The Kitchen Table Classroom
What You Need to Know before Homeschooling Your Preschooler or Kindergartner
Home, but not Alone
Throughout history, scores of homeschooled individuals have gone on to achieve positions of fame and fortune: Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Sally Ride, to name just a few. Each of these personalities spent time learning to read and write at the kitchen table or studying nature while hiking in the backwoods. And each went on to fashion their own talents into careers that caught the attention of not just their peers, but the entire world.
Today, we watch as homeschooled youngsters win nationally televised spelling bees and homeschooled teens gain acceptance to major universities and colleges. More and more parents across the United States are exploring the option of homeschooling their children. Whether it be for religious reasons, to avoid the growing violence in public schools, or to be more intimately involved in their child’s learning, families are successfully teaching their children at home—and the numbers are on the rise.
Homeschooling is the fastest growing segment of K–12 education in the United States today, say the editors at www.teach-at-home.com. According to the 2003 National Household Surveys Education Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, there were 1.1 million homeschooled students in the United States in spring 2003. This number is up from an estimated 850,000 students being homeschooled in spring 1999.
Why the increase, and why do families choose to homeschool? Thirty-one percent of families polled in the survey cited school environment concerns as their reason to homeschool, 30 percent stated religious reasons, and 16 percent acknowledged dissatisfaction with academic instruction in schools. The tests also reveal that the average homeschooling family has an annual income between $25,000 and $49,000, and one or both parents has a higher education than the national norm.
Although on the rise, homeschooling is still a controversial subject. Patricia M. Lines, Senior Research Analyst with the U.S. Department of Education writes in the government-issued brochure Homeschooling that it is difficult to statistically prove whether or not children do better or worse in public, private, or home schools. However, “scores of homeschoolers who have taken state-mandated tests or who have provided their results to researchers indicate that while some homeschoolers test below average, a larger number test above that mark,” writes Lines. Proponents and opponents both disagree on just how well-adjusted homeschooled children are. But according to Lines’ research, there is no evidence that homeschooling harms children’s social or psychological development. In fact, it appears that teaching children at home elicits quite the opposite result. “These children often demonstrate better social adjustment than their traditionally schooled peers,” she concludes.
Opponents of homeschooling cite isolation and socialization as major shortcomings; however, homeschooling is rarely conducted in total isolation, observes Lines. And this is true for the many families participating in support and playgroups, recreational activities, church activities, arts groups, athletics, and music or dance classes. Through these very social—and fun—activities homeschooled children can enjoy and experience many people outside of their family circle. Although it is true that some homeschoolers may associate only with people who share their same religious beliefs, many, according to Lines, “seek religious, cultural, and racial diversity.”
Things to Consider
If you are thinking about homeschooling, there are several things you’ll need to resolve before getting started. “How organized are you?” asks Cheryl Lewis, a homeschooling mom of four and senior editor at Suite101.com, in her article Deciding to Homeschool Your Young Children. Choosing to homeschool your preschool or kindergarten child is not a decision to be taken lightly. “If you are going to homeschool you need to consider the degree to which you can truly commit to meet this need for your child,” Lewis continues. “Keep in mind that preschool and kindergarten do not have to be all day, every day courses. Two, three, or four days per week for one to four hours per day, depending upon the age of your child is a pretty accurate timing period.”
Homefires.com editor and publisher Diane Flynn Keith also states, “The time required to do this will vary among families—but in general, any structured learning takes a fraction of the time that it would in a school setting.”
Another consideration you’ll need to address is your state’s educational codes and regulations. Even though homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, “each state has different rules and education codes that determine how a family can legally homeschool their children,” says Flynn Keith. So, before getting started, you’ll need to check with your state government to find out if you must register your child as a homeschooler. Some states also require that you adhere to a particular curriculum, or participate in the annual state-wide educational testing. Additionally, in many states preschool is not mandatory—and in some states neither is kindergarten.
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