Questions and answers about homeschooling
By: Dorothy Karman

Who homeschools?

Over 17,000 children in Oregon are taught at home in families of many different kinds. While I could say some things about the average family or the majority of families, that's not really helpful for your individual choice. If you are concerned about your child's education and upbringing, willing to commit time, effort and resources to your child's education and willing to study and learn yourself, you can succeed at home education whether or not you are a "typical" homeschooler. Homeschooling takes commitment and effort on your part, but the rewards are great.

Why do families homeschool?

Reasons vary with each family - and at different stages in family life. Some reasons include: being able to teach family values and beliefs; meeting specific needs of the student; finding more family time; developing close family relationships. Some start homeschooling for more negative reasons: trouble with out of control classmates or a teacher who isn't able to meet the child's specific needs; children becoming peer dependent and getting in the wrong crowd. Often, when families start homeschooling for negative reasons, they soon begin to realize the many positive benefits of home education and are thankful for the opportunity to have their children at home.

Are parents qualified to teach their children?

Yes. No one loves and knows your child like you do. When you homeschool, you are with your child all the time so you know his or her strengths and weaknesses. You are best equipped to tailor education to your child's needs. You don't need to know everything in order to guide your child's learning - you will be learning as your child learns. You will be modeling lifelong learning habits for your child. Research has shown that homeschooled children do well academically and socially.

In addition, there are many sources for help: homeschool conferences, support groups, books and web sites provide practical instruction and encouragement for parents. Make sure you keep in touch with other home educators and keep on learning about home education.

Is homeschooling legal in Oregon?

Yes, home education has been legal in Oregon for many years. Prior to 1985, home educators had to ask the school superintendent for permission to home educate. In 1985, the law was changed at the request of home educators so that all districts treated home education equally. It required annual notification and annual testing. In 1999, homeschoolers were again successful in having the law changed, this time to decrease testing to grades 3, 5, 8 and 10. View information on the law.

Where do I find somebody to homeschool my children?

Homeschooling by definition and by statute occurs when the parents or guardians teach their own children in their own home. If you have someone else to teach your child you are hiring a private tutor. Similar laws apply, but it is not really homeschooling.

This doesn't mean you have to teach all the subjects to your children for all grades or that your children can't go outside of the home for classes. It does mean the parents assume responsibility for their own child's education and oversee it.

There are many things to be considered before hiring a private tutor: Do they have similar goals as mine for my child? Do they employ similar kinds of child training? Are their educational goals what my child needs? How am I going to recompense them fairly for their time?

What do I teach?

Parents are free to tailor their children's education to meet each child's individual needs. The state of Oregon puts no specific curriculum requirements on home educators just as private schools in Oregon do not have to follow the state's curriculum guidelines. If you are planning on putting your child back into public school, you would be wise to find out what the children in public school are studying and pursue similar coursework. You want the transition back into school to be as seamless as possible. If, however, you plan on homeschooling for many years, you have more latitude and freedom to choose

Where do I find support?

You probably know a homeschool family or two; contact them and talk to them about homeschooling. Contact the statewide organizations and ask for a referral to a support group or contact person in your area. Subscribe to a magazine or two. It is like a support group in your mailbox. You can find much support in the form of books. Attend a conference or two. You will be encouraged by the number of homeschoolers you meet and you will gain great insights from the instruction provided at the conference.

What about socialization?

One of the myths of our time is that children need to be in age-segregated groups in order to socialize. Nothing could be further from the truth. The definition of socialize is: to fit for companionship with others, make sociable in attitude or manners. The best way for a child to be socialized is for him or her to learn to be comfortable in the presence of people of all ages as happens in a family. Parents and other adults can model acceptable attitudes and manners for their children. That rarely happens in a peer group. I always figured if my children could learn to get along with their siblings, they could get along with anyone.

When some ask this question, what they are really asking is if the homeschool chidren are isolated. With all the activities available to homeschool children in church, homeschool support groups and the community, they have plenty of opportunity to be with others of many different ages.

Where do I find curriculum?

The biggest problem with curriculum is not where do I find it - it is everywhere. Just do a search on the internet for homeschooling or attend one of the homeschool book fairs and you will find homeschool curriculum. The challenge lies in determining which learning materials will be best for your family. Read through "How to Select Homeschool Curriculum." It should help you make some sense of the materials available to home educators.

What about grades?

Grades in the classroom are a way of measuring what each child knows and giving feedback to both the child and the parents. When you homeschool, you are constantly evaluating what your child is learning. You do not need to give frequent tests to see if he understood the history lesson or if she caught the science concept. When you smell the vinegar and soda in the kitchen as they make the cork fly out of the neck of the bottle or you hear them playing knights defending a medieval castle, you know they have been learning. You can observe how your children are progressing by reading what they write or having a conversation with them. Grades are not really necessary.

If your children are older and headed for college, you will want to keep some kind of record of their studies in the 9th through 12th grades. You can keep samples of your child's work in a portfolio, though most colleges would rather work with a transcript. A transcript lists the courses studied and the grades received. (Read "Homeschooling High School" for more discussion on issuing a transcript.)

How do I teach difficult subjects?

You don't have to teach your child every subject K-12. Children can learn some topics on their own. They can attend community college courses, or take classes in the community. Your local support group may offer co-op classes, or you can find another parent and "team teach." (For example, one parent can teach science while the other one teaches history.) You may find someone in your support group, neighborhood or church willing to teach a subject your child is interested in learning.

Can homeschool children go to college?

Certainly! In fact, many colleges actively recruit homeschool students because of their independent study habits and leadership skills. Colleges vary greatly in their requirements for homeschoolers. Start getting information from colleges your child might be interested in by 9th or 10th grade. Ask them specifically about entrance requirements for home educators. (Read "College Admission for Homeschoolers" for more discussion about this question.)

Can I homeschool my special needs child?

Yes, often special needs students are better served by home education than other students due to the nature of home instruction. Special needs students can have special attention as well as having their curriculum tailored to their special circumstances. There are different rules to deal with home educating special needs students. You should consult the Oregon state statute and the administrative rules. You should also read the "Home Schooling Your Special Needs Child" pamphlet prepared by Home School Legal Defense Association.

Which is it: home school, homeschool or home eduction?

There is no real answer to that. Some do not like the words "home school" because it implies bringing the classroom into the home - and homeschooling is much more than that. I prefer "home education" because it places the emphasis on becoming educated not "schooled." Running the words together in "homeschool" makes it easier to make a verb out of the word (as in "We homeschool."). When you look for information about homeschooling on the Internet or at the library, use all three ways of writing it. In fact, here's a list of ways to look up books on homeschooling at the Library:
Domestic Education
Education, Preschool
Education -- Parent participation
Home Schooling
Handbooks, manuals
Law and legislation

How do I find out more about homeschooling?

Read books about homeschooling; talk to friends who are doing it; be in touch with the statewide homeschool organizations; attend conferences; find a local support group. The key is to be in touch with others who are traveling the same path you are - and enjoy your journey.

Dorothy Karman is a former homeschool mom of two. She homeschooled her chidren from preschool through high school graduation. She served for many years as a support group leader in Portland. She and her husband founded the Oregon Christian Home Education Association Network in 1986 and continue to serve on the board of directors for OCEANetwork. One of her duties is answering the phone for OCEANetwork where she has answered first time homeschool questions many times. If you have other questions about homeschooling you can call her at OCEANetwork at 503-288-1285.

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