My Home Schooling FAQ

I can't speak for anyone else, but these are among the most frequently asked questions we hear, directly or indirectly.
  1. The S-word
  2. The T-word
  3. How long will you home school them?
  4. What's involved?
  5. Where do you get materials?
  6. Where do you find the time?
  7. But what about...?
  8. So name a famous homeschooler, I dare you!
  9. Why worry about the state / local ISD knowing that you are a homeschooler?
  10. But we like our school...
  11. What about college?
  12. I think you're crazy!

  1. Q: What about socialization?

    A: This is by far the most frequently asked question of home schooling parents.

    My initial reaction used to be annoyance. Then for a while I would laugh. It still annoys me a bit, but I don't let it bother me.

    1. Various studies show that the socialization myth is just that - a myth. It seems to me to be a kneejerk reaction by the entrenched school system to try and stigmatize home schooling, or by the social engineers scared at this loss of control. [1]
    2. I want to make sure my kids have some values and coping mechanisms in place before they start spending major portions of their day in a school system
      • that doesn't give a flip about my values, and
      • where many of the kids are already socialized in ways I find pretty warped.

      Despite the emphasis on early formal schooling, some well-respected child psychologists tell us that most kids aren't ready until at least 7 to be spending the big part of their day away from home. Obviously, if you have to put them in school or day care for work, you have to, but it isn't ideal. Young kids NEED lots of time at home with their parents.
      Do you really think that the state is, in general, more capable of raising children than their parents? [Or of capably doing much of anything else, for that matter?]
    3. The point of school is primarily to learn. While kids do socialize there, if that's the main emphasis, the school is broken & I don't want my kids there. If it's a minor part, then what's the big deal?
    4. My kids play with other kids after school and on weekends, just as other kids do. Again, school should not be the major point of socialization.
    5. There are home school-oriented activities where the kids get together in groups and do things. Our kids go on group field trips. When tehy were younger, they went to regular group skating, etc. Now they are active in Boy Scouts and 4H.
    6. Our kids do get some classroom experience - in Sunday School and on Wednesday nights at church. They do just as well as, or better than, publicly/privately schooled kids in these classes. People who do not go to church typically use weekends as days of recreation with other people, so their kids get socialized Sunday as well.
    7. We have found a good science program (Science Quest) and a good Spanish teacher. Our children go to both on Wednesdays. In science class, they go over basics and do labs, and the rest is still up to the parents and children. The Spanish teacher teaches a small group (2 families in our case), parents sit in, and most of the work is up to the parents and children.
    Finally, look around. Odds are that if you look, you will find some kids who are home-schooled. You probably never would have guessed, though you also probably would have already thought they were well-behaved, well-adjusted, intelligent kids.

    Read what world-reknowned AI researcher Marvin Minski has to say about this issue.

  2. Q: What about testing?

    A: Usually this refers to standardized tests. After all, we can give tests at least as well as the schools.

    In some areas, public or private schools will let you take the tests with their kids, so long as you pay the fees. That's not the case anywhere we've lived, but we've never had a problem finding someone who was licensed to give the tests. If there are any other home schoolers in your area, you can probably find someone to administer it. If not, you could look into it yourself.

    In Texas, at least, you don't have to take these! Our daughter took her first one because she wanted to know objectively how she stacked up against her peers. We already knew she was doing fine (it was apparent to even her grandparents, who had fought us on the issue of homeschooling all along). (For the record, in the 5th grade, she scored at high school level or above in all subjects. She was reading at college level. In the 5th grade. Recently, they both took the Iowa tests, and again, both did fine. Each was way ahead in most areas, and each was a little behind in their weakest area - the area each would have problems with no matter where they were schooling.)

  3. Q: How long will you keep doing this?

    A: Our commitment is one year at a time. We re-evaluate each year, based on the local school system and our childrens' needs. Esther started at a local private scool part time in 10th grade, and Josiah is full time at the same school (Hilltop, in Cedar Park, TX) as of 10th grade. They are both at least average, and way beyond average in many ways. For instance, both read at a level far beyond most children their age. This sort of thing is pretty normal for home-schooled children.

    If what you really want to ask is, "When are you going to put then in a real school?", then you have some serious misconceptions as to what home schooling is about. I hear this occasionally.

  4. Q: What's involved?

    A: It varies from state to state. Georgia, for instance, has fairly strict reporting requirements. Texas has none, but Sharon has kept using the system she used in Georgia to keep tabs on things, and in case there is ever any trouble with the state.

    In Texas, home schools are private schools. Since the private school laws were written when almost all private schools were religious, there is essentially no state involvement in the private school system (separation of church and state). We are essentially unregulated. While this means there is potential for abuse, there seems to be very little - there is far more abuse of the regulated, public school system.

    There are a few key subjects you have to teach, again varying from state to state. Some states require certified curricula; Texas of course does not. We use the curricula that seem appropriate for each child - and may use different vendors for different subjects, according to the child's needs and inclinations.

    There are home school fairs with speakers, curriculum publishers' booths, and so forth, to help with the selection process, and in fact the whole education process. There are support groups, some with a particular religious bent, such as CHEA (Christian Home Educators Association), and others that are completely cross-cultural, such as Austin Area Homeschoolers (AAH).

    Each home school has to work out what the needs of each child are, and come up with something to meet those needs. Our children can get their schoolwork done in 2 - 4 hours each day right now, and are still working at or beyond their age level in all subjects. Since we read a lot, and help them with this constantly, we don't currently have a formal reading curriculum. But both are reading several levels beyond their age group, with good comprehension, retention, etc.

  5. Q: Where do you get materials?

    A: A number of places. You can get the same curricula used in public or private schools. You probably don't want to, but you can. There are also a number of curricula published specifically for home schoolers. They are available through home school book fairs (where you can check them out yourself), through magazines and catalogs, book stores, home school support groups, and even used from other home schoolers.

    For subjects you're comfortable with, you can write your own, or modify any of the others. (Note: this may not be legal in some states.)

    You should select or develop curricula based on the child's abilities, knowledge, interests, and so forth. A primary benefit of home schooling is doing what's best for your child, instead of trying to make your child fit into someone else's mold. Choosing the right curriculum is a big part of this.

    That's not a scary thing, by the way. It's a lot easier for a home schooler to change curricula than it is to get a public or private school to change. At home, you can go at the pace which works best for your child - few private schools and even fewer public schools can do that.

  6. Q: Where do you find the time??

    A: It obviously helps if one parent can stay home with the children! (This makes home schooling very difficult for single parent homes.) Some parents work different shifts, or simply school the children in the evening (or both work later shifts, whatever), But it's easiest if one parent can stay home.

    To some people, that's a hardship they can't, or aren't, willing to bear. That's a decision each family has to make. We felt it was important enough to make the commitment. Sure, sometimes it's tight. Since outgo usually expands to consume income, the only difference for most people in the USA is giving up some things that turn out to be optional, anyway. But that's an individual choice everyone has to make.

    It usually takes several hours per day, especially at first, and whenever the subjects get complex, or simply out of your area[s] of expertise.

    But a lot of the parents I know of publicly schooled children spend 2-3 hours per day helping their children, anyway. You can do it right the first time, or try to fix what's broken.

  7. Q: But what about...

    A: Field Trips? For a while we were involved in a field trip group that has outings every other week. Different home teachers take responsibility for each outing. This spreads the workload, and promotes variety.

    Science? No problem. We started simply at home. For instance, have a telescope, and have studied astronomy on an informal basis. Science is my forte, so I help out there. We have discussed atoms & molecules, the basic physics of light, simple chemistry, basic digital hardware, basic software constructs and a number of otrher subjects. Then we enrolled the children in Science Quest, which provides a curriculum, teachers, labs, and direction, one day a week, but we still do most of the work. Now Esther takes biology at a private school (we could have done this at home but chose not to).

    We can go in with other home schoolers on things. We can also just buy things - we have a chemistry set, microscope, telescope, and some electronic kits.

    I learned far more on my own with my chemistry & biology sets, and books I had access to through the libraries, than I learned in those subjects in high school. And I'm mostly self-taught in the areas of electricity and electronics, and in computers - which is where I make my living.

    Books? Libraries are wonderful things! We also have a large collection at home, and visit the local bookstores (Austin has great secondhand book stores), and swap with friends, and hit book fairs, and get things off the net, and...

    Homework? If they need it, they get it. Remember, though, that since they are getting highly individual attention, they get a lot more out of the class time than they would otherwise. They also write a fair number of reports. We try to make life an enjoyable learning experience. Rather than beat them to death with fraction homework, we use fractions at allowance time, when they help with chores, and so forth.

  8. Q: So name a famous homeschooler, I dare you!

    A: Just for starters...

    Additionally, a noticeably increasing percentage of parents who work or have worked in the public school (teachers, principals, counselors, school board members) are opting for home schooling. And while federal lawmakers aren't rushing to home school, they are increasingly opting to send their children to private school.
  9. Q: Why is there such a concern about the state / local ISD (Independent School District) knowing that you are a homeschooler? I am not a big fan of big government, but I don't think they are out to get anyone or any group of people.

    A: Government has a way of taking over. First they ``just want some statistical information'', or ``to guard against fraud'' or ``to see where we can function better''. None, of these, BTW, is a bad idea. The problem is simply that the history of government involvement in such issues is almost always one of interference and eventual takeover.

    Philip Hurley explained further (from 1995):

    Home schooling in Texas has a very long history. Knowing this history is helpful in shaping one's views wrt government intervention in home schooling. I'm sharing my opinion based on what I have learned since starting hs 6 years ago. Part of the recent Texas supreme court ruling re: hs used the historic fact of hs in support of the modern hs movement.

    "The evidence establishes that from the inception of the first compulsory attendance law in Texas in 1915, it was understood that a school-age child who was being educated in or through the child's home, and in a bona fide manner by the parents...was considered a private school... The dictionary in use in Texas at the time of the passage of the first compulsory attendance law contained definitions of the words 'private' and 'school' which encompassed children being taught at 'home.'" -- Leeper v. Arlington Ind. School Dist.

    About ten years ago, Katy ISD actually sought to jail a mother for teaching her children in her own home even though she was a certified teacher. These are the kinds of attacks that many hs families have in their pasts. For eight years Texas ISD's have been enjoined from prosecuting any home schools. Now, that injunction has been lifted and it appears that TEA is "pushing" on the supreme court decision to find its weak spots.

    Freedom of conscience is a fundamental in U.S. law and even going back some two thousand years of Anglo Saxon law. If I have to, in some way, register my home because I'm teaching my children there, what's next? What is protected? The law is (so far) on my side wrt privacy in my own home, privacy of my children and parental authority over my children. These are important and need to be upheld.

    I am not ashamed that I teach or of what I teach my children. But the law defaults to assuming that I am upholding the law, not vice versa. Our local school district wants me to affirm that I am upholding the law and that conflicts with liberty of conscience. It is unnecessary and may provide for future loss of rights or privileges if the legal environment becomes hostile.

    If the ISD's are not out to get anyone or any one group of people, then why are they specifying that home schoolers must fill out a form (contrary to the law) but they are not requiring this of people who put their children in a private school? Katy did this last year and ISD's all across the state are doing it this year.

    Ben Franklin said, "They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

  10. Q: But we like our school...

    A: If you're happy with the educational level of the schools around you, and the way the children are developing in general in that environment, great! Not everyone is. I would suggest you take a close look at it, and think about what you really want for your children. If the schools are providing that, you're very lucky.

  11. Q: What about college?

    A: More and more colleges are not only accepting, but wooing home schooled students. Achivement test scores can help here. Some people spend their senior high school year in a public or private school to hopefully make it easier to get into college. You will probably need to put together a replacement for a transcript, showing the subjects covered, depth and breadth of material, and so forth. College attitudes vary.

    But a surprising number of homeschooled students don't care. Why? Because by the time they have "graduated" they are in business for themselves, making a good living, and quite happy with the situation. ``Gee, I can spend four more years in school (part of it going over what I already know just to make it "legitimte"), spending lots of money or going into debt, or I can work for myself. Gee. Hard choice!''

    I wasn't completely home schooled, but I also didn't graduate from college, and I've done fine in the software industry. You can read my thoughts on that experience elsewhere.

  12. Q: I think you're crazy!

    A: You're not the first, and you won't be the last. I really don't care. If that bothers you, I'll bet you weren't home schooled.


[1] These may, in fact, be exactly the same group.

Last updated: 20 Sep 2002

Philip Hurley's quote copyright 1995 Phillip Hurley, Franklin, TX. Copyright 1994 - 1998, Miles O'Neal, Austin, TX. All rights reserved. Free redistribution is encouraged so long as the author's name and this copyright are kept intact, and the article is kept intact.

Miles O'Neal <> [remove the "XYZZY." to make things work!] c/o RNN / 1705 Oak Forest Dr / Round Rock, TX / 78681-1514