Customize your child’s education the way you want to: THAT’S homeschooling.
Linda Waltman has had it with public school. Tired of worrying about what her child Shay was learning (or not) and eager for her to love learning (she wasn’t) she decided to homeschool. It wasn’t an easy decision, Waltman says, one that she turned over in her mind many times before, as she says, “biting the bullet.” She wants to take Shay on hands-on field trips, dig down with learning American and World History and, lo and behold, meet her child’s individual needs.
For a growing segment of the population, homeschool is replacing first-day-of-school jitters. According to a 2013 report from the National Center for Educational Statistics, approximately 1,770,000 students are homeschooled in the U.S. — 3.4 percent of the school-age population. The number of homeschool students has grown by almost 300,000 since 2007. The reasons parents cite for taking this approach to their child’s education is just as varied and individual as the children themselves. Many choose to give their children a unique and tailored education with individualized attention that isn’t possible in the traditional school setting. Others do so for religious reasons. But while the detailed reasons vary, the great majority feel that the overall ability to control the general environment in which their children are educated is what draws them to homeschooling.
HOW TO GET STARTED
Once you’ve decided that homeschooling is the right choice for your family, your first stop should be to visit the Ohio Department of Education’s (ODE) website, where all the nuts and bolts of getting on your way are laid out for you. Here you will learn that you’re required to notify your local superintendent with a letter of your intentions, along with a promise to provide your child with 900 hours of instruction for the year, and what specific subjects are required to be taught. You can find a sample “letter of intent” on the ODE’s website. This letter is due the week before the local school district is set to open for the upcoming academic year.
At the end of the academic year, you must submit an annual assessment for each child which can be in the form of a certified standardized test with results showing “reasonable proficiency,” an assessment from a licensed teacher (agreed upon by you and the superintendent) reviewing and assessing a portfolio of your child’s work from the past year, or some other method that you and the school’s superintendent have mutually agreed upon. Both the letter of intent and the end of year reviews must be completed annually.
The only requirement upheld by the state of Ohio for the primary educator in a homeschool scenario, be it a parent or someone else you’ve chosen, is that the instructor have a minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent, e.g. GED. So, with this under your belt, you have the official qualifications to homeschool your child.
No one knows a child quite like his parent does and this intimate knowledge helps parents meet the needs of their children on all levels.
OFF YOU GO
Megan Mull, a local homeschooling mom, says, “I wanted to be able to offer the most personalized education available for each of my children’s needs and meet them where they are with their individual interest levels and abilities.”
Your daughter can’t sit still for longer than 45 seconds? Then off to the playground for the day’s math lesson! Science can be a trek to the Cincinnati Nature Center or an afternoon at the zoo. Your son is an avid reader? Then he can gorge himself on books on all subjects at the local library.
Cincinnati is a wonderland of educational opportunities for homeschoolers. Museums and libraries abound in addition to local businesses offering lessons in foreign language, cooking, karate, math and a gazillion other subjects. You name it, you can just about find it.
CHOOSING A CURRICULUM
With all of the homeschooling options available, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But don’t worry. Lots of prepackaged curricula are available for homeschooling families. One good place to start is with a popular book titled 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum (B&H Books; 2005) by Cathy Duffy. This book, and others like it, use questionnaires and worksheets to help you determine your child’s learning style and then directs you to specific resources that will work well with your needs.
In this book or through other research you’ve conducted, you’ll learn about different approaches to educating your child such as the classical approach where emphasis is put on big ideas like virtue, truth, beauty, logic and rhetoric. Then there’s Charlotte Mason who, as a turn-of-the-century teacher, put great value on “real” books over textbooks and the importance of exposure to nature. There’s also Unit Study, where a theme is chosen and the various subjects of math, reading, science, etc. are approached through a unifying topic like, say, dinosaurs. How much do they weigh? Let’s draw them. What did they eat? Where did they live? How do you spell it?
There are many others, too: unschooling, where the child leads the learning; or traditional where textbooks and workbooks are present just like at traditional schools; Montessori; Waldorf style and many more, all just a web engine search away.
WHAT ABOUT A SOCIAL LIFE?
Homeschooling can be an incredibly social endeavor. There are lots of organizations and even businesses that cater to homeschoolers, allowing you to be part of a network of like-minded individuals. You can join or form your own co-op where you essentially team teach with other parents whose specialties and strengths compliment and supplement your own. This allows not only for a greater breadth of knowledge being shared but also the opportunities for children and parents alike to form friendships, hang out and have fun.
Another option is to take an “a la carte” approach where your child can take specific classes from an educational program like Leaves of Learning. If, say, you know that teaching your child algebra is going to be an all-out disaster, you can, for a fee, sign them up for class. Not only that, but depending on the policies in your local school district, you can enroll your children in specific classes at your local public school, becoming, in effect, a part-time traditional student.
Also, recent legislation has been passed allowing homeschooled children to participate in extracurricular (non-graded activities) at their local public schools. So drama club, debate team, sports and the like are also available for homeschoolers to participate in with their friends going to public school.
So, when those first day of school pictures start flooding your Facebook feed, make sure you post one, too — rumpled pajamas and a novel while sipping orange juice, or maybe a giant smile in front of the fountain at Union Terminal, or petting a snake at the zoo. It’s all a teachable moment.
Ohio Department of Education
100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum
by Cathy Duffy, B&H Publishing Group
Leaves of Learning, Inc.
7131 Plainfield Road, Deer Park, OH
leavesoflearning.org • 513-697-9021
Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County
cincinnatilibrary.org • 513-369-6900
Home School Mondays
Cincinnati Museum Center
1301 Western Ave. • 513-287-7000
2015 Midwest Homeschool Convention
Duke Energy Convention Center, Cincinnati, OH
April 9 – 11, 2015