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By Christina Tynan-Wood
Homeschooled kids do better in college.
Homeschool families are all religious.
Homeschooled kids are more creative.
Homeschooled kids lack social skills.
When it comes to homeschooling, there are no lack of strong opinions — as well as misconceptions and prejudices. The truth is that homeschooling has changed dramatically over the past few years. Long considered a radical alternative to traditional schools, homeschooling is rapidly becoming more accepted into the mainstream.
Though homeschools involving strong religion and obsessive spelling bees get a lot of attention, there are plenty of students — about 2.04 million total in the U.S. — being home educated for a variety of reasons. Fewer than half of families offer religion as the most important reason. (There appears to be no statistics on how many do it for the spelling bees.) Many do it because they want to offer their children the best possible education and are dissatisfied with their school options.
Much of homeschooling's growing popularity is thanks to online programs like K12 or e-tutor that offer both tools and curriculum. Parents can elect to be hands-on teachers (or hire tutors for specific subjects), sitting down and teaching math and science, working from a printed curriculum. Others might elect to combine homeschooling with some traditional schooling so the student still takes a few courses at a nearby school. Some parents organize groups of homeschool kids to create their own small schools, even turning them into their own charter schools.
Some homeschool parents are less hands-on, believing that — once video games and television are removed — a kid’s natural curiosity will take over and lead her to seek answers thereby getting an excellent, organic education.
Plenty of parents might think about homeschooling, but be intimidated by how to go about it: What would I teach? How do I create a curriculum? How do I make sure my child still has friends to play with?
Parents who have successfully homeschooled say that the resources and support system exist in most any town or city to make homeschooling possible for most any family. It's a matter of knowing what steps to take.
First find out what your state’s rules are. You might have to register your school and detail the curriculum you have chosen. You might also have to provide proof that you have enough education to take this on. You may need to issue end-of-grade tests as well. The rules on this vary from state to state, though homeschooling is legal in all 50 states.
Next, turn to your child. What are her interests? What style of learner is she? Take your time buying an expensive curriculum until you’re sure it suits what she wants to learn and the way you want to teach. You might want to work from a printed-page curriculum and do all the teaching yourself. Or you might opt to be a teacher/coach while your student takes her classes online.
If your child is in middle or high school, you might opt to sign up for a virtual school. Next, find a local support group so you and your child can connect with other homeschoolers in your area. (Find more information about homeschooling, including ideas on finding a support group.) If you work, have small children, and are wondering if you can make homeschooling happen, the answer may be “no” unless you are willing to hire a babysitter or nanny. But if you have a responsible high schooler, you might find a virtual school — complete with teachers — might make it work even if you do have to go to work.
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