.
  • Incorporate religious instruction into your day as part of your class structure. Use religious or secular materials for all subjects as you choose. If you select secular books, this means tacking an additional subject — religion — onto your day along with your state's requirements, but if you homeschool your children for religious reasons this won't be a big deal to you.

Accommodating family lifestyle

Sometimes lifestyle itself dictates a need to homeschool. If you work at odd times of the year and find yourself free and sitting at home alone while your children sit through classes wishing they were with you, you may find homeschool a great timesaver in the long run. It allows you to pursue family activities, such as vacations and hobbies, when work is light or concentrate your teaching time during off months and give the children a vacation while you're occupied.

Parents who follow other than nine-to-five jobs that incorporate much travel, public appearances, or endless conferences may want to look at homeschooling as an option. It gives you the chance to spend time with your children no matter where you are. When you travel, the children can go with you whenever you set out and take their schoolwork along.

Determining what's best for your family

Okay, so you decide that homeschooling will be best for your family with child number one. What about child number two? Does it follow that you'll reach the same educational conclusions?

Not really. Even within a family, each child is completely different. What's best for one may not be best for all or even most. When you look at your family as a unit, you may find that the answers for each child differ. But that's okay.

You're looking for the optimal solution for your own family. Although it may seem strange, sometimes what's best actually means homeschooling one or two children and sending the rest to public or private school. That way, everybody's needs get met.

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