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The Homeschool Phenomenon

Not every child today learns in a big building with lots of other students all studying the same things at the same time. In the past twenty years, the homeschool phenomenon has caught fire across America.

In the 2012-2013 school year, parents of almost 30,000 children in the state of Virginia chose to educate their children themselves.* Why is it so popular? In the home setting, parents may choose how a child is educated and what (if any!) standard curriculum is used. When you elect to be your child's teacher, you may also regulate the pace at which she is taught, allowing more time for tackling challenging subjects or simply breezing through the areas that come easily.

Student sitting at a study tableOne way to teach at home is by obtaining a commercially available lesson-by-lesson curriculum. Some of these provide all materials down to the pencils and scissors—a practice that has its roots from the necessity of giving a quality education to missionary families decades ago. Back in those days transporting common goods overseas was a really big deal!

Today some parents still very much like strongly structured curriculums. Other parents subscribe to the "unschooling" philosophy put forth by educational pioneer John C. Holt who believed "that learning is not the result of teaching, but of the curiosity and activity of the learner. A teacher's intervention in this process should be mostly to provide the learner with access to the various kinds of places, people, experiences, tools, and books that will correspond with that student's interest…"**.

It's also possible to use an eclectic method through the years of your children's studies: teaching some subjects by correspondence classes, employing a tutor or using free materials from the library and the Internet as the subject demands. Today homeschooling is all about choices. Moms and Dads choose to homeschool because they want something different for their children's education than what the state or established private schools have to offer. Parents may wish to give their children more freedom and guidance to grow intellectually and spiritually, and sometimes they prefer to homeschool specifically because of religious preferences. For whatever reason, there are perfectly practical procedures in place that are followed by parents of thousands of homeschooled kids across Virginia.

Thinking about homeschooling your child? Now is the time to start planning. Although it is possible to change a child to homeschooling in the middle of the school year, the paperwork flow is really geared toward those making a decision about a month prior to the beginning of the fall term. Check with your local superintendent's office for procedures, and use the resources below, many written by parents who have been there and succeeded, to get an overview of homeschooling. You will also get some specific recommendations for different grade levels and interests as well as interviews with homeschoolers. Look here, too, for a list of contact points for local homeschool associations. The groups often plan field trips or other fun learning experiences, and sometimes they just gather together to socialize. 

*Virginia Department of Education  **Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling

Want to learn more? Try these lists of helpful resources:

The Central Rappahannock Regional Library owns many more materials on homeschooling and can support most subjects studied with classic books, videos, and even some computer programs. Just ask your librarian for specific suggestions or browse our online catalog.