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Homeschooled Niece Falling Behind
Q: I am worried about my niece, who is being homeschooled. She should be entering grade six but is way behind and my brother keeps making excuses. (I think she's about three years behind on a lot of things.) Are there laws that ensure she has a good education? I think homeschooling is a good thing for some, but you have to be committed. How do I help her?
A: Are you absolutely certain your niece is behind her peers? Was she ever tested in public schools? Was she behind then?
Children do vary in the speed they develop skills. Some may be behind for awhile and then catch up. Also, you must consider your niece's ability level. Even if she is truly behind for a child with her aptitude, there are only a very few things that you can do to help her.
States have very different laws on homeschooling. Some don't even require parents to notify the state that they are homeschooling while others have high regulation requiring parents to send achievement test scores to the state, have the curriculum approved by the state, and even have home visits by state officials. You can easily find out what the legal requirements for your niece's state are by visiting the Regional and Worldwide Homeschooling site. In a state with high regulation, your niece might be required to return to public school if she is not meeting certain levels on achievement tests.
If you truly want to help your niece, your best option may be to actually take on some of the responsibility of her homeschooling. You could volunteer to tutor your niece for two hours, two days a week. Not only would your brother appreciate your help, you might also have the special skills needed to really make a difference with your niece in just this short period of tutoring. In each half hour of homeschooling, you would be able to accomplish as much as would be done in a typical classroom in two hours.
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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.