Here’s how we answer 10 common questions about homeschooling.
10 Common Questions About Homeschooling
Do friends, foes or family ever ask you *interested* (in other words, *irritating*) questions about your decision to homeschool your family? We do! Even after decades of successfully homeschooling our kids, we still run into questioners sometimes.
Here are 10 common questions we get asked about homeschooling, and our most common answers to them.
If you, or someone you know, is curious about homeschooling, this post is a good “at-a-glance” resource for getting a basic foundation fo information, based on the experiences we’ve had at 7 Sisters.
1. How do you homeschool legally?
The question used to be, “Is it legal?” but most folks nowadays have heard enough about it to know that there’s SOME way we do this without being thrown in jail. But people still regularly ask what we have to do to keep it legal. Our favorite answer: “The laws are different in each state, and some states are easier to homeschool in than others. For where I live __________________________ (quick summary of what you do with reporting to the state, using an umbrella program, etc.). But anyone who’s curious about it should start with a website like Homeschool Legal Defense offers to find out up-to-date info for their own state, because requirements vary greatly.”
2. Can my homeschooler get into college?
Because we are geared more toward high school support for homeschoolers, we get this one A LOT. Our answer goes something like this: “Colleges LOVE homeschool graduates; in fact, many both Christian and secular schools actively recruit homeschoolers now. The important thing is to keep careful records during the high school years to create a solid, well-rounded high school transcript. There are lots of resources to help homeschoolers do that now.
3. How can you teach Physics, or Trigonometry, or French or whatever subject you’re not good at? And how do you do science labs?
Again, because our focus is on high school much of the time, people really scratch their heads over this one. An answer might be: “I can’t teach certain subjects myself because, you’re right: I’m just not good at some things! (It’s good to admit this up front; it seems to reassure people that you don’t suffer from delusions of homeschool grandeur!) We cooperate with other homeschool families and learn some things together in a group that meets once a week, or does science labs together for a day once a month. I’ll offer to teach their kids a subject I feel confident teaching if they will help my kids learn areas that are weak for me. Also, the internet is a tremendous resource. There are online classes, all kinds of video help, really amazing resources. Enrolling in a class at the local community college is sometimes a good option, too.”
4. How do you do that with multiple grade levels?
If you have three kids, people are usually dying to know how you can find time to hold THREE different Math classes, and THREE different Science classes, and THREE different English classes. They are thinking inside the model they experienced, and it just takes a gentle explanation to open their eyes to the fact that there ARE educational options. We typically say something like: “It’s a challenge when I’m planning my year to decide which subjects we’ll need to do separately and which subjects we can just study all together. Actually, many of our subjects don’t need to be broken out by grade level; we study the subject together, and then the assignments I give each child to have them use that new knowledge vary according to each child’s ability. Math is one of the only things that I almost always do separately for each kid, but even with that, teaching Math doesn’t require a full 40-minute class period of teaching time each day. Sometimes all the child needs is a moment for me to go over the lesson, and then she works independently, just asking for help if she’s stuck. But honestly, much of our learning just takes place together, and then the kids do individual work as a follow-up at their separate ability levels.”
5. What about socialization?
Yep, this one still gets asked. We don’t typically waste a lot of time on it. We chuckle, followed by, “Today’s world offers us SO many options for involvement in social settings, classes, clubs, the arts, sports, community service, and so on…..if my kids get any more socialized, I’m never going to see the inside of my house again!”
6. Do you wear your pjs all day?
Pajamas are a really fascinating topic when people hear the word “homeschool.” I wonder if there’s a deep-seated envy in most people; they wish their job allowed them to be in jammies all day, or something. When I’m asked this, I say, “Actually, sometimes we do. I mean, honestly, who wouldn’t want to on the occasional day when we’re not going anywhere? But most of the time we have lots of places to go and people to see, so real clothes have to happen!”
7. How do you do that without fighting all day?
It’s kind of sad how many families are so accustomed to strife that they assume more time together equals more arguing. Again, starting with honest vulnerability is a gentle approach to the answer: “There are rough days, just like there are in any household, but honestly the fact that we “do life together” so much means that overall we fight a lot LESS most of the time. There’s sort of a “We’re all in this together” mindset that helps. Additionally, there’s less of a me-vs.-them mentality that often is reinforced by traditional schooling. Most kids in public school don’t think of their teachers as anything but teachers — authority figures who assign homework and hand out bad grades. My kids see me as teacher, but they also see me hug on them when they’re having a really hard time. They see me as a wife, or as I spend time with my friends, or on days when I am sick. I think we probably fight a lot LESS than we would if they weren’t schooling at home.”
Hey, we understand that motherhood is all about guilt but we can concentrate on things we do well. Here are some things that many homeschooling parents have done right during homeschool high school.
8. What about standardized testing?
This one is easy. “Our kids can take various standardized tests any year that we make arrangements for them to take them; there are lots of options for setting this up. They are a great tool for seeing where our kids are confident and where they are struggling.”
Here’s a helpful episode of Homeschool Highschool Podcast, where we discuss the various kinds of testing that our homeschoolers may experience. We also discuss whether or not our homeschoolers must test, and if so, which tests?
9. How do you assign grades?
Typically people who ask this question don’t have much personal connection to professional teachers in the traditional education system, so they don’t realize that those teachers don’t just “magically know” what grade an assignment should be given; they either use a rubric to evaluate specific pieces of the assignment, or they have determined that the assignment should be evaluated in a more general way. An answer like this usually helps: “It depends on the age of the student and the type of assignment. For many assignments I grade using a rubric to evaluate the work, just like most teachers in traditional schools do. A certain number of points is possible for each area on the rubric, and when I total up the points earned divided by the number of points possible, I have a grade. Other assignments are pass/fail, and if my kid hasn’t understood enough of the material to pass, I know we need to go back and spend more time on it. Grading is just a way of checking to see how well my kid has mastered a particular piece of learning.”
10. How do you know you’re not leaving holes in their education?
The best answer is an honest answer, right? “Oh, but I AM! Every child’s education has holes in it. No educational model will graduate a child with a perfect and complete measure of learning, because no such measure exists! I graduated from traditional school with all sorts of holes in my education, and by the grace of God I continued learning things even after I graduated, so it all worked out okay. I figure the same will be true of my homeschooled kids. There are plenty of resources available (particularly via the internet, and by using standardized testing) to check on our progress from time to time, and homeschooling in community with other parents is a great help in noting “holes” to be filled. But really, what education doesn’t leave a hole somewhere? We learn forever, not just until high school graduation!”
Also listen to this encouraging episode of the Homeschool Highschool Podcast, where we explore what to do with the *gaps* in our homeschoolers’ education.
And a BONUS question we LOVE to answer:
“Can I buy you a cup of coffee? Let’s spend some time chatting!”
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