5 Steps to Establish Your Family’s Educational Freedom
By Lee Bellinger
More and more families who want to be less dependent on centralized institutions and more self-reliant are making the switch to home schooling for the education of their children or grandchildren. I realize that this may not be of direct personal interest to you, but it could to a younger member of your extended family. Let me explain.
By most calculations, U.S. academic standards are lagging far behind other nations despite billions of tax dollars flowing into school districts. In a recent academic performance report comparing the U.S. against 57 other countries, 16 scored above the U.S. in science and 23 in math. What’s worse, the scores remained about the same during similar evaluations from 2003 and 2006; while many other nations improved their scores and even moved past the U.S., according to GreatSchools.org.
Good Reasons to Break Away
from Public Schools Now
Government schools, often led by career bureaucrats and omnipotent teachers unions, aren’t delivering. I’m not saying there aren’t some good teachers out there. I’m merely pointing out the overall shortcomings of the public school establishment. And things may get progressively worse:
- Common Core State Standards, academic standards adopted by many states nationwide, is dropping American literature classics from school curriculums in 46 states by 2014. It will be compulsory for 70% of books studied to be non-fiction.
- California, which follows the multi-state Common Core Curriculum, has decided to dumb down and eliminate the algebra requirement for all eighth graders.
- School districts are eager to take on debt without caring one bit how difficult it will be for their community to pay for it. For instance, a San Diego school district recently took on a balloon loan called a Capital Appreciation Bond. They borrowed $100 million, but stuck the taxpayers with the responsibility to cough up the $1 billion to pay it off.
- Government schools are de facto indoctrination centers for radical environmentalism, the social justice agenda, and Hillary Clinton’s it-takes-a-village mindset.
- A public school is the place a young person is most likely to encounter bullying, drug and alcohol use, promiscuity, and other negative social behaviors.
5 Beginning Steps to Homeschooling Successfully
Now I’m not one just to complain and find fault. My purpose is to find workable solutions and share them with my readers. So let’s look at the solution that’s gained tremendous momentum over the past 20 years or so – home schooling, or parent-led home-based education.
More than 2 million children home school in some form. And the number grows by 2% – 8% each year, according to the National Home Education Research Institute. Here are some basic suggestions:
1: Find and Join a Local, State, or Non-Profit Home School Advocacy Group
Home education is legal in all fifty states, but that doesn’t stop local government agents from playing the big bad wolf and bending, ignoring, or changing the laws to disadvantage homeschooling families. Some school districts are perfectly happy to allow you to home educate your children, others seem to resent the vote-of-no-confidence and make things difficult.
Nationwide groups like the Home School Legal Defense Association (540-338-5600; www.hslda.org) and many local and state based ones help monitor regulation, protect families, and even fight for homeschoolers in court.
2. Join a Home School Group
or Start Your Own
These are often informal parent-led groups. Some can be large, consisting of hundreds of families and help organize activities, field trips, and classes for members of the group. Others are small, consisting of a few families who live near each other or have similar interests (i.e. children who share an interest in a particular subject like science or music, children with special needs).
Through these groups, either in person or online, you’ll learn about public home school events. These can be workshops, informational meetings, and even home school fairs.
Joining these groups can be a great resource for support, inside tips on teaching, getting deals and discounts on activities and curriculum, especially when you’re first getting started. If you don’t have a group near you, consider starting one yourself.
3. Enjoy the Process of Discovery
Homeschooling epitomizes the free market of ideas. As a parent or grandparent you will most likely learn just as much as your children do. You’ll also discover each child’s unique learning style, while you learn to better organize your home life, teach your children to set and reach goals, and much more.
4. Pick a Teaching Style or Philosophy
While you may wish to stick with traditional style curriculum at least at first, you’ll discover there are many teaching philosophies you can adopt to best suit your child and family.
For instance, on one side of the spectrum there’s the Classical Method. It tends to be very rigorous and focuses on a strong foundation in reading, writing, and mathematics.
On the opposite end is something called Unschooling. In this philosophy, the child is expected to learn alone, no “formal” teaching is done. The child is free to follow her passion, motivate herself, and learn from experience. However, this may not meet the demands of some state home school laws, so be sure to check before taking a non-traditional route.
In between these two polar opposites, another dozen philosophies exist. Many families start down one path and end up with a hybrid that takes the best of different methods and fits well for their child, family, and schedule.
5. Find Resources
Once you’ve settled on a philosophy or teaching method, you’ll spend time examining resources to help your children learn. This can be as simple and inexpensive as pen, pencil, writing paper, and the library. Otherwise, a whole industry exists to support homeschool families by providing curriculum organized by grade level, with an 1-800 phone number parents can call if they run into trouble. Again, many families mix and match to get it just right.
Homeschooling is great for older children because it allows them the time to follow their passion and use the community as their classroom. For example, it’s common for older students to volunteer at the zoo or local hospital, apprentice, or work part-time. Some even take technical or college-level courses. All while other students are stuck in high school classrooms.
Flexibility and Customization
Is the Name of the Game
Customizing your child’s learning to his strengths and interests and your values is powerful. It is something a government school can never offer, no matter how much tax dollars falls onto its lap. On average, homeschooled children excel academically, emotionally, and in life according to a number of studies.
Homeschooling is flexible enough for you to try different resources, methods, curricula, and schedules until you find what works best for you and your family and offers the best preparation for your child’s future self-reliance.