Since I tend to live in a homeschooling bubble, I don’t really think too much about what people outside the bubble might be wondering about our community. So, in an effort to find out, I recently asked a group of non-homeschooling friends, “What question would YOU want to ask a homeschooler?” Here are some of their questions. I will do my best to try to answer.
1. Understanding Why.
“Why do you pick homeschooling over public school?”
You are going to find that a lot of the answers are going to involve a lot of personal responses. The thing about homeschooling is that it’s a form of education that is completely different for every single family. No two do it exactly the same.
This applies to this question, too. The reasons that people choose to homeschool are quite varied, but the general reasons tend to fall into the following categories:
- To offer an education that better lines up with your religious or moral beliefs.
- Disapproval or dissatisfaction with the school system’s curriculum, methods, agenda, ability to meet your child’s needs, environment, etc.
- Bullying or other social challenges.
- Medical needs such as illness, autism, allergies, learning disabilities, etc. that would be better controlled from home.
- Lifestyle choice, such as travelling, sports/acting, or living in a foreign country
What qualifications do you need to teach your children? Do you have to take training to homeschool kids?
Because teachers are required to have a teaching degree in order to teach in a school, there’s a common curiosity to wonder if homeschoolers need some training too. The answer is no. While teachers are taught methodology, evaluations, classroom management, and other similar skills, homeschooling parents typically don’t need any of the same skills. Some of the benefits of teaching as a homeschooler are that you aren’t bound to current educational conventions or styles, you can tailor fit your learning plans to your child’s styles and interests, and you don’t really need to evaluate their successes because you can see it first hand.
3. The Rules.
Are their specific provincial/federal guidelines to follow when you homeschool?
In Canada, you are legally allowed to homeschool in every province and territory, however, each one has their own set of rules and regulations. Some provinces, like Ontario, only request families inform their local school board each year of their intent to homeschool. Others require mid-year reports or co-ordinator visits. Quebec, for example, requires a lot more intervention.
Can you homeschool until the child enters college/university?
You can homeschool from day one and just keep on going as long as you want. In fact, you could even continue learning at home through post-secondary by doing online and distance courses! It really depends on what is best for your child and their learning experiences.
4. The Nitty-Gritty.
What kind of schedule do you follow daily? How many hours a day do you spend on schooling?
Every family homeschools differently, so this answer will vary greatly. Many families homeschool all morning and take the afternoons off for activities and free-time/interest learning. Some work on and off throughout the day. Some do more work for 4 days and then take a 3 day weekend. The wonderful thing about homeschooling is that it’s completely flexible to each family, each child, and each situation.
At our house, we typically start school around 9 am and work through our school plans to finish around noon. Then we do lunch and chores before the kids have free play and computer time for a few hours in the afternoon. Sometime in the day, we head outside for some fresh air and action play.
Are you actually teaching them, or are children being taught online? Do your children send work in or is it done online?
Again, every family does things differently. There are many terrific online options – virtual schools and classes, youtube videos, games, programs, and websites, but not every family uses online to teach or uses it exclusively. In fact, for the most part, I’d say that families tend to combine online resources with offline learning. There are many different curricula available that help parents work with their children to teach them what they need and want to know.
Some provinces request a portfolio of the work done throughout the year, so many families keep paperwork or documentation of their school activities.
Do you have a support system/ teacher to go to for help?
Homeschoolers have a variety of options for support when they are having trouble. Typically, they look for help within the homeschool community – either local to themselves or online. There they can find more experienced homeschoolers who have been there, done that. Most people are happily willing to offer their insight, suggestions and support. Some provinces have teacher liasons that homeschoolers work with and can connect with if they need support or help.
Do you need to submit testing to the province?
At this time, I am not aware of any testing required in any province or territory, other than discussions that this might be mandated by the Quebec government in upcoming years. I do know that homeschoolers have the option of participating in provincial tests if they choose to but other than that – there is nothing obligatory.
How do your children get the socialization they need with others? Since they aren’t surrounded by kids everyday, how else do you teach social skills with kids that are not family?
Homeschoolers generally don’t stay locked up in their homes and never venture out into the world. Most of the are actively involved with others: taking part in homeschooling groups, classes, activities, and programs. They join extra-curricular clubs like Scouts and Cadets. They join sports teams. They play at the playground. They go to stores. They have neighbours and friends. They are part of the communities they live in.
Being in a closed environment where they are segregated by age group like they are in a school setting doesn’t provide a wider range of social experiences that are offered in a homeschooling family. Homeschooling groups are often inclusive of a variety of age groups – from baby to teens as well as their parents. Kids learn how to interact with all these varieties and with adults as well.
Even if they are with their family 99% of the time, there are plenty of learning opportunities for what is socially acceptable and what is not.
Yes, you are going to hear examples of that “awkward homeschooled kid.” But they might have been shy even in a school room. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that a child who has been homeschooled is going to be unsocialized and unable to handle social norms.
6. Homeschooling Styles
Traditional school has public, private, Catholic etc. Are there different kinds of homeschooling? What is unschooling?
- Traditional: This is basically following the model of school at home. Textbooks and structured learning with a parent or teacher leading the instructional portion and following a set curriculum.
- Classical: Dividing childhood up into three segments based on their natural abilities, this language-centred method involves a lot of rote fact learning in the early years when children love memorization, followed by application of logic in the middle years and rhetoric in more advanced grades.
- Charlotte Mason: Following the teachings of Charlotte Mason, who believed that children should love to learn and as teachers we should facilitate that. This method uses living books – typically fiction books that bring people and events to life.
- Unit Studies: Deep focusing on one topic at a time and connecting other subjects such as science, history, language, etc together based on that one subject.
- Unschooling: Also referred to as child-led learning, unschooling allows a child’s interest, passions, and life experiences be the driving force behind their education, instead of a curriculum plan. This approach is completely counter to the traditional methods of schooling.
- Eclectic: Combining the parts of any of the above methods, or using their own style, this method involves a mix and match approach to learning, personalizing everything to the child’s learning.
Is it religious based?
The origins of the modern homeschooling movement were founded in Christianity, it is true. But today, there is a quickly growing secular or other faith-based part of the homeschooling community. It’s no longer all about faith or religion, but more about a child’s educational needs. More resources are available for secular homeschoolers than there used to be as well.
7. Curriculum & Costs
How much does it cost to home school?
The cost of homeschool varies from free to thousands of dollars, depending on what you choose to use, how much work you are wanting to put into it, and what extras you want to get or be involved with. You can read my blog post: How Much Does Homeschooling Cost? for a more detailed look at expenses.
Are you purchasing a grade curriculum each year? Do you use textbooks? How/can you create your own curriculum?
Again, the answer to this question is completely dependent on how a family chooses to homeschool. Those who want to follow a more traditional school ideal tend to look for curriculum that comes in a packaged box set for the grade they are in. This usually includes a teacher’s guide, workbooks, texts and other materials you need. However, it is completely possible to make your own curriculum. Thanks to the wide resources of the Internet, you can find and piece together just about anything. Combined with library resources, a field trip or two, and things in your community – putting together your own plan isn’t too hard. It’s just a trade off of time to plan for convenience.
How do you know your child is progressing accordingly to provincial standards? What do you do if your child does not learn well with you as opposed to a teacher, and what if they fall behind?
One of the hardest things to grasp, even for homeschoolers, is that you don’t HAVE to follow the provincial standards. Every child learns at their own pace; they will excel at some things and struggle with others – and that’s OK! Working at their own speed means that you have your child’s best interests at heart and is one of the major reasons that homeschooling is a fantastic way to educate your child.
As a homeschooler, it is incredibly hard to NOT compare your child to other kids their own age or to the pre-ordained checklist of things they “should” know by a specific age. However, if you are really concerned about making sure your child, each province has their curriculum expectations online for you to read through. You can use it as a base for the courses and activities you do in your year.
If you and your child are not working well as a teacher and student, here are some suggestions:
- It could be that you need to approach learning from a different angle. Try something fresh and new. Try a different homeschool style. Get hands-on.
- Ask your child what you can do to work better together – their insights might surprise you.
- Look for outside resources, courses, and classes. Have someone else teach for a while. There are a lot of great online classes you can take advantage of.
- Take a break. Back off the formal schooling and allow your child to explore for a while on their own. They might learn more than you expect.
- Try school. It might feel like you’ve failed or surrendered, but if it’s in the best interests of your child’s learning and your parent/child relationship – send them off to a brick and mortar school. If it doesn’t work out, you can bring them home again. It might even make them appreciate your homeschooling efforts more.
How easy is it for a child to be admitted to a post-secondary college or university after being home-schooled? How does it work for homeschooled kids going to university?
More and more university and colleges are opening their doors to accept homeschooled students more easily. Each school has its own set of requirements. Some ways that homeschoolers deal with the post-secondary plan are to:
- Work backwards – planning the courses they take to specifically match those of the program they want to enter in post-secondary
- Get a diploma – by taking officially accredited courses online or through correspondence classes for their high school years
- Go to school – just for their 6 grade 12 credits
- Find another way in – wait until they are accepted as mature students, go to an open university and then transfer credits into another program when ready, go part-time, etc.
- Skip it – and do something else instead – apprenticing, enterpreneuring, adventuring, trade school. University and College aren’t the only options.
10. Time For Mom
Do you ever get overwhelmed with how much time you spend with your children? How do you make sure you have time for yourself either personally or professionally? What about your sanity?
These are great (and important!) questions. As a homeschool parent, you spend a lot of time with your kids. It can get overwhelming at times. Your house isn’t empty often and it can be harder to have a clean home since there are kids are home all day. It’s vital that homeschooling parents have a network – that’s why we stress finding a local support group. Taking even a short time to chat with other parents who understand can seriously help re-energize yourself when things are stressful. Taking breaks and having fun with your kids is helpful too.
One key (other than a spouse/partner you gives you off time!) is to schedule it in. If it’s part of the routine for mom to have some alone time from 8-9am, or for her to work from 12-3 every day while the kids play independently, then it will be easier to maintain that.
As for sanity… well…. I’m not sure I can speak from experience. It’s quite possible mine left a long, long time ago.
Hopefully this post was able to answer some of your biggest questions about homeschooling. The world of homeschooling isn’t that big or scary – it’s just parents who are using resources other than public school to help their child have the best learning experience they can. Homeschooling parents make their decision based on what they believe is right for their family and – most importantly – their children.