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Leaving School and Learning at Home

Removing your kids from school—permanently—can be both frightening and exhilarating. Having the freedom to choose your child's educational path is thrilling—and assuming responsibility for your educational choices can be overwhelming. Confidence in your ability to teach your child will help you through that (sometimes) challenging first year of transition.

Parents are often unsure about their ability to homeschool because they lack a teaching degree. Many believe that only trained experts are knowledgeable enough to teach their kids. However, studies have shown that kids who learn at home score higher than their schooled peers on standardized tests. In analyzing these scores, researchers discovered that homeschooled kids' test scores are consistently high, regardless of the parent's level of formal education. In other words, it didn't matter whether the parent held a GED. or a Ph.D.—by the time homeschooled kids were in the eighth grade, they tested four years ahead of their schooled peers.

Before You Decide
Every parent who's thinking about homeschooling should read The Homeschooling Book of Answers by Linda Dobson. My biggest mistake when I started homeschooling was being completely unprepared for what was to come. Reading at least one good book about homeschooling will help you bridge the gap between what you think homeschooling is, and what it really is. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Homeschooling by Marsha Ransom is another good choice for families new to homeschooling.

Know Your Homeschool Law
Your first step before you remove your child from school is to read and understand the homeschool laws in your state. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, but reporting requirements vary. It's also a good idea to contact a local homeschool support or resource group and talk with other parents who homeschool. Experienced homeschoolers can be an excellent resource to guide you on this new path. For a more detailed look at homeschooling and legal requirements, read The Homeschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith.

Notifying Your School
You must notify your school district, in writing, that your child will no longer be attending XYZ school. Send your letter certified mail, return receipt requested. In New Jersey, that would be the end of my contact with our former school. But if I lived in California, we might have to register as a private school. And a move to New York or Pennsylvania would result in my kids, submitting periodic progress reports and portfolios.

You may discover that local school administrators are not familiar with homeschooling regulations and sometimes quote laws that don't exist. I've also spoken with parents who experienced a hostile response from their school board. In my district, our school receives $13,000 per student per year in tax dollars. School officials may mistakenly believe they are entitled to this money (which is not added to their budget if a child is homeschooled), thus the hostility toward homeschooling families. The reality, of course, is that kids who learn at home actually save taxpayers millions of dollars because their families personally assume those educational costs.

Almost Ready...
Need more help before you get started? Visit Family Education's How to Homeschool center. You'll find a step-by-step outline of how to homeschool, great resources, and exciting ideas for keeping your costs low.


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