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Homeschooling FAQ

Here are answers to a few frequently asked questions about homeschooling

Can homeschooling work for everyone? I don't care for blanket generalizations, but I believe that homeschooling can work for any family where a parent (or grandparent or other responsible adult) is willing to learn and grow along with the child.

Just as traditional classroom teachers rely on textbooks, a homeschool parent can utilize all sorts of books, resources, and experiences to supplement her own knowledge. There are people from virtually all socio-economic levels and life situations who are homeschooling and succeeding beyond their wildest dreams.

Why would I want to homeschool my child? People homeschool for many different reasons, but for me, a dozen years of homeschooling has produced three compelling reasons that homeschooling was the right choice for our family:

  1. Relationships- spending time together is still the best relationship-builder around, and family relationships are top priority- we love spending time together;
  2. Academic excellence- A loving home, rich in books and words, is the best and least stressful learning environment for children, and homeschooling provides teens the peer-pressure-free environment they need to pursue and excel in their own interests; and
  3. Adaptability- life becomes school, and families are free to respond together to life-situations, such as personal illness, care of aging parents, or even the opportunity to travel, while learning continues to happen each and every day.

Is it legal to homeschool in my state or country? The best place to find specific information for your area is your state homeschool organization. If you don't know what it is, just do an internet search for "[state or country name] homeschool organization."

These organizations will usually have up-to-date information on their websites about the law, and they are strong advocates for homeschooling families. If your state has one, I hope you will join it.

Another resource is Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). They have legal information for individual areas, and they provide legal services to member families. There is another association that does similar work, but the name has slipped my mind. I'll list it when I remember.

Do I need a college degree to teach my children? It depends on the state or country you live in. For most in the United States, the short answer is "no." A college degree is a good thing to have, of course, and if you do not have one, there's no reason why you cannot learn enough as you teach your children to pass CLEP exams and earn a degree if you want one (Get a Jump Start on College tells you how).

However, the process of teaching is not dependent on what you know; it's more dependent on the books and information you share with your children and what you are willing to read and learn. In the process of raising literate kids, a literate lifestyle (books in the home are the primary ingredient) is far more important than a parent's college degree.

You can read more articles about creating a literate home on my blog, DoingWhatMatters.com.

What are the most important academic areas to teach a student? Although there are basic things that every literate person should know, each child's interests will lead him to focus on certain areas more than others. It's important to nurture head, heart, and hand —  feeding special interests, while providing a solid information infrastructure. The classic trivium and quadrivium provide a strong outline for things that must be covered.

At minimum, every child must know how to communicate- read, write, and speak- well and accurately perform arithmetic functions.

He should know how to find and use information from a variety of sources including books, the library, the internet, and personal interviews.

A good grasp of the history and literature of Western Civilization, basic scientific principles, mathematics, and technology will give him a solid foundation for exploring personal interests and deciding on his life course.

And practical skills such as financial management, construction, home maintenance, and other life-skills will enable him to make the most of what he has as an adult.

How old should my child be before he starts studying for college-level exams or attends community college? Let me answer this one with another question- when was your child ready to start eating solid food? When he had enough teeth and an appetite to encourage him to try new things, right?

Your student can start college-level work whenever he has the appetite and the skills to absorb the material. The amount of knowledge customarily taught in grades 1-12 is so limited that most students can get through it all in considerably less time. The early-mid teen years are ideal for studying subjects at the college level, and it's extremely efficient to get a head start on earning college credits. There's no point in wasting time and opportunity when it's so simple to move ahead.

How can a student get into community college before he graduates from high school? It's surprisingly easy to do this- community colleges usually offer "dual credit" options, meaning that a high school student is granted both college and high school credit for classes taken at the college. So many homeschoolers use the community college option that some schools even have special admittance categories just for home educated students.

Just call the admissions office of your nearest community college and request a catalog and application. Fill out the application for your student, indicating that he will be a part-time, non-curricular (no declared major) student. This is the easiest way to get in for the first semester. A major can be declared later. This is an excellent way for a homeschooled student to get accustomed to the routine of tests and schedules before plunging full-time into college life. It's also relatively inexpensive.

Are homeschooled teens able to get into college? Absolutely! Colleges everywhere are accepting homeschoolers in record numbers, and an increasing number of them (such as Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia) even have Homeschool Admission Counselors to assist homeschoolers through the application process. You will need to present your student to the college in a ways that presents him or her in a way that is comparable with traditionally-schooled students, so a professional-looking transcript is important.

Generally, home-educated students are valued for their independence of mind, mature study habits, and broad knowledge base. Several of the books on the catalog page have lists of colleges which have accepted homeschoolers. The list includes not only community colleges (which sometimes accept homeschoolers as young as 13), but also the most competitive Ivy League schools. College acceptance has truly become a non-issue when making the decision to homeschool.

Homeschooling FAQs about Early College

Is there an age limit to distance education? One of the best things about distance learning is that artificial barriers such as age limits are usually removed. Some schools do have preferences, of course, but as long as a student can demonstrate the ability to work at college level, there is usually no barrier. For very young students, this is something to verify before a final enrollment decision is made.

Is financial aid available for early college? Just as in traditional education, financial aid depends upon several factors: your financial need, how many classes you will take per semester or quarter, and whether or not the school is accredited. It always pays to apply for aid, even if you don't think you'll be eligible. Let the experts decide! For more information or to apply online for aid, go to the official FAFSA site.

Can I earn a real college degree entirely from home? Yes! In fact, you can earn both bachelor's and master's degrees with little to no residency required. It may not be as much fun as focusing on college for four consecutive years when you're young, but for many people it's the only way they'll ever have time to earn a degree. And colleges are increasingly eager to attract non-traditional students because of their high level of scholarship and motivation for learning.

There are several books available to help you select a degree program suitable for your needs. My favorite guide, Bear's Guide to Earning Degrees by Distance Learning by the highly opinionated John Bear has gone out of print, but Get a Jump Start on College can point you in the right direction.

Which guide do you recommend for CLEP preparation? Start with the CLEP Official Study Guide Homeschooling FAQ. It offers sample tests, and more, and it's published by the test's creator. The Princeton Guide is good as well. 

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