Welcome to HSC's Professional's Guide to Working with Homeschoolers. The objective of this guide is to offer doctors, lawyers, mediators, social workers, judges, therapists, school officials, and other professionals a ready source of information on homeschooling and to support dialogue between homeschoolers and professionals.
Please feel free to print and distribute all or part of this guide.
Americans have certain inalienable rights. For many, these rights are held in highest regard; immigrants will risk their lives to reach America. The American Dream that these immigrants are so anxious to attain is alive throughout the world, but especially so in the homes of Americans across the country. Through the education of a family's children, part of the American Dream can become reality.
The legal option to homeschool one's children is a right that many families in the United States take great pride in even though some families have felt the pinch of oppression when exercising their rights to homeschool their children. At times, well-meaning public workers responsible for ensuring that children are cared for and nourished physically, emotionally and academically, misunderstand the homeschooling family's rights. In these cases, the responsibilities of educating about homeschooling can fall squarely on the parents' shoulders. After repeated contact by parents in this situation, the HomeSchool Association of California (HSC) decided that something more should be done to assist these families. This guide, A Professional's Guide for Working With Homeschooling Families, is the result.
Intended as a vehicle for professionals to get information they need when interacting with homeschooling families, this assembly of experts on the subject of homeschooling brings over 15 experienced authors together in one publication to present the most authoritative information available on homeschooling. Therefore, those who don't have prior experience with homeschooling can rest assured that they are getting accurate information. This document is designed so that a reader can enter any section and begin learning.
While the chapter design establishes a progression that makes sense to read in order, each section is also effective as a stand-alone article.
Authoritative, easily accessible, well researched, and concise, the information in this edition is a valuable introduction into the world of homeschooling. Those that do not homeschool may misunderstand homeschooling families, and no two homeschooling families are alike. Approaching each unique grouping of parents and children with respect, interest and a keen desire to understand their unique social patterns is an important component of working with homeschooling families. The information in this guide should serve as a starting point. Getting to know each particular homeschooling family personally is one of the best ways to learn about homeschooling. It is HSC's goal that this guide can support that endeavor.
One frequent misconception is that through exercising their freedoms and rights, homeschooling families try to escape the responsibilities of their children's education. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Most homeschooling families take on great responsibility and involvement in their children's education, acting as principal, teacher, counselor, advisor and coach along with their role as a parent. In this guide, families' available educational choices and opportunities for their children can be discovered.
Each author in this guide has approached their subject from a unique perspective, not unlike the unique perspective each homeschooling family has toward educating its children. Like snowflakes, homeschooling families have some elements in common, but no two homeschooling families are exactly alike. Each enriches their children's lives in very special ways.
I hope you enjoy the guide!
Juliet Pailes, MAEd
Editor, A Professional's Guide to Working With Homeschooling Families
Author's Biography: Juliet Pailes holds a BA in Child Development and a MA in Educational Psychology and Counseling. After working for eleven years as a teacher in several early childhood education programs, she spent the next four years directing three different schools for young children. During her four years in the Academic Affairs department of the University of Phoenix, she worked on staff with faculty as a manager, recruiter and faculty liaison. She has also worked as an instructor there since 2001. Juliet also serves as an instructor and curriculum developer for Central Texas College Online as well as teaching at College of the Desert in Palm Desert, California. She and her business partner, a registered dietician, run Wellness Support for Life, a multifaceted consulting service for individuals, families, and educators. She lives with her husband and their three homeschooled children in Beaumont, California, about 20 minutes west of Palm Springs
Homeschooling is a radical idea to most people — after all, just how is a child supposed to learn what they need to know to get into college or to get a good job if they aren't learning all those important things in school? How are they going to grow into responsible citizens without 180 days or more for sixteen years of compulsory public and/or private education? And that time doesn't count preschool readiness programs and after-school enrichment programs! Schooling is so complicated, and learning so difficult, that a scientific, clinical approach to education seems to be what the best and wisest parent would want for their children. But something is wrong with these modern day assumptions, which is why alternatives to public and private schooling are thriving.
Homeschooling is radical, in the root sense of the word: in Latin, radicusmeans root. Compulsory schooling (forced attendance), and now, in the twenty-first century, compulsory education (forced learning) are very recent petals and offshoots of the root way humankind has historically nurtured its young into responsible adults and active citizens. Family, community, religious institutions, and work were all integrated into the daily lives and upbringing of children. Sometimes there were professional or informal tutors available that some families hired or shared to instruct children at various times for short periods each year; other families used daily chores, apprenticeships and internships to educate their children. Continuing in these traditions, similar arrangements are made by homeschoolers today. The concept of universal compulsory schooling is a very recent idea, one that is not even two hundred years old, yet we act as if it is an ancient, sure-fire way to make sure our children "learn something." Many teachers, parents, and students have written in many eloquent books and essays about how our children do indeed learn something during their schooling, but often it is in reaction against, in spite of, or not related at all to the fixed curriculum they are exposed to in daily doses (Heinemann, 1999, 1997, 1968 & Holt, 1995).
America's founders did debate a bit as to whether or not to force children to attend schools, and they decided to leave such decisions to individual families and local and state governments. The words "education" and "school" appear in none of our founding documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights. Some of our most famous inventors, writers, and politicians were self-taught, learning through mentoring or apprenticeships, conversation and reading, and this route to adulthood continues today (Plent, 1999 & Gordon, 1990). But by 1850, when Massachusetts became the first state to institute a compulsory schooling law, attitudes towards children and their place in society began to change. Children are forced to attend schools for many reasons, but in this early period it was largely to keep them out of the work force and to teach them to become "good citizens" (Katz, 2001 & Gatto, 2000). Nonetheless, one can easily find examples not just of the wealthy people, but of common people, opting out of mass schooling in order to home school.
Parents in the nineteenth century used itinerant teachers and books, such as Samuel Griswold's Fireside Education (1828) and Burton and Warren'sHelps To Education In The Homes Of Our Countries (1863), to help them as they raised their children in their homes and communities. As more laws made public schooling more encompassing of children's time, some teachers and parents questioned the growing consensus that more and more school was better for children than time spent growing up in other settings. No one wanted to send children back to work in coalmines, but some people felt that school might not be the best place for children to learn. Tufts University professor A.A. Berle wrote in the introduction to his book, The School In Your Home (Moffit Yard, 1912), that American mass education has been a failure over the past twenty-years and that people from day laborers to University professors have written to him about it. Berle claims he holds hundreds of letters from parents asking him how they can teach their own children at home because of their dissatisfaction with public schooling at the turn of the century.
A fascinating example of early urban homeschooling comes from a mother in New York City, Rita Sherman. Her book, written anonymously, A Mother's Letters to a Schoolmaster anticipates many of our 21st century reasons for homeschooling, such as her deep concern that her son's individual learning style, creativity and intellect would be damaged by standardized, one-size-fits-all education (Alfred A Knopf, 1923). Her letters show her rationale for homeschooling, vivid descriptions of the success she is having with her son as she lives and learns with him, and the schoolmaster's reluctant approval for her to do so. Ms. Sherman can tend to over-inflamed speech, but she nonetheless makes many interesting social and educational arguments against compulsory schooling but in support of public education (for example, work/study facilities open to all ages).
From the twenties through the seventies homeschooling was a relatively underground, usually rural, phenomenon. Homeschooling occasionally popped up as a topic of mainstream conversation, such as a two part series in the Atlantic Monthly in the late 1940's that eventually became a book, The Home Education of a Boy, by William Barrett (Publisher unknown, 1950), but homeschooling remained, at best, a fringe topic during this period.
All that changed in 1970 when Ivan Illich published Deschooling Society (NY, Harper and Row, 1970; reissued in London, England by Boyars, 2001). This short book called not for the abolition of schools, but for an abolition of compulsory attendance laws. Illich's ideas and language can be stunning and Deschooling Society spurred people into public debate (Education Without Schools, Peter Buckman, ed., Condor, 1973) and private action (No More Public School, Harold Bennet, Random House, 1972). For a man destined for Homeschooling fame, John Holt, these ideas spurred him to question his career as a popular education reformer.
In 1976, Holt wrote Instead of Education: Ways To Help People Do Things Better as his way to show how we can support people to learn without forcing them into conventional schooling (Holt Associates, 1988). Holt had decided, after nearly 20 years as a vocal public and private school reformer, that schools were doing exactly what most people wanted – sorting children into economic winners and losers based on test scores – and that trying to reform that system was therefore a truly Quixotic pursuit. Holt wanted help make meaningful change in education, and he was tired of being on talk shows and the university circuit as a type of entertainment.
After reading Instead of Education, people from various parts of the country began to write to John telling him about an option he failed to mention explicitly in his book, homeschooling. Holt soon turned his attention to those families who wrote to him to say that they were teaching their own children (Sheffer, 1991). Within a year, Holt founded Growing Without Schooling(GWS) magazine, the nation's, if not the world's, first journal about homeschooling. Families of different backgrounds, faiths, and educational philosophies relied on Holt's considerable free advice and help during this time and he worked to create an inclusive network of support for homeschoolers. Holt recognized that many parents were homeschooling for reasons that he personally didn't support, and he seemed to anticipate the current fractious nature of homeschooling politics when he wrote in the second issue of GWS in 1977: "What is important is not that all readers of GWS should agree on these questions, but that we should respect our differences while we work for what we agree on, our right and the right of all people to take their children out of schools, and help, plan, or direct their learning in the ways they think best" (Holt Associates, 1999, p.25).
In 1981, Holt published a book just about homeschooling, Teach Your Own: A Hopeful Path for Education (Dell, 1981), and he was again on the talk show circuit, speaking about his ideas on learning in the milieu of family and community, which he called "unschooling," a neologism of Holt's. Holt preferred "unschooling" over the term "homeschooling" because little of the learning he was describing occurred exclusively at home and most of it did not resemble conventional schoolwork.
The work of educators Dr. Raymond Moore and his wife Dorothy also became more well known to the general public during the 1980's. The Moore's had already written extensively about the value of delaying formal education until at least age 10 based on their work and research within the Federal government and at various universities, and they readily embraced homeschooling as a complement of their work. The Moore's soon became vocal and popular advocates for many homeschoolers, particularly Christian families. By the early eighties more overtly conservative and religious homeschooling publications and groups emerged, some in direct reaction to Holt's ideas about education, others as a way to avoid sending their children to what they perceive as the "godless monstrosity" of public school (Stevens, 2001). Homeschooling easily accommodated the differing factions, reasons, and political views that these groups espoused and it is now becoming more of a mainstream choice than a radical move; indeed homeschooling has grown tremendously from John Holt's estimate of 15 – 20,000 children being taught at home in 1981 to a recent Federal Government survey that found nearly 850,000 children are being homeschooled in the United States as of 1999 (Bielick, Chandler & Broughman, 1999).
Homeschooling, in many ways, is a return to the roots of our society, where family, community, religious institutions, and work are all integrated into the daily lives and upbringing of children. Homeschooling, including mentorships and apprenticeships, still serves to educate many of our country's children as it did a majority of our influential leaders throughout history. Bolstered by the works of John Holt as well as Dr. Raymond Moore and his wife Dorothy, arguments supporting homsechooling began to be widely communicated through books, magazines and popular media during the 1970's and 1980's. Holt's theories about schools being a place for sorting children into economic winners and losers based on test scores ring true for many, influencing an ever-widening range of families who embrace this style of learning for their children. With a Federal Government survey finding nearly 850,000 children being homeschooled in the United States as of 1999 (Bielick, Chandler & Broughman, 1999), this style of learning is definitely a trend, not a fad. So, how is a child supposed to learn what they need to know to get into college or to get a good job if they aren't learning all those important things in school? Throughout history, homeschooled children have been showing us how. Reflection on the history of homeschooling identifies this trend is an increasingly popular and enriching lifestyle that has been evolving with our culture's dynamic approach to helping children learn.
Bielick, S., Chandler, K. & Broughman, S. (2001). Homeschooling in the United States: 1999. National Center for Education Statistics, 2001, NCES document # 2001033.
Gatto, J. (2001). The underground history of American education. New York: Oxford Village Press.
Gordon, E. & E. (1990). Centuries of tutoring. Lanham: University Press of America.
Herndon, J. (1997). The way it ‘spozed to be. Portsmouth: Heinemann.
Holt Associates. (1999). Growing without schooling: A record of a grassroots movement, Vol. 1.Cambridge: Holt Associates.
Holt, J. (1995). How children fail. New York, PERSEUS.
Katz, M. (2001). The Irony of early school reform.New York, Teachers College Press.
Ohanian, S. (1999). One size fits few: The folly of educational standard. Portsmouth: Heinemann.
Plent, M. & N. (1999). An "A" in life: Famous home schoolers. Farmingdale: Unschoolers Network.
Sheffer, S. (ed). (1991). A life worth living: Selected letters of John Holt. Columbus: University Press.
Stevens, M. (2001).The Kingdom of Children: Culture and Controversy in the Homeschooling Movement.Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Author's Biography: Patrick Farenga worked closely with John Holt, and is the President of Holt Associates Inc. Since 1981 he has published numerous books, articles and tapes about homeschooling, and about John Holt's unschooling ideas in particular. Pat and his wife homeschool their three girls, ages 16, 13 and 10. He has addressed audiences throughout the United States, Canada, England and Italy about homeschooing, and has appeared on The Today Show, The Voice of America, NPR's The Merrow Report, and CNN's Parenting Today. Farenga works as a writer, speaker and education consultant. To contact him, or to learn more about John Holt, visit the website: http://www.holtgws.com. His latest book is TEACH YOUR OWN: THE JOHN HOLT GUIDE TO HOMESCHOOLING (Perseus, 2003).
A common definition of socialization is the ability to adapt to the needs of any given group, to follow the rules of society, and live harmoniously in the particular society in which we live. Because children schooled at home have the opportunity to interact with a greater representation of the society on a daily basis, they are generally more likely to be socialized to a greater variety of social situations. Brian Ray of the national home Education Research Institute reports that the typical homeschooled child is involved in 5.2 social activities outside the home each week. These activities include afternoon and weekend programs with conventionally schooled kids, such as ballet classes, Little League teams, scout troops, church groups, and neighborhood play. They also include midday field trips and cooperative learning programs organized by groups of home schooling families (1999).
They interact with their family for long periods of time during the day, and are generally with a family member during these social activities. It is within the family and with parental input and guidance that much of true socialization and modeling of socially acceptable behavior occurs. In my clinical practice with homeschooling families, I have rarely encountered a family where the children were not actively involved in a variety of social activities. Families have many options for activities that suit both the child's interest and temperament as well as what works best for their particular family.
Homeschooled students have the opportunity to engage in activities with a wide age and ability range. They are not segregated with age mates in a setting that is quite different from any other environment they will encounter in life. There is no conclusive research suggesting that time with same-aged peers is preferable to time with individuals of varying ages. Limited testing of a self-selected group of homeschooled children suggests above average social and psychological development. Pat Lines, a homeschooling researcher, notes that "At the very least, anyone who has observed homeschoolers will notice a high level of sharing, networking, collaboration, and cooperative learning"(Dobson, ed., 1998, p.96). I agree with Pat Lines. What I most often hear from new homeschooling families who have had a chance to observe veteran homeschooled children is how impressed they are with the level of cooperative play and learning, the way older children look after and include younger children, and the ease with which children mix with varied age groups. This fluidity of social interaction allows children to play and learn in a group that matches his or her developmental level, while at the same time fosters a learning environment that truly supports healthy social interaction. Barbara Bliss in her research project, "Home Education: A Look at Current Practices" (1989) contends "that it is in the formal educational system's setting that children first experience negative socialization, conformity, and peer pressure". According to Bliss "This is a setting of large groups, segmented by age, with a variation of authority figures the individual, with his/her developmental needs becomes overpowered by the expectations and demand of others-equal in age and equally developmentally needy" (1989). Studies have shown that children learn to socialize in a positive way by spending time with people who love them and have a compelling interest in helping them learn to be a part of society. They learn this art of being social by being with people of all ages and by following the models of the adults around them in a healthy way. They learn by being with friends, siblings, shopkeepers and neighbors, learning what does and what doesn't work. It has become "common knowledge" that children learn to socialize by only being with children of their own age in a highly structured, institutional setting, with punishment and shame as the motivating force for behavior. The truth is, children want desperately to belong to the world of adults, to become competent, contributing members of society. This happens when a child is allowed to be part of the world, not apart from it.
In a study conducted by Lee Stough (1992) comparison was made of 30 homeschooling families and 32 conventionally schooling families with children 7-14 years of age. According to the findings, children who were schooled at home "gained the necessary skills, knowledge, and attitudes needed to function in society at a rate similar to that of conventionally schooled children" (Stough, 1992). The researcher found no difference in the self-concept of children in the two groups. Stough maintains:
insofar as self concept is a reflector of socialization, it would appear that few home-schooled children are socially deprived, and that there may be sufficient evidence to indicate that some home-schooled children have a higher self concept than conventionally schooled children (1992).
This echoes the findings of John Wesley Taylor of Andrews University (1987). Using one of the best validated self-concept scales available, Taylor's random sampling of homeschooled children (45,000) found that half of these children scored at or about the 91st percentile-47% higher than the average, than conventionally schooled children. He concludes, "Since self concept is considered to be a basic dynamic of positive sociability, this answers the often heard skepticism suggesting that homeschoolers are inferior in socialization" (Taylor, 1987). In another study Dr. Delahooke (1986) of the California School of Professional Psychology, using a standard personality measure, compared two groups of children: a homeschool group and a matched private school group. Dr. Delahoooke determined that "the private school subjects appeared to be more influenced by or concerned with peers than the home educated group" (Williams). These studies help to dispel the concerns expressed by teachers, administrators, and legislators about socialization and homeschooling. "The results suggest that home schooling improves a child's self-concept and helps children develop the ability to withstand peer pressure. Both of these outcomes are indications of positive socialization experiences." (Williams, 2002)
In my observations, both informally and in my practice, children who have been primarily homeschooled, especially through middle school, emerge with a strong sense of self, an inner direction, and feelings of self-worth. Although they have established friendships, they are not easily influenced by peers, and can clearly make choices that might go against the group.
Social development is the development of understanding of self in relationship to others. It is the "deep, comfortable level of self-acceptance that leads to true friendships with others." (Silverman, 1993) Social development begins at birth with the first exchange between mother and baby. The baby sees the love reflected back and experiences the beginnings of attachment and bonding. As the child grows, the mother insures safety and security while the young child begins to explore the world. Within this secure base, children learn to trust their environment and interact within the rules of society. Children model their behavior from the people around them. This modeling, coupled with an understanding and support of their basic temperament, begins the long process of social and self-development. Humans have a long period of dependency, but in our society's rush to make children independent as soon as possible we have disrupted the natural developmental process. In my 25 years of experience working with families and children, I have seen how this rush towards independence, along with a deficit of emotional protection and nurturing it fosters, has created many difficulties for families and society.
For many families, one of the reasons they have chosen homeschooling is to allow for the natural developmental process to unfold and to honor their individual child's temperament. Some may see this as negative, and homeschooling parents are often accused of overprotecting their children from the "real world." Many researchers do not consider this extra time for children to develop within a family situation a problem. Bliss (1989) argues that "Protection during early, developmental years for purposes of nurturing and growth is evident in many arenas: plant, animal and aquatic. Why should it be considered wrong or bad in the most vital arena - Human development "
Allowing a child to develop socially and emotionally, following his or her own timetable of development allows for better learning. Research has shown that learning while anxious, scared or emotionally disengaged will negatively affect the understanding and recall of any information presented. Homeschooling allows a child to work at an academic pace that matches his or her social and emotional developmental level.
Protection during the developmental years is crucial. Many family interventions I have observed have benefited from this understanding of child development. I have had occasions to use homeschooling as an intervention with children who are having difficulties. Children under stress need high levels of support available only within a family setting of love and caring. They flourish when they have the opportunity to increase attachment bonds to their primary caregivers, and have the time to heal from past or present trauma. When their temperamental needs and pace of development are honored, they can again become confident learners.
Wendy Priesnitz (1998) furthers this idea for the need for security and nurturing in a child's early years.
My observation of thousands of home-educated children over the past twenty years suggests that another factor outweighs any kind of peer or sibling interaction in its influence on social development. Feelings of security and self-confidence are created in children who have the freedom to venture into sophisticated social situations at their own speed. This positive self-concept is nurtured by warm, loving interaction with parents who respect their children. As some of the main ingredients in a child's proper social development, these even outweigh the contribution of continued social contact in creating a child who functions well in society (Dobson, ed., 1998, p.91).
Developmental and social psychologist, Dr. Urie Bronfenbrenner of Cornell University, who has spent many years studying children in various societies, reinforces these observations. He notes that overexposure to a peer group during a child's early years can be damaging. He has found that until fifth or sixth grade level, children who spend more time with their peers than with their parents or older family members become peer dependent. This, he claims leads to a losses in many different areas, including self worth, optimism, respect for their parents and trust in their peers. (Bronfenbrenner as cited by Priesnitz in Dobson ed., 1998)
How do parents and those working with homeschooling families assess a child's social development and socialization? Most of the relevant studies have used a variety of measures, such as the Piers-Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale, the Children's Assertive Behavior Scale, and the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales. Researchers also use direct observation, interviews with the families, and self-reports from students. Most professionals and families are not likely to administer tests in order to determine a child's social development or adjustment. It is far more revealing to rely on direct observation of the child in a variety of settings.
There is a wide spectrum of behaviors that we can look at to help determine if a child is growing socially. For the most part, researchers and therapists look to see if the child interacts comfortably with family and close friends, has at least one friend by school age or early adolescence that is mutually satisfying, can abide by the general rules of the society in which they live, and is engaged in activities that match their temperament and interests. These behaviors are generally accepted as a sign of a competent, socialized child.
Social Competence and Success
Ultimately the question becomes, "will homeschool children become well-functioning adults and contributing members of the community?" The most recent research replies with a resounding YES! Knowles (1991), an assistant professor at The University of Michigan, is one of the researchers who has looked at the long term success of homeschoolers. His research shows that more than 40 percent attend college, and 15 percent of those had completed a graduate degree (Knowles, 1991). Nearly two-thirds of the homeschooled individuals were self-employed, but only a few worked alone as craftspeople or in other solitary occupations, while most either provided employment to others or worked along with family members (Knowles, 1991).
"That so many of those surveyed were self-employed supports the contention that home schooling tends to enhance a person's self-reliance and independence" (Knowles, 1991). Knowles also found no evidence that these adults were even moderately disadvantaged (Knowles, 1991). Two thirds of them were married-the norm for adults their age, and none were unemployed or on any form of welfare assistance (Knowles, 1991). More than three-quarters felt that being taught at home had actually helped them interact with people from different levels of society (Knowles, 1991). Webb, another researcher who looked at aspects of the adult lives of wholly or partly home-educated people, found that all who had attempted higher education were successful and that their socialization was often better than that of their schooled peers (1989).
As homeschooling continues to become more common and the information and understanding of the benefits are understood, the question of socialization, while still asked by grandmothers and nosy neighbors, will become irrelevant to those who bother to do their "homework." Research, direct observations, and anecdotal reports clearly show that homeschool children are well on their way to strong social competence, good self esteem and the ability to become active and involved members of their communities.
Again Knowles (1991) finds,
The characteristics of the adults in this study suggest that they grew up with specific advantages that contributed to their independent views of society and their roles in it. As a group they are not homogeneous or amenable to easy categorizations: they are located throughout the United States and Canada in both rural and urban areas: they are employed in a variety of professions and occupations, although many seem to be concentrated in those occupations that allow for independence, flexibility and often, creativity; and they exhibit a wide range of political views, and religious affiliations.
With continued research and with more homeschool students beginning to enter college and the work force, "I am prompted to ponder whether or not homeschools may have advantages that hitherto have gone unrecognized" (Knowles, 1991).
I have long contended that homeschooling has advantages that have not been fully explored. The longer that I am involved with homeschooling children and their families the more advantages I see. I see families who love their children deeply, who give freely of their time and love to be there for their children. These families work diligently to provide the best possible social and academic environment in which their children will thrive. The outcome is clear-homeschooling is an exceptional way to socialize our young.
Author's Biography: Michelle Barone is a licensed marriage and family therapist and holds four life California teaching credentials (K-12), Adult, Learning Handicapped and Severely Handicapped). She has worked with families and young children for 25 years in a variety of settings. She has had a private clinical practice for 17 years, seeing individuals, couples and families and facilitating a support and education group for parents. She was a volunteer leader for La Leche League for 12 years and served as the media liaison for 5 of those years. She hosted Parent Talk Reports, a radio show in the Los Angeles area. She has published numerous articles for parents, is a contributor to The Homeschool Book of Answers by Linda Dobson and presents workshops on a variety of topics pertaining to families. She has been homeschooling since 1987 and is one of the founding mothers of the largest secular homeschool support group in the Los Angeles areas. She has also been an expert witness for homeschooling custody cases. She received her B.A. in Human Development and teaching credentials at Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena, Calif. Her M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy is from Azusa Pacific College/California Family Study Center. Her Certified Bereavement Counselor is from Glendale Adventist Chaplin Department. Currently she is homeschooling her youngest child, teaches adults with disabilities, sees private clients and is a girl scout leader.
Bliss, B. A. (1989). Home Education: A Look at Current Practices. Research
Project, Michigan State University. [ED304233] Retrieved October 3, 2002 [Information Analyses] Home Schooling and Socialization of Children. ERIC digest. Online: http:/www.ed.gov/database/ERIC_digests/ed372460.html
Delahooke, P. (1986). California School of Professional Psychology. 2002 Socialization and Homeschooling [article]. Retrieved Nov 1, 2002: http://www.oakmeadow.com/resources/articles/Social.htm.
Dobson, L. (1998). The Homeschooling Book of Answers: The 88 Most Important Questions Answered by Homeschooling’s Most Respected Voices. Prima Publishing.
Knowles, G. J. (1991). Studying Home Educated Adults: University of Michigan, research study. Retrieved November 11, 2002: http:/www.life.ca/hs/adults.html.
Mattox, W. Jr. (1999). Homeschooling Benefits Children less preoccupied with peer acceptance. San Francisco Chronicle, March 19. 1999.
Ray, B. (1999). National Home Education Research Institute. Retrieved November 11, 2002: http:/www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1999/03/19/ED71809.DTL
Silverman, L. (1993). Social Development or Socialization? Retrieved October 3, 2002: http://www.gifteddevelopment.com/Articles/Social%20Development.html
Stough, L. (1992). Social and Emotional Status of Home Schooled Children and Conventionally Schooled Children in West Virginia, M.S. Thesis, University of West Virginia. [ED 353079]. Retrieved October 3, 2002 [Information Analyses] Home Schooling and Socialization of Children. ERIC digests: http:/www.ed.gov/database/ERIC_digests/ed372460.html
Taylor, W. (1986). 2002 Socialization and Homeschooling. Retreived Nov 1, 2002: http://www.oakmeadow.com/resources/articles/Social.htm
Webb, J. (1989). “The Outcomes of Home-Based Education: Employment and Other Issues.” Educational Review, 41(2), 121-33.[EJ393 193].Retrieved October 3, 2002 [ Information Analyses] Home Schooling and Socialization of Children. ERIC digest: http:/www.ed.gov/database/ERIC_digests/ed372460.html
Williams, B. & L. (2002). Socialization and Homeschooling. Retrieved Nov 1, 2002: http://www.oakmeadow.com/resources/articles/Social.htm
Michelle Barone is a licensed marriage and family therapist and holds four life California teaching credentials (K-12), Adult, Learning Handicapped and Severely Handicapped). She has worked with families and young children for 25 years in a variety of settings. She has had a private clinical practice for 17 years, seeing individuals, couples and families and facilitating a support and education group for parents. She was a volunteer leader for La Leche League for 12 years and served as the media liaison for 5 of those years. She hosted Parent Talk Reports, a radio show in the Los Angeles area. She has published numerous articles for parents, is a contributor to The Homeschool Book of Answers by Linda Dobson and presents workshops on a variety of topics pertaining to families. She has been homeschooling since 1987 and is one of the founding mothers of the largest secular homeschool support group in the Los Angeles areas. She has also been an expert witness for homeschooling custody cases. She received her B.A. in Human Development and teaching credentials at Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena, Calif. Her M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy is from Azusa Pacific College/California Family Study Center. Her Certified Bereavement Counselor is from Glendale Adventist Chaplin Department. Currently she is homeschooling her youngest child, teaches adults with disabilities, sees private clients and is a girl scout leader.
Growing children. This is a work in progress, for both children and their parents, changing as needs and interests change and insights deepen. This journey is charged with challenges and joys. How does making the decision to homeschool a child enhance and nourish the family? Every family is different; every child is unique. Homeschooling allows children and parents to appreciate variability and celebrate different talents and interests. Homeschooling encourages parents to spend time to share in their child's discoveries. The excitement generated by self-discovery creates a love of learning that can last a lifetime. It is this love of learning that enriches the whole child. For parents, the gifts of homeschooling children in this complicated and diverse world can be a source of richness and joy.
For those parents considering the homeschooling option, it may help to clarify their own learning styles and temperament. Asking parents "How do you learn best? What environment is most conducive to your learning? How do you respond to stress and timelines? How do you know when you are learning?" and encouraging authentic and heart felt replies can begin the process. Howard Gardner's work on learning styles and multiple intelligence theory proposes that there is not a single "Intelligence" but rather that there are at least seven intelligences: Visual / Spatial, Musical, Verbal, Logical/Mathematical, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Bodily / Kinesthetic. Homeschooling allows the learner time to experience all these ways of learning and encourages the learner to discover the ways s/he can learn and remember best. Society can be fast paced and competitive. Does learning also have to be formatted as a race or a contest? Many students shut down when they feel overwhelmed by a rate or frequency of information. Homeschooling can offer 'think time' for students to discuss, write, and process new information. Homeschooling can offer a workable alternative for children whose temperaments may not match the public school setting. Homeschooling allows parents to focus on the whole child, not just their perceived inadequacies, and highlight and encourage their child's strengths.
In working with a parent who is considering the homeschooling option, it can also be helpful to ask for their self-reflection on the meaning and value of education. Asking questions such as, "What is worth learning and how do we go about teaching it?" Or a question asked by many learners: "Who am I and what is my relationship to the world?" can help parents clarify their expectations, desires and fear about homeschooling their child. Homeschooling can allow parents and children to organize a curriculum around these essential questions. Homeschoolers can approach these questions as the framework for learning, with the specific disciplines and subject matter offering systematic ways for thinking. For example, homeschooling reading may consist of surrounding students with good books and plenty of time to read them, giving students choices about what to read and how to respond to what they've read, encouraging them to read from rich stories and primary source material, all with a focus on meaning rather than on decoding skills. Reading in this framework is not a tedious prerequisite to receiving points, prizes, grades or test scores. Understanding the material is the powerful and intrinsic motivator. Thus, the subject of 'Reading' presented from a homeschooling view can encompass and enrich the child's personal growth in exploring the question "Who am I and what is my relationship to the world." Homeschooling offers the time and space to discuss deeper issues, values, dreams, expectations, questions and struggles. This curriculum is invaluable for growth as human beings. Homeschooling also encourages the learner to more fully experience the learning, placing the information into their own mental map and language template. Giving the child this freedom to learn and trusting that the learning will occur is a great philosophical leap of this alternative education choice. Expanding into this sense of freedom and trust impacts and informs a sense of self, place, path and responsibility.
A common question from parents is often "How will I know if my child is learning?" There are many different ways to find answers here, from formally testing a child to collecting portfolios of work to seeing a child in action in a real life learning experience. Because time spent homeschooling encourages parents to understand their child's strengths and weaknesses, parents usually can assess and evaluate learning in a more natural setting. As a homeschooling parent, they are free from many of the problems associated with performance evaluations. Using standardized tests and grades to rate and rank children and standardizing grade level curricula so that each student learns the same material carries with it a bundle of assumptions about the role of education, what constitutes success and failure in that endeavor, the nature of motivation, and the question of how students actually learn and remember what they learn. It can be a reductive idea that all learning, texts, teachers and students can be judged on these few criteria. Learning can be a shift away from isolated facts and memorized procedures and toward conceptual understanding and problem solving. Homeschooling, with its emphasis on finding each individual's talents and interests, has no need for specific guidelines for instruction and evaluation, nor for grade level objectives. Homeschooling, with its long view, measures children for the people they are becoming. Grade level expectations are arbitrary at best, and restrict learning at worst. Placing external rewards on performance assessment and a preoccupation with performance in general can undermine an inherent interest in learning. Treating children as empty vessels to be filled with knowledge can disempower students' ability to discover on their own. Homeschooling values interactions between parent and child and the learning material itself and promotes learning for the intrinsic rewards inherent to learning. Self-assessment is the goal. Homeschooling encourages formulating a curriculum with the learning content and learner's style informing the assessment tools. In growing the whole child view -- curricula, disciplines, subject areas, standards, evaluation -- all function as means, rather than ends. This can help project and protect the rich experience of learning.
The Role of Education
Finally, a discussion with the parents to consider what it means to be an 'educated person' can help with their values clarification and homeschooling expectations. Homeschooling for the whole child allows parents and children to take a broad definition of 'educate,' and offers the long perspective, giving many years to learning. A homeschooled child has more time to experience the world outside the traditional classroom and to nurture the feeling that education is not just something you do to mark time, make more money or pass an exam, but also because it is a part of participating in a larger framework. Because the half-life of science and technology information today is estimated to be twenty-two months, one may not feel that a person who is educated can know about every area, but rather an educated person can know how to gather resources and 'find out.' A homeschooler knows how to make use of information, and how to think clearly about that information, how to learn from the expertise and experience of mentors, how to find direct learning experiences, and how to continue learning throughout their lives. Homeschooling does not mandate a particular method of instruction or a specific form of that education. Surely our diverse and vibrant citizenship has many ways to learn, and many different topics to learn. The whole child has a desire to learn, a desire to be challenged. Homeschooling provides direction for that desire. Making the decision to homeschool a child and see a child, not as a fragmented mass of skills, but rather, as an individual unfolding and blossoming into a whole person, can nurture and enrich a family's life journey.
Eve Dunaway currently works as a private practice lactation consultant (IBCLC). She has a B.A. in Speech Pathology and Audiology, a California Teaching Credential and a M.Ed. in Curriculum Development, and has worked as a teacher and in developing, writing and evaluating curriculum. Her interest and background in traditional education made it all the easier to decide to home learn for the last ten years with her four children. She is a former President of HSC.
Homeschooling parents have a wide array of programmatic options to choose from. Quite often, the family will participate in a variety of learning opportunities over the course of their homeschool career. As the children grow and change, their interests and needs change as well. Part of the homeschooling challenge is continually finding the right mix of educational experiences to create the optimal homeschool environment.
Parents and professionals must carefully examine each possible option. They will be looking at many factors to help them choose the best course of action:
compatibility with the child's interests, skills and abilities
compatibility with the parent's philosophy of education and child rearing
compatibility with the child's other activities and commitments
the variety of choices within that resource
Public School or Charter School Programs
Independent Study Programs (ISPs) exist in many regular public schools and public charter schools in California. They vary widely in their quality, philosophy, logistics, requirements and the population served. These programs provide credentialed teachers to assist and support homeschooling families. Some programs require a set curriculum, while others allow more flexibility in a family's approach to learning. Some programs provide funds to families that offset the cost of homeschooling. Others offer classes, social opportunities or field trips. Some have on-site activities, and others send their teachers into the home.
The county office of education or the school district may have a listing of available programs. Local homeschooling leaders, who make it their business to know what is available to homeschoolers in their area, may be more knowledgeable about these programs. This option is very appealing to some families who may be looking for assistance, support, or social opportunities. For others it is an unnecessary intrusion into family life, and a family may want to avoid such interference with homeschooling that is going well.
Private Satellite Programs
Private homeschooling programs, known as private satellite programs or PSPs, offer a variety of services for a fee. These businesses may be conducted as a form of distance education, with a set curriculum and teacher available to give assignments and/or feedback on finished work. Or, a program may sell a complete or partial curriculum that families use independently. A program may take the form of giving minimal advice and support for a small fee, or offer documentation services (helping families create a transcript and diploma based on a body of knowledge and study). As businesses, these programs often advertise in homeschooling literature, websites, and at homeschooling fairs and conferences. They are often reviewed there, or discussed in on-line homeschooling forums to help consumers decide whether or not a private program is suitable for their family.
Homeschoolers of all ages enroll in community colleges. Each college has its own requirements as to who may enroll, at what age, cost, maximum number of units, etc. High school students usually do not have to pay for units, though there are registration fees. College classes may count as high school credit as well as college credit. Some homeschoolers transfer to universities based on their transcripts and credits at the community college, obviating the need for a high school diploma, or as an addition to homeschool records.
Some four-year universities offer similar opportunities for high school aged students through their regular program or extension classes. College can be used as enrichment or for basic subject matter. Some homeschoolers participate in study abroad programs, lab sciences, languages, basic core studies, arts and sports. There are as many ways to use the community college system as there are homeschoolers!
On-line learning is available to homeschoolers, just as it is to the general public. Many universities, as well as other kinds of private institutions (museums, private schools, institutes), offer on-line opportunities to learn new things, or study a subject in-depth. Often there are no age requirements or prerequisites. Levels of challenge vary from institution to institution. They offer classes, assignments, and instructor feedback. Universities such as U. of Nebraska at Lincoln, and U. of Arizona reach out to homeschoolers, advertising elementary, middle, high school and university programs.
Adult Education, museums, clubs, municipal programs, scouts, 4-H, etc. can be a great resource for homeschoolers, offering a wide variety of courses and opportunities to choose from, as well as providing a place for children to socialize.
Homeschoolers may also find learning opportunities in foreign languages, writing, music, sciences, sports, auto mechanics, and so on. Homeschoolers are often able to bypass age regulations if they can prove they are capable of doing the work.
Quite often, homeschoolers will pick and choose from a variety of resources available to them, putting together a combination of offerings tailored to the child's needs and interests. They might enjoy science at the Museum of Natural History, play water polo with a local club, hire a tutor for math, and take Sign Language at the community college. This may change from year to year as the child's interests mature and shift.
There will be times in a child's educational career when no program at all is the best. Family resources, personal contacts and relationships, and community resources may satisfy the child's need to learn and grow. The parents usually know when it is necessary to look outside of the familiar by the child's dissatisfaction with the status quo.
It is essential that the choices made are ones that work for the whole family. A professional can be helpful in giving guidance, discovering available resources, providing unbiased external evaluations, and making recommendations that help a family to make connections, but the final choices are best left up to the parent and child.
Author's Biography: Nancy Friedland created and directed a charter school independent study program for 8 years, helping parents to homeschool and creating an educational program for children ages 5-14. She has a teaching credential and a degree in Psychology. Nancy is a mother to two children and homeschooled for 13 years.
"Am I Really Qualified to Teach My Own Children?" Some Thoughts on This Common and Provocative Question Richard Prystowsky
Editor's Note: Two different versions of this article, one slightly revised, originally appeared in SKOLE: The Journal of Alternative Education and Paths of Learning. The focus in the article is on parents and addressing a common question parents frequently ask: "Am I really qualified to teach my own children?". It appears in this publication because we feel it is quite useful information for professionals helping a family or child who wants to homeschool. This article provides a glimpse into the philosophical discussion about how parents are qualified to teach their children.
There are many kinds of seeds in us, both good and bad. Some were planted during our lifetime, and some were transmitted by our parents, our ancestors, and our society.… Every time we practice mindful living, we plant healthy seeds and strengthen the healthy seeds already in us. Healthy seeds function similarly to antibodies.… If we plant wholesome, healing, refreshing seeds, they will take care of the negative seeds, even without our asking them. To succeed, we need to cultivate a good reserve of refreshing seeds." -- Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step
"The kids are all learning, all the time. Life is their greatest teacher. The B.A.s and M.A.s and Ph.D.s on the staff are minor actors." -- Daniel Greenberg, Free At Last
Would that homeschooling parents had a dollar for each time that they asked themselves or have been asked by others why they think they are qualified to teach their own. The question is certainly an intriguing one, and, for many homeschooling parents, a pressing one. In this essay, I would like to address some of the "psychological" and "spiritual" concerns raised by this question, couching this discussion within the context of some crucial links between parent-child teaching and holistic family living. I will be leaving aside concerns such as one's knowledge of the subject matter, one's ability to find important data, and so on; clearly, such concerns are important, but they are beyond the purview of the present paper.
My intention here is to help parents—especially those new to and those thinking about homeschooling—who are struggling with the questions of whether or not they really are both capable of teaching and qualified to teach their own and whether or not they are (or would be) acting responsibly by homeschooling their children. To this end, I offer a discussion of the following personal traits, which, in my nearly twenty years of college teaching, I have come to see as being essential for anyone to possess who desires to be a good teacher, that person's profound knowledge of her subject matter or in-depth training in teaching notwithstanding. (Note: one's being "certified" to teach is not synonymous with one's being "qualified" to teach.) My greatest mentors possessed these traits, although, to the best of my knowledge, none had taken a single course in educational theory or methods. If you yourself have or are striving to have all of these traits (the following list is not meant to be exhaustive), then you are probably fit to teach your own. On the other hand, if you lack and have no interest in attaining them, then perhaps you ought not teach either your own or anyone else's children.
1. The willingness to engage in child-led/student-led learning. Like many homeschooling parents, I've discovered that meaningful learning can occur only if the learner actively wants to learn, gives her consent to learn from a particular teacher (unless she wants to be self-taught), and initiates the learning process. In other words, although a teacher might certainly inspire a student to want to learn, ultimately the desire to learn comes from within the learner. Moreover, as the output of mass public education demonstrates, one can even do great harm to a learner by trying to make her learn against her will.2
Unless you are willing to let your child lead the way—fully or partly—to her own learning, you might find yourself engaged in a home version of the worst sort of organized schooling, in which teachers force-feed students information that the latter understandably resist learning. In my college classes, I try to help students see that, although I can try to provide an atmosphere in which they can take some intellectual risks, I cannot learn for them. Only they can learn for themselves.
Before moving on, I should add that, both in the classroom and at home, I have found that some of my best teaching moments occur when, learning along with my students or children, I discover meaning and uncover knowledge in the process of teaching.Additionally, I feel that one of my goals as a teacher/parent is to help guide my students/children so that they can teach themselves. Secure self-directed learners know when they don't know something, and they know enough to ask for help when they need or want it. In this regard, my eleven-year-old son, for example, acts no differently from my self-directed college students. When he was five, for instance, he virtually taught himself to write. When he needed help, he asked for it; when he didn't need help, he simply wrote, sometimes laboriously, sometimes not—as is the case with most (if not all) professional writers. As Daniel Greenberg and John Taylor Gatto (among others) have suggested, to teach successfully, one must have or cultivate the ability first to recognize a learner's desire to learn something and then to seize the opportunity to help him learn what he wants or needs to learn.3 Thus, if I don't know how to assist my students or children when they ask me for help, I feel that I am duty-bound as their teacher to try to help them discover how they can receive good assistance elsewhere.
2. Real, genuine humility and compassion. I often try to teach my students that they will have achieved much in the way of good critical thinking if they come to realize about themselves what all great thinkers come to realize about themselves: to wit, that they have learned enough to know how little they really know. Concerning the present topic, we can say with certainty that someone who lacks genuine humility cannot be satisfactorily compassionate towards others, because she doesn't yet have the inner strength and security to be satisfactorily compassionate towards herself. Such a person, then, is not likely to be a very good teacher—a fact to which anyone can attest who has endured even a day in the classroom of a teacher who lacked compassion for others. In any event, a truly humble, compassionate teacher is often wise enough to lead her students to discover for themselves what they need to know and secure enough to validate those of their insights that are authentic, meaningful, and moral in the highest sense of the word—even if (and perhaps especially if) these insights are quite different from her own. Such a teacher gives her students a precious gift when she shows them that she is strong enough to be humble and honest concerning what she knows and doesn't know.
Since most of my students have suffered humiliation during their schooling and other training in "socialization," they often have trouble distinguishing humility from self-loathing; in the worst cases, they act in the manner of seriously wounded animals—defensive, protective, and, in the main, wary of showing themselves vulnerable in any way to anyone. Neither I nor anyone else can teach such persons why they should be or how they can be humble; only they can teach themselves these lessons. However, I can and do try to help a number of my students discover their own paths to humility and compassion by helping them see how they themselves might begin healing those damaged parts of their inner selves that they now guard at all costs, those parts of their inner being, if you will, the damage to which the best "alternative" teaching efforts might have helped to prevent.
3. The inner security to teach others freely. Although I don't consider myself a very secure person, I do feel very strongly that, when my students become humble enough and courageous enough to begin drawing out from within themselves their own deepest truths, they also become their own best teachers and thus no longer need me as their principal guide in this endeavor. To extrapolate, I would suggest that, whenever we teach, we should always try to do so freely, so that we can remain lovingly detached from our students' learning obligations, which are always personal. All teachers need to keep in mind that there is a world of difference between our wanting to help persons learn for their own sake and our needing to teach them for our own sake (of course, these two conditions need not be mutually exclusive). If the latter is the case, we might be either projecting onto those who learn from us our own insecurities or making them the vehicles by means of which we carry out our own political or social agendas. Using our students/children to fill the narcissistic voids and heal the narcissistic wounds in our own lives could eventually prove quite harmful to both them and us.4
One final matter here: I have found that neither my own children nor my college students need me to tell them what is best for them or what they should know; in fact, they often resent (and rightfully so) my occasional, unintended attempts to own their responsibility to make meaningful choices in and for their own lives, especially when I am interfering with their choices to learn or not learn. Often, both my children and a number of my students seem to sense that such moves on my part might represent controlling, codependent behavior, and they healthily resist these moves. They want to make their own decisions and be responsible for their own mistakes. For my part, I need to recognize when I am hindering learners from reaching rather than helping them to reach their own educational goals. I, too, need to own and learn from my mistakes.
4. The willingness to learn, often from those whom we teach. If there is anything that is obvious in great teachers, it is their willingness to learn, often from their own students. Simply put, one cannot be a good teacher if one has lost the desire to learn, and any teacher unwilling to learn from his students is a teacher whose best days are past. If you have no desire to learn or no willingness to learn along with those whom you teach, or if you don't feel that those who study with you can teach you anything of real value, then you probably ought not be teaching anyone.
5. Patience. In the quick-fix, fast-food, narcotizing culture in which we live, patience is a rare commodity. But it is an essential ingredient to good teaching. Since each child learns in her own way and at her own pace, we need to be patient enough to see how our children engage in their own ever-developing and sometimes changing learning processes so that we can help them be active, confident learners. We need to give ourselves permission to allow them to learn differently from the ways in which we learn and from the ways in which other children (including our other children) seem to be learning. We need to accept as a perfectly normal state of affairs, for example, the fact that one of our children might want to read at age four but that another might not want to read even at age eleven or twelve. Indeed, not uncommonly, our anxiety concerning what our students/children are or are not learning has to do with us, and not with them. Since we know that they are not learning most things in the world, and yet since we also know that they are always learning all of the time, we might want to ask ourselves why we sometimes feel uneasy about their learning patterns and paths. Ultimately, such an inquiry might help us to discover that what we imagine to be our students' or children's shortcomings often reflect instead our own unresolved, problematic, internal struggles.
In any event, we need to be patient with our children and ourselves as we all struggle to live individually and mutually meaningful lives. Oh, the possible differences in all of our lives had most of our own teachers understood this need for patience in themselves!
When you teach your children at home, you are doing far more than "homeschooling" them.5 Exercising maximum control over your family's right to do what is in its own best moral interests, you are swimming against a tide of enormously destructive and powerful mediocrity and mainstreaming in your attempts to help your children live meaningful lives as whole, independent beings. You are trying to keep your children from suffering the fate of many of our nation's schooled children, who have been conditioned to be actively uninterested in and sometimes openly hostile to meaningful, shared, participatory communal living, and who, as passive, obedient learners, have little interest in themselves, in the meaning and value of their existence, or in the value of their communities. I have seen many such learners in my college classes. Often lacking good social skills, good study habits, a healthy dose of adult responsibility, and, most conspicuously, the self-motivation and self-reliance recognizable in a confident learner, they are frequently uninterested in and even hostile to learning, especially to learning new or controversial material, even if such material can help them live more meaningful and compassionate lives. More significantly, many of the students in this group who are trying to recondition themselves into becoming active, mature learners have trouble trusting themselves; not a few often seem to believe that their professors, and not they themselves, possess the answers to their most important questions.
If I have noticed any common denominator among those of my students who seem disinterested in their own pursuits, in their own learning agendas, sometimes even in their own and others' lives, it is that these kinds of students seem distanced from themselves. This state of being is common among persons who have been conditioned to be passive and whose psyches need to protect them from their being too emotionally harmed. For such students, "know thyself" is as foreign a concept as is the idea that they are responsible for their own learning, for their own lives. Self-knowledge and self-respect seem almost anathema to them, cruel reminiscences and temptations of vaguely desirable, ideal personal states of being that, to them, in their present existential dilemma, seem utterly unattainable.
For the record, I don't mean to imply that homeschooling is the right choice for everyone, nor do I think that everyone who homeschools ought necessarily to be doing so. Rather, by presenting and elaborating on what I consider important qualities that every good teacher ought to possess, I am trying to help parents decide whether or not this educational option is right for their own families. I would say, simply, that parents who wish to isolate their families from the world at large, or those who wish to force-feed their children at home rather than having others force-feed them at school, need not apply. I would also say that parents who envision a larger holistic setting for their families, perhaps one involving an intentional community, might find homeschooling a limiting or otherwise unworkable option, unless such a community were comprised (also) of homeschooling families. Nevertheless, I would hope that such parents would find for their children teachers who possess the personal qualities that I've outlined in this essay. I would ask us all to think about how little we learned from and perhaps how much we hated learning from persons who, despite their immense knowledge of the subject matter, didn't possess these qualities. Conversely, I would ask us to consider how much we learned or enjoyed learning from teachers who did possess them, even if such teachers weren't "experts" in their fields. In short, no teaching and learning environment, including homeschooling and alternative educational environments, is ipso factonurturing and positive. Humble, patient, caring, nurturing, compassionate, learner-centered teachers are a sine qua non of any meaningful, healthy learning environment. Without the opportunity to work with such teachers, students are harmed.
Additionally, I do not mean to imply that parents who decide to homeschool their children necessarily will insure that their children will be self-reliant, mature adults who have an unrelenting zest for learning. And I especially don't mean to imply that such parents ought to be homeschooling their children now primarily to help insure their children's "success" in the future. Rather—and here I want to address prospective homeschooling parents directly—I simply want to clarify what I see as being centrally at stake here: you have both the right and the obligation to advocate for your child's needs, to do what's best for your child, even though the culture at large often makes it difficult for you to do so, and even though you might occasionally have doubts or questions about your educational theories and practices or about your aptitude as a teacher (all good-faith teachers have such doubts or questions). Remember that, for the most part, mass-organized schooling (public or private) sets up learning situations that are convenient not only for textbook publishers, teachers, administrators, and members of school boards, but also for parents unluckily caught in the anti-family, anti-child trap that our culture has laid for us all. On the other hand, holistic family living demands that the parent-teacher (a vibrant and ancient PTA) respond to the learning needs of her or his child by setting up learning situations that meet those needs.
As you wrestle with the central questions at stake here, keep in mind that few persons (if anyone) outside of your family will care as much as you care about meeting your child's needs. Put differently, you know the difference between being with your child and leaving your child with even a warm, loving, devoted caretaker. And you know that yourchild knows the difference, too. With this understanding in mind, think of those children who—as perhaps you once did—at the end of the school year or school cycle, feel utterly relieved finally to have the time to do the things that they find meaningful in their lives, and who can now spend more than a few fleeting moments with the persons who matter most to them. How distressing that we have placed the vast majority of our nation's children in this bind. But how promising that, as caring, nurturing homeschooling parents, you can avoid being a party to such madness.
1. Often, homeschoolers encounter two questions more than they encounter any others: "What about socialization?" and "Am I really qualified to teach my own children?" The first question tends to be posed by persons outside of homeschooling; it is best answered, I think, in Chapter 3 of David Guterson's Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992). Nearly a decade ago, I wrote the present essay because I couldn't find a good answer to the second question, which tends to be posed by persons within homeschooling. The original version of this essay appeared in SKOLE: The Journal of Alternative Education, Vol. XII, No. 1 (Winter 1995), pp. 47 – 57. This very slightly revised version appeared in Paths of Learning 5 (Summer 2000), pp. 46 – 49.
2. For some excellent discussions of this issue, see Daniel Greenberg's Free At Last: The Sudbury Valley School (Framingham, MA: Sudbury Valley School Press, 1987), pp. 15-18 and passim, and Herbert Kohl's I Won't Learn from You! The Role of Assent in Learning (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 1991).
3. In a November 1967 Redbook article entitled "How Teachers Make Children Hate Reading," John Holt—still a public school educator at the time—analyzes the differences between what I'm calling child-led learning and what I'm calling force-fed learning. His article is reprinted in The Norton Reader: An Anthology of Expository Prose, ed. by Arthur M. Eastman, et al. (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1984), pp. 224–232.
4. For a detailed discussion concerning these kinds of matters, see Alice Miller's The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self, trans. by Ruth Ward (New York: Basic Books, 1981).
5. For a trenchant critique of the word "homeschooling," see David Guterson's Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense, op. cit., p. 5ff. One of the most engaging books ever written on homeschooling, Guterson's text provides consistently provocative, insightful discussions of centrally important issues and controversies having to do with homeschooling. I highly recommend this book to prospective homeschooling families, as well as to anyone else who is seriously committed to learning more about homeschooling.
Author's Biography: Formerly a Professor of English and Humanities at Irvine Valley College, in Irvine, CA, Richard J. Prystowsky is currently the Division Chair for Math, Science & Engineering at College of the Redwoods, in Eureka, CA. He is also the editor of the education magazine Paths of Learning. He and his wife, Charlie Miles, who is the President of the HomeSchool Association of California, homeschooled their daughter Samara and their son, Jacob, both of whom are now in college.
Greenberg, Daniel. 1995. Free At Last: The Sudbury Valley School. Framingham, MA: Sudbury Valley School Press.
Hanh, Thich Nhat. 1992. Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life. New York: Bantam Books.
A Homeschool Primer for ProfessionalsLinda J. Conrad, Esq., Elizabeth Bryant, Esq. and Debbie Schwarzer, Esq.
Parents in California may legally educate their children themselves, or "homeschool", using a number of different choices. They can use public independent study or charter school programs, home-based or campus based private schools (including schools just for that family's children), or tutor their children, if they have a credential. This short overview focuses first on the legal requirements for establishing a small, usually home-based, private school. Second, it provides a brief overview of other legal options, such as private satellite programs, tutoring, public school independent study options and charter schools. It concludes with a brief look at some of the other legal issues facing homeschoolers, including divorce, contacts from government officials and access to welfare benefits.
I. Compulsory Attendance
All school age children must attend school or they are truant. The California Education Code states: "[A]ll children between the ages of 6 and 18 must attend a public full-time day school unless otherwise exempted." (§48200) There are two statutory exemptions: First, the private tutoring exemption for children who are instructed at least three hours each day; 175 days a year by a teacher holding a valid California teaching credential for the grade taught (§48224); and second, the private school exemption for children enrolled in a full-time private school (§48222) that complies with certain statutory requirements. Any child who will be six on or before December 2 of the school year is subject to the compulsory school requirements (§48010).
Homeschooling families in California comply with the compulsory attendance law in one of several ways: (a) home-based private schools that comply with the statutory requirements (§48222 exemption); private school satellite programs for homeschoolers (§48222 exemption); using a private tutor (§48224 exemption); using a public school independent study (public school); or using a public charter school independent study, distance learning, or homeschool program (public school).
II. Home-Based Private Schools
Children are exempt from compulsory attendance if they "are being instructed in a private full-time day school by persons capable of teaching." For the exemption to be valid, the school must comply with the requirement in the statute regarding filing of an affidavit. (§48222) A private school has been defined as "any school, whether conducted for profit or not, giving a course of training similar to that given in a public school at or below the twelfth grade, including but not limited to schools owned or operated by any church." (Vehicle Code §492.) This broad definition includes home-based private schools as well as private school cooperatives and private school satellite programs. While some of the programs offered by private schools operated by others have some benefits for some families, many families establish their own private schools.
In California, any individual may establish a private school in any location without a teaching credential or a business motive as long as they follow the statutory requirements in the Education Code. Once it has been established, the school must file a private school affidavit annually (§33190.) The affidavit contains certain information about the school (address, number of students, names of certain administrators) and requires the person filing to affirm, under penalty of perjury, that the statements in the affidavit are true.
Home-based private schools are required to keep the following records: (a) attendance records (§48222); courses of study offered (§33190); faculty qualifications (§33190); criminal record summaries (§§33190 and 44237); Immunization records or waivers (Health and Safety Code §120335.); and the private school affidavit (formerly known as an R-4) (§33190)
A government official, such as an attendance officer, is legally entitled to see a copy of the filed private school affidavit, the attendance records, and a letter verifying that the children are enrolled in and attending the school. Although private schools are required to keep the other records in the above list, no public official is entitled to see them without a subpoena.
There are no statutory requirements for documenting the work completed at private schools. Homeschoolers often do keep work samples or summaries of work. Families operating private schools should keep records to confirm work completed to prepare transcripts for transfer to another school or college applications.
A. Attendance and School Hours
The private school may set length the school day and year, and when it is in session. California law does not require that private school students attend classes at any particular hours or on any particular days. A student who is out in public during times when public school students are normally inside a school building is not necessarily doing anything inappropriate, and is certainly not doing anything illegal (unless the community has a daytime curfew ordinance).
B. Courses of Study
California law requires that instruction in private schools be in English and "in the several branches of study required to be taught in the public schools" (§48222). How or what private schools teach within those branches is up to the school. The "adopted course of study for grades 1 to 6" is set forth in §51210, and the adopted course of study for grades 7 to 9" " is set forth in §§51220, 51220.5, and 51221 (these lists are fairly general and far less specific than scope and sequence lists that public schools must follow). Although instruction must be offered in those areas by the school, it is not necessary to offer them in the same years, or in the same sequence, as the public school, except as specifically noted in the statute.
Many private schools attempt to duplicate as closely as possible what is taught in the public schools, and use the same textbooks and materials, but this is not required. The state laws do not require that private schools use any particular curriculum materials; it is up to the private school to design its curriculum. While some parents use a "boxed" curriculum available from any number of vendors, many parents use a wide variety of materials, not just conventional educational materials but also literature, practical experience, and materials available over the internet. Some parents also follow a philosophy known as "unschooling", in which the children are permitted to take on learning tasks as they naturally become ready and interested. While the parents are watching closely to see that material in all fields of learning is available and to facilitate learning whenever possible, they do not require the children to engage in particular activities.
C. Faculty and Employees
Teachers in private schools do not need teaching credentials. §48222 requires that the teachers be "capable of teaching," but this phrase is not defined. Some states require that homeschooling parents have a high school diploma or college degree; California has not adopted legislation about who may teach in private schools.
Because parents teaching their own children generally have a very good understanding of their children's learning styles, needs, and intellectual strength and weaknesses, and because they generally are not dealing with large numbers of children at any time, the specialized training that is given as part of the credentialing process isn't really applicable to parents.
D. Criminal Record Summary
§44237 states that the criminal record summary is not required for parents teaching only their children. Parents who do hire others to teach their children in their home may need to obtain criminal record summary information on them.
Health and Safety Code (hereinafter H&S) §§120335 and 120375 require private schools to obtain documentation that each pupil has received early childhood, tetanus, and hepatitis B immunizations. Immunization records can be obtained from the child's doctor. If a parent files a letter or affidavit with the school that the immunization is contrary to his or her beliefs, the child is exempted from the immunization requirement. (H&S §120365.) A medical exemption can be obtained from the child's doctor if the physical condition of the child is such that the immunizations are not considered to be safe (H&S §120370).
F. The Private School Affidavit
After the private school has been established and all of the required documentation as described above has been prepared, then the school must file a private school affidavit and then renew it annually. Affidavits are usually filed online at the Department of Education website. The filing requirements are the same regardless of the size of the school.
The private school affidavit must be filed between October 1 and 15 each year. The CDE does not accept early filings. If a school is established after October 15 but before the summer break, the affidavit should be filed when the school is established. The fact that the affidavits are filed after the school year typically starts is not a problem. No private school can file before October 1, and the state does not claim that every private school student is truant between mid-August and October 1.
G. California Department of Education Letters
The California Department of Education changed its policy in 2003 and no longer takes the position that parents may not establish and operate their own private schools for their own children. See the Department's website athttp://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/ps/cd/psfaq.asp#psfaqs12 for information about their position. For more information about the legality of homeschooling, please see the essay, The Legality of Homeschooling Using the Private School Option, available online atwww.hsc.org.
H. Business Licenses and Health Codes
Parents operating private schools to educate only their own children are not required to obtain city business licenses. Anyone enrolling a child outside the family and charging tuition should consult counsel to see what the tax and permit ramifications would be. Most jurisdictions have ordinances regarding health and safety issues at schools, but these generally apply only to schools with large numbers of students (such as 50).
I. Private School Cooperatives
Some homeschoolers set up cooperative private schools. A cooperative is a group of parents joining together to start a school. The requirements are essentially the same as starting a home-based private school.
Unless the cooperative school holds formal and regular classes with one of the parent-teachers teaching a group of children who are not their own, the criminal record summary required by §44237 is not required. However, if the school has traditional classes where a parent is working with other children, then the school must obtain a criminal record summary for all teachers.
J. California Statutes Applicable to Private Schools
A number of California statutes apply to private schools. These include the requirements for establishing a private school, as well as miscellaneous safety and health requirements. HSC has a separate booklet available on request, and on its website, entitled "Selected California Statutes Applicable to Homeschooling " listing many of these statutes.
III. Private Satellite Programs
In addition to the private schools operated by one family for its own children, there are a number of other types of private schools offering programs for families wanting to homeschool. These range from the cooperatives mentioned above, to for-profit PSPs that file paperwork and collect records for a fee, to site-based day schools that offer independent study, to distance learning programs. All satellite programs offered by private schools fall under the same legal option as parents establishing their own private school, and the exemption from compulsory attendance is only valid if the private school has complied with the statutory requirements for California private schools.
Private programs vary widely in offerings, philosophy and structure. Some offer complete curricula and home study assignments; others serve only as administrative record keepers for independent homeschooling. Some families appreciate the structure, the record keeping, and the anonymity the private PSPs may offer.
Private out-of-state PSPs, while useful for curricular support, only satisfy the legal requirements for public school exemption if the school has filed its own affidavit in California and complies with all other legal requirements for a private school in this state.
Parents with a valid teaching credential can act as a tutor for their children, or parents may employ a credentialed teacher. However, tutors and parents who choose to tutor their own children must fulfill all of the requirements of §48224. These rules are far more restrictive than those applicable to private schools, and for this reason this option is not often used, even by those parents who hold credentials.
It is the California Department of Education's position that a person holding a Multiple Subject Credential, which ordinarily is only deemed suitable for elementary education, may tutor in all subjects K-12 on the theory that, in a tutoring situation, the classroom is "self contained".
V. Public School Independent Study Programs
Enrolling a child in a public school independent study program is the legal equivalent to enrolling him in public school. These are the "home study" programs offered by many school districts. Public ISPs vary widely from school to school in the level of control they exert over their students and the services they offer. Many districts offer no independent study options, and in many other districts, the ISP is true to its historical roots - it is remedial in nature, or is intended for delinquent students. Other districts have vibrant programs aimed directly at the growing numbers of homeschooling families.
These programs can be appealing for a wide variety of reasons. Some offer children the chance to compete on a school sports team, or give ongoing social opportunities and classes. Some families prefer the structure or guidance provided by a credentialed teacher, and some schools provide the curriculum (and may require assignments, worksheets, grades and standardized testing). Some school districts offer "split-site" options, where students can attend a few classes at the local school and the remainder through independent study.
ISP programs may, or may not, use the same curriculum materials as their regular district schools. More innovative programs work with parents to develop a curriculum meeting the needs and interests of that family's children.
VI. Charter Schools
The newest method of homeschooling is using independent study, distance learning, and homeschooling programs developed by various charter schools throughout the state. Again, these programs vary widely. Charters are limited to serving students in their home county or contiguous counties. Some charter schools offer students the opportunity to compete on public school sports teams, while others are only distance learning programs using the Internet.
VII. Testing and Accountability
Many parents are opposed to standardized testing for their children. They feel that because they are teaching their children and with them every day, they are well aware of their children's progress and know what their children's strengths and weaknesses are. Many also believe that the very process of taking a standardized test is objectionable.
Children in public school programs, including charter schools, may or may not be required to take the usual state standardized tests as a condition of enrolling in the program. Programs that receive or are affiliated with districts that receive federal funding are under increased pressure to require that all students test. Although parents in California do have the guaranteed option under state law of excusing their children from standardized tests, programs are finding that they have to condition enrollment on agreeing to test, which is negatively impacting enrollment in the public programs.
State law does not require that children in private schools take any standardized tests. The legislature chose to let parents determine whether their children are being educated satisfactorily. Of course, many private schools offer or require some form of testing, mostly because the parents expect it. Families that operate their own private schools and wish to test do have the ability to locate testing services that will test their children.
Because California law has no "accountability" rules for any of its private schools, large or small, there will not necessarily be any customary "proof" of student achievement from these schools. The larger schools tend to follow the public schools in their testing and grading habits, but many more experimental schools or home-based schools do not use customary testing or grading at all, but rely instead on close, personal evaluation of the children.
VIII. Special Situations
A. Withdrawing A Child from Public or Private School Mid-Year
Parents have the absolute right to withdraw their child from public school and use any other legal option to educate their child. Some children receive special services under an IEP; the IEP may have requirements that parents and children follow certain agreed procedures, but the parents may withdraw their children and find the services their children need independently.
B. Homeschooling after a Divorce
Although it is legal to homeschool after a divorce or in a situation where the other parent does not agree with homeschooling, the ultimate decision as to whether a parent can homeschool may be up to the Family Law Court. The judge will make a decision based upon the evidence presented at the court hearing regarding what is in the child's best interest. As homeschooling grows in popularity, we find that attorneys and judges are more willing to learn about its benefits and consider it when making educational decisions.
Two primary obstacles to homeschooling after a divorce are (1) opposition by one parent and (2) lack of accountability. First, the parent who wants to homeschool and any legal representatives should try to educate the other parent about the benefits of homeschooling. Usually the benefits are both to the child and to the child's relationship with that parent. If that is not possible, then the parent who wants to homeschool should decide whether homeschooling is worth the battle with the other parent. The parent needs to consider whether homeschooling over the other parent's objection is in the child's best interest.
Second, in order to prevail on the homeschooling issue in a custody case, accountability must be documented. Unlike most homeschooling situations, the homeschooling parent must be prepared to document the academic learning and social development of the child. This documentation can be done in several ways: (1) enrollment in a public or private homeschooling program where educators other than the parent document the child's progress; (2) enrollment in a public charter school; (3) hire an independent tutor; (3) consult with a professional educational consultant who will write progress reports; or (4) use independent testing sources. While these suggestions can help document the child's school progress, there is no guarantee that a court will accept it or allow a parent to homeschool.
When a court gets involved in the homeschool decision, its responsibility is to do what it believes to be in the best interest of the child based on the evidence and its information about homeschooling. The court wants to make the right decision, and needs to be given enough information to help it. It must be given evidence about the specific homeschooling situation and reliable homeschooling information, in as concise a form as possible. By providing this information, the court has the best chance to reach the right decision for the child.
C. Truancy Investigations
The compulsory attendance laws are enforced by attendance officers, usually at the district level, and sometimes by the county office of education. An attendance supervisor (truant officer) is only authorized to verify that the student is enrolled in and attending a legal school. If the child is in a public program, the parent should give them the administrator's name. If the child is in a private school operated by someone else, the parent should have a copy of the letter confirming the child's attendance. The attendance officer needs to contact the school administrator for other information. If the parent operates a private school, then the officer is entitled to verify that the child is attending the private school and that the "private school has complied with the provisions of §33190 requiring the annual filing by the owner or other head of a private school of an affidavit or statement of prescribed information with the Superintendent of Public Instruction." (§§48321.5 and 48415.). The officer or a social worker has no authority to obtain additional information or records.
D. Children's Protective Services
Educational neglect alone cannot be a basis for an investigation and police officers and CPS workers cannot enter a home without a warrant or a reasonable belief that the child is in imminent danger of physical harm. Psychological harm is not enough.
E. Welfare Benefits
Welfare benefits cannot be denied just because a family is homeschooling their children as long as they are using one of the legal options. It should be enough for the homeschool family to provide a verification of enrollment and attendance in school to the child support agency,together with a copy of the private school affidavit if the family operates its own school.
All references to code sections are to the California Education Code unless otherwise noted.
Because education is a personal experience accomplished in myriad ways, and because scientists are still struggling to understand how it actually occurs, it is impossible to assume that any one child's transition to or from homeschooling is representative of all. It is important, therefore, to consider all transitions from one educational method to another (regardless of the direction) in the context of an individual's unique experience.
Differentiating Between Learning at School and Learning at Home
Equally important to appreciating the impact of transitions between school attendance and homeschooling is to understand the foundational differences that distinguish each approach. Briefly, the following underpin school attendance:
Compulsory attendance by force of law
Curriculum, or course of study, predetermined and, with few exceptions, the same for everyone
Achievement measured in relation to the progress of others
In most homeschooling situations, whether or not a purchased/prepared curriculum is utilized, the learning lifestyle created rests on:
Autonomous use of time in ways applicable to the individual's needs and desires
Purpose of study that grows out of intrinsic motivation, leading to quick grasp of desired information, concepts, and skills
Achievement measured by growth of individual's knowledge and skill
Due to dissimilar foundations, the guiding philosophies naturally diverge. For example, "school mind" asks, "What should a child know at ___ grade level?" "Homeschool mind" asks the child what she is interested in, and further observes the active child to gather its own clues. School mind asks, "Does she need to know this for a test?" Homeschool mind asks, "Does she need to know this to improve her life in some way?" School mind asks, "What can I teach her?" Homeschool mind asks, "What can she learn?" School mind asks, "What answers has he retained?" Homeschool mind asks, "Has he learned how to learn?"
Transitioning from School to Home
One of the greatest challenges to a child moving from school to home is the shift from school's institutional schedule, organization, and teaching methods to those more appropriate for integration into family life. The more time a child has spent in the institution, the longer it seems to take both parents and child to acclimate to the relative freedom to create their own schedule and organization. Thus many families report they spend time experimenting to determine what works best in their own situation. Just a few examples of this "customizing" include determining at what time of day the child is most eager to learn (some night owls don't quite "wake up" until evening!), considering whether or not a child needs additional opportunities to move about in-between quieter periods (especially effective for children with special needs), or scheduling activity around a working spouse's availability.
Within the homeschooling community the value of a period known as "decompression time" for children leaving school is commonly accepted and trusted. Basically, decompression means relieving the child of pressure to "perform" educational activities. The amount of time needed for decompression varies with each child. Some parents report that after just a few weeks of space to breathe, relax, and 'veg out', their children eagerly bounce into activity. Others observe that it takes a full year or even a bit longer before their children get their bearings and confidently move forward.
The decompression period serves many purposes, but three emerge critical to honor the underlying philosophy of home education:
Time to withdraw from being told what to do so as to shoulder increasing responsibility for one's own education
Time to withdraw from school-induced pressure to learn (including external rewards) so learning becomes enjoyable and its own reward
Time to withdraw from resistance to learning that stems from the ill-treatment of "smart" kids in school as well as from having been forced into irrelevant studies
The other major effect of transitioning from school to home is missing friends or, more specifically, missing the sense of common experience homeschooled children don't share with their peers. Even the youngest children realize they are a minority by not stepping on that yellow bus each morning. It may be difficult for children to accept and cope with a sudden drop in the number of friends. Parents can be great guides in helping the experience result in a better understanding and appreciation of quality versus quantity friendships. True friendship, just as with adults, does stand the test of time and distance, and real friends continue to call after school, go to the park, have sleepovers, and enjoy growing up together.
Other children readily accept that they are moving into a different lifestyle, one that doesn't necessarily include daily contact with former schoolmates (although homeschooling certainly doesn't have to preclude this, either). They realize that they are making a trade-off. Their time is not empty; rather they fill it in other directions with hobbies, sports, music, pen and e-mail pals, classes, youth organizations, apprenticeships, volunteering, and self-employment, to name just a few.
Homeschool support groups offer tremendous help in this aspect of the transition as they provide abundant social opportunities both within and without an educational context. Such groups exist by the thousands across America, are neither difficult to find nor create, and provide encouragement and friendship for the entire family.
To help with the transition from school to home parents can:
Discuss the differences that will be created in family life by the new form of education
Help fill newly available time with interesting activity until the child is capable of doing so independently
Model curiosity and inquisitive behavior, then follow up by finding the answers
Think in terms of the child learning, rather than as the parent teaching
Understand that just like physical growth, learning occurs in spurts, and children need "down time" to digest that which is helping their knowledge grow.
Transitioning from Home to School
In an earlier period of the modern homeschooling movement, more children than do so today moved from home to school, particularly when they approached high school age. For a "bird's eye" perspective on this transition I interviewed dozens of adults who had been homeschooled for Homeschoolers' Success Stories (Prima Publishing, 2000). Several important common threads laced their experiences.
Structure and Tests
Accustomed to relative autonomy, previously homeschooled students found the structure inherent in a school system rather odd. Jedediah Purdy, now twenty-eight years old and author of For Common Things: Irony, Trust, and Commitment in America Today, explains, "School was boring and enormously inefficient, and it was scarcely learning. It was rote and dulling and, with the exception of a couple of very good teachers, I and other students who were any good essentially taught ourselves" (Purdy).
Thirty-one year old Aaron Timlin, the owner and director of Detroit Contemporary Art Gallery who left homeschooling to attend school in ninth grade, recalls his inability to understand the purpose or methods of the tests involved, "and I bombed them" (Timlin). Just as it takes decompression time for a schooled child to acclimate to homeschooling, it took Aaron even longer to assimilate into the school program. "By junior year I started to learn how to take a test and how to study" (Timlin).
Twenty-two year old Monique Harris, who scored a perfect 1600 on the SAT test, entered high school as a sophomore. "Our teacher gave us a review before the first test," Monique explains. "I thought the review was just some questions to help us out. I wrote them all down. I studied that, plus all my other notes that night. The next day I found out the 'review' was the test! I was expecting it to be a lot harder" (Harris).
Separation of Subjects
The students who transitioned from home to school found the complete separation of subjects another challenge. Because the increased autonomous use of time allows homeschooling students to learn necessary information and skills while pursuing personal interests, this separation was most often described as "unnatural." Amber Luvmour, a twenty-seven year old college graduate working in her family's business, sums it up well. "In homeschooling, research papers were English class. In school, the approach was 'Now we're doing math. Now we're doing English. Now we're doing creative writing.' This was a very different approach to learning" (Luvmour).
All of my interviewees had something to say on this topic. While children moving to homeschooling miss friends, those moving in the opposite direction feel as if they've entered a totally different social world in school.
The social climate created in school doesn't mirror that of the world outside of the institution. Therefore, during the first year of school attendance, Jed Purdy felt socially inept because he had no sense of what the school's socialization rules were or how he would be judged. "I fit in through acclimation, just getting the hang of it." He adds, "I never cared for it, though" (Purdy).
"People worry about feeling isolated in homeschooling," explains Aaron Timlin, "but this[in school] was the first time I ever felt social isolation" (Timlin).
Amber Luvmour's mother realized that upon entering school her daughter "was met with a lot of established social cliques and rules and power lines" (Luvmour). Amber recalls being teased and put down. However, both she and Aaron considered themselves members of no clique yet friends with members of every clique housed in their schools. "It felt good," says Amber, "because I was never caught in any of those social wars" (Luvmour).
To help with the transition from home to school parents can:
Discuss the differences that will be created in family life by the new form of education
Research the emotional and psychological problems increasingly attributed to traditionally schooled children and watch for signs in your child
Continue home-based educational activities as frequently as possible so the child doesn't begin to think school is the only place to learn
Keep up to date with the subject matter your child is studying
Act as your child's advocate in all matters pertaining to school
At Difficult Times
In the midst of personal or family crises, we would never advise another adult to move, change jobs, or look for a spouse. Yet with no say in the matter, children are often summarily subjected to making a similar, life-altering transition at an equally inappropriate time in their lives. Although other legal matters might provide the impetus, most frequently children are asked to do this as part of divorce proceedings. Because this scenario results in a non-custodial spouse requesting a homeschooling child to attend school much more frequently than the other way around, this is the issue addressed here.
Children have a limited capacity to understand what is happening during divorce, and to understand their feelings about it. The resultant stress is best allayed through loving attention from those who best know the child. One of the benefits of homeschooling that practitioners often cite is that the time together strengthens family ties, so the homeschooling parent is already in a good position to fill this need.
In his groundbreaking book, Helping Your Kids Cope with Divorce the Sandcastles Way(Random House, 1998), author M. Gary Neuman outlines "13 Ways Parents Can Help Children at Every Age." The ways relevant to this topic include:
Spend quality time and quantity time
Maintain family traditions
Become involved in your child's life
Find and focus on your child's wonderful qualities
Allow your child to express herself freely
Encourage your child's individuality and social development
Fully half of mental health counselor Newman's thirteen recommendations are typically present in a homeschooling family's lives before crisis. To take them away at a time the child most needs them is unnecessarily cruel and, worse, potentially damaging. In short, homeschooling is both the glue that keeps the family connected during free fall, and the lubricant that helps the family move through problems.
As the number of educational choices increases so, too, will grow the number of children transferring between available options. Such back-and-forth flow, inspired by informed families' ability to tailor educational offerings for individual children, will soon become so common it won't warrant a second thought.
Both now and in the future, utmost consideration should be provided to an individual child's unique experience, needs, and desires. To make transition as smooth and comfortable as possible:
Understand there are major differences in the guiding philosophies of schooling and home education
Realize that no one knows children better than their parents, and their roles in their children's lives should be supported, not usurped
The child's source and sense of security should be recognized and honored
The child should be consulted before decisions are made to change an educational approach
Most homeschooling parents have conducted a great deal of research about homeschooling prior to commencement, and any involvement in educational decisions by an outside party that include homeschooling should be guided by a similarly thorough understanding of the topic
Author's Biography: Linda Dobson is the author of six books about education and is an international speaker on education issues. As a former news analyst for a national magazine for nine years, she has experience in investigative journalism. She has provided scores of media interviews for radio talk shows and publications such as The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report, Reader's Digest, and "Live Online" for the Washington Post. Media appearances include Upfront Tonight with Diane Diamond (CNBC) and The News with Brian Williams (MSNBC). Linda serves on her town council, is the early years advisor for Homeschool.com, and edits the Prima Publishing Home Learning Library series. She lives on Mt. Pisgah in Saranac Lake, New York.
My work with homeschoolers has followed three decades of experience in the public schools. During the last of these decades I ran a program for gifted and talented high school students, many of whom took unusual routes through school. I am now the director of my own private high school, a school that provides support for students who want to take unconventional paths. What I've learned from people I've worked with turns out to be of considerable interest to homeschoolers.
Charlie Smith was enrolled in my school for three years. During this time he compiled an impressive high school academic record but did not complete any coursework in high school. His transcript shows work done at a community college, courses taken through three correspondence institutions, and work he did with three tutors. This work, along with some strong but not extremely high SAT scores, got Charlie admitted to NYU. He applied for early decision, was accepted, and didn't need to apply anywhere else. This kind of program is sometimes devised by homeschoolers.
Homeschoolers quite often enroll in classes at community colleges. The California Education Code allows the colleges to admit young people who have not yet graduated from high school as part-time or full-time students.
Thirteen thousand courses at both the high school and college level are listed in Peterson's Independent Study Guide. These courses are most often provided by accredited public universities, and they are fully equivalent to courses offered at traditional public and private high schools. Other institutions offer a wide variety of services to homeschoolers, ranging from individual courses to a full high school curriculum.
Homeschoolers can find experts in their communities and beyond who can serve as tutors. Parents themselves often provide instruction; one of Charlie's tutors was his mother, who taught Charlie second-year algebra and pre-calculus. Additionally, many homeschooling families are supported by programs in the public schools, programs that provide supervising teachers, materials, and curricular guidance. Some private schools offer the same kinds of help.
Self-teaching is often an important part of a homeschooler's education. One of my former students is a self-taught butterfly expert. He has built public and private butterfly gardens, including one in a public park in Ashland, Oregon; written and illustrated a booklet on butterflies; and has arranged to do research with a professor at Southern Oregon University.
Excerpts from an e-mail conversation I've had with homeschooler Hannah Sharp describe her high school studies. Hannah first told me about her interest in genetics: "When I was 13, right after we moved here [Livermore], my dad took me to all the Saturday Science Seminars at Lawrence Livermore Labs. The best speaker I heard that year was a woman who spoke about genetics. I was fascinated, so I wrote to the National Institutes of Health for any/all free information I could get. Then I found a college biology book which I read through to learn more and studied about 10 weeks of organic chemistry to understand the biology. I couldn't put this stuff down until I was satisfied that I understood at least the basics of it."
At the time of our correspondence, Hannah was barely 15. Because she had decided she needed to know more about chemistry to understand genetics, she was focusing on the former. When I asked her how she was going about this, she wrote:
I actually started chemistry when I began to mess around with those mixing cups as a little kid. I did many different things like that all the time I was growing up. Then, after we moved up here, I found the Rock-It Science chemistry class with Mr. McChesney over at Moffett Field, and I got even more hooked. It was 10-12 weeks of great subjects like glass blowing, disappearing glass, weighing stuff with quality scales, examining the truth behind health scares, making root beer to see if it would explode and firing off tennis balls to learn about propulsion rockets. We even tried out the latest fads in experiments to look at the science behind the "stupid" stuff teens will do. I even remember some of two of the more wonderful class names: Burn, Melt or Stink (Does everything burn?) and Calories in Food-Love those 'tater chips! It was hands on. He barely "lectured." I loved every minute of it. But it was a backwards way to do chemistry, as far as traditional schooling goes. I "did" chemistry. I did not "study" chemistry. Next, of course, when I got into the human genome project, I had to go find out some stuff on organic chemistry. You have to know the chemical foundations for cells to make serious progress understanding genetics. So I went to see a teacher at Las Po [Las Positas Community College] in the chemistry department who was kind enough to give me some texts on organic. I read all I needed to understand my genetics, then I put it down. That is considered very backward. Most people do not study organic before general chemistry, and the teacher at Las Po tried hard to talk me out of what I wanted to do at first. However, she finally decided I was young enough so that if I screwed myself up going at it the way I wanted to, I could overcome the handicap later. By the middle of last spring, I knew I wanted to study some more computer-related things, so I got into a CIS [computer and information science] class at Las Po. I think I may have told you, I really love taking apart things, especially our old computer and the laser disk in my old CD player. I am more interested in the hard wiring of the computer, in the motherboard, and in software engineering than I am in applications, but I wanted to find out why people get so interested in applications too. But, between Mr. McChesney and the organic chemistry I had read earlier, I've just always kept a sort of nagging interest in chemistry. So, since I am only learning a few things right now--Spanish, reading whatever I want for English, logic, piano, advanced algebra, and CIS--I decided to take "formal" chemistry too. The algebra and the CIS at Las Po are easy, Spanish is basically memorizing vocabulary and grammar (Mom taught it, so pronunciation is easy for me to pick up), and logic is just plain common sense. Thus, I realized I do have enough time to do chemistry and I'm seriously interested in it, so I went for it. So, as I said, it has been backwards, but it has worked for me. This is what I'm doing right now: I have a great little book Mastering the Periodic Table. I think knowing the PT is basic to the rest of chemistry, so I'm learning it thoroughly. Very easy. Just memorization. Next we found a wonderful text Modern Chemistry. Mom got me the teacher's edition and I'm having a great time with it. I also have Chemistry: Concepts and Problems. It's a self-teaching guide that I use to review as I go along in my chemistry text. Finally, I do many of the labs that come with Modern Chemistry. Some of the labs are repetitive and I have finally figured out the reason they are there is to reinforce the material for kids in a classroom setting who might need to go over something twice in order to get it. They aren't mandatory, so, if I understand the concepts, I skip these repeat labs. And I skip labs that require a large-class setting. Obviously, I don't have 20 other students here at the house with me. These I read, but, honestly, there often isn't much in them that matters, so I don't feel I'm missing too much. However, I do feel labs are very important. There is a great quote "One experiment, well-conducted, and carefully observed by the student, from first to last, will afford more knowledge than the mere perusal of a whole volume." I think that is so true. There's also a magazine, "Chem Matters," and tons of web sites I love, so I go mess around with them whenever I find anything I can't get out of the books or I hit upon something I want to know more about. And that's it.
Teenagers who have been homeschooled sometimes accelerate their education, not simply to speed things up, but in order to get themselves into a challenging environment. The California High School Proficiency Examination (CHSPE) provides one way to move ahead on an earlier-than-usual schedule. Students who are 16, or who have completed the tenth grade, or who are in the second part of the tenth grade during the spring can take this exam and earn a Certificate of Proficiency that is equivalent to a high school diploma. This Certificate provides teenagers with an exemption from compulsory education, unrestricted access to community colleges, and most of the rights of an adult when they work.
After one year in high school, Matthew Snyder began attending a community college as a concurrently enrolled high school student. Toward the end of his tenth grade year he took the CHSPE and left high school altogether. He continued with college classes for another two years, studying engineering and music. After spending a few months in Mexico, he devoted two years to skiing or, as he puts it, being a "ski bum." Next he found work in construction and learned a lot about designing buildings. Matthew decided to return to formal studies, enrolled at California State University, Long Beach, and earned a degree in creative writing. He then prepared some architectural renderings, gathered up some letters of recommendation from people who knew his work, applied to graduate school at Harvard, was accepted, and is now there studying architecture and loving it.
He's at Harvard, but he didn't take the SAT or the ACT, he didn't depend on having completed high school subjects to get into any college, and he doesn't have a diploma. He did take the CHSPE, but the only thing this did for him was set him free from high school.
There's a lot of mythology about college admission floating around. Harvard is very highly selective, but college admission is not by and large an enormously competitive process. The great majority of colleges are not highly selective; some very, very good colleges are in this majority. Pitzer College, one of the Claremont Colleges in Southern California, admits 63% of the people who apply. While UC Berkeley accepts just one in four applicants, the acceptance rate at UC Santa Cruz is a little better than four of every five. Casandra Miller, a graduate of my school, chose to attend Wells College in Aurora, New York, a highly regarded women's college. Wells accepts 92% of its applicants. Derek Jansen completed his homeschooling and entered Kalamazoo College in Michigan; Kalamazoo accepts 85% of those who apply. This school is a respected liberal arts college whose graduates go on to earn Ph.D.'s at a higher rate than graduates of UC Santa Cruz, Johns Hopkins, or Brown.
Transfer admission to most four-year schools is no problem at all. California community colleges have no subject matter requirements for admission. A strong record at a community college can be the basis for transfer admission to almost any college or university in the country. While a handful of very selective colleges, such as Stanford, accept very few transfer students, the University of California gives admission priority to transfer students from California community colleges, and almost all schools are as open to transfer students as they are to freshman applicants.
With regard to college admission, Hannah, the student cited earlier, says, "Last year, I picked out six colleges in which I was interested because they offer to undergraduates opportunities to do serious research, so my folks took me to visit most of them. There are several I really like and I've been corresponding with them about what it might take for me to get in their programs. They are smaller schools, which I like a lot, and not as well known as the biggies, which also appeals to me. I am not into the competitiveness I perceive in the Ivies and near-Ivies. Besides, from all I've read, many of those schools remind me of the story 'The Emperor's New Clothes.' I don't think there's nearly as much there as many people think."
Hannah will write her own transcript, something many homeschoolers have done with successful results. If she needs a high school diploma, which she may not, her parents with provide one from the private school they've established. She will have no trouble gaining college admission.
Of course not all homeschoolers will choose to go to college. A large majority of our fellow citizens are leading their adult lives without benefit of a college degree, and many homeschoolers will join this majority. Here are just a few of the occupations my students have chosen and successfully entered:
professional Motocross racer
sheet metal worker and supervisor
professional rock climber
house framer; working toward contractor's license
professional auto body man
Homeschoolers have the whole world to utilize as a resource. There is already an extensive record of their having acquired very solid educations; having gained admission to many colleges and universities all over the country, including the most competitive and prestigious ones; and having successfully entered every conceivable vocation. This record will only get stronger as time passes. Your professional expertise can help open up the bright future for homeschoolers.
Author's Biography: Wes Beach has 40 years' experience in education. He spent 32 years in public and private schools as a teacher in grades K-14 and as the director of several alternative education programs. He is currently Director of Beach High School, a private high school that offers a wide variety of alternatives to traditional schooling. Some BHS students skip a substantial part of high school and enter college or trade schools, go to work, start businesses, travel, engage in independent learning and pursue unique creative endeavors. Others put together high school programs that include formal coursework, self-teaching, study with tutors, work, distance learning, volunteering, travel and inventive projects.
Wes has served on the board of the HomeSchool Association of California (HSC) and is at present HSC's Teen Adviser. He writes for HSC's newsletter, California HomeSchooler, and is a presenter at HSC's California Home=Education Conference each August in Sacramento. Wes has given talks throughout California and continues to do so where there are interested hosts.
Wes is the author of Opportunities After High School: Thoughts, Documents, Resources. This book deals with enrolling in a community college; choosing, preparing for and applying to four-year colleges; productive and fulfilling life paths that do not include a college education; and documentation. Wes's son and daughter spent little time on traditional high school studies and are both honors graduates of the University of California.
by John Russell-Curry, OH, SH, LH, Multiple Subjects and Administration Credentials Pattee Russell-Curry, MFT, ADTR
In the early implementation of special education laws, a key component was the "Search and Serve" directive to identify and assess all special needs children that the public schools could find and serve. The intent of this directive was to ensure that children would no longer be overlooked, or underserved. Today this concept directive is referred to with the motto "No Child Left Behind".
Specific codes and special education regulations can be accessed through the following contact: Special Education Hearing Office, McGeorge School of Law, 3200 Fifth Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95817. The phone number is (916) 739-7053. The Special Education Department of the local school district in question is another source.
Schools frequently have "Student Study Teams" that discuss whether a student may need a referral for special education services or other services that might be provided. Schools must document their review to demonstrate that they are following the "Search and Serve" directive. When students score low on test scores, this may also warrant the schools involvement in assessing and providing modification or accommodations to address special needs the student may have that have interfered with test performance.
When parents decide to homeschool a special needs child, the school district may be concerned about whether they are complying with the "Search and Serve" directive adequately. Parents are within their legal rights to decline public school special education services that are offered. Hopefully, the parent will weigh the benefits of the services offered as opposed to going without. In some cases, a child who is homeschooled may receive special services in addition to the homeschooling, while in other cases the services may not be needed due to the one-on-one nature of much homeschooling experience. These educational needs and issues must be discussed and weighed on a case-by-case basis.
In our experience, it is rare that a parent declines services, but in doing so they can expect that the district will ask them to sign a waiver holding the district harmless of any liability for absence of service. The district wants to demonstrate that they are complying with the "Search and Serve" directive, and if a parent doesn't want their help, the parent must state this in writing through the waiver. School districts are legally obligated to prove that a student was offered services. In the case of homeschools, the district is only obligated to offer limited special education services. Some district administrators who are so inclined, may offer homeschool families more special education services, but in general, most services are probably withheld unless the student attends the public school. Homeschool students enrolled in a Charter School will not have the same tension from the school district because it is possible to provide the special education specialist services at the Charter office where students drop in. Of course, parents can choose to decline these services in the Charter School as well. The school district will still have to complete their assessment and develop a service plan, but the parent can choose to waive the plan.
Private schools that provide credentialed teachers may receive the offer of limited special education services from the public school. However, private schools that hire uncredentialed teachers, and other homeschool environments that may not be able to demonstrate credentialed teachers create a difficult and confusing dilemma for school districts who are not clear on how to interpret the law for these "unqualified" groups.
Traditionally, special education services include speech/language therapy, adapted physical education, resource specialist service, special day class, or other specialized service (i.e. for blind, deaf/hard of hearing, orthopedically impaired, severely emotionally disturbed, developmentally delayed). The student may receive a service which monitors health concerns at the school site, or a behavior intervention program. Peripheral services include modified testing situations (providing prompts or augmentative equipment), and transportation. Obviously, when a child is homeschooled many of these services are no longer necessary (such as health monitoring, modified testing equipment, or transportation) because they are already incorporated into the child's life in the home.
Finally, many school districts have access to support and family oriented service centers where families may meet with other parents and receive valuable insight into the workings of the school district and the special education laws. Some of these centers provide parent advocates who will attend IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) meetings with a parent, and the resource centers often have laws and other therapeutic resources available for parent check-out. School districts are usually very willing to put parents of special needs children in contact with their local resource center.
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