With reports of more parents making the decision to remove their children from traditional school environments to homeschool them instead, many veterans of home education are willing to offer their tips, suggestions, and responses to the question: How do I homeschool my children?
As Breitbart News reported last month, concern over the Common Core standards appears to be further accelerating the decision for many parents to homeschool their children. States such as North Carolina, Virginia, California, and New York are all reporting upticks in the number of children homeschooled since the controversial standards have been implemented.
In 2012, the number of homeschooled children in the United States was estimated to be nearly two million.
“The number has risen steadily over the past 13 years,” attorney William Estrada, Director of Federal Relations for the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), told Breitbart News. “Anecdotally, new homeschoolers are pulling out of public schools more recently due to Common Core.”
Avoiding the Common Core standards, however, is not the only reason to homeschool, he says.
“The biggest benefit is you get to tailor the education to your child,” said Estrada, who himself was homeschooled. “You as a parent know what’s best for your child and what they need educationally. Just because classroom teachers have training doesn’t mean you can’t do a great job, because you know your kids best.”
Estrada cites as another top benefit of homeschooling that learning can happen at any time.
“Anything can become a teachable moment, and learning is not restricted to six hours in a classroom,” he said, quoting William Butler Yeats: “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
Regarding the recent reports of spikes in the numbers of children homeschooled due to Common Core, Estrada said, “Any standardization, even if it’s not Common Core, will minimize individual differences. And that’s why parents homeschool, to provide their children with that unique learning experience that is tailored to them specifically.”
For parents considering homeschooling and wondering, “Is it legal?” Estrada responds that homeschooling is legal everywhere in the United States. He recommends that new homeschooling parents check out the HSLDA website on state homeschooling laws for more specific information about individual states.
“As late as 1983, homeschooling was illegal in about half the states,” he noted. “But we’ve seen an increase in freedom over the years. It’s hard to argue with success.”
“Homeschoolers have also protected their parental rights with great vigilance,” he observed. “HSLDA has grown to meet the needs of homeschooling parents throughout the world.”
Estrada pointed out that such vigilance is necessary, because even in a Western nation like Germany, homeschooling is essentially illegal.
How can parents who would like to homeschool their children take that step forward?
Estrada explained that at HSLDA, parents can obtain a free copy of You Can Homeschool, a resource that answers questions about homeschooling. The website also provides research information about home education, including statistics and studies so that parents can make informed decisions.
HSLDA also provides more practical information on its website about homeschooling at different grade levels, various courses and curricula, and homeschooling children with special needs.
For new home educators considering curriculum, Tina Hollenbeck, who homeschools in Wisconsin, shares her website, The Homeschool Resource Roadmap, which provides summative information about more than 2,300 homeschool-oriented resources.
“But I actually highly recommend people read Cathy Duffy’s book, 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, to get an idea of their children’s learning styles, and then use what they learn from Cathy’s book in conjunction with my website, especially if they are interested in avoiding Common Core material,” Hollenbeck told Breitbart News.
“Along with that, they should make an effort to get to know other homeschooling parents near them – many communities have homeschool associations – and to join virtual homeschool groups as well,” she advised. “It’s most important to make connections with veteran homeschoolers because they have already walked a great deal down the road and, thus, can provide insight and advice from ‘in the trenches.’”
In contrast, Hollenbeck does not recommend seeking advice from public school officials.
“Administrators, teachers, school secretaries – no matter how kind and well-meaning they might be,” she said, “but that’s like asking someone in China to help one navigate the roads in Peru; they just cannot provide useful, relevant information.”
Hollenbeck said the biggest obstacle to parents who are anxious about homeschooling their children is a lack of confidence.
“Parents dismiss the conviction because they feel they don’t have what it takes and fear they’ll irreparably harm their children because they are not ‘professional educators,’” she said. “However, that is a lie they need to choose to ignore. The fact of the matter is that anyone can homeschool.”
“Statistics show that homeschoolers do very well, academically and socially, and that the parents’ income or educational background have no bearing on the results,” Hollenbeck continued. “And the reason for that is simple: a parent who is taking her parenting so seriously as to consider homeschooling is the person who has the most vested interest in the success of the child.”
Hollenbeck also observed that some parents are hesitant to homeschool their children due to fear that relatives, neighbors, and even a pastor might be critical about the decision.
“The simple fact of the matter is that no one beyond the child’s own mother and father have the authority to influence that decision,” she asserted. “Simply put, it’s no one else’s business. Yes, we want the approval of those we love and respect… but we don’t need it to proceed.. .and we should not feel the need to convince others of the value of homeschooling before we begin.”
Homeschooling veteran Ellen Gerwitz told Breitbart News that she and her husband graduated all three of their children from homeschooling. Now ages 25, 24, and 20, the oldest two are married, and Ellen and her husband have one grandchild.
“We homeschooled from kindergarten to 12th grade with each child and led a homeschooling support group along the way for many years,” Gerwitz explained, and shared both her website and her Facebook page.
“The benefits from homeschooling have been numerous,” she continued. “Among the top ones are children who are independent thinkers and have not been indoctrinated by the concept of institutional education; close family ties; individualized instruction; self-motivation; time management skills; and more free time for hobbies and part-time jobs as well as community/church service.”
“The biggest recommendation I have for new homeschooling parents is to avoid re-creating the model of institutionalized education in one’s home,” Gerwitz advised. “This goes far beyond just creating a room with desks to do schoolwork in. For far too long homeschooling parents have been trying to educate their children using the same methods/materials used in institutionalized educational establishments.”
When one knows the true agenda behind that model of education – controlling how society thinks and pushing it towards control by the elite – one should realize that homeschooling a child is about producing a freedom-loving, responsible, independent citizen who can think and reason. It is not about scoring higher than institutionalized students on tests or getting into colleges, which, quite frankly abound in the same elitist mentality we now find coming out into the open in our children’s schools.
Nikki Warren, a home educator from Illinois, told Breitbart News she began homeschooling her children because she was unhappy with the “attitudes” they were picking up from classmates in public school.
“I was most unhappy about my five-year-old daughter, in kindergarten, coming home asking for make-up and eyebrow waxings because that was what the ‘cool kids’ in the class were doing,” Warren said.
“In addition, there was the stress of my first grader not being fast enough in solving a huge amount of math problems on the computer in a short period of time,” she recalled. “He was seconds off from that goal and it stressed him out so much so that to this day he still has issues with being timed.”
“As soon as we made the decision to homeschool, I immediately found a local group, took the kids to visit the group before pulling them out of school so they would know they would have other friends,” Warren continued. “Today, seven years later, the kids have friends, enjoy activities with the homeschool group, classes, field trips, etc. They’ve also participated in swimming, soccer, scouts, and chorus.”
“It is a misconception that homeschoolers will lack social activities and interact with children their age, when in truth there are many social opportunities via homeschool groups and other activities outside of school,” she asserted.
Naomi Riall, a homeschooling parent from North Carolina, addressed the common worry among parents considering home education that their children will “miss out” on events and functions found in traditional academic settings.
“I guess you could say my kids are missing out. They are missing out on drugs, sex, Common Core, insane testing schedules, eight-hour days, bus rides or carpool schedules, bullies, fundraisers, being bored because they are ahead or being frustrated because they are behind and there’s not enough time for the teacher to really help them,” Riall told Breitbart News. “They are also missing out on the hours of homework. We finish school by lunchtime, which includes playtime and breaks, and then we are done for the day. No homework.”
“I was worried in the beginning that I would miss teaching some important piece of information and was a little nervous about my ability to teach everything,” she recalled. “When I realized that I didn’t have to teach Calculus and Chemistry in pre-K levels or kindergarten, I relaxed.”
Riall said that after doing some research, she realized that her pre-K daughter already knew almost all of the things kindergartners were supposed to know and more.
“My daughter is now in 2nd grade – a year ahead of age-graded level – and I’ve relaxed over the past few years,” she said. “There are so many options and plenty of resources and support online if not locally. More importantly than bookwork, my children get to have real life experience.”
“A trip to the grocery store has the potential for real life math skills, learning appropriate ways to interact – aka “socialization” – with people of all ages, learning the virtue of patience, and budgeting skills just to name a few,” Riall explained.
“It takes homeschoolers about one hour to accomplish what can take six hours in a public school. We have the freedom to spend a day at the museums nearby, and there is so much learning that happens there,” she added.
“Best of all, I really love that I can go at each kid’s pace,” Riall said. “We can speed through parts of the math book she understands easily, but we can also take however much time we need if she struggles with a concept.”
“And I don’t have to know everything because other homeschooling parents help me with teaching strategies,” she added.
“But really, homeschooling is about raising your kids in a different environment,” Riall reflected. “And the best part is seeing that spark of discovery, when it clicks for them, and they get it. Those moments when your family and friends are impressed by what she’s learning and you realize it wasn’t some teacher – it was you!”