Our Homeschooling Story, part two
“Are you worried about socialization?”
I can’t count the number of times I have been asked that question by well-meaning folks who discover my children don’t attend public school. I’m going to be completely honest: the question ticks me off. Every time it’s asked I’m momentarily stunned into silence. Then I rally with a smile and a sincere, “Not in the least!”
Education should be the concern, not socialization. I’ve never been asked, “Are you worried you won’t be able to teach them what they need to know?” Instead, my kids’ ability to act like the rest of the elementary and junior high populace comes into question. As a society we want kids to avoid peer pressure yet we worry home schooled kids won’t embrace it. Please tell me you see the irony!
Socialization is the big question, though, and I’m here to tell you our story. Here goes. My kids are not lonely or shy or backward. They’re weird, I’ll give you that. Most kids are in one way or another. My kids have a more active social life than I … which may be because my time is spent running them hither and yon.
Each child has a weekly piano lesson. My middle child also plays guitar. The girls participate in the local community theater group — as cast members and as youth advisory board representatives. They love Sunday morning youth group and monthly 4-H meetings. They go to summer camps. They have sleepovers. They stay up late with friends drinking pop, eating pizza and cupcakes, and giggling non-stop. My junior high girls love Taylor Swift, Katniss Everdeen and yeah, Twilight. They’ve read the Harry Potter series umpteen times and just finished Percy Jackson. They’re obsessed with Dr. Who. My son loves tractors, monster trucks, Legos, Matchbox cars and any sort of electronic device. He’s addicted to Nat Geo, Finding Bigfoot and Tom & Jerry. He sings a lot while floating in the bath tub. Old Dan Tucker is a favorite tune.
They play soccer and volleyball through the YMCA. They attend homeschool co-op once a week for friendship and fun, and also for science lab, study skills and history. They take archery in spring, summer and fall. They have wonderful friends in public school and wonderful friends who are schooled at home. They make no distinctions.
I should also mention that county fair week is the highlight of their year. They look forward to it for many reasons, not the least of which is milk money from a cash cow. Oh, and just in case those activities don’t provide enough social stimulation, there’s a heap o’ cousins within a two-mile radius. And I think it’s wonderful if siblings are best friends, too.
A little about curriculum: I could go on for days about curriculum choices. There are amazing options available. Some are structured with daily lesson plans and step-by-step instructions. Some use workbooks. Still others allow you to design your own daily learning agenda. We started with a complete program called Sonlight. It’s a literature-based curriculum. Each year focuses on a particular period in history.
We still use various components from Sonlight but over the years I’ve broadened our horizons and made additions from Alpha and Omega, Well-Trained Mind, BJU Press and more. My best advice is to do your research. Read, sample and attend a homeschool conference. The curriculum fair will blow your mind (so I’m told!). One word of caution: there are so many options and so little time that it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Find something you like and stick to it for a couple of years. You’ll be tempted to try it all. Your kids — and your wallet — will struggle with that kind of thinking.
Following state regulations: Different states have different homeschooling rules. I live in Ohio so I’ll speak to its regulations only. Each year I am required to send a letter of intent to my school superintendent. I must also provide “proof” of work. This can be in the form of a portfolio that is reviewed by a certified teacher or by standardized test score. My kids have always taken the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS). Other options include the California Achievement Test and Stanford Test. I could also contact the school and arrange for the kids to test during the district’s annual testing period.
Every August I take a letter of intent, summary of subject matter and materials to be covered by each child, and copies of individual test scores to the superintendent’s office. He sends me a letter excusing my children from attendance. There are some particulars involved. You can read the Ohio Revised Code — or your state’s regulations, if you’re curious. I also recommend membership in the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). They will keep you updated of regulation changes in your state.
Some homeschooling parents dislike testing and go the portfolio route. We’ve just always chosen to test our kids. For better or worse, I like to know how they’re doing on a national scale. Their scores also serve as a report card for me. If they need improvement in a certain subject I know to up our game. One convenient thing about testing: anyone with a bachelor’s degree can administer the tests. Proof is needed and specific procedures must be met, of course.
So there you have it … my thoughts on socialization, curriculum and requirements for homeschooling in my state. If you have additional questions please ask! I’ll do my best to answer. Tomorrow we’ll talk about homeschooling, working parents and scheduling. I may even throw in my thoughts on dress code! Believe it or not, we don’t wear pajamas every day. Just on cold winter days. Sometimes.
Read part three of our homeschooling story.