With increasing frequency over the past ten years or so, parents have asked me various questions about homeschooling, all pretty much boiling down to “Should I homeschool my child?”
First, I am a proponent of homeschooling. (Full disclosure: I am on the board of parentalrights.org, which is an offshoot of the Home School Legal Defense Fund, and have spoken at numerous homeschool conferences). I believe it is the right of parents to direct and control their children’s education.
Second, homeschooling is not “one size fits all.” Some parents are more suited to homeschooling than others. That same statement also applies to children. Homeschooling is not likely to be successful unless both parent and child are well-suited to the process.
Third, one of the biggest stumbling blocks in homeschool culture is the mistaken belief that successful homeschooling requires lots of involvement on the part of the homeschooling parent. That is simply not true, and I gather it irritates some homeschool moms when I say as much.
Homeschooling is a two-way process. A parent does not have to be highly educated in order to homeschool successfully, but regardless of academic credentials, the motivation to further one’s self-education needs to be there. A parent who wants to turn their home into the most effective educational environment possible should tune the television to learning channels only (e.g. Discovery, History), read a preponderance of non-fiction, and read a lot. The more one knows about a broad range of topics and issues, the more one will be able to transmit.
I do not generally recommend attempting homeschooling if disobedience is a major discipline issue in the home. Behavioral issues of that sort are going to contaminate the process and need to be resolved before homeschooling is undertaken. The same applies to a child who does not want to be homeschooled. If there’s question as to whether homeschooling is going to work, begin in early to mid-July. If for whatever reason or reasons it obviously isn’t going to be productive, the child can start “regular school” on time with his or her peers.
High involvement on the part of a homeschooling parent is likely to turn into micromanagement and create push-back from the child. First, there are homeschool curricula that do not require a high level of parental involvement. Second, the best homeschool structure involves the parent teaching for 10 to 15 minutes, giving a 30 minute class assignment which the child does independently, grading the paper (immediate feedback), then moving on to the next instructional module. Minimizing parent involvement maximizes student responsibility.
Maximum homeschool success is generally obtained within the context of a homeschool cooperative. A parent who wants to explore this education option should get in touch with their state homeschool coordinator, find a homeschool cooperative in his or her area, talk to other homeschooling parents, and attend a homeschool conference.