I'm Thinking about Home Schooling:
When you begin to think about home schooling there are several things you need to think through and other things you need to actually do.
What Do I Need to Know?
HERE IS YOUR 5 STEP CHECK LIST BEFORE YOU BEGIN
- THINK THROUGH Why you are homeschooling
- DO Get Legal (which includes registering with one of the three options and meeting the three or four legal requirements--see below)
- THINK THROUGH which curriculum works best for you, and get it.
- THINK THROUGH joining a support group--not mandatory, but highly recommended. Support groups are different from associations.
- DO Get started.
FOR DETAILS ON YOUR QUICK CHECKLIST:
- You need to be sure WHY you are home schooling. Write down exactly why you want to do this. If it is a spur of the moment decision, chances are you are going to regret it in a few weeks, and both you and your child will suffer as a result of it. Even if you have good reasons for home schooling, there will be many times when you will question the wisdom of going ahead with this strange and difficult responsibility. That's when it's even more important to be able to go back and remember where the idea came from.
- Once you have made a commitment-and it's very important that BOTH parents commit to this-there are some very vital steps you need to take. First, get legal. If your child is already in school and you suddenly pull him out, the school can charge you with truancy. There are serious legal consequences to that charge-including jail time. There are three options for home schooling legally in South Carolina.
Make sure you check all the requirements and fees before signing up with any one of them. Either way you go, there are certain basic common requirements set by the state:
- Through the school district. This requires you to have your curriculum approved by the district, to take year-end standardized testing, and to have a portfolio of all your child's work.
- Through SCAIHS. This is an organization run by homeschoolers for homeschoolers state-wide. They require a great deal of accountability and in return they provide a great deal of help.
- Through an Option Three association. Again, run by homeschoolers for homeschoolers, third option groups have different requirements. Some of them are local, others are state-wide. Some require testing, others don't. Some provide more services such as curriculum counseling and recordkeeping while others expect the parents to handle these things.
While you're at it, joining HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) is another good idea. HSLDA is a national organization that will defend its members in court whenever there is a homeschool-related problem that comes up. It's protection that we all hope we don't need, but we're glad for if the time comes.
- The parent or legal guardian must be the primary instructor (you can still use tutors, co-op classes, and other helps, but the bulk of the instruction must be under the guidance of the parent or legal guardian).
- The parent or legal guardian must have a minimum of a GED.
- The instruction day must be at least 4 1/2 hours long if you are teaching under the school district. For safety reasons, it is best to do those hours during "normal" school hours; however, that is not mandatory. You do need to be aware, though, that if you are not teaching during the day, your children should not be out running around unattended in public--particularly younger children. While it is totally legal, it also raises red flags and tends to lead to complications you really don't want. This does not mean your students cannot participate in homeschool activities, Key Club projects, apprenticeship opportunities, etc. Just use common sense during regular school hours and remember not everyone loves home schooling. Second, there must be 180 days of instruction each year. If you are pulling your child during the school year, the days she has already been in school count towards those 180. You can do 180 days any way you want: four-day weeks; school six weeks, take off one; teach Aug-Nov, and take off Dec; school year round; whatever works into your schedule as long as you do at least 180 days between July 1 and June 30.
- You must teach the core curriculum, which includes math, history, science, reading (in 1st-6th grade) or literature (for grades 7-12) and writing (grades 1-6) or composition (grades 7-12). You will not necessarily need to teach every subject every day, but you do need to cover them. For instance, you might teach one semester of history and another semester of science. You might do reading three days a week. Where possible, you can combine material at different grade levels. This works particularly well in subjects like history and science.
- You must keep a portfolio of your child's work. This would include sample copies of work from each of his subjects, projects, special papers, descriptions of field trips, sporting events he participated in, community service projects, debate , TeenPact, etc.
- You must keep some kind of "plan book" of what you are teaching. This can be a notebook, journal, or spiral notebook that tells what you did on each day of school in each of the required subjects. You can make your own or buy one ready made at a school supply store. It can be as simple or as complex and detailed as you want, as long as you are keeping a record of what you are teaching. It's also a good way to document how many days you are teaching.
- You must keep records of grades, otherwise known as a "progress report," that would correspond to a report card of some type. Again, this can be as simple or as detailed as you care to make it, especially depending on the grade level. In first through third grade, grades can be Excellent, Satisfactory and Unsatisfactory. By the time your student is in high school, you need to be familiar with the Uniform Grading Scale, especially if you are doing your own transcript.
- Buy your curriculum. A good source for material is at the state convention, held every year on the third weekend of June. A list of our vendors gives you names, addresses and websites, if you can't wait until June. Most support groups hold used book sales sometime in May or June and you can get some good buys there. It's always helpful if you can talk with someone who has already used the curriculum you are looking at to get an experienced opinion. Remember, every child has a different learning style. It's important that you get to know your child and how he learns. That's the beauty of homeschooling-there is no one way that is right for everyone. It does help, however, to have a cohesive curriculum, especially your first couple years of homeschooling. While a "free" or "cheap" conglomoration of books may sound really appealing, these books might not "go together" as well as one curriculum and thereby could confuse both the teacher and the students. Teacher's manuals, test booklets and answer keys help immensely, particularly the first year. On rare occasions public schools will allow you to borrow the books your student has been using. Remember, however, you will not get the teacher's book, the tests or the answer keys. Most schools will not allow you to take the books, even if you are pulling your student part way through the year. You will need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of picking up a new curriculum midstream.
- Join a support group. This is not a requirement, but it is strongly recommended as you will meet other parents (and students) who have "been there, done that" and can help guide you along the way. It is very important to remember, however, that support groups are made up of very busy families. That means everyone needs to be helping if there are going to be any activities. While you will not be expected to take a leadership role, there are many things you can do to help out, as you meet new families and teach your children group responsibilities. Support groups are great sources for field trips, activities, testing, graduations and other events that will round out your homeschooling journey. For even more help, if your support group is not a part of SCHEA, joining this state organization is a great idea. SCHEA provides an annual two-day convention, complete with vendors, workshops, and nationally known keynote speakers; the annual SC Homeschool Debate Tournament each spring; the state chapter, Rho Gamma, of the Eta Sigma Alpha National Home School Honor Society to recognize academically gifted homeschooled students in South Carolina; the annual Home School Day at the Capitol and a quarterly newsletter with plenty of helpful information.
- Choose your first day of school, make sure your plan book is ready, have your books in hand, and begin your journey of homeschooling. Understand there will be lots of bumps, curves and side excursions. But hang in there, and one day you will finish the first year of homeschooling...and the second...and the third. Eventually, you will begin to find some answers and will be able to help other people along the way. If you still have questions, try the following list and see if anything fits. If not, give us a call at (803) 772-2330 or Send us some E-mail.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What's a portfolio? What's a progress report? What do I write in a planbook?
- How do I "document 180 days of instruction"?
- What subjects do I need to teach?
- Does that mean I have to teach all 5 of those subjects every day of the 180 days?
- When does my school year have to start, and when does it have to end?
- Can I homeschool on weekends? Can I take some time off in the fall for a family vacation, and if so, how do I document that?
- How do I pick out what is the best curriculum?
- Where can I find a place to have my child tested with the Iowa or Stanford test?
- How do I know which legal option is the best one for me? What are the benefits and drawbacks of each?
- My mom, the children's grandmother, wants to teach my children while I'm at work part of the day (or on certain days). Can I still homeschool this way?
- I don't have a GED or high school diploma, but my husband does. Can we still homeschool, even though I'll be the one who is doing most of the homeschooling while he's at work?
- Are there certain hours of the day I have to homeschool? I work night shift and sleep until noon each day. I would like to do my homeschooling in the afternoon every day. Can I do that?
- Can I count part of our family vacation to state parks and science museums as school? What about our church mission trip? TeenPact? Debate?
- I have a 4th-grader and a 5th grader. I'd like to combine them as much as possible to make homeschooling more enjoyable and do-able. Can I do that?
- I'm just pulling my child out of public school and I think he is below grade level. How do I find out where he is academically in each subject so that I'll know which level/grade books to buy?
- Why can't I just borrow the textbooks from the public school where my child was going, rather than spending money to buy homeschooling textbooks?
- I've heard that some people homeschool high school. How do they do that, and where can I get some information about that?
- Where can I get more information on how to write my child's high school transcript?
- I've heard about high school co-op classes. How can I get hooked up with some?
- How do I know which grades to issue my child? How often do I have to do a progress report?
- I want to homeschool my foster children along with my own biological children. Can I do that?
- My child has learning disabilities, but he is not doing well in public school. I've heard that there are some people who are homeschooling their LD children. How are they doing that? Are they certified teachers? What would you recommend for me if I decide to pull my child out of public school and start homeschooling him?
- What's the easiest way to homeschool?
- Do colleges let in homeschoolers?
- What do you do about the prom? What about high school graduation?
- Aren't you concerned the kids won't know how to live in the real world? What are the statistics about homeschoolers doing well - I've heard they really do well but I can't find the statistics on that anywhere.
- My child is an only child but I still want to homeschool. How do I find other homeschoolers so I can get him with some other kids who are doing this too?
- Are there any good books I can read?
- What is the difference between S.C.H.E.A. and S.C.A.I.H.S.?