Interested in Homeschooling?
If you are here then you have an interest in schooling your children at home. The information out there can be overwhelming to say the least. Even a diligent parent can become easily overwhelmed and frustrated just due to the shear amount of information that exists. The greatest part about homeschooling is that you can choose what works for your family. The problem is that it is very hard to sift through what is out there. There are as many different ways to homeschool as there are families! And therein lies the rub. Hopefully, in addition to learning what is out there, this will assist you in finding a great program that you can be happy with, get some questions about general homeschooling answered and be confident when you're through!
Understand state laws
First things first. You need to check your laws in your state. The only requirements to legally homeschool in Texas are:
- The instruction must be bona fide (i.e., not a sham).
- The curriculum must be in visual form (e.g., books, workbooks, video monitor).
- The curriculum must include the basic subjects of reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and good citizenship.
You may also send your children into the home of another parent or use a tutor for instruction.
The courts have determined that Texas homeschools are private schools for the purpose of compulsory attendance. As such, homeschools are not regulated, do not require teacher certification or third-party curriculum approval, and they are exempt from compulsory attendance laws.
That means there are no set amount of days you must teach, no set curricula you must use (accredited curriculum is not a thing, more on that later), you have no one to answer to, the Texas state government gives that right to parents in this state to decide what is best for your child. There is no agency to report to and likewise, no one is even qualified to review whether you're doing a good job. As long as you are teaching basically English, Math and Good Citizenship some of the days of the year, you are meeting government standards. No Staar testing is required. If you would like to stay on a level, that is totally up to you. (More on offering Staar and other testing regardless of the state law below too.)
If you are in another state than Texas, you can check your state's laws here.
Withdrawing from public school
Now that you understand the laws in your state, you need to understand how to withdraw your child from school. An email that has been replied to is sufficient proof of disenrollment. If someone has not replied and you are awaiting a reply, simply call them up and ask them to reply for your records. You don't have to tell anyone how you plan to homeschool. You report to no one, you have to sign nothing. Make sure they acknowledge receipt of it. If they for some reason they do not, your child can incur absences and you may be subject to truancy law. This is a screenshot of the actual email I sent to my son's school to disenroll him. I sent it to the principal, cc-ed his vice principal, his counselor and the attendance clerk. The principal acknowledge receipt by replying and saying “You are right, this is all we need. Good luck.”
Note: The date that you will begin homeschooling is now required by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) in order to withdraw a child from public school. It is important to make certain that students are withdrawn before homeschooling begins and that homeschooling begins as soon as the student is withdrawn in order to avoid schools counting the student absent prior to withdrawal and potentially filing truancy charges.
Popular homeschooling ideologies
To learn more about Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling, I suggest listening to one of her books. They can be found for Free here in print form. Vol 1 is free on audio here. Ambleside online is free, contains book lists and plans. A Gentle Feast, Simply Charlotte Mason, and A Modern Charlotte mason , Sabbath Mood Homeschool (That one has a great living science) are great options and usually cheaper than boxed sets. A Gentle feast contains complete plans. Simply Charlotte mason is better for piecing together. All of those have book lists that can be purchased I believe.
Classical conversations, Veritas, Classical Academic Press, Well Trained mind - these are all great options for Classical education. Classical Conversations memory work I find extremely beneficial in my homeschooling. You can find an app on google play that costs $15.99 and it contains all of the memory work for Foundations Cycle 1. You will need to look up science songs and the timeline song - they can be found free on Youtube. The Well Trained mind book contains more classical education resources than I could EVER share here. It is a must read for new homeschoolers.
Umbrella programs such as K12 and Penn Foster are considered public school online. You still learn the same thing that you would in public school, they are still subject to staar testing and they still report to a teacher. Expect low standards, not being able to get into contact with teachers, etc. These can be great programs for some though.
Unschooling or relaxed homeschooling allows the child to pursue their own education, dictate content and lead by their own interest. Instead of allowing the curriculum to peak interest in previously unexplored subjects, unschoolers believe that the child's brain will lead them to everything they need to know. Some use a curriculum style from above and allow the child time to lead their own interest based learning. The best resource I can offer for Unschooling is Time4Learning.
Unit Studies are mostly used in the primary years. Lapbooks, arts and crafts, packets on a singular subject matter or era of time are considered unit study style. Unit studies can be used in conjunction with any of the above named education styles. Weaver is a great unit study resource. For the more DIY moms, Teachers pay Teachers and Education.com are both cheap or free.
Online versions - Online isn't a style, and there are many different types of online programs. Some are free, some are not. Some are classical in feel and some are traditional in nature. Easy peasy is a favorite as it is free, has a classical/unit study feel (although it's still quite traditional), feels complete and it's free. It's a great resource for trying to deschool your child, and turn off that public school mind and turn on some great learning links! It also has options and information about CLEP - college level education during high school years. Discovery k12 and Khan academy are also free options. I will say that many use Khan as a supplement and Discovery K12 does feel a bit less complete. Accellus and Mobymax (mm is common core aligned) have pay options but are quite cheap. MobyMax spouts that it can fill in blank spots in a previously public school educated child who might have missed something, but I have seen no proof of that. Dedicated parents who take time are usually able to fill in holes in education much better than a program in my experience. Monarch and Switched on Schoolhouse (linked to alpha omega) are online and pay only.
Eclectic Homeschooling is a vast education style that really just means they do a little of everything. More information coming about specific options and resources for individual subjects coming soon. My suggestions are going to be very classical in nature, only because that is how I homeschool predominantly, however, I subscribe to the Eclectic thought process.
Math - Life of Fred, Beast Academy, Prodigy Math games
Reading - Strongly suggest looking into Read aloud revival
Science - Apologia
History - Story of the World, Mystery of History
What you'll learn - Socialization, Learning styles, Public School Standards and being "on level" and other commonly asked questions
You and your child are two separate individuals. You likely have separate interests and you learn in different ways. Even if you have similarities, you most likely can pinpoint several differences in the ways that you learn. Whether that be because you are an adult and they are a child, or a difference in learning style altogether. It would benefit both of you greatly to pinpoint some similarities and differences between your personalities and learning styles to start out with, this way when you come against a difference, you can laugh it off or find another approach.
Learning styles and personality traits are hard engrained in all of us. You cannot change your learning style or personality traits, but you can rub off rough edges and learn to cope with others whose learning styles and personality traits differ from our own. This is called socializing.
"But what about sOcIaLiZaTiOn?"
You will find that the socializing that is done in a public school forum differs greatly from how you will view socialization in your homeschool. There is almost never another time in life in which we are made to sit in a room with 20-30 individuals our exact same age, with uniform thoughts and ideas for 8 hours. There are times in which we must be somewhere for 8 hours, but almost never with those our exact age and as adults we snub our noses at uniform thought. So why would we subject our children to this line of thinking? Homeschoolers know that socialization can be accomplished with children and adults of all ages, and is BEST accomplished with those who differ in thought, lifestyle and home-lives than our own. It has been my experience that homeschoolers do not raise their hand or form circles to sit in easily, but they are some of the most well adjusted individuals. Any shyness, in my experience, has more akin to personality traits than schooling philosophy. You may find that your previously shy and introverted child thrives in homeschool! That their shyness and unease has been eradicated by finding a tribe in which they are able to discover their self-worth and that they feel accepted in.
You don't need "socialization" as society deems necessary, but many do find the need for community. It is in the connection with others that we really feel the need for, not uniformity. Connection can be accomplished through church, co-ops, groups, etc. There is likely an entire world of homeschooling in your area that you have no idea exists! They fly under the radar for the most part because they meet when children are in school and most adults are working. There are co-ops and groups geared toward just about anything you can imagine.
"What about Struggling Children?"
"What about being on level?"
"What about Staar Exams?"
You can do this. Your CHILD can do this. Children who struggle in public school flourish at home. When I answer questions for new homeschoolers they ask "What about their 504 accommodations?" I ask... "Well, what do they do for them?" The answer is almost always that they have someone read questions aloud to them if they have a learning disability. Or that they have someone come in and do phonics work with a child behind in reading. "So.... basically everything that you would be doing as a homeschool mom anyway, right?"
The public school standard is so low in comparison to my own homeschooling and history and science are a joke in public school. I encourage you to look up the teks in Texas. It won't make sense to you how low these are until you have a few months of homeschooling under your belt. Any RTI or supplemental services that children get with in the public school system is because they aren't on an imaginary school standard. The standard does not exist. The public school system in America likes to scare parents into being on a "level". Grammar is the same for all 12 years of schooling. Reading comprehension can be accomplished in situations where the child never having read anything before. Ever. I'm not telling you to not teach anything. I am telling you to let go of what society tells you about educating your child. I still teach my children on a level for every subject. Most parents think that homeschoolers should be advanced. I'll tell you, they moment you let go of the idea of a level or a standard for learning, that's when you will really blow it out of the water. My kindergartener is going to graduate kindergarten having memorized her multiplication tables and with a solid ancient history under her belt. Let go of the level. Don't underestimate them.
"What about Staar Exam?"
"What if I still want to know where they place at the end of the year?"
There are no requirements in Texas Homeschool Law that require your child to take the Staar exam. However, there are 35-40 questions on the science, reading and math Staar exams. You can find the released exam here for previous years with answers. If you still feel really passionate about levels, have them do a Staar exam at home. If you don't care about exact timed administering of the test, you could do a question on each exam a week and be done by the end of the school year with all Staar exams.