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How do I know if homeschooling is right for my family?
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Sorry, there is no quick and easy way to determine if homeschooling is right for you. Homeschooling is not a good match for everyone. Figuring out if homeschooling is right for you involves weighing two different but equally important factors: freedom and responsibility.
Wisconsin Parents Association has worked hard for over three decades to ensure that parents can exercise considerable freedom in homeschooling. This is much more than the right to teach your children at home. All states allow parents to teach their children at home, but with varying degrees of government oversight. In other states, parents may be required to use state-approved curriculum, hold a teaching certificate or college degree, or have children participate in mandatory standardized testing.
In Wisconsin, parents are subject to remarkably few “musts.” Each year, homeschooling parents must provide a at least 875 hours of instruction. They must also provide “a sequentially progressive curriculum of fundamental instruction in reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, science and health. This subsection does not require the program to include in its curriculum any concept, topic, or practice in conflict with the program’s religious doctrines or to exclude from its curriculum any concept, topic, or practice consistent with the program’s religious doctrines.” (Wis Stat 118.165(1)(d)) These are the minimum, reasonable requirements parents agree to when they submit their PI-1206 form to the state. (1983 Wisconsin Act 512)
With this very reasonable statutory freedom, you are free to create a program consistent with your own principles and beliefs. The state has no authority to dictate how you create your program. You sign an affidavit when you file your PI-1206, agreeing that your program complies with the statutory requirements, just like every other private school in Wisconsin.
As a homeschooling parent, you are the administrator of your private home-based educational program. You are responsible for creating and administering a program of study that meets the statutory requirements.
Some of the decisions you need to make include:
- If you use a purchased curriculum or if you create one. If you purchase one, you must choose which one(s) to use.
- What your daily/weekly/annual schedule will look like.
- What your goals are and how will you go about achieving them.
- How you will choose the content and the level of challenge.
- What constitutes acceptable mastery of subject material.
- What activities are considered educational.
- How you keep records and what you record.
Wisconsin Parents Association encourages you to consider another type of responsibility as well. When you take advantage of Wisconsin’s very reasonable homeschooling law, consider the fact that you are able to do so because of the homeschoolers that came before you and the responsibility you have to those who will come after you. This means representing homeschoolers well and making sure that you follow the law responsibly, but do not go above and beyond what is required by law, opening the door for additional homeschooling regulation.
WPA has a list of principles that help guide the organization and give all homeschoolers a guideline for maintaining our current homeschooling freedoms.
Weighing Freedom and Responsibility: Is homeschooling right for me?
Along with the freedom to homeschool come many rewards:
- Creating a family life and education that is guided by your family’s own principles and beliefs
- Creating a schedule that works for your family
- Being able to create an experience for each child that meets their needs.
- Having the freedom to change course if something isn’t working.
However, with this freedom, also come challenges:
- Homeschooling takes a great deal of creativity, initiative, and follow-through.
- Sometimes it doesn’t work for parents to wear all the hats (parent, teacher, administrator).
- It takes a great deal of time and effort to collect and organize materials and plans, deliver all of it in a meaningful way, and create a system of accountability.
- It takes a great deal of confidence to do something outside of the societal norm and dealing with criticism can be incredibly difficult.
- A homeschooling parent is taking FULL responsibility for educating their child(ren). (See list above.)
Each family needs to decide if homeschooling is right for them.
You have to make the choice that works for your family, and homeschooling is not right for everyone. Remember that whether you choose homeschooling or some form of conventional school, you are not locked into your choice for life. Over time, family circumstances can change and new decisions can be made.
Homeschooling in Wisconsin is like being given a travel itinerary that says, “Go to Chicago.” The mode of travel you choose, which roads, what you stop to see along the way, and how long you stay—these things are all up to you. The same is true of homeschooling in Wisconsin. You take the responsibility of educating your child(ren). You enjoy the freedom in how you do that.
Think about why you are considering homeschooling and decide if this way of life would be a good match for your goals.
If you decide homeschooling is right for you, continue reading the WPA website for more information.
Still thinking? Here are a few more things to consider:
- Are you comfortable taking full responsibility for your child(ren)’s education?
- How much time do you enjoy sharing with your child(ren)?
- Do you have a strong desire to homeschool?
- Do you have the financial means and time to homeschool? (Homeschooling can be done very inexpensively, but often potential income is given up in order to make the choice to homeschool.)
- If you choose to homeschool, how will you handle criticism?
- Are you comfortable being wrong?
- Are you comfortable making a change?
- Will you have support? (Family support, a homeschooling mentor, groups in your area, etc.)
- Are you able to seek and assess information and find reliable resources?
- How flexible are you in your plans?
- Are you comfortable being an advocate for your child?
- Are you comfortable being an ambassador for an unconventional choice?
- Are you comfortable with your children being ambassadors for an unconventional choice?
- It is helpful to know who you are as a family. What are your priorities and goals? Would homeschooling enhance them?
- After researching all of your options for education in WI, are you confident that a home-based private educational program is the best choice for your family right now?