If you’re here via Pass the Torch, welcome!
There are two things that I think are vitally important for anyone thinking about home schooling to know:
- You do not need to be a teacher. There are no qualifications that you need to meet in order to educate your child other than an interest in doing so. (Your state laws may disagree with me. I can’t help that.) If you choose to follow a curriculum, there are teachers’ guides. With or without a curriculum, there are encyclopedias, libraries, and google. YOU are the best person to facilitate your child’s education.
- Be flexible and follow your child’s interests. That is the best way for anyone to learn. If your child wants to talk about boats, it doesn’t matter if it is time for math. Go to the harbor and look at boats. Go to the library and learn about what happened in The Narrows. Rent Titanic and then talk about accuracy in movies (two lessons in one!). Being flexible allows for the most amazing adventures in learning. But you might also want to learn about boats that didn’t end up in tragic disasters.
That’s it. That’s all I think you need to know. But you might like to read my post about unschooling from a few months ago. In the comments, many questions were asked and I kept trying to get them answered and not quite finishing. So here are the questions and my answers.
Eileen: Can [the terms homeschooling and unschooling] be used interchangably?
Yes and no. You can use homeschooling to mean anything from the strictest school-at-home to total free-form structureless days. Unschooling only describes the latter end of the spectrum. We’re planning on unschooling, but since the philosophy is all about following your interests, we reserve the right to change our minds about anything at anytime.
Am I right in thinking that SATs are the main high school (or equivalent) qualification? When you go to college, they look at your SAT scores? Do employers look at anything like that? I’m not really sure what SATs involved, so is it curriculum based? Would someone who hasn’t followed the school curriculum be able to sit them (if so, wow for getting such high scores unprepared!)? If you’re homeschooled and unable to sit these exams, what is the situation when it comes to applying for jobs or university? Are there equivalent qualifications that homeschoolers can do?
(That’s a lot of questions but they’re all on the same basic topic so I’m going to answer them together.)
The SAT is the Scholastic Achievement Test. It isn’t a qualification exactly, as it’s optional. Every high school gives tests that are required for a diploma, and home schoolers in most states are allowed to take those tests. Anyone can take the SAT, which many colleges look at (though fewer than most high schoolers are led to believe). Home schoolers graduate high school in various way — some through the local school district (sitting the exams with the graduating seniors), some through correspondence school, and some by taking the GED which is a high school equivalence exam.
I took the SAT and did better than most people I knew in public school (at that time). While I had not formally studied most of the material, I bought a practice test booklet and looked it over. Though I did not know a lot of the specific material, my experience helped me to figure it out on the day. I credit home schooling as well as my brief stint in public school, where I learned how to take tests (which I believe is the #1 point of formal education). As for graduation: I had been enrolled in a correspondence course but opted to take the GED because it was faster and I was impatient. I scored off the charts (not a hard thing to do, but still worth mentioning).
I have never once been asked for proof of my high school diploma during a job application, and employers do not see exam results. Most employers are more concerned about college degrees, which many home schoolers have. I don’t, but I’ve never been asked about that either. My job application history is about 50% successful, and I don’t think it has anything to do with my education.
Lucretia: Where does the law stand on homeschooling? Is there a certain “standard” Sam is required to achieve, and is there an exam he will have to pass? (Eileen may have covered this above).
Each state is different, but home schooling is legal in all 50. Some are very strict and require constant testing and monitoring, while others are quite relaxed. Anyone can legally enroll their children in the correspondence school I used in high school; they send out forms to fill out quarterly describing your education (for instance, hours spent on science: 5 nature walks = 5 hours botany) and they provide legal protection and a diploma. They are a real school (their campus has day students) but allow families full control over their own curriculum. In some states you can register your home as a private school and do things that way. That would obviously work best for school-at-home. When we were very young, my parents simply never told the school district we existed. This is easy to get away with in Manhattan, but might not work elsewhere (and of course it’s illegal). I haven’t decided yet what route we’ll go with Sam.
I think this has parallels with your post about not “disciplining” Sam (semantics not withstanding, and apologies for my frequent use of “””””””). What do you look forward to teaching Sam, and what do you you anticipate having to teach him not to do?
I don’t anticipate a lot of formal lessons, but I am willing for that to change depending on his needs. I look forward to reading about new and exciting things with Sam (boats, for instance) and learning new things myself. I hope that he’ll learn right and wrong by example.
Amanda: how do you introduce topics to see if the child is interested in them? Some things come up in everyday life, but some topics definitely don’t. Or is that part of the learning, figuring out how to find topics you’re interested in?
I don’t know! I’m looking forward to finding out. I suspect that if you want to bring up a topic, you just bring it up (dinner table conversation style). I also suspect that most topics will come up sooner or later. He’ll read, and watch TV (well, movies), and be around other kids, so he’ll be exposed to a pretty wide variety of ideas. I hope.
Laura: According to what seems to be the definition of ‘unschooling’, I was NOT unschooled because I had assignments – is that right?
Well, technically that is not unschooling, but I think you can call it anything you like.
Would an unschooler learn grammar?
I don’t remember ever being taught more than “subject, predicate” and I somehow manage to earn a living as a copy editor. So I think he’ll pick up what he needs to know even if, like me, he’s still a little fuzzy on the names of the parts of speech.
Would you introduce any [curriculum] materials of your own at all?
I don’t know yet. I’m inclined to say no, but we’re playing everything by ear.
Allison: Wow. It sounds like you had some bad experiences with traditional schools.
That wasn’t a question, but I just wanted to clarify that I actually had an okay experience the five years I was in school. I did very, very well academically and my last year (a different school than the first four) I was quite popular and participated in all sorts of activities. It just is not a type of education that I find valuable. It is the very structure of formal education (in America, I can’t speak about other countries) that I think is all wrong. John Holt and John Taylor Gatto go into great detail in their books, and are far more eloquent than I could ever hope to be on the reasons that our country’s education system is inherently flawed. But I assure you, this is not about my experience — my experience merely backs up my beliefs.
Erik: how can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?
I think what you are really asking here is whether I have made enough pie to share with you. The answer is yes, but only if you bring Nova.
And there you have it. I think I managed to answer everything. If I missed your question or confused you further, comments are open.