With everything going on right now, I thought it would be a good idea to have a page dedicated to frequently asked questions when it comes to homeschooling. Here we go. None of this is legal advice, just some answers to the best of my knowledge. Homeschooling – FAQ:
Q.: Is there any accredited program that can grant a diplomas that anyone here uses?
A.: You are most likely referring to a high school diploma, and more likely then not, you are thinking of a transcript. Many homeschoolers write their own transcript for high school, and most colleges accept that without batting an eye. Some use an accredited program, such as NARHS (National Atlantic Regional High School) or Clonlara for a transcript. There is also an option to receive an official diploma through the 30 college credit program at a local college.
Q.: What is a co-op?
A.: A co-op is a group of families that come together and organize classes for the kids. It fills several purposes: education, cooperation, team building, and of course building friendships and relationships. For example, the co-op we are in currently offers art, geography, biology, debate, creative writing, and book club. We come together every year and brainstorm what classes to teach, and who is willing to teach them. We meet once a week for 4-5 hours. Remember, co-op relies on parent participation, typically, it is not a drop-off program.
Q.: What do I need to do to pull my kid out of school?
A.: You need to come in and fill out transfer/withdrawal paperwork. The letter of intend to homeschool is a courtesy only(!), and is not required. (Please note, in no way is this legal advice, refer to the law here.) From the NJ DoE: “If a parent/guardian decides to remove an enrolled student from his/her high school educational program, the parent/guardian will be required to complete a transfer form which includes information related to the intent to provide instruction elsewhere than at school for the purposes of collecting accurate data on high school enrollment. For any other circumstances, the New Jersey Department of Education encourages parents to notify the local board of education of the intent to educate the child elsewhere than at school so that questions do not arise with respect to the parent’s compliance with the compulsory education law.”
Q.: Does homeschooling need to be expensive?
A.: That is a tricky question. It all depends on what you do. For years and years we have done it for pretty minimal cost: play dates in the park, co-ops with tiny fees, library, and internet resources for curriculum, free field-trips. As my kids grew, so did their needs: college classes, bigger co-op commitments, teams, music classes, etc. Obviously, that made the cost of homeschooling quite high. In fact, high school was probably the most expensive of all the years. Between martial arts, driving instruction, mock trial, community college courses, and ski clubs; not to mention the gas and car maintenance, and opportunity cost of me not working, the price really racked up quickly. However, you can choose how to do things for yourself, and work within your budget constraints. There are always free/inexpensive options. For example, while one community colleges charged us (approximately) $150.00 per credit. Another one, a bit further away is $150.00 for an entire class.
Q.: What curriculum do I choose? Which curriculum do you use? What is your favorite curriculum?
A.: This question is hard to answer, as it ranges so far from family to family. I can, however, tell you what curriculum we use. Or rather we don’t use. We don’t use a set curriculum. Instead, opting out to piece things together. We do a lot of Khan Academy, some workbooks (I especially like Singapore), several different programs for languages (Mango, Duolingo, Living Languages, Memrise), online classes, just good old reading, local community college classes, co-op classes; and most importantly: documentaries, and field trips. There are so many ways to do it. As far as curriculum goes there is: Time4Learning, Easy Peasy Homeschool, Calvert, Acellus, Timberdoodle, and so many more. My advice, don’t spend a lot of money, don’t jump into a set rigid curriculum right away. Go to the library, explore, see what works for you and your family first. You can always jump into a curriculum later.
Q.: Do you have to take a test every year?
A.: No, no you don’t. Not in NJ. Unless you want to, then go for it.
Q.: How do you determine if they are ready for the next grade?
A.: In all honesty, I don’t know. Personally, we never thought of grade levels. Knowledge was continuous and to mastery. Learn something, master it, move on to the next thing.
Q.: Do you have to take the SAT or ACT?
A.: You don’t have to. However, you might want to. As you approach college applications, many institutions want to see scores for these standardized tests. You can read more about taking them here.
Q.: Is what I am doing enough?
A.: Probably. Keep a log of what you are doing, and then try to compile it into a comprehensive document. You will see that it is a lot. Keep in mind, education is more then worksheets and textbooks!
Q.: For those that homeschool from the start, at what age do you begin?
A.: When you are playing with your kid, when you take them to kid plays, when you read together, when you garden, you are already doing it! You are educating. In my case, we gently transitioned into more school type things as the kids got older.
Q.: Where do you find other people that homeschool? Friends? Socializing?
A.: On the internet. 🙂 Jokes aside, we go to get-togethers, co-ops, park days. Most of them, at one point or another I found online in support groups. Back in the day, it was yahoo, nowadays it is Facebook.
Q.: How many hours of schooling is required?
A.: It varies from family to family. Whatever works best for you and your kids. Remember, learning doesn’t only happen at the desk, behind the book.
Q.: How do you record what you do?
A.: Personally, I like a weekly planner where I write down what we do every day. Try things, and then see what you like best.
Q.: Do high schools allow part time students? Do they allow for homeschooled kids to participate in sports/band/etc?
A.: In NJ, the short answer is ‘no’, they generally don’t. The long answer is that it is up to each district whether or not they allow that, and most find it easier to decline. I know one family that got their district school to allow their homeschooled kid to participate in a sports program in high school. That’s it. One. Having said that, some vocational schools allow shared time enrollment for some programs.
I’d like to remind everyone, none of this is legal advice in any way.
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