Is DIY learning for you? A growing number of parents are saying, “Yes.” One of these, actress turned author Quinn Cummings believes the big draw is that parents get to decide “what it is they want their kid’s education to be.”
Twelve-year-old having trouble with classic literature? Try comparing the books with their movie adaptations for a fun and educational activity. Nine-year-old hates fractions, like Cumming’s daughter? Do what Cummings did and try a snickerdoodle lesson. Your little baking diva will learn to love fractions when they are printed on a measuring cup. Cummings wrote about her homeschooling experiences in her book The Year of Learning Dangerously.
Yes, these types of lessons can be used — and are — in a traditional brick-and-mortar school. But parents who choose to homeschool have a luxury that most teachers don’t, says Cummings: the combination of curriculum flexibility and intimate knowledge of their child as an individual. Instead of doing these types of activities when the curriculum mandates it, homeschooling parents can do them when they make the most sense for their children.
Overall, very little is known about how homeschooling parents provide education and how well these students meet academic goals. Large-scale studies measure the number of children who are being educated in the home — more than 2 million of the nation’s estimated 77 million school-age children, according to the National Home Education Research Institute.
Smaller studies have looked at which methods of homeschooling are effective, but because they have included small samples sizes, more research needs to be done to find definitive results.
One of the smaller research studies was conducted by Sandra Martin-Chang, an associate professor in the Department of Education at Ontario’s Concordia University. In the small group of homeschooling families she observed, she saw some commonalities. Above all, she says, all of the parents are very child-centered and are making the educational choice they believe is right for their kids. She saw them use a plethora of resources, including conferences, online forums, and even homeschool meetups where kids learned in group settings.
Brian Ray, researcher and founder of the NHERI, echoes that sentiment. Parents use “everything and anything they can get their hands on” to teach their kids, he says. They have coalesced into a tribe that shares resources freely.
You can find homeschoolers all over the web, including on the forums at Mothering.com and on the Pioneer Woman blog. Homeschoolers post questions about their children’s academic achievement and learning styles, and their peers offer suggestions of what has worked for their kids or cool tools they have heard of.
Here are some of their favorite sites.
This site is run by home schoolers — and some folks who were homeschooled — and contains links to free and paid curriculum resources, virtual schools for parents who want a more structured homeschool system, and a forum for parents to connect. They are known for their annual list of the top 100 educational websites.
This site collects free resources and includes links to national and state-specific groups. Home School World has a great collection of local homeschooling help grouped by state and nation. It also includes a forum.
A collection of free and low-cost resources. Of special interest is the special section for secular homeschooling resources. Homeschooling has a reputation for being a response to too much perceived secular influence in public schools, but many homeschoolers are not looking for a more religious form of education. These parents often struggle to find curriculum that is not influenced by a particular religion.
Unschooling is a subset of homeschooling that eschews much traditional curriculum and structure. Unschoolers focus on discovery learning and integrating lessons into real-life activities. On this site, they are able to connect and share ideas.
Your one-stop shop for legal and advocacy information about homeschooling. This site is dedicated to protecting homeschooling parents and their right to teach their children at home. It has a specific political bias, but it is filled with good information parents can use to ensure that they are complying with local guidelines and to receive the support to which they are entitled.
Cummings and Martin-Chang both see the rise of homeschooling as an opportunity for parents and educators to elevate their level of discourse on education.
It starts when children first go to school, says Cummings. Parents can easily answer key questions that can be used to guide learning, she continues, such as:
- Who is this person?
- How do they learn?
- What motivates them?
- What puts the fear in them?
Rather than expecting teachers who may have a class of 36 kids to manage to learn all of that, Cummings suggests that parents start the conversation and help teachers apply the school curriculum in the way that works best for each child.
Martin-Chang also reminds us that “education happens outside of schools, too.” Even parents who are fully committed to a traditional education can use the resources that guide homeschoolers to design educational activities for weekends and school breaks.