What is homeschooling?
Homeschooling is an alternative to more traditional educational options such as public schools, private schools, charter schools, and religious schools. As homeschoolers we educate or learn alongside our children with a family focus at home, in the community, or in small informal groups. The homeschooling can be anything from curriculum-driven education to radical unschooling, with many options and blends in between.
What about “socialization”?
This is probably the question asked most often! What most people usually mean is socializing, rather than socialization.
The word actually refers to being able to understand and function within the norms and rules in society. Homeschoolers are typically out and about in the world going to parks, museums, libraries, stores, etc., so learning to be a part of society is a non-issue.
This is the one people really worry about, because they want to know whether their child can be with other kids and make friends. Opportunities to socialize and meet other people are many. There are lots of classes and activities available in the community, as well as homeschool organizations to join where you can reach out to others to create your own playgroups, learning co-ops, field trips, etc.
What qualifications do I need?
There are no qualifications specified by New York State for a parent/guardian who wishes to homeschool.
How will I teach my child things that I don’t know?
Anything your child wants to or needs to know, you can learn right along with them! Some homeschoolers try to follow very closely what schools are teaching in each subject, while others facilitate learning in all of the required subjects. Some allow the learning to reflect the child’s interests so the child has the time to explore something they are passionate about. Inevitably, homeschooling parents wind up learning lots of new things, or relearning things they learned in school but had forgotten.
How do I get started? What about report cards and testing?
Check out the New York State Home Instruction regulations for details on what is required. Within ten days of the time you begin homeschooling, you must submit a letter to your district informing them of your decision to homeschool.
There are 4 types of paperwork that need to be submitted every year:
- LOI – Letter of intent to homeschool
- IHIP – Individual Home Instruction Plan
- Quarterlies – Four quarterly reports spaced out over the year
- Year end assessment – (in most districts) this can be something you write. Your child must take an approved standardized test every other year starting in grade 4 and then every year in grades 9-12. Most people pick grade 4 as an “other” year and so do standardized testing in grades 5 and 7 and then in 9-12. If your child is below 9th grade and this is your first year homeschooling, they do not need to test this year if they were tested last year.
Is homeschooling expensive?
That depends. Some families purchase published curriculum and textbooks for each child, which can get very expensive. Others find lots of free resources online. Many make regular use of the library and places in the community for free or low-cost learning opportunities, and are able to homeschool without spending very much at all. If finances are a concern, try to remember that everything a child could learn in school, and much, much more, is available for no cost at your local library.
Can I homeschool if I work, have other children in school, or am dealing with life situations that consume a significant amount of my time?
Yes, it is essential to understand that child-led learning without schooling is nothing like learning in a school setting. All that is necessary is a desire to be together, and time to experience and explore the world around you together.
What homeschool groups are there in Rochester?
There are two large homeschool groups in Rochester that are not specifically religious:
Rochester Area Homeschoolers Association (RAHA)
You are on the website for RAHA right now. We are primarily for families who want to practice child-led learning & unschooling, using little or no curriculum. Our group is membership based. Dues are sliding scale from $10-$25 per year. RAHA has a private online forum. Members receive a membership list with addresses and kids’ ages for networking, as well as a monthly newsletter.
Homeschoolers of Greater Rochester NY
This group has a mixed membership (some religious and some not). They have some different activities than RAHA, although some people are members of both RAHA and this group, so their activities are sometimes cross-listed. There are no regular meetings as such, but get-togethers and classes are posted. They are not membership based (no fee) and can be joined by contacting the group leader on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/557934774262272/
There are several large Christian homeschooling groups including:
Unschooling / child-led learning sounds interesting, but how do I know my child will learn?
Child development and parenting are ongoing and they don’t change when children become school-aged. Child-led learning is similar to your experience of teaching your preschool-aged child to learn necessary life skills like walking, talking, using the toilet, and manners. You followed their lead and created a unique way to help them master these skills, seldom if ever, using a curriculum or specialist. You will be surprised at your child’s capacity to learn through everyday activities with only a small amount of guidance from you.
Where can I learn more about child-led learning without schooling?
Good books to start with are:
- How Children Learn by John Holt
- Teach Your Own by John Holt
- Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto
An extensive list of child-led learning and unschooling books can be found here.
Some good video / audio sources to start with:
- Growing Without Schooling YouTube channel – TV videos, conferences, interviews, etc.
- Podcast interview with Pat Farenga about John Holt’s legacy and other unschooling topics.