If you are considering homeschooling your children, here are some resources that I referenced in my previous articles on homeschooling (Part 1, 2, 3) or that I recommend in general. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it’s a good place to start.
For general information about homeschooling in Pennsylvania:
“And what about socialization?”
That is the second most common question that I get when I drop the homeschool bomb. Honestly, I find it a frustrating question. When did being in structured activities with your same aged peers for six hours a day, five days a week become the gold standard for adequate socialization?
From a pure numbers perspective, my kids come in regular contact with about the same number of kids as their schooled peers. Between the homeschool drop-off program, Pennsylvania Girlchoir, chess club, soccer, tennis lessons, sewing class, t-ball, etc., they are around other kids nearly every day. They each have a core group of about six close friends – some of whom are homeschooled, some of whom are not – that we get together with regularly for playdates.
Unlike schooled kids, they spend a lot of time with people of all different ages. We visit my parents weekly. We spend two hours each week talking and visiting with the homebound elderly as part of volunteering for Meals on Wheels. At homeschooling events, they may spend time playing with a toddler or talking to one of my adult friends. I think that homeschooling offers another social advantage for us. While we have some activities that we stick with all year long and therefore see the same kids each week, we also participate in lots of classes, workshops, and clubs where my children will not know any other kids. My children therefore get plenty of practice in being thrown into new social situations.
Then there is the issue of quality. My friend’s daughter made a new friend Continue reading
Where does the “school” part of homeschooling come in? Here is where we get to what I imagine other parents are thinking of when they say “I could never do that.” In their minds, I imagine, my children are hunched over workbooks at the kitchen table while I quiz them on phonics rules, or demand that they recite their times tables. More than one parent has told me that they thought about homeschooling, but was afraid it would “ruin their relationship with their child.” In fact, homeschooling has been a wonderful way to cultivate my relationship with my children.
Many homeschoolers that I know consider themselves “unschoolers.” The follow no formal curriculum and trust that the learning will happen. Their children are bright, pleasant, and literate. I prefer to have a little more outside assurance that we are “on track.” I subscribe to two excellent, inexpensive web-based curricula. (There are dozens to choose from.) About three or four times a week, I help my kids log onto their sites where they engage in interactive lessons in math and reading. I’m available if they have a question, but they usually don’t need me. The content is explained to them by the animated character in the lesson. If they get an answer wrong, the animated character lets them know. Sometimes, there are tests are quizzes. I can go into our account later if I like and see how they did, but their learning is really their own. They can do it at their own pace when they feel like doing it. If my daughter is completely absorbed in a book (as she often is), the math lesson can wait until she is done. If a lesson is too easy, we can skip it. If it’s too hard, we can come back to it next week, next month, or even next year. The amount that I have to nag or force a recalcitrant kid to do something he or she doesn’t want to do is likely considerably less than the time other parents spending cajoling, bribing, or threatening their children to do their homework. When my son balks at a reading lesson, we can renegotiate. You can’t change a kid’s homework assignment, or decide that it would be okay to conquer it tomorrow when your child is less tired.
And the results? Continue reading
To balance the recent scandals involving misuse of funds at some Philadelphia charter schools, it was great to see the Inquirer reporting earlier this week that a new group was formed to promote Philadelphia charter schools. This new group, “Philadelphia Charters for Excellence” (PCE) will be composed of Philadelphia charter schools who “meet strict ethical standards.” It’s not clear what the standards are and how compliance will be verified, but I like the sentiment. Apparently the motivation for forming the group was to counter the corruption headlines dominated by a few charter schools with materials promoting the performance and high ethical standards of the majority of charter schools. Regardless of the motivation, I like the idea that such an organization will exist to better promote district charters and help parents make more informed decisions about schools. The Inquirer also reported that the PCE “plans to create a website to help parents compare the performance of charter schools.” I hope that PCE plans to be transparent in their reporting of these standards and their schools performance–doing so will promote higher ethical and academic standards across the city, not just among charters. It will also serve their PR purpose–as a parent, if I can see what the ethical and academic standards of PCE are, how each schools’ adherence to those standards is measured , and how each school performed against those standards, it will boost my confidence level in charters across the board. In light of the recent Pew study that found that more families are choosing charters yet public opinion says that even more choices are needed, this sort of initiative is a welcome one.
“I could never do that!”
That is the single most common response I get when I tell people that I homeschool. It perplexes me. “Why?” I sometimes want to ask. What is that they think I am doing that feels impossible for them to do to? Of course, homeschooling is not for everyone. School choice is a very personal and complex decision, and homeschooling is not even an option for most people for various reasons. But I want to share my own experience since I find it frustrating to know that most people have a mistaken impression of what homeschoolers actually do.
When people ask me why I homeschool, I find myself giving a variety of answers. I mention the enormous percentage of our after-tax income that we would spend to send our kids to private school for thirteen years. Or my concerns about academics being pushed onto kids at earlier and earlier ages in the public schools. Or that my work is best done in the after school hours, so that if they went to school, I would feel torn between expanding my business and spending time with my kids. In fact, the decision was influenced by all of these things, but the whole answer is much more complicated.
I think a more honest answer probably boils down to two words – time and fun. With homeschooling, I have Continue reading