My mission at About.com Homeschooling has always been to demystify the process of educating your children yourself. That's because I can remember how overwhelming it can seem when you've never taught before!
When I started, my experience with education and child development consisted of raising my two sons through their preschool years. However, as a journalist, I was also good at research. By reading, speaking to experts, attending presentations, and talking with experienced homeschooling parents, I gained enough confidence to try it myself. And through the decades, my belief in the positive effects of homeschooling has only grown.
Today, finding information about how children learn best is easier than ever. If you're new to homeschooling or just thinking about it, my Guide For New Homeschoolers contains information and encouragement to help you get started on your own homeschooling adventure.
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One thing new homeschoolers worry about is covering every subject. While schools traditionally break up the day into periods devoted to a single subject -- math, or reading, or social studies -- homeschooling gives you the freedom to organize your material in your own way.
When I write up reports for my school district, I find myself plugging the same activity into many different subject areas. I love the idea of integrating multiple subjects into one project -- but at the same time, it's hard to break old ways of thinking about the material we cover.
That's why I have written many articles focusing on each of the major subjects. To make sure you can still find them when About.com's redesign kicks in, I've collected them into a new article called Homeschooling Subject by Subject. I hope it helps you find the information you need quickly and easily.
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Whether or not you want to use a readymade curriculum is one of the first decisions most new homeschoolers make. And since buying curriculum materials and services, or subscribing to an online homeschooling program, is one of the biggest investments parents make in their children's at-home education, getting it right is important.
To help you make the best choice, my new article What To Look For In A Homeschooling Curriculum lays out some of the pros and cons of using an all-in-one curriculum, and how to find out which program is the best for your child.
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The modern homeschooling movement began in the 1970s and 80s, took off in the 1990s, and is going strong into the 21st century.
So it's always surprising to me what people don't know about how homeschooling works. I've put together a list of 7 Surprising Things About Homeschooling to fill in the gaps. What surprising things do you think people ought to know?
As a journalist and homeschooling mom, I've written many stories over the years about homeschooling. One thing I noticed -- and worked hard to avoid -- was the opposing view.
For a long time, any article about homeschooling in the mainstream media always dedicated a few quotes to people who had problems with homeschooling. Sometimes their comments were thoughtful, but most of the time, it seemed like the "experts" being quoted had never met a real homeschooling parent or child and had never given a moment's thought to how it might work in real life.
While this might seem like legitimate journalistic practice, think about this: How many times have you read a story about public, private, or parochial schools that questioned their very right to exist? Unless the story is focusing on educational philosophy, the answer is never.
Getting to write about homeschooling without having to defend the practice is one of the reasons I love being the Homeschooling Expert at About.com. My latest article collects some of my writings explaining The Truth About Homeschooling.
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I admit it. Sometimes I read kids' books by myself. And I know I'm not alone -- there are lots of adults who love children's books as much as, if not more than, books for grown-ups.
And no wonder -- kidlit is full of great heroes and heroines, fantasy and adventure, and profound discoveries. In fact, one of the perks of homeschooling my children over the years has been the chance to catch up on juvenile classics I missed the first time around.
I've written before about my local homeschool group's Kids Classic Book Club. I thought it would be helpful to list some of the books we read, especially those that sparked great activities and discussions.
My new article 15 Classic Books Your Kids Will Love contains part of the list. I'll be publishing follow-ups soon, and adding articles about how some ways to build on the reading experience, alone or with a group.
Image: The Mad Tea Party from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, illustration by John Tenniel (public domain)
My new article today is a quickie. I boiled down all the advice I've ever given about homeschooling into five simple thoughts.
Take a look at my piece The Only Homeschooling Advice You'll Ever Need and tell me if you agree!
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Spring in my neck of the woods is the time that parents start contacting our local homeschool groups, asking for information. Homeschool Info Night is a long-held tradition, in which experienced homeschoolers share their wisdom with interested families and the local community.
If you, like many homeschoolers, got your start with the help of other homeschoolers, consider paying it forward. My new article Host a Homeschool Info Night will show you how.
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In the time that I've been homeschooling, I've seen homeschooling support groups evolve dramatically. Once the only way to stay in touch with other homeschoolers was to become a dues-paying member of an organization that would send out a regular newsletter by mail that included news and a calendar of upcoming events.
Regular meetings would take place in a public place like the library or at someone's home. Organizing an activity could mean endless phone calls, and sometimes collecting fees by mail.
Today, fewer parents have the time to attend meetings, and get-togethers are often more informal and last-minute. But thanks to email, social media, and texts, connecting with other homeschoolers is a lot less involved than it used to be.
My new article contains ideas for How to Find Homeschooling Support. I'd love to hear about any trends that I've missed in the world of homeschooling!
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Families throughout the Northeast make the trip to Cambridge, Massachusetts to let their kids enjoy the classes offered through MIT's Educational Studies Program, or ESP. Today is the last day to apply for Junction, one of ESP's two summer programs.
These programs are open to all students, but homeschoolers find them especially appealing as enrichment -- and a taste of college life. If you're not in the region, check the Learning Unlimited website to find similar programs at colleges in your part of the country.
So this week my youngest decided on a college for next fall. It's a big step from home to living on his own, but I know he's ready for it!
Having watched his brother set off on the same path a few years ago, I've written a new article with advice on how to make the transition to college as rewarding and meaningful as possible.
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My new article Geography Teaching Tips suggests ways to help kids learn map skills. But there's a lot more to geography than just maps.
"Cultural geography" is the study of all the things that make a country unique -- its government, its topography, its language, food, clothing, and other aspects of daily life.
Several years ago I created a workshop that taught kids about "what makes a country a country" by introducing them to micronations -- little countries that kids and adults create themselves.
Now that idea has been turned into a book, just released by the homeschool-friendly publisher Nomad Press. Micronations: Invent Your Own Country and Culture explains all the different aspects of real countries, and includes 25 activities that encourage kids to make their own. I'm very proud of my latest book, and can't wait to see what creations homeschooling families and others come up with!
Over the years, I have met a few homeschooling parents whose kids accomplished extraordinary things. It's natural to want to look up to those parents and try to follow in their footsteps.
But not every parent of a gifted or talented child makes a good role model. Some I've known were so competitive that any conversation turned into a contest of one-up-manship. One actually suggested that hanging out with my kids was making her kid dumber! (My impression? He needed no help acting dumb.)
Other parents have been just the opposite. Generous with their time, willing to share their wisdom and experience, and able to talk about their kids' attributes without making other parents feel diminished.
Luckily, I've known many parents like that, too. One of them, Mary O'Keeffe, was honored this week with a Jefferson Award for Public Service. Mary runs the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program in her Upstate New York community, helped found local Math Circles that sent homeschooled and public school students to competitions at the highest levels, and organizes summer workshops in science, technology, engineering and mathematics for economically disadvantaged students from the region. I have written about her advice about homeschooling math which urges parents to approach it with a playful attitude.
Mary has always been one of my homeschooling role models, and it's great to see her service to the community acknowledged. Congratulations!
Do you have a homeschooling role model?
You may have noticed that About.com is redesigning its look with bigger and better photographs. That means we Experts have to find lots of interesting, appealing images to go with our stories.
The problem is, when you go to a photo service like Getty and search for "homeschooling," what you find is a lot of photos like the one above: parent hunched over child doing homework at the kitchen table.
It's a perfectly good image, but it's just not accurate -- thank goodness. Is there anything parents and kids hate more than struggling together over a worksheet? I know I'd never have lasted this long if homeschooling meant hour after hour of homework.
My new article "What Homeschooling Really Looks Like" tries to present a more balanced view of what it's like to teach your kids at home (including a few shots of my own kids busy learning). What's your favorite image of homeschooling?
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Today, the push seems to be getting kids to read early, to give them a "head start" over the competition in their own country and abroad. And reading instruction programs are big business in schools and among homeschoolers, as Google's recent purchase of Accelerated Reader shows.
But there's also a school of thought that says most kids can teach themselves to read, given enough time. The question is whether letting kids learn at their own pace handicaps them down the road.
My new article Early Reader/Late Reader: Does it Matter? looks at some of the research and anecdotal evidence about whether sooner is always better.
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DragonBox, an app that teaches algebra to kids as young as five, is free today on Amazon.
It's just one of the resources I mentioned in my recent article Fun Math Stuff to See and Do.
I just grabbed it and will review it soon. Let me know what you think about it too!
I love activities that span more than one subject. I've just published a "homeschooling lesson plan" that shows you how to take a simple wave bottle project, enhance it with a decorative rocker base, and use it to teach science, math, and engineering as well as art.
Image: Kathy Ceceri
I just got back a nice note from the school district person who handles our paperwork. I let her know my son had received his GED (so we wouldn't be filing any more quarterly reports) and as an aside, that he was weighing a bunch of college offers for next year. She sent us a big "Congrats!"
Never thought I'd get teary about the end of paperwork.
Image: Kathy Ceceri
Whenever I read about schools closed because of natural disasters or teacher strikes, or families that decide to pull their children out because of stressful situations, I always wonder whether parents know how to help their kids learn without a classroom in an emergency.
It doesn't take much to get started. My new article on Emergency Homeschooling contains advice for creating an educational environment on the fly, in almost any kind of circumstances.
What would you include in an "emergency homeschooling" plan or kit?
Image: Getty Images/Robert Llewellyn
My new article lists 10 Famous Homeschoolers -- but in combing the Internet to find ten names, I came across some people whose early education was not typical, but not really homeschooling, either.
For instance, I'm not sure U.S. President John Adams belongs on the list -- although other White House occupants have a better claim to the title. And I didn't include former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice either, after seeing that her "homeschooling" only went up to first grade. In other words, she started school at the usual age, after being taught at home as a preschooler. Considering that academic preschools were a rarity when Rice was a child, I wouldn't classify that as technically homeschooling.
I also tried to include a couple names that don't usually make the Top 10 list, but I'm sure I left some out. Who would you add to my list of notable homeschoolers?
Image: Painting by Asher B. Durand, Public Domain
Homeschooling is sometimes treated as a decision to withdraw from society. But the truth is, many homeschoolers end up attending school at some point.
It's not unusual for a school family to find themselves homeschooling for a short period as well.
Most children make the transition with no difficulty, but it can take some adjustment at first. My new article on Short-Term Homeschooling contains some tips to help make the switch from school to home and back again as smooth as possible.
What's your advice for short-term homeschoolers?
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This month a blog post from a teacher who shares my feelings about reading systems has been making the rounds. Dear Google, You Should Have Talked to Me First tells the search engine giant that buying the program Accelerated Reader for $40 million was perhaps not the best investment they could have made.
As a kid, I hated the reading system that appeared in my classroom one year. Instead of reading actual books, we were presented with a kit full of brightly colored cards. Reading through the box of cards and answering a few questions correctly meant moving on to the next colored level.
Reading became a race instead of a pleasant activity. The fact that the colors matched the properties on the Monopoly board only helped to strengthen the competitive nature -- I really liked that orange corner on the board, so zipping through to reach the orange box of cards was my goal!
Today classrooms may use computer systems instead of cards, but the idea behind them is the same. Break reading down into measurable bits in order to generate data -- not to foster a love of reading.
My article Make Reading Fun tells you how to encourage your children to read, without all the fancy (and harmful) bells and whistles.
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When it came time for my children to apply for college, they took the GED exam. In some homeschooling circles, that's a controversial decision.
In my state an equivalency diploma is one of the ways homeschoolers show they have finished their K-12 education. But it's not really the same as a high school diploma. Many homeschoolers feel their right to educate their children includes the right to determine when they have completed their studies satisfactorily. The question is, whether the outside world agrees.
My new article Does Your Homeschool Grad Need a GED? looks at some of the pros and cons of taking an equivalency test -- some new ones have sprung up this year -- and provides information for those who are interested in using it in their homeschooling.
Image: Getty Images/Peter Dazeley
I'm convinced that homeschooling parents would be accused of child abuse if they did what schools do on a regular basis. The latest affront is the "sit and stare" policy many schools are imposing on students who opt out of Common Core testing.
My article on Standardized Testing and Homeschoolers gives suggestions for minimizing the impact of tests in state which require them.
Image: Creative Commons/Flickr user Alexandratx