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Should You Homeschool?

Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Development & Learning

As the school year starts up, you might be wondering if you want to send your child at all. Maybe your child has special interests or challenges that you think the school isn’t doing well with. Maybe you’re concerned about throwing your sweet preschooler to the public school lions. Maybe you’re just reluctant to let go.

Whatever your reasons for considering it, home schooling is an idea most parents kick around at least at some point in a child’s school career. Here are some facts to help you sort out your options.

Home schooling is legal in all 50 states, though each state has its rules and regulations about who may teach and what must be taught. In many states, one may not, for example, teach children other than one’s own. If you want to set up a school in your basement for your own children and the neighbors’ kids, there is a whole different set of hoops to go through. So it pays to check out the rules in your state and make sure you can comply with them.

Second, realize that teaching is a full-time job. That’s why there is a job called “teacher” that people are paid to do. No one will be paying you but you still will need to work at this full time. So understand the responsibility you undertake when you elect to homeschool your child. It really isn’t enough to let your child learn on her own from whatever interests her. She needs to know the basics of reading, writing, math, science, and all the rest, whether she’s interested or not. A good teacher can inspire interest and can help a reluctant learner master difficult subjects. If you homeschool, you have to be that good teacher.

There are commercial homeschool curriculum packages you can buy that might help. Most of these seem pretty limited in scope and not very individualized. If your whole purpose in homeschooling your child is to preserve his natural abilities and interests, then a packaged curriculum might not do the job. There are also a growing number of online schools that are accredited in each state. These might be appropriate especially if you and the kids are doing a lot of travel or if there are other circumstances that make it difficult for your child to be around other kids. Online learning requires good computer skills, of course, and a fast Internet connection – and a lot of self-discipline.

Third, understand that for most kids school is where their friends are. Going to school every day is a way to connect to their peers and learn how to get along with them. Remember that your child’s peer group represents the people he’ll be around his whole life. These people are important to him. In addition, school offers kids opportunities to work in groups, accept the authority of adults who are not their parents, and learn how to resolve conflict and get along. It’s the real world. Much though we want to shelter our children from harsh realities, it’s a disservice to deny them chances to learn how to cope.

Homeschooling is a viable option for many families. It might be the right thing for one of your kids but not appropriate for another. It’s an option that has to be evaluated carefully, with eyes wide open and with complete understanding of what is involved and what is at stake.

Homeschooling done well can be very successful. Homeschooled kids are accepted at colleges at the same rate as other students and there are no downsides. Homeschooling done poorly constitutes neglect.

If you’re thinking of homeschooling your child, plan carefully to do it well.

© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.

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Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Dr. Patricia Anderson is a nationally acclaimed educational psychologist and the author of “Parenting: A Field Guide.” Dr. Anderson is on the Early Childhood faculty at Walden University and she is a Contributing Editor for Advantage4Parents.