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About Home schooling

What is home schooling?

Home schooling is an educational option in which the parents assume the responsibility for educating their children at home. It is about families loving and learning from one another.

How long has home schooling been around?

Home schooling or family-based education has been the primary mode of education for most of recorded history. Institutionalized schooling, while what is familiar to most of us today, is actually relatively new. In fact, the last compulsory education laws in the United States weren't passed until 1918. The modern home schooling movement, which was a return to family-based education, began in the 1960's.

Why do families choose to home school?

There are many reasons families choose to home school. Academic excellence, physical safety and the desire to pass on the family's governing values to the children are perhaps the most commonly voiced. Families desire the increased closeness home schooling brings. Home schooling maintains the enthusiasm for learning that a child is born with. Home schooling allows each child to receive individual attention, taking into consideration his own learning style and interests. There are probably as many reasons or combinations of reasons for home schooling as there are families.

How many home schooling families are there?

Estimates of home schooling children vary. Patricia Lines, a federal Department of Education official, in a working paper for the U.S. Department of Education, "Householders: Estimating Numbers and Growth" concluded that "around 700,000 to 750,000" children were home schooled in the 1995-96 school year. Another study done by the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) concluded that there were 1.23 million home schooled children in the United States in the fall of 1996, with an estimated error of measurement of ten percent. Whatever the exact figures, all studies conclude that home schooling has had a sustained growth rate of 15 to 20% for the last three decades.

Are there different approaches to home schooling?

Absolutely! There is a whole continuum of home schooling approaches from something that resembles the structured school classroom to supporting children in pursuing their own interests. It is most typical for parents to combine home schooling approaches. They might use a textbook for math, a unit study approach combining history, language arts and the social sciences, and a very hands-on approach to science. In the home schooling community.

What is a typical day like?

There is no typical day. You might be home and crack the books or play games. You might race off to a support group activity. You may take a walk, play some basketball, go grocery shopping or just read a good book. Some parents do a little of each subject every day. Others spend one day on math, another on language arts, and so on. Some families use a planned curriculum and others utilize the library and follow the interests of their children.

How expensive is home schooling?

It is as expensive as your family wants to make it. Some parents spend thousands of dollars a year investing in complete packaged curriculums accompanied by video instruction. Other families pay almost nothing by using the library and everyday activities like cooking, gardening or a home business as the foundation of instruction, especially in the elementary years.

A decade ago everyone home schooled for less because there were very few publications, curricula or conferences for householders. Now there are more products and services.

Are there bad days?

Studies have shown that home schooled children have fewer behavioral problems than their institutionally-schooled peers. Many families, in fact, are able to recognize and more readily remedy true behavioral situations in a much more timely and effective manner. In the long run, you'll have fewer bad days if you home school.

How do people get started?

People can call California Home school Network's (800) 327-5339 number can start the ball rolling. A parent's basic questions will be answered and they'll be referred to local householders at the California Home School Network Site who can provide additional support.

Does home schooling provide the same diversity found in public schools?

Yes! Americans of different races, socioeconomic backgrounds, and religions home school, and they regularly meet with each other at park days throughout the state. The experience is natural and very positive. Home schooled children also have the opportunity to be out in their community more often, where they meet and observe many different people.

What effect does home schooling have on public schools? Are you abandoning public education?

Home schooling creates a healthy competition between itself and public schools by giving parents another choice in educating their children. Monopolies, even in education, are bad for the consumer. We have sufficient evidence of educational success in the home schooling movement that we believe public schools are starting to pay attention. We invite them to look at the successful educational ideas within the home schooling movement and implement their findings to improve the quality of education for all children.


What about socialization?

This is probably the most commonly voiced concern about home schooling. There are plenty of opportunities for householders to socialize. There are home school support groups, community activities like sports or scouts, specialty classes in music, and after-school play with public schooled friends. Because they have continual interaction and modeling from adults, home schooled children are less peer-dependent and more comfortable with all age groups than their public school counterparts. The home school social world is generally less influenced from the worrisome influences of drugs, gangs, sexual pressures, and violence. It is true that the choice to home school removes the child from the intensive, ready-made social world of school, but it's easy to supply social experiences sufficient in quantity and probably superior in quality to those at school.

How can I find other householders?

CHN Local Contacts can tell you about support groups and activities in their areas. A support group is a great place for new householders. Parents can get encouragement and information from more experienced householders. The whole family can enjoy the field trips, projects, cooperative classes and friendships available through a local support group.

What can I say to friends and family who are concerned about home schooling?

Are your friends and family unhappy about your decision? Try to find out why. Their defensiveness might stem from the belief that your choice to home school is an unspoken criticism of their decision not to do so. Focus on your positive reasons for home schooling, and emphasize the individuality of your choice. Consider also that their criticism might stem from loving concern. Caring friends and family want the best for your children, just as you do.

How does a home school education compare to a traditional education?

Home schooled children test above average regardless of income, race or parent's level of education. For instance, the Washington Home school Research Project has analyzed the SAT scores of home schooled children in Washington State since 1985. One significant achievement of home schooled children is that the National Merit Scholarship Corporation has chosen significant numbers of home schooled high school seniors as semifinalists.

Patricia M. Lines, "Home Schooling," ERIC Digest, no. 95, April 1995, EDO-EA-95-3.Ray, Brian "Home Education across the United States," p. 6."Semifinalists in the 1998 Merit Scholarship Competition," National Merit Scholarship Corp., Evanston, Ill., 1997, pp. 14-92.

Then, of course, there is the anecdotal evidence. Homeschoolers have frequently been the winners in spelling bees and other national events.

What about getting into college?

A growing number of colleges and universities around the United States are admitting householders including prestigious universities like Harvard and Yale. Some, like UC Riverside, actively recruit householders. The application process may be a bit different. They may decide to submit samples of their work, letters of recommendation, and CLEP and Stanford Achievement Test scores. The bottom line is that, if a homeschooler wants to pursue post-secondary education, they can certainly do so and do so within some of the finest universities.

Are parents capable of teaching?

A half century of educational research has indicated a total lack of any significant relationship between the teacher's certificate and the pupil's achievement. The evidence is in. Families from all walks of life and all educational backgrounds are home schooling successfully.

What about subjects a parent can't teach?

It would be a rare teacher who could teach every subject, and parents are no different. Parents often serve as facilitators, helping the child to find the resources necessary for learning. There are many creative ways to tackle unfamiliar or difficult subjects. There are companies specializing in outstanding learning materials for householders. Some householders collaborate with other families. Another parent might have the strength you lack or you can jointly hire a tutor. Some use community resources—people, programs, and places. You can always jump in alongside your children and learn with them. What a great life lesson for kids if they learn that learning is lifelong.

What about testing?

Testing is not required of private schools in California. Testing services are available for families who desire to have their children tested. Some home schooling parents choose to do so, while others believe that when you teach your children one-on-one, their understanding of the material is readily apparent.

If kids aren't tested, what guarantee is there that they are learning?

Public schools require testing, but enrollment in public school does not guarantee that any learning is taking place. We have compulsory attendance not compulsory education laws. In states where testing is required of householders, they usually score in the 80th percentile or above.

The validity of standardized tests has been questioned by many educators and researchers. Because they are multiple-choice, they don't measure the ability to think or create. Many critics call for replacing standardized testing with "performance assessments." A performance assessment requires evaluating the student's actual work which might include writing samples, teacher observation, science experiments, etc. Performance assessments are exactly what parents naturally use in evaluating the progress of their home schooled children.

What curriculum should I choose?

Questions to consider:

The choice of a curriculum is based on your educational philosophy and the learning styles and developmental stages of each child. What curriculum you choose will be governed by your personal educational philosophy. The two ends of the educational spectrum may be represented by E.D. Hirsch, author of Cultural Literacy, and John Holt, author of Instead of Education and other books.

Hirsch believes that there is a core of knowledge which every child should know. He has attempted, through his Core Knowledge Foundation, to publish works defining the body of information he believes children should learn at various ages. He believes a coherent body of shared knowledge is more democratic and helps create cooperation and solidarity in our nation. The facts and skills he identifies are based on reports issued by state departments of education, professional teachers' associations and the educational systems of several other countries, like Japan, France, Sweden and West Germany, which he considers successful.

In contrast, Holt writes, "Next to the right to life itself, the most fundamental of all human rights is the right to control our own minds and thoughts. That means, the right to decide for ourselves how we will explore the world around us, think about our own and other person's experiences, and find and make the meaning of our own lives." Instead of Education, pg. 4) Holt's philosophy of education has been termed child-led interest or unschooling. He believes that each child, while pursuing his interests, will develop the necessary skills and accumulate the necessary facts for success in the enterprise of his choosing.

In Hirsch's model, the teacher is the source of most information; while in Holt's model, the teacher is the facilitator, providing resources, guidance, transportation and funding. In Hirsch's model, shared knowledge leads to increased cooperation in society; in Holt's model, the infinite variety of choices leads to self-directed, self-knowing individuals. If you lean toward Hirsch's model, you will probably choose a pre-packaged curriculum. If you lean toward Holt's model, your children's interests will drive the variety of resources you choose.

Customizing for your children's needs: When you choose your curriculum it is beneficial to be familiar with one or more of the learning style modalities so that you can decide what materials best mesh with your child's learning styles. For delightful and thought-provoking reading, try Thomas Armstrong's In Their Own Way or Dawna Markova's book, How Your Child is Smart: A Life-Changing Approach to Learning.

Home schooling allows you to speed up or slow down in order to match your child's developmental readiness in various subjects. In meeting developmental needs, a packaged curriculum gives you less leeway than one customized by you to meet the distinct developmental needs of the child.

Legal Options

Is it legal?

Families are home schooling legally in all fifty states.

What home schooling options are available in California?

There are four options: establishing your own home-based private school, enrolling in a private school that offers independent study (PSP), using a public school independent study program (ISP) or charter school that caters to householders or, if you have a credential, using the tutorial option.

Option 1: Private School Affidavit (PSA)


Support systems must be sought out or created. When you file the Private School Affidavit, you withdraw your children from school and request their school records. As the administrator/teacher, you must keep the required records, but the record-keeping requirements are not burdensome. When you file an affidavit, your school name and address are a matter of public record. You will be responsible for answering inquiries regarding your school. If you would like the companionship of other householders, identify and join a home schooling support group. Although the state mandates that certain subjects such as reading, social studies, math and science be "taught," when you file the Private School Affidavit, you have freedom in deciding what specific topics are covered and how and when to cover them. If your elementary school aged child wants to learn a topic normally covered in high school, he or she can do it!

More information on the mechanics of the Private School Affidavit.

Correspondence Schools

This is a variant of Option 1, except that one has purchased a correspondence curriculum. The child must be enrolled in a private school which files the Private School Affidavit in California. If the private school, whose curriculum you decide to purchase, does not file the Private School Affidavit, you must take care of the legal requirements on your own by filing a PSA.

Option 2: Private School Satellite Program (PSP)


A PSP is a private school which has filed an affidavit. When you sign up, you become a teacher in that school. Your name and address do not appear on the affidavit, but the PSP is required to keep a listing of each teacher and his/her qualifications. The administrator will remind you to turn in the required attendance records and course of study. Some PSPs offer a newsletter and activities like park days and field trips for their members. Some PSPs offer curriculum packages; guidance and requirements vary with each school. Some PSPs are listed on CHN's resource page.

Option 3: Public School Independent Study Programs or Charter Schools


If you register with a public school ISP or Charter School, your child is still in public school. You are considered a teacher's aide and will be assigned a credentialed teacher to oversee your program. You will need to keep the records required by the program you enroll in. The amount of freedom you have in choosing what to study depends on the program's policies and your assigned teacher. Parents who choose this option frequently are planning to home school for only a year or two, or are planning to home school only one of their children while keeping the others registered in public school.

Option 4: Credentialed Teacher/Tutor

A parent with a valid California teacher's credential may teach his/her child under the private tutorial exemption. The parent can use this option only for the grades their credential covers. Parents may also hire a credentialed tutor for their child. Instruction must be for at least three hours a day for 175 days each year, between the hours of 8:00 am and 4:00 pm.