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Ten Questions About Homeschooling

Homeschooling Expert Advice from Isabel Shaw

Q: I have ten basic questions about homeschooling I wonder if you could answer.
1. How much does it cost to homeschool?
2. Do homeschoolers do better than their public-school peers on standardized tests?
3. How does homeschooling benefit the child?
4. Why do parents decide to homeschool?
5. Is it safer to homeschool?
6. Do a lot of parents still homeschool because of religious reasons?
7. Is it cheaper to homeschool than to send a child to public or private school?
8. Do homeschoolers have to take standardized tests?
9. Do homeschooled students have to take the SAT and the ACT?
10. Do you recommend homeschooling?

A: 1. Cost
Cost is dependent on the teaching method the homeschool family uses. Families may choose a prepackaged curriculum, with costs ranging from a few hundred to over a thousand dollars. Many other families, including my own, use library and community resources. Our costs probably run less than $300 per child per year. It's interesting to note that our local public school receives $13,000 per child per year (from taxes).

2. Performance
Homeschoolers consistently outperform their schooled peers on standardized tests. The most recent report (from the U.S. Department of Education) stated that homeschoolers are, on average, one year ahead of their schooled peers on the elementary school level. By the time homeschooled students are in the eighth grade, they are four years ahead of their schooled peers.

3. Benefits
Homeschooling benefits the child by providing a comfortable, quiet, and safe learning environment. Homeschooled children have the gift of learning in freedom. For my kids, this means pursuing those subjects that interest them for as long as they wish. They have never done homework, because they are able to learn and retain the information quickly with no distractions or interruptions. They sleep a little later, and are thoroughly rested as they begin each day. My kids have a rich and active social life, spending hours and sometimes days with their friends during the week — they have a lot of free time. Their education is well-rounded and complete; basics are easily covered and time is not wasted on unnecessary tasks or discipline issues that are common in a classroom.

4. The Decision
There are as many reasons to homeschool as there are homeschoolers! (There are almost 2 million homeschooled children in this country.) Every family is unique and if you ask a large group of homeschooling families why they homeschool, each one will give you a different answer. Generally speaking, most parents are dissatisfied with the school system, and feel they can do a better job.

5. Safety
To my knowledge, I would say it is safer to homeschool. Last year, there were reports of serious school violence on a daily basis. I've been told the number of families that chose to homeschool skyrocketed after the murders and shootings at the various schools around the country.

6. Religion
Until recently, many families homeschooled for religious reasons. However, recent surveys show that the majority of homeschoolers now homeschool for philosophical reasons.

7. Low-cost
As I explained in the first answer, costs will depend on the method a family uses. I would have to guess that homeschooling is much cheaper than private school.

8. Standardized Tests
Testing requirements vary by state. Certain states have restrictive laws and testing requirements. Others have a more relaxed approach to homeschooling and do not require tests or evaluations.

9. SAT or ACT Requirements
If a homeschooled student will not be attending college, there is really no need for SAT or ACT test scores. If the student will be attending college, the need for SAT or ACT depends on the requirements of the college the homeschooled student hopes to attend. Generally speaking, requirements for college admissions are the same for public, private, and homeschooled students. If the student hopes to attend a particular college and that college requires a certain SAT or ACT score, then that student must provide those scores. Other colleges are not as restrictive and accept transcripts or portfolios. So the need to test would depend on the student, the student's plans, and the prospective colleges.

10. Recommendation
Homeschooling is not for everyone. It is a family-based learning style, and many families are not ready to make the necessary sacrifice of time and money (often in the form of lost income for the parent at home) to make it work. However, the longer I homeschool and the more contact I have with both schooled and homeschooled families, the more convinced I am that homeschooling is an excellent alternative to public and private school. For those parents willing to accept the challenge, homeschooling provides wonderful opportunities for family growth, a more relaxed lifestyle, and a comprehensive approach to learning.

More on: Expert Advice

Isabel Shaw is a freelance writer and homeschooling mom of 15 years. She and her husband Ray homeschool their two daughters, Jessica and Amanda. Besides being a contributor to FamilyEducation.com, Shaw has written for Home Education Magazine, The Link, Homeschooling Horizons Magazine, The Homeschool Gazette, and other publications.


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