*What You Need To Know To Home School Your Child(ren)*
By: Kachina
18 August 2007

People who home school their children do so for many different reasons. If faced with the need to home school your child would you be ready? It is our hopes that this part of the Rubicon Pandemic Plan will answer your questions and get you on your way to preparing to home school, while at the same time feeling good about what you are doing. First and foremost, relax. Not everyone home schools for the same reason and no one has a “perfect” way of home schooling. What works for some may not work for others. Here is a list of frequently asked questions and answers, regarding home schooling:

What is home schooling? Home schooling is when a parent takes full responsibility for providing education for their child. For many home schoolers, this means being taught at home. For others, it means learning at a cooperative school, or even learning from several places all at once. Some attend public school for some subjects - or even just go there for lunch to visit with their friends. Each program is unique to the child, and is decided upon by the parent.

Can I home school? Are you a concerned parent? Are you capable of providing a letter once a year to the state, notifying them of your intent to home school? Can you arrange to have your child evaluated once a year? Yes? Great...you can home school!

Do I have to be a certified teacher, or become accredited in any way? No. All you have to be is a concerned parent, willing to take on the responsibility of providing your child's education.

How do I start? You likely already have! You were your child's first teacher, and already have what it takes for your child to learn. Legally, all you need to do is notify your district of your intent to home school, and spend some time with your child, and you've already begun. It is very important to know the laws for your state and know your rights. The best website for this is: The Home School Legal Defense Association. You can visit this website and find out all the information that you are required to provide, when letting your school district and/or state education department (both also referred to as the reporting agency) know of your intent.

What is a “Reporting Agency”? The Reporting Agency is simply the place that you send your letter of intent, curriculum, evaluation, etc. to when you decide to home school. (i.e.; principal or school district, superintendent of school district, state education agency) Not all states require reporting this information to a reporting agency, but ask that you keep good records of the work you have done and how you see your child as having progressed.

Where do I get curriculum and books? From curriculum providers, libraries and bookstores. There are many sources available, for free, on the internet. Many home school parents write their own curriculums. For example, a child who is involved with a 4-H animal project. Depending on what the child needs to know to take proper care of the animal and follow guidelines and learn specific jobs, the 4-H project can serve as a Biology/Science course.

How do I know which type of curriculum to use? Trial and Error. If your child is already in public school, and is struggling with their methods, try something different. If they're doing well, try something similar. If what you try first doesn't work out, or doesn't seem to be doing what you intended, reassess, and try again. Every child and every parent is different. One of the distinct advantages of home schooling is that the parent, who knows their child much better than even the best teacher, can cater closely to what the child responds best with. Ask any home schooler and you're likely to hear a long litany of what worked, and what *didn't* work, with this child or that child...there's no one correct answer.

Another good resource for understanding different curriculums is read through the book “A Well Trained Mind” by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. http://www.welltrainedmind.com

Talk about it with your spouse, children, significant other, anyone who will be helping you to take part in this adventure. Find out how they feel about the issue and what goals they would like to achieve. What is the outcome that you hope to achieve? Remember, goals can change quite frequently and it is your right to decide to change the materials that you use in order to accommodate what is best for the learning and nurturing of those you are home schooling.

Decide on how you want to home school. Are you going to use an organized, prepackaged curriculum? Will you pick and choose different materials for each subject? Will you decide to “unschool?" Perhaps you will write your own course outline and curriculum. Or will you do a little bit of everything? The possibilities are endless! Here is an excellent site that answers many of the questions regarding unschooling.

What about socialization? You'll hear this one a lot once you start home schooling, so it's good to think it through before you begin. Simply put, which would you rather your children learned socialization from: random children their own age who are from various backgrounds and life experiences; or people of all ages in their own family and social circles? Which will help build their self esteem? Which will most benefit their ability to communicate and relate to other people?

Can I use the public school system? You may choose to use your local public school system for some subjects, or be "dual enrolled".

Why do people home school? Because of many reasons. Some choose to home school because of religious reasons, or because they feel their children are being taught immorally by the public school system. Others choose it because they feel they can do a better job teaching their child than the public school system. Some home school for convenience - either they move around a lot, or their child doesn't necessarily fit the "average" mold and falls through the educational cracks somehow. There are almost as many reasons to home school as there are home schoolers themselves.

My child is gifted - is home schooling a good idea? YES! See "Home Schooling the Highly Gifted." http://wwww.hollingworth.org/home.html

How do we evaluate? This is determined by each state and their requirements. The primary choices are testing of various types, portfolio reviews, a personal review done by a teacher certified by the state you live in or a state approved achievement test. Simply work out a mutually agreeable way for your evaluation to take place with your principal.

What is a portfolio? A portfolio is simply an ongoing collection of work done by the student that indicates progresses made throughout the learning process. A portfolio can be as simple as a notebook with various pieces of the child’s work or can be as elaborate as a scrapbook, using pictures as well as written documents to show what the child has done.

What is a portfolio evaluation? A portfolio evaluation entails setting up an appointment with a certified teacher who will review the portfolio, with your child and simply go over what they have done and learned. Some evaluators request that the parent write a summary of what has been achieved, what goals were met and/or changed and how they see their success for that year being evaluated. Once the evaluation is done, the teacher will write a letter to the reporting agency stating that your child has progressed during that school year.

What is a standardized test? A standardized test is one that has been accepted as a tool that best shows the progress of a student in their school year/age, in comparison to others taking the same test, at the same grade level and age. Each state that requires standardized testing will have their own “requirements” for what level they will accept. For example, in the state of NH a student my score in the 40th percentile in order to be considered as having learned and progressed over the previous school year.

What about Physical Education? Physical education is always a concern of parents. Whether it is the desire to have your child learn to participate in team sports or to help them to remain physically active. Many parents have their children participate in local school sports. Some kids try out for school teams. Others take Martial Arts, Fencing, Tennis; the list goes on and on. Hiking and riding their bikes is also just a couple of many ways to ensure that your children have some type of physical education. For the state of NH, for example, taking Hunter Safety is worth ¼ of a Physical Education credit.

How can I learn more? Do a google search on home school support groups in your state. Find someone who home schools in your area and visit them, ask them your questions and see what they do.

If you belong to a church, don't forget to check with your congregation to see if they have already formed a home school group.

Ask your local librarian what she can point you to.

Pick up a home schooling magazine or visit: http://www.americanhomeschoolassociation.org

Ask questions! There are many members of the Rubicon who can help you. There are also many great articles! When you actually think about it, almost any article, experience or project you are involved in, can have a place in your home schooling experience.

What is my SAU? Contact your superintendent’s office for your correct SAU number.

What supplies do I need? Books, paper, pencils, pens, art supplies, notebooks, you name it! Late summer is the best time to pick up extra supplies as the “back to school” sales are starting. Even if you are not going to start home schooling your child this fall, the more supplies you have and the further ahead you plan, the more ready to settle into home schooling you will be.

A list of some of the many excellent articles that are on the Rubicon site:

Homeschooling Links

Homeschooling Basics

Why We Homeschool

Using the Boy Scout Handbook to Homeschool

How to Get Started Home Schooling

Home School Links

Family Resource Page

Helping Kids to Read

Strategies for Teaching Beginning Readers

Home-Schooling System Questions