The Complete Idiot's Guide to Homeschooling
By Marsha Ransom
When I began researching homeschooling over twelve years ago, I read many books on homeschooling. Some were written about a particular educational philosophy, others consisted of the personal experiences of the author’s family, and still others were written from specific worldviews. No one had written a comprehensive guide that would give me all the information I needed to begin to understand homeschooling, learn what was available, and make the whole mind-boggling subject simple.
When I began homeschooling, I didn’t know that there were many, many reasons that parents chose homeschooling. I didn’t know that there were a variety of different educational philosophies. I wasn’t aware of the scope of the legal problems faced by homeschoolers during that time. I didn’t know that each state had its own homeschool law, or that some people tried to comply with their state’s laws and others simply chose not to comply. I waded through the information I could find, asked questions of a few local homeschoolers, and made the best choices I could with the limited information available to me.
After I’d been homeschooling for several years and homeschooling had been growing and changing rapidly, I felt there was a definite need for a book that would provide a broad-based body of knowledge in an easy to understand, fun-to-read format. I wrote The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Homeschooling to provide basic information about homeschooling and empower parents to make the right educational choices for their families, choices that would make it possible for them to enjoy learning together, bring their families closer together, and prevent burnout.
In Chapter 5, Approaches to Home Education, I try to demystify educational philosophy:
"What’s Your Educational Philosophy? It’s simple, really: you determine your educational philosophy by considering your family’s values, beliefs, and priorities, and the needs of your children. Remember that your philosophy of education may change and flex as your family grows and has different needs."
Each chapter includes some bulleted lists that introduce topics. Each list is followed by text which gives you a brief overview of the topics:
"The basic homeschooling approaches include:
o Unit studies
o Charlotte Mason or the Living Books approach
o Unschooling or natural learning
o Classical, Waldorf, Montessori, and Eclectic"
Other lists provide information that makes it easier for you to understand something in the chapter. Chapter 5 includes one list with ideas for implementing a very simple unit study, a second list which includes a student’s sample journal entries during a unit study, and a third list which includes sample journal entries of an unschooled student, complete with subject area notations, so you can understand how unschooling fits into curricular areas.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Homeschooling includes sidebars defining words you may not be familiar with when you first begin researching homeschooling: "Speaking Educationese: Doing a unit study means basing all studies on a chosen topic or a particular theme. This method is based on the idea that learning should be integrated instead of segmented."
Other short sidebars include tips to make homeschooling easier and more cost effective or warnings of things to watch out for. Longer sidebars give a more in-depth explanation of a specific topic or introduce famous and not-so-famous homeschoolers, giving you a peek into the life of real people that are homeschooling today or have homeschooled in the past.
In Chapter 5, I also talk about ways some homeschoolers are utilizing programs from institutional schools and other support programs: There are many schools and programs available that provide services of all kinds: correspondence schools, schools that turn the responsibility back to the parent, and local umbrellas (private schools with a home school program"
Chapter 5 also includes suggestions for working creatively with your local institutional schools and tips for finding tutors and mentors to enrich your homeschooling program: "Choose your child’s mentors carefully. Be sure you have recommendations for, or personal knowledge of, the person who will be mentoring your child. Special care should be taken with very young children. Suggest that the mentor spend some time with your family first, or invite the mentor to work with your child at your home until you know the mentor better."
I encourage you to learn about a variety of approaches and explain how many homeschoolers pick and choose elements from various approaches to provide a program that tailored to fit the needs of the family.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Homeschooling provides a starting point for anyone who is interested in learning more about homeschooling. Whether you are new to homeschooling, want to personalize your current homeschool program, are the grandparent or neighbor of a homeschooling family, or a teacher or administrator in an institutional school, my book will start you on the journey to understanding this complex issue - homeschooling.
Appendices of resources provide you with more starting points including listings of support groups, sources for finding homeschool laws and regulations in your state, support schools, and much, much more. I will be maintaining a Web site courtesy of Macmillan Publishing, linked to my own personal Web site which will help readers keep abreast of corrections, legal developments, and other changes in homeschooling.
Whatever your questions about homeschooling, I believe you will either find the answers, or a path to the answer, in The Complete Idiot's Guide to Homeschooling.
Marsha Ransom, twelve year veteran homeschooling mother of four children, aged 21, 18, 14, and 10, has been published in several homeschooling, parenting, and family publications, and is available to do workshops for homeschool conferences. As a state liaison for NHEN (National Home Education Network - www.nhen.org. She is, responsible for helping home educators find support groups in their area. Active with her local homeschool support group, she has taught writing classes, and is currently field trip coordinator. Her book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Homeschooling, is available for order at www.amazon.com and will be on bookstore shelves in March 2001.