Selected Passages from the Handbook
- Introduction to the Handbook
- So How Do You Choose a Curriculum?
- Homeschooling for High School
- Parenting Homeschooled Children
- Homeschooling in Other States
- If You Are Contacted by a Social Service Worker
Introduction to the Handbook
The book you are holding has the information you need to homeschool in Wisconsin. Homeschooling families have created it by living courageously, holding to our principles and beliefs, and daring to be different. Some of us are quoted here; more have contributed.
This book is our gift to you. We want to share some of what we’ve learned and support and encourage you. We want to tell you not to be afraid to homeschool, even if people close to you question you. Go for it, even if doubts threaten to overwhelm you. We know homeschooling isn’t the only way, but we can assure you it’s a good way. Only you can decide what’s best for your family, but if you decide to homeschool, you can do it.
Families homeschool for many different reasons. Some want their children to have a conventional education while learning in their own way, at their own pace. Some want their children to pursue special interests. Other parents choose to share more of their beliefs and values than attending conventional school would allow. Some seek academic excellence, while others can’t find an acceptable alternative. Some children cannot learn well in a conventional school. Other parents do not want their children trapped by the academic and social pressures of conventional schools. Some prefer to learn from life experience. Opportunities to build a stronger family draw others. And some want to take charge of their own lives rather than surrendering them to conventional schools.
Homeschooling encompasses all these reasons and more. Whatever your reasons, you are not alone.
Homeschooling families are amazing. In a society dominated by conventional schools, we are learning in our homes and communities, reveling in discovery, growing in confidence. We are contributing to our communities, doing important work, and having fun. We are living in the present as surely as we are preparing for the future.
Our lives make much needed statements:
- Families matter.
- Ordinary parents can raise children without relying on “experts.”
- Children who are given love, support, and guidance are eager to learn and good at it.
- Everyone benefits when families learn and grow together, when parents consider raising their children a high enough priority to arrange income and career advancement around it.
- Even a small minority can work through a grassroots organization to maintain its rights and responsibilities in the face of continuing challenges from powerful interest groups.
- People can create and maintain a space where children and families are free to learn and live.
Today’s homeschoolers walk in the footsteps of pioneers and provide the trail for those who will follow. Chapter 20 outlines Wisconsin homeschoolers’ rich legacy that includes one of the most reasonable homeschooling laws in the country. Actions that will enable us to keep our freedoms and pass them on are discussed in Chapter 21. What you do will affect the way you and others, maybe even your children and grandchildren, can homeschool. Please act carefully, boldly, courageously, and wisely. Welcome to homeschooling in Wisconsin!
About This Book
Part One covers how to begin homeschooling.
Part Two discusses daily life: curriculums and learning resources, using the library and the Internet, homeschooling children with special needs, recognizing and evaluating learning, record keeping, high school at home, diplomas, socialization, support groups, parenting, problem solving, and secrets of experienced homeschoolers.
Part Three presents reasons homeschooling works, stories from homeschooling families, the history of homeschooling in Wisconsin, and the role of Wisconsin Parents Association (WPA).
Part Four explains why we must take responsibility for maintaining our freedoms. Reasons and strategies in Chapter 21 are followed by specific ways in which homeschoolers can work effectively individually and together.
Details about Wisconsin’s homeschooling law and others affecting homeschoolers and ways of working with the Legislature are in Part Five.
“Homeschooling in a Non-Homeschooling World,” Part Six, includes minimizing the chances a truant officer will contact you, responding if they do, working with public schools (if you want to), protecting your family’s privacy, and current developments that affect homeschoolers,
Appendix A contains texts of important Wisconsin statutes. Appendix B describes WPA, who we are and what we do. WPA resolutions in Appendix C offer important perspectives on issues.
How You Can Use This Book
Read it straight through or choose the most important parts, whether you are a new homeschooler, a veteran seeking fresh perspectives, a teen developing your credentials, or a grandparent surprised that your grandchildren are homeschooling. Take it in the spirit in which it is offered: use the parts that fit your family and leave the rest. Read with pen in hand: underline, cross out, add your ideas. Insert tabs for quick reference. Make it your own.
To make information accessible, the book is formatted as a manual with lists of ideas, options, and suggestions plus cross references. Some repetition is inevitable as it presents, in linear form, ideas that are interconnected.
If you need information not in this book, call the WPA Voice Mail at 608-283-3131; visit the web site at www.homeschooling-wpa.org; write to WPA, P. O. Box 2502, Madison, Wisconsin 53701-2502; or contact your WPA Regional Coordinator, listed in the WPA Newsletter and on the web site.
May your family’s homeschooling adventure be rich and rewarding!
So How Do You Choose a Curriculum?
Given all these possibilities, how do you decide which curriculum is right for your family? There’s no simple answer. There’s no one best curriculum, or, put another way, each of these curriculums is best under the right circumstances. Most homeschoolers use more than one approach. A family using a complete curriculum package may get interested in ancient Egypt and develop their own unit study. Families focusing on unit studies may take a break and just do “stuff” for a month or so. A teen learning mostly from life experience may decide to purchase an algebra course from a curriculum provider or take a correspondence course on American history. Feel free to mix and match. Try not to label your family as “unschooling,” “doing unit studies,” or “doing school at home” and restrict yourself to what you think is allowed under that approach. Kids (and adults) learn all the time in many different ways.
Homeschooling for High School
Can you really homeschool for high school? Questions abound. Some teens wonder about missing the social life at school, getting into college, being prepared for the “real world,” being bored, getting tired of younger siblings, and so on. Some parents worry about helping kids learn things they don’t know themselves, getting enough equipment for chemistry without blowing up the house, having to spend so much time with a volatile teen, getting teens to learn math and spelling, and helping them get into college.
Questions and doubts are to be expected, especially given the unfairly and undeservedly negative attitude our society has toward teens. But families who have homeschooled for high school can tell you that it’s possible to answer these questions positively. In fact, homeschooling for high school is better than attending a conventional school. You can have friends your own age and older and younger. You can learn at your own pace and explore what interests you. Spending more time together as a family reduces tensions, strengthens bonds, and paves the way for interacting as adults. Your flexible schedule makes it easier to find part-time jobs. There’s time for music, art, sports, and community service. Colleges increasingly are seeking homeschoolers. You have more control over your life. And, yes, you can either go to the prom or decide other things are more important. Just expect that the question you’ll be asked most is, “What about the prom?”
Here are ideas for new and continuing homeschoolers. The information is for both teens and parents. But since it had to be addressed to one or the other, it’s mostly directed to teens, assuming that parents are reading, too. Many families also find that workshops for teens and parents at the WPA conference provide important information, support, and encouragement that are difficult to find elsewhere.
Parenting Homeschooled Children
From an at-home father trained as a corporate lawyer:
When I think back on this half-finished journey, and ponder alternative paths I could have taken, I am convinced that nothing I could have done in this wide world would have been more important or fulfilling than what I have done and am doing. I feel incredibly fortunate to be so fully involved in the lives of my two children and to enjoy a closeness to them that sadly seems all too rare. —From Opening Remarks, WPA Conference, 2002
Homeschooling in Other States
From a Wisconsin Homeschooler:
We were living in Minnesota when I learned about homeschooling. In Minnesota you need to test your children every year, which basically means you will be bringing “school” home. Of course, I would eliminate the social pressures of the public system, but we weren’t free to expand in whatever direction my child wanted to go or learn at our own pace. Therefore, we chose to move to Wisconsin following his first grade year.
If You Are Contacted by a Social Service Worker
Homeschoolers are very seldom contacted by social service workers. However, because such contacts can have serious consequences, the following comments and suggestions are included.
In Wisconsin, as in most other states, county or state social service workers have legal authority to intervene in the lives of families on the basis of a complaint. (The family will not necessarily know the source of the complaint. In fact, the identity of the people who make complaints is protected by law.)
Social service workers have a lot of power and authority. Some common civil liberties and parts of due process are suspended in situations where they are investigating complaints against families. Social service workers do not need to have formal evidence or an indictment in order to be legally authorized to question parents and children. Results of questioning by social service workers can be serious, too, including removing children from their families. Therefore, contacts from social service workers need to be taken seriously and handled carefully.
Usually if homeschoolers are suspected of failing to comply with the homeschooling law, the case is handled by truant officers, as described below. However, social service workers who are investigating families for other reasons may begin asking questions about their homeschool. It is usually best for homeschoolers to try to keep homeschooling separate from whatever other investigations are being conducted. They can explain that Wisconsin statutes do not allow parents to be charged with “educational neglect.” (See Chapter 29.) They can also remind the social service worker that parents whose children are attending public schools are not questioned about curriculum, hours of attendance, testing, etc. These are questions about education and should not enter into complaints of abuse or neglect. Homeschoolers who are contacted by social service workers often find it helpful to discuss the situation with other homeschoolers or their WPA Regional Coordinator or call the WPA Voice Mail.
Generally, any complaints that are received by social services need to be investigated, regardless of their source or credibility. If a social service worker contacts you by letter or phone or comes to your house, you can usually explain that you are busy with your children and ask that an appointment be scheduled to discuss the questions. This gives you a chance to prepare for the interview by thinking about questions you might be asked and how you want to respond. You can also schedule the appointment outside school hours and find someone to be with your children while you talk.