Monday, January 7, 2008

Considering Homeschooling, Part 2

When deciding whether or not to homeschool, it is vitally important that you spend time thinking about your family's dynamics. Several things come into play here.

1. Do you enjoy your children? Do you truly delight in their personalities, creativity, and zest for life? Does it give you joy to see them conquer skills that they've struggled to learn? Do you have fun together? This doesn't mean that your children don't sometimes drive you batty or that your never have times of frustration or impatience. But if you really do not like being with each other it may be best not to homeschool. But don't discount the possibility that more time spent together may increase your family's capacity to enjoy one another.

2. How do you discipline your children? Do you get angry easily and regularly? Do you spank your children? If you do spank, how do you spank? Dr. Sears, a prominent pediatrician, has some very helpful guidelines for those who choose to spank, as well as some very compelling reasons not to spank. If you are spanking in anger or out of frustration, YOU ARE AT RISK FOR ABUSING YOUR CHILD. Get help. Be accountable to someone. Dr. Sears offers this advice to help parents handle their anger. Do not homeschool your children if you do not successfully handle your anger. Do not homeschool your children without being committed to building a full "parental toolbox" that includes a variety of noncorporal ways to discipline your children.

3. Do both parents agree to homeschool? Homeschooling is a big decision that takes everyone working together. Both parents must agree in order for it to be successful. This is especially true in divorced or separated families.

4. Is your family currently encountering stressful times? Are you dealing with lost wages, a death, or serious illness? Are you facing a divorce or separation? Will you encounter any other major life changes? If so, it may be best to put off homeschooling for a year or so.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Considering Homeschooling, Part 1

The other day a friend asked for advice about homeschooling her child. These kind of inquiries always throw me off a bit because there are so many things to consider: legal aspects, curriculum choices, physical education, socialization, the physical space used for schooling and storage, costs, record keeping, family dynamics...the list can be daunting. Richard and I spent an entire summer actively researching homeschooling options--the year before our son was to enter kindergarten. Because of all the information swimming around in my head--and the fact that I am so very new at it--I often just mumble something about loving it. But that really isn't enough information to facilitate good decision-making. So, finally, I think I can articulate what I think is the first, most important thing to consider before homeschooling:

MAKE SURE YOU DO IT LEGALLY!!! Do not put your family at unnecessary risk by ignoring the law.

Homeschool regulations vary from state to state. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association provides summaries of the laws for each of the United States. Click here to find out about laws in your state. State homeschool organizations can also be a good source of information. Research your state department of education. In my state the education code can be accessed directly through the department of education's web site. I was able to read the law myself and feel confident that I wasn't merely making choices based on someone else's opinions.

The state in which I live has a few ways to homeschool legally. We chose to enroll in an ISP (independent studies program). There are many types of ISPs, so it's important to find one that is a good fit. Ours provides us with administrative support (including filing paperwork and keeping cumulative records), opportunities to socialize (through Friday school and field trips), and the fun "trappings" of a traditional school (graduations, year books, etc.). It gives us flexiblity by respecting our freedom to choose our own curriculum according to our son's needs and interests. Our ISP provides testing resources and experienced people to look over lesson logs. The tuition is reasonable. So far it has been a very good fit for us.