Homeschooling 101 – The basics of how to teach your child at home

Photo: USA Today

With the many negative connotations revolving around the educational option of Home Schooling, it’s no wonder that many parents are in the dark about this potentially innovative approach to engaging your child in higher learning. According to the Department of Education, there are over 2,500 kids being homeschooled today in NYC. Many families are not choosing this option for religious reasons, as can be seen in many parts of the US, but rather to better reflect their parenting approach to individualized learning  (or “unlearning” ) and experiential growth. Bryan & Lisa T. of Astoria, Queens, are parents who have chosen to commit themselves to homeschooling their seven-year-old son and four-year-old daughter.

A Certified Childbirth Educator and DONA-certified Labor Support Doula, Lisa was educated in the public school system and did not have any plans for homeschooling her children. Although she had friends who were homeschooling, Lisa and her husband were committed to public education and had gone so far as to purchase a home in Forest Hills because of the quality public schools available in that district.

But all plans changed for the young couple after attending a Homeschooling event led by renowned author and public speaker John Taylor Gatto. Thirty years in New York City’s public schools led John Gatto to the sad conclusion that “compulsory schooling does little but teach young people to follow orders like cogs in an industrial machine.” .

While Bryan and Lisa believe that parents can find good schools and excellent teachers (Bryan comes from a family full of public school teachers), certain elements of Gatto’s writings as well as a lecture he gave at a private school outside the city led the couple to rethink their schooling plans for their children. They eventually made the choice to educate their children at home, and this was a decision they feel has been a good one for their family.  A few of the main benefits they have found homeschooling to offer include time efficiency, responding to and nurturing each child’s passions, moving along a child’s specific learning needs (advanced in some topics and allowing more time as needed in others), choosing curriculum best suited to each child’s learning style, allowing for more time to explore specific interests, more organic, fluid, and connected learning, flexibility to travel, and equipping learners with critical thinking and independent study skills.

Lisa admits homeschooling has its challenges. It has worked for her family because she and her husband are both actively involved in teaching responsibilities and have flexible work schedules.

As a parent, it is important to seek out support and community. Lisa has seen fellow homeschoolers who are the sole homeschooling educator burn out. She advises, “Parents should examine their children’s dispositions and learning styles as well as their own in considering homeschooling as an option. This educational approach is certainly not for everybody. However, it’s important and encouraging to remember that the move to homeschool doesn’t have to be a once-and-for-all decision. You can try it out and see how it goes. It is definitely intense, but not necessarily in a bad way.  It’s trial and error — you try something and if it’s totally not working, you have the absolute flexibility to try something different until you land on the right approach, curriculum, schedule, etc.”

Homeschooling is also a financial commitment for many who choose to purchase curriculum modules
(either comprehensive or segments), though not as expensive as most private education. Some homeschooling parents spend part of the summer researching what curriculum options they want to purchase. There are also curriculum conventions parents can attend in order to explore the options in-person rather than online.

Some mothers may feel disconnected from other social circles (i.e., because school is at various hours) and may leave their jobs to commit to the time needed to homeschool.

In NYC, there are many online and in-person resources available to homeschooling families.  Lisa says, “NYC is a fantastic place for homeschooling because it’s rich with so many readily accessible and diverse resources.”

The State of New York is one of the more rigorous states for homeschoolers in terms of accountability and paperwork. Starting in grade one, parents submit an initial Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP)  followed by quarterly reports and written or grade evaluations and standardized testing that children need to pass.

The myth that homeschooled children are poorly socialized is something Lisa wishes to change. She contends that many homeschooled kids — including her own — are very involved in extracurricular activities and stay connected to their community through venues such as a weekly homeschool cooperative organized with other families, various one-off classes, field trips, service projects, and events coordinated with the extensive NYC homeschooling network. Her children are also involved in commercials and voice-over projects.

Often there is a stigma attributed to homeschoolers of being very religious and wanting to isolate their families from mainstream society. While Lisa and Bryan are Christians, and do include Bible instruction in their children’s learning, they are intentional about helping their children to be fully engaged in the world rather than sheltering them from it. They choose to live in NYC to be better exposed to the greater diverse community.

For Lisa, homeschooling has afforded her an incredibly flexible lifestyle and a rewarding close relationship with her family in which she is able to create many shared memories with her children. “I’m seeing our children have the time and freedom I never had in my own traditional education to identify and develop their areas of interest much earlier and more readily than I ever did.”  Her seven-year-old son has already completed his first 90-page novel and loves to make Lego stop-motion animation films. “I can’t imagine he’d have adequate time to devote to those pursuits if he was not educated at home.”

As someone who is living the experience, Lisa feels a great deal of reward through homeschooling but cautions parents wanting to explore this option that they’ll need to commit their time and energy to make this decision successful.

On Saturday, January 12, 2013 at the Annual Astoria School Symposium, a parent representative from the Homeschooling community will be available to answer your questions.

To attend this free event, please register online at www.astoriamoms.org

Additional Resources on HomeSchooling:

  1. “Ten Good Reasons to Homeschool” article by Greg Sherman, Ph.D.: http://www.homeeducator.com/FamilyTimes/articles/10-3article1.htm — a popular article for many Homeschoolers
  2. Dumbing Us Down – John Taylor Gatto (Teacher of the Year Award winner with 30 years experience in the NYC public school system)
  3. The Well-Trained Mind – Jessie Wise & Susan Wise Bauer — a great resource for exploring curriculum options
  4. www.homeschoolnyc.com — a website of a NYC homeschooling mom with lots of fantastic resources.  Besides including the administrative side of homeschooling in NY (regulations, etc.) Laurie offers teaching tips and activities specific to New York, as well as lots of book recommendations for parents exploring the homeschooling option.
  5. nychea.org – NYC Home Educators Alliance
  6. queenshomeschoolers.com (there’s a link on this site to the very active Yahoo Group)
  7. groups.yahoo.com/group/homeschoolnewyork — another very active Yahoo group for NYC (mostly Manhattan activities)

 

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