Homeschooling Most Frequently Asked Questions
Ever since I started homeschooling my son, I have received a number of questions from other parents, curious to know how they can do it too. Before I start answering the most frequent questions, I want to state that I am not a lawyer or a member of any school department. The information I am giving here is either my opinion, or information I received from a representative of the Homeschool Department in the Springfield Massachusetts School Department. I highly recommend your do research on your own for your specific school district and state.
1. How do you start?
I would suggest you start by researching your rights as a homeschooling parent. Look into the laws including your state’s laws as they may vary. For those living in Massachusetts, this website was very helpful and informative.
2. How do you inform your child's school and the district of your intent to homeschool?
I would suggest you contact the school department for your town and city or/and look into their websites. As for me, I went into the school department in my city and asked for the contact information for the department in charge of homeschoolers. I then asked him a lot of the questions I had and he gave me even more information than I would have thought. He told me that I needed to fill out a form located in my city's school department website. I filled out the form, attached a proposal and sent it all back to them for evaluation and approval. He also explained that by law, they cannot just deny me, they would contact me first to let me know what I was missing (if any) and will give me a chance to correct it. The gentleman also explained that once approved, they would contact the school themselves and withdraw my child.
3. What information did you need to include in the proposal?
By law, the district must ask what makes the parent(s) qualified to teach the child. You do not need to have a higher degree and so this question is really just a brief description of yourself, education and work experience. However, they only ask, your answer does not determine whether or not you are fit to teach your child, so don’t be intimidated by this question.
You also have to include how will you make sure your child is learning the material. In the educational plan, you would need to give a brief summary description of each subject you plan on teaching your child, goals, objectives, methods and materials.
4. How do you know what to teach your child?
Legally, students must be thought spelling, reading, writing, English language and grammar, geography, arithmetic, drawing, music, United States history and Constitution, duties of citizenship, health, physical education, and good behavior. I also googled “what should a first grader learn” and went from there. I also added classes that I knew he would be interested such as Spanish and technology. In high school, it does get a little more particular. However, you can find this information from other homeschool parents as well as your school department.
As far as the materials and methods, I went with the practice books “180 Days of…” for first grade and purchased every subject available for his grade. I use the books as practice sheets as well as a guide for teaching him and knowing what to teach him and when. You can choose to teach you child with any materials, books etc., it does not have to be this one. I also include things such as local classes, libraries, museums, Apps on the IPAD, etc..
To help come up with goals and objectives, I used the information on the back of each book to write down what he will be learning and the goals. I also googled goals and objectives of each subject for first grade and went from there.
5. How do you know what kind of local resources are available for your homeschool children?
The first thing I did was search for Facebook homeschool groups in my area and requested to join them. I now belong to one group specifically in my city and another group for my county and the surrounding counties. These Facebook groups have been very helpful as the other parents are extremely supportive and help with any questions asked in the group. The members will also post any activities happening, businesses offering special days for homeschoolers, meetings, informational classes for parents, support groups, play dates, etc..
In addition, just about every museum, library, gyms/YMCA, music schools, local business catering to children, etc. have special homeschool days, classes and activities. You can either call, or check out their website for more information. Again, join the Facebook groups because 80% of what I have learned in regards to resources has been through the groups. Keep in mind that some may be free but you would need to pay for many.
You also have access to many of the resources in the public schools. This includes after school activities, sports and clubs. If your child enjoys sports, he or she can join the local public school sports teams appropriate to their grade and age.
6. Does my child need to take an Exam at end of the year? Does my child need to take state Exams? In Massachusetts, homeschooled children do not need to take MCAS exams. I was told by the representative of the School Department, that these MCAS tests are really made to evaluate the teachers and schools, not the children. Since my child is not in a public school, he is exempt from taking it. As for end of year, they do not need to take a test. Instead, parents must send in an end of the year Assessment and explain what the child learned through out the year. Each state is different so you should research this information for the state you reside in.
7. Will my child receive a diploma? Can my child still go to College? Your child will not receive a Public School Diploma if he is not a student at a High School. However, I have been told that there are other ways to prove your child’s schooling and homeschoolers are still able to successfully go to college. The representative and I did not go into details in regards to this because we are a long way from it. However, this is information I will research once my son is older.
8. Can I start homeschool any time or only at the beggining of the school year?
You can technically withdraw your child from school at any time and begin to homeschool him/her, not just at the beginning of the school year. However, you would need to inform the district of your intent to homeschool, and send the proposal before starting.
9. What if it doesn’t work out?
If it doesn’t work out, you can stop homeschooling and enroll your child back to school at any time of the year. Your child should not suffer academically and will pick up right where the classmates are at. Obviously, if your child is falling behind, measures should be taken to help them or repeat the grade if needed.
10. What should our daily schedule look like?
The beauty of homeschool is that you’re schedule can be as flexible as you need it to be. You do need to have 180 days and 900 hours of school each year. However, your schedule doesn’t have to be exactly like the schedule followed in the public schools.