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Things To Know For Beginning Homeschooling

You may be reading this article because you have some questions about homeschooling. Who are the people who homeschool and why do they do it? If I want to homeschool, how do I get started? What about socialization? Is homeschooling legal? How can I pull my children out of school? Am I really qualified to teach my own children? What about the teenage years? Will my children be prepared for and admitted to a good college? Homeschoolers today form a diverse population, cutting across most, if not all, ethnic, religious, political, and economic backgrounds. Wherever they come from, these families work with what is available to them, finding or creating resources that assist in their homeschooling endeavors and meet their individual needs and aspirations. Families living in rural areas, for example, surrounded by acres of land where their children can enjoy the space to discover and interact with nature and thus develop a sense of independence and self-sufficiency, have been as successful at homeschooling as families living in the suburbs, who may take advantage of scouting, sports programs, 4-H clubs, or the many varied classes in their areas. Families living in cities may look to the many nearby museums, cultural centers, and libraries as resources that can help them to raise interested, thriving children.

Some families take advantage of the freedom that homeschooling offers and travel across the country or elsewhere, finding their lessons in the varied landscapes and opportunities of each location. Most of us who homeschool have found that we do not need to have a lot of money to be successful homeschoolers. Indeed, some of us sacrifice an income so that one parent, usually the mother, but sometimes the father, can be home with the children; others find creative means to educate and care for their children while both parents pursue careers. Some of us operate cottage industries from home, allowing the children to learn by doing, whereas others arrange to work from home while employed. Some homeschooling families have only one parent, and some live in extended or blended families. Many homeschoolers find support and inspiration in local, "inclusive" support groups, open to anyone with an interest in homeschooling.

Local support group members might hold regular park days and organize field trips, classes, or other activities. Some families have special interests and thus enjoy support groups that help them grow in a particular area. Today, homeschooling support groups also exist for people of various ethnic and religious groups. Single parents and parents of children with special needs will also find homeschooling groups willing to help them, as will those with varied educational philosophies, deschoolers, unschoolers, and those who favor more structured approaches.

Families make the decision to homeschool out of a strong commitment to their children. We may have removed our children from schools, unhappy that our children's needs and interests were not adequately met. Parents who view living and learning as a holistic process tend to proclaim, "We've homeschooled since birth!" Some of us make the decision to homeschool based on our desire to nurture strong family relationships.

Some of us may be confident from the beginning that we can do better than public schools; others may be less confident, but willing to take the risk. Some homeschooling parents are themselves educators or former PTA leaders, but many successful homeschooling parents have no special credentials at all, other than a concern that their children be allowed to develop to their fullest potentials, in whatever forms those potentials might take. Once they decide to homeschool, most families find that they have embarked upon a truly exciting and ultimately rewarding adventure. Like many other homeschooling parents, you yourself might have the sensation that life has slowed down, and that all of you in your family have more time to spend with one another. Not uncommonly, children who have attended school need to have some time to "deschool"; they undergo a transitional period in which they gradually discover their own rhythms and interests.

At first, you might feel that your day needs structure. Drawing upon your own memories of school, you might try to hold school at home. However, as your family relaxes into the natural rhythm of life, you probably will learn to trust your children, and yourself, as you begin to recognize your children's natural aptitudes and curiosity. You might come to realize that children don't have to be rewarded to learn, for learning is, itself, rewarding. As you listen to your children and encourage them to pursue their interests, you might come to see that the boundaries between learning and not-learning are artificial.

Joyce Jackson is an educational expert and consultant in northern California. For her latest book and information see Homeschooling Easy.

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