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home school

Contributor(s): Sherri Wilson

A home school is a school in which parents teach their children an academic curriculum at home instead of sending them out to a public or private school. Home schooling is legal throughout Europe, Australia, New Zealand, North America, Hong Kong, and South Africa. Home schooling is most popular in Canada, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Home schooling is legally accepted in all 50 states of the U.S., but each state has its own laws that a family must adhere to. Currently, it is estimated that over one million families school their children at home. Most of these families include a breadwinner and a stay-at-home parent who does most of the teaching, although there are single parent families and dual career families who home school.

Home schooling education models range from unschooling to traditional classroom schooling. Unschooling is based on interest-based learning in which the child expresses interest in a particular subject, and the parents take steps to provide the materials for that subject. Most parents who home school, however, have a traditional setting in which the children are taught subjects such as math, reading, history, science, grammar, and spelling within a structured schedule created by the parents. There are many vendors and satellite schools that provide a packaged curriculum, but many parents like to design their own curriculum with various books and materials from different vendors

In most communities, the home school family can take advantage of a local support group. A home school support group organizes monthly meetings in which new and existing home school families discuss different home schooling issues. The group may also arrange for cooperative teaching in which parents with different skills teach a group of home schooled children once a week in a rented or donated building. In some places, the home school group shares in hiring a professional teacher to teach a particular subject. The group may also arrange field trips and sports activities. A number of home school groups field sports teams that compete against each other or with local private schools. These activities are intended to provide socialization skills for the students

Home school families take advantage of technology to supplement traditional teaching. There are many educational software packages that enhance the curriculum and provide variety. The Internet is another useful tool that is literally brimming with educational ideas and resources. There are online libraries, dictionaries, museums, and encyclopedias. Some home school families enroll their children in an online school or course as a supplement to their own teaching.

Some home school families teach their children through high school graduation. Others teach their children until they feel they are mature enough to handle peer pressure and other social influences. If a family decides to teach their children through graduation, they must keep records of the schooling that vary from state to state.

For those who home school through graduation, the home school community holds a ceremony complete with caps, gowns, and diplomas printed at the local print shop just as public schools do. Colleges do recognize a home school diploma, but most are more interested in high school transcripts and SAT and ACT scores. There are currently over 800 colleges that accept home-schooled graduates including Harvard, Yale, and Stanford. The military also accepts home-schooled graduates who meet the same requirements as those who were taught in conventional schools

The home school movement is getting the attention of private and public schools. In response, some schools are providing support and materials such as books, videos, educational software, science kits, computers, field trips, workshops, and special classes.

This was last updated in September 2005

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