Homeschooling conjures up all sorts of images for Americans. With the recent introduction of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) the number of homeschooling families has exploded in the past two years. A concern over an untested set of standards that are controversial in their origins as well as the latitude that they give teachers to teach topics and ideologies that many believe have no place in a public school are at the heart of these decisions that more and more US parents are making.
Each family that makes this decision has their own personal story and the reasons vary from family to family. Families with strong religious objections to what is taught in public schools, until recently were the overwhelming majority of homeschoolers. Today, parents are making this choice for some unforeseen reasons. Some do not want their children used as test subjects in what amounts to an experiment in public education, others do not want a social agenda pushed on their children and others still, were left with no other choice simply because CCSS was destroying their children both emotionally and academically.
The sudden increase in expectations and the unfounded assumption that by taking students who were more than three-fourths the way through their public school experience and telling them that they will be expected to perform at a higher level without having had the foundation and practice in prior years for many was just too much. Being told that they would simply be expected to “catch up” was for some, the last straw.
Our family was one of those families. With the CCSS thrusted upon school districts without giving them the necessary time to internalize the Standards, discover how to put them into a framework for the school setting, and most importantly, prepare the much-needed in-services or conferences to give teachers a clear understanding of the expectations – teachers all across America are simply floundering and our students are paying the price.
Students with mild learning disabilities were being overrun with unattainable expectations and teachers were so weighted down with preparing materials, reporting student learning objectives and simply figuring out, often by trial and error, what the hell they are supposed to be doing. In our case, after three major attempts to reach out to teachers and ask for implementation of specifics from our student’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan) we were almost forced into homeschooling.
We are presently winding down the last few weeks of our first semester of homeschooling, we have found that it has been the best thing for us. Because we had the ability to slow things down, work at our own pace and analyze our student, we have been able to clearly see where strengths and weaknesses are and fill in the holes and gaps that were left uncorrected for the sake of expediency in the formal classroom.
Thankfully, our student is very self-motivated and has, for the most part, worked through Algebra as an independent study. Because of the mild learning disability that we were presented with, areas like Social Studies and English Language Arts, have required us to have very unique teaching tools. Yet, by knowing your child already and knowing how they work both personally and academically, our student has flourished and regained confidence that was torn down by the ineffective teachers that were simply perpetuating the misconception that if you throw more content at students that they will learn more.
Many critics of homeschooling scream about things like socialization, elitism, little monitoring, etc. Then there is my favorite, “You are destroying public education by being selfish.” This article from the Daily Kos answered the “selfish” question the same way we do – “Stay and work from within, at the cost of my son’s future? I don’t think so.”
The reality is that with more and more parents homeschooling co-ops and social events are planned which makes the socialization question moot. Just about every area of every state has a Facebook page for homeschooling parents to plan co-op, social events and share information and programs. Elitism? The wealthy have been sending their students to prep schools and other private schools for over a century, some more for convenience than anything else, and no one has batted an eye. Monitoring? A decade ago many states had no real regulations for homeschooling parents; that has changed dramatically. In our state parents have to submit a detailed curriculum, quarterly grades and also take a end-of-the-year proficiency exam (they give us several choices).
Others are concerned that homeschooling will have a negative effect on our student’s post-secondary options. More and more colleges and even major universities are opening their doors to homeschoolers. There are many online programs that, in the end, give you an accredited diploma that is accepted at the overwhelming majority of major US universities. Yet, even if you choose your own curriculum, without an official diploma, that still doesn’t mean much anymore. Entrance exams like the SAT and ACT can tell a university what they need to know about what a student really has learned from homeschooling along with taking SAT II Subject Tests. Colleges and universities are looking for well-rounded students more than anything else.
For now, we are following the same general content as the students in public school, but at our own pace and with our own emphasis and there are more than enough resources available free online that we honestly spent less than $100 on textbooks for the school year. Keep in mind that there are hundreds of websites that resell used textbooks at deeply discounted prices. Do not just depend on Amazon or Barnes and Noble for textbooks. I am an avid reader and several year ago found http://www.thriftbooks.com/ . This was a goldmine for textbooks. We actually found everything but the workbook for Social Studies on this site. In fact, the Algebra textbook we wanted was only $9. Another great thing about this site is that when your order is over $10, shipping is free.
If you find yourself in the predicament where you have to choose between your child’s future or allowing the public schools to destroy them, know that homeschooling can work and with enough planning, thought and input from your student, it can be awesome!