Homeschooling: Answering Your Questions (Part Two)

by Sally Matheny

Homeschooling: Answering Your Questions
Almost 2 million students were homeschooled in the United States during 2002-2003.*

Home education has constantly grown over the last two decades. The growth rate is 7% to 15% per year, according to Dr. Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute (Worldwide Guide to Homeschooling).

Are you considering homeschooling?

After sixteen years of homeschooling, I meet a great deal of people who have concerns. Many people long to teach their children (and even grandchildren) at home but they have fears of inadequacy.

 I want to encourage you today by answering more of your questions and providing you with a list of helpful resources.

What are the legal requirements for homeschooling?

Homeschooling is legal in all fifty states. Detailed requirements vary from state to state. Your state’s Department of Non-Public Education website as well as the Home School Legal Defense Association can answer all your legal questions.

No matter what state you live in, you must file your intent of homeschooling with the Department of Education before you pull your child out of the public school system. If your child has never entered the public school system, then check with your state laws about when to register them as a homeschooled student. The age to register a child from N.C. is age seven but it varies in other states.

Most states suggest 180 days of instruction. Some are flexible about what and when you teach. Other states are very specific on which subjects should be taught in each grade.

In Georgia, parents must write an annual progress report for each child and retain it each year.

In New York, a detailed list of subjects, syllabi, curriculum materials, and a record of hours spent learning are mandatory. 

Academic evaluations also vary. Standardized testing doesn’t begin until third grade in Georgia and is only required every three years.

In my state of North Carolina, standardized tests are required every year beginning at age seven.

It’s imperative to research and follow the laws of your state.

How much does it cost to homeschool?

It’s amazing how many times I hear this question! And there’s no set answer for it. Some parents spend very little. They use resources they already have, borrow books and supplies, or download free materials on-line.

Others choose packaged curriculum that includes everything but the kitchen sink. Packaged curriculum bundles are pricey and can run between $500- $1,000 or more.

My family aims for the mid-range. I try to borrow as many books as possible from friends and the library. I hit the used book sales in communities, as well as on-line, for great bargains. When my children were in grades K- 3, I found a variety of good workbooks and reading books at our local dollar stores.

I have bought new curriculum from publishers as well. In addition, we purchased a microscope, maps, science kits, and cool stuff like that.

I’ve read that the average homeschool family spends about $900 per student each year. We don’t spend anywhere near that. Most of my friends don’t spend that much. I think when our kids were in grades K-2, we probably spent about $75 each on them. As they progressed through the grades, we spent more. We did more science experiments, field trips, and activities. Then, during the high school years, we paid for a tutor and the dual enrollment classes at the community college had some fees.

Homeschoolers love bartering.
However, many homeschoolers love bartering. One of our daughters taught horseback riding lessons to the daughters of a biology major in exchange for her tutoring services in chemistry.

Buying curriculum is like buying groceries. Brands and prices vary. How much you will need is based on the ones you’re feeding. But with wise planning and saving, plus frugal shopping you can obtain plenty of fulfilling products.

What curriculum do you use?

Besides the Bible and great literature books, we’ve used an eclectic mix of curriculum. It’s interesting that our favorites begin with the letter A: A Beka, A Reason for Spelling/Science, Answers in Genesis, and Apologia. We also enjoy BJU Press, Institute for Excellence in Writing, Veritas Press, and others.

But just because these have worked well for my kids, doesn’t mean they are the best for yours. It takes time to research and find out what works best with each child. One of mine panicked when she saw the problems in a Saxon math book. I had to find a book that sprinkled in more colorful graphics instead of an entire page of problems. When she was in the tenth grade, she loved an intensive literature and essay-writing curriculum, which would have sent her sister running for the hills!

The nice thing about homeschooling is you can find what curriculum works best with each child’s learning style. Occasionally, my children needed something unique for their needs but most of the time they were able to use the same curriculum.

Where can I find helpful resources on homeschooling?

There are more resources available now than when I first began homeschooling back in 2000. Here are just a few to get you started:

Homeschool Giveaways

And there's tons of educational material on Pinterest!

Homeschool Classroom

If you homeschool, do you need to set up a “classroom” area?

Our first few years of homeschooling, all of our supplies were stored on a microwave cart and most of our homeschooling was done at the dining room table. But after fifteen years of homeschooling, we have accumulated a great number of books! Now, we’re blessed to have a small area at the top of our stairs where we store most of our books and educational materials. We have desks, computers, maps and charts there. While this is nice, we only spend about half of our school time in this room.

We love to curl up on the sofa to do our morning devotions together followed by the literature reading assignment for the day. My kids have done their schoolwork sitting on pillows in the bathtub, in a tent, or a homemade fort (outside and inside). We do science in the kitchen and math on the living room floor. We also learn a great deal outside the walls of our home.

Bearing the responsibility of your child’s education is enormous. It should be taken seriously, but don’t forget to have fun. Provide opportunities that instill a joy for learning.

Some people tell me I’m more qualified to homeschool because I have a degree in teaching. Perhaps it has helped in some ways, but I tell you, letting go of some of that training was the one of the best things I ever did. I was trying too hard to make our homeschool like public school with rigid schedules and expectations. Once I released those and relaxed in the freedom of homeschooling, we were all happier.

When I first began homeschooling, I thought we would do it for a few years and then the kids would return to public school. I was astonished God called me to homeschool in the first place and more amazed as He prompted us to continue pressing forward.

Even after all these years, there are days I still question my abilities. I continue to pray for God’s wisdom and help in our homeschooling efforts. God has never let me down. He provides, equips and meets all our needs.

Join me next week for the last part of this series on answering your homeschool questions. I’ll address how homeschoolers do academically and socially. We’ll talk about how homeschoolers adjust in college and what some are doing after college. If you have a question about homeschooling, I’d love to hear from you.

Related Posts: 
"Homeschooling: Answering Your Questions" Part One
"Homeschooling: Answering Your Questions" Part Three

You many also enjoy reading posts from other homeschool moms at Homeschool Blog and Tell.

*Brian D. Ray, Ph.D., Facts on Homeschoooling (refers to students in grades K-12).

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