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Homeschooling: How do I begin?

Editor’s note: This is the second segment of a two-part series on homeschooling.

For those interested in homeschooling, one of the hardest decisions may be selecting the program that is right for you and your children. Prospective homeschoolers also need to become acquainted with local state laws and find a support group. Sadie Aldaya, director of Foundations and Essentials and local support manager of Classical Conversations, homeschooling curriculum programs, says there are many resources parents can use to find out more information.

For the first-time homeschooler, knowing their state laws and their rights regarding homeschooling are important, said Aldaya. She recommended some helpful websites for those looking into or just starting homeschool. Two recommended sites are www.thsc.org and www.hslda.org. These websites provide information for parents about laws regarding homeschooling and how to withdraw their child from the public school system, Aldaya said. Another website to look at is www.time4learning.com/homeschool/homeschooling_in_texas.shtml.

Homeschools are looked at like private schools. Rules for homeschooling vary by state but Texas has a pretty open policy, said Aldaya. A parent does not have to be certified to teach in Texas, for instance. Some states require the teaching parent to have some sort of certification to homeschool.

Unique to Texas, the primary parent, making the primary income, cannot be the teacher. So the father or the mother can teach, but also grandma could teach. There are homeschoolers where both parents work and are taught by their grandmother, said Aldaya. A parent could work from home and homeschool. To find out more information about the legalities visit www.thsc.org. The website says it is possible for both parents to work, but it does become more difficult and takes some discipline.

Aldaya says that finding a support group is paramount to the success of a homeschooling parent. There are support groups throughout the state and several here in the Rio Grande Valley as well. These include Classical Conversations of McAllen, Edinburg and Brownsville, Home Oriented Private Education (HOPE) for Hidalgo County, Christian Home Educators Support System (CHESS) and several others. Some local groups’ websites are www.mcallenhomeschool.com, www.classicalconverstaions.com, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Valley-Homeschoolers/, http://www.homeschool-life.com/tx/chessatrgv/ and https://www.homeschool-life.com/sysfiles/member/index_public.cfm?memberid=995.

Support groups have different aspects to them. Aldaya advises parents to find out information on each group’s mission statement, purpose and structure before making a decision on which one to join.

“Determining what the group has to offer compared to the needs of the family are important also,” said Aldaya.

There are many programs to choose from. This is where a prospective homeschooler should do some research and select what is best for their children.

Most homeschoolers learn about particular curriculums from others homeschoolers, however there are many other resources available, said Aldaya. Some parents will find resources online; others will read books on homeschooling, while others will attend local or regional conferences.

Homeschool Conferences

Aldaya recommends going to a homeschool conference.

“Attending a conference is the easiest way to find out about homeschooling options and the easiest way to enter into the homeschool network,” she said.

At conferences, veterans, new homeschoolers and potential homeschoolers converge in one place. Some conferences are free while others have a cost to attend. Attending a conference is how some parents make the decision to homeschool or not.

There will be a free three-day homeschooling conference held in the McAllen, Mission, Edinburg area this summer. The conference is set for June 27-29, but the location is still pending. Parents can register and get more information at www.classicalconversations.com.

The Family Educators Alliance of South Texas (FEAST) will hold their regional conference in San Antonio May 17 and 18. There are charges for registration of adults and children five years and older.

Both conferences will feature bookstores and vendors with curriculum to choose from as well as other helpful information for first-time homeschoolers or those thinking about homeschooling. You can do a quick search online to find other homeschooling conferences.

While schools spend several thousand dollars on each student each school year, a homeschooler might spend about $1,500 a year on one child, said Aldaya, depending on what you buy. According to Home School Local Defense Association an average cost per home school student is about $546, whereas the average cost per public school student is $5,325. Some school districts spend as much as $13,578 per student.

Homeschooled Children Outperform Public Schooled Peers

Academically, homeschooled children score higher on tests and there is no real gap in how minorities and the majorities score. According to the Home School Local Defense Association, www.hslda.org, scores show that regardless of race, when a parent is committed to schooling their children, they score well.

A study conducted by Home School Local Defense Association, on average, one in every four home school students are one or more grades higher than students enrolled in public schools. Home school students scored higher in every subject than students in public and private schools when given a battery test. Students were shown to score 20 or more percentile points higher than public school students.

Getting Started

After you have found a local support group and selected a program or curriculum to use, you need to notify the school district of your decision to homeschool. In Texas, the homeschooler parent has to submit a letter to the school district to show that they have chosen to homeschool their child. The letter must state the date homeschooling began.

Homeschooling has no real schedule, but some parents can decide on a regular schedule, depending on how they want to teach, and what their daily life is like. Since homeschooling is looked at as a private school, and Texas does not regulate the number of days a private school is in session, the number of days a homeschool student must attend school is not regulated. Some programs include graduation ceremonies at the end of the year, holidays and summer break.

According to Education News, the number of homeschoolers has increased by nearly 75 percent since 1999. The growth rate is seven to 15 percent per year according to Home School Local Defense Association.

As far as socialization goes, homeschoolers are active in homeschooling and community activities. Some homeschoolers participate in sports, volunteer work, or dance classes. According to the study the Home School Local Defense Association conducted, a homeschooler participates in an average of five activities outside of homeschooling.

Testing

There is testing for homeschoolers, but they do not have to take the state standardized tests. That option is up to the family. End-of-the-year testing or academic assessment tests all depend on what program the family is using. Different states also require certain tests to be taken.

According to the Texas Home School Coalition, Texas does not require testing of private school students, although many parents do decide to use nationally normed achievement tests. Tests might become more mandatory in the high school years if a child is taking advanced placement instruction and wants the college credit. Homeschooling curricula has a graduation requirement, once the child has achieved the requirements set by the curriculum, the parent can order a diploma for their child through their support group, curriculum, or the Texas Home School Coalition Association. Tests a high school child takes can also depend on post high school goals.

Depending on program and state, there are general placement tests, standardized achievement tests, college prep tests, college entrance exams and aptitude tests. The Texas Home School Coalition Association website says that Texas colleges are required to accept a homeschool graduate’s diploma and transcript and treat them just as they would a public school graduate. Homeschooled students do have to meet the same college admission guidelines, such as having a diploma, transcript, SAT/ACT scores, complete college application, paid application fees, and if attending a community college, the homeschooler might have to take placement exams such as Compass, THEA and ACCUPLACER.

While homeschooling might seem like a big endeavor to undertake, once you start and get into a schedule, it’s all about teaching your child.

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CoverageAreaThe Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.

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