Home schooling: Is it right for your family?

One of the biggest challenges facing transient families is how to ensure a quality education for their children despite frequent changes to their school environment. We often hear Moving Moms discuss home schooling and whether it could be a good fit for their family.

So we did our homework on the topic, prepared our reports and now we’re ready to present them.

Home schooling day 1 graphicThis is part 1 of a 3-part series on home schooling.

We reached out to the Home School Legal Defense Association, a nonprofit advocacy group, to find out more about home schooling.

Michael Donnelly, the group’s Director of Global Outreach and Staff Attorney for members in the states of Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, West Virginia and Tennessee told us that parents need to stop worrying that they’ll “break” their kids and seriously consider home schooling.

And he’s not just saying that because he has nine years of experience at HSLDA. Donnelly is the father of seven children, ages 5 through 18, and they’re all home-schooled.

Here are seven things Donnelly says you need to know:

1. Home schooling is not school at home

Donnelly says you have to rethink education if you’re going to start home schooling. The main focus doesn’t have to be grades or subject matter. Instead, you can concentrate more on the character of your child and his or her interests.

“Home schooling is a lifestyle, an approach to life and an approach to raising your children.,” Donnelly said. “So they can become who they are intended to be. Who they can be.”

2. Know your state’s requirements

Home schooling is legal in every state in the United States (although that wasn’t the case about 40 years ago). However, each state has its own unique set of requirements for home-schoolers so you’ll want to research to ensure you are in compliance.

Donnelly said some states, like Texas, have almost no requirements at all. While others, like Massachusetts, demand home-schoolers follow a long list of regulations.

Members of the HSLDA can also turn to the association for legal advice, interpretation of state laws and help cutting through the red tape in more stringent states.

3. Create a constant in a life filled with change

Donnelly says home schooling can offer transient kids a familiar schedule and safe environment when they move. It eliminates that feeling of being “the new kid” and that predictability can help inspire confidence in an otherwise uncertain time for them.

Home schooling also allows for a more flexible daily schedule than traditional schools. And that gives the parent more opportunities to explore the environment and educational attractions in their new hometown with their kids.

4. Strengthen the bond with your child

While peer groups are important to adolescents, Donnelly says that what kids really crave is a strong relationship with their parents. And research shows that children do well academically when their parents are involved and engaged in their learning.

Kids want to do what their parents value.

5. You don’t need an education degree to home-school

Untitled design (4)Don’t have a background in teaching? Don’t panic. Donnelly says it’s not necessary for home schooling. And research shows that home-schooled children, on average, score higher on standardized tests than those who attend public schools no matter what the parent’s educational background was.

There are a variety curriculum options to follow or parents can pick and choose a bit from several to customize the experience for their child.

6. Identifying their interests

When a mom is involved in her child’s educational experience on a daily basis, Donnelly said it’s easier for her to identify her child’s strengths and interests.

In his family, that meant allowing his son to explore his two main interests: web programming and music. After some time, he was able to decide that music was his first passion and began practicing for four hours each day. Donnelly says his son couldn’t have dedicated that sort of time to his music if he was attending a public school. By the way, that son of his is in college now on a music scholarship.

7. You may be the sole educator but you won’t be alone

There are more than 1.5 million students in the United States being educated at home, so no matter where you move, you’re bound to find other home-schoolers. Donnelly said these groups often band together to share educational experiences outside the home.

Did you know?

About 3.4 percent of the school-age population was home-schooled during the 2011-12 school year, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Parents who home-school cited a variety of reasons for their decision to teach at home but 91 percent said that a concern about the environment of other schools was a contributing factor in their decision to home-school.

The Home School Legal Defense Association is a nonprofit advocacy organization established to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children and to protect family freedoms. We provide home schooling-related legal advice and representation to our 84,000+ member families, promote homeschool-friendly legislation at the state and federal levels, and offer information and resources to encourage and support all homeschoolers.

-By Emily Shedek

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