The New School Year – Is Homeschooling an Option?

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Learning at Home Turns Surprisingly Social

Back in 2010, the time had finally come for my husband and I to get serious about finding the right school for our soon-to-be kindergartener. Our area offered many solid choices on both the public and private fronts, but with housing prices in coveted school districts stuck to the ceiling and private school tuition at levels beyond our means, our choices narrowed before we even hit the school-tour circuit. 

Being the daughter of two retired public school workers and advocates – one a veteran elementary school teacher, the other an administrator and long-time school board member – I personally never thought to seriously throw homeschooling into the mix. I’ll say it: I thought homeschooling meant planting myself at my kitchen table all day while simultaneously sheltering my child from the world around him. With my hands up in a “not that there’s anything wrong with it” fashion, I just figured it was for other people. But after talking to those who made this choice for their children, an entirely new light was shed on home-learning as a surprisingly social and flexible way of learning that reaches way beyond the kitchen table. 

And those “other people” I was talking about? They were a lot like every other parent I knew, including myself. I never would have predicted it, but we decided to homeschool our son and have never looked back. 

Where to Begin?

The first step in any decision as important as a child’s education is to get as much information as possible. There are a wide range of resources for those who are considering or even remotely curious about homeschooling. The following secular organizations are great places to start. They not only give the facts, but they also help guide newcomers in figuring out if homeschooling is the right choice for their families.

Homeschooling Association of California (HSC)

Founded in 1987 by Bay Area homeschooling parents, this organization is now a statewide resource. Click on its “Getting Started” page in the Homeschooling Help section for clear descriptions of the four legal options for homeschooling in California, and links to all necessary forms. In addition to a slew of curriculum materials and advice, the website also offers a variety of information specific to teens, gifted children, and kids with special needs. A legal committee can offer advise for questions or concerns related to homeschooling. HSC hosts an annual summer conference that’s a comprehensive gathering of workshops, panel discussions, creativity and fun, providing vital information to newbies and extra inspiration to old-hats like myself. 

While anyone can take advantage of the information on the HSC website, a $30 annual membership comes with extra perks such as a subscription to their quarterly magazine and priority registration to HSC-sponsored events. Visit http://www.hsc.org online or call (1-888) HSC-4440. Local contacts: Butte: Meghan (530) 228-7078; Shasta/Tehama: Erin (530) 347-5240 or Molly & John (530) 244-2338; S. Siskiyou County: Dawn (530) 926-5574.

California Homeschool Network (CHN)

Like HSC, CHN also works to inform and empower homeschooling families, educate the public, and monitor legislation that could affect this educational choice. Its annual Family Expo in Southern California is another major event for homeschoolers, and the CHS free pamphlet “Just The Facts” offers all the steps to getting started with homeschooling, whether your child is starting school or withdrawing from another school. Support groups are listed by county, making it easy for anyone to find his local homeschooling community. 

The CHS website also offers guidance in choosing a curriculum, and an advice column with topics like private time for mom, testing, and deducting homeschooling expenses. Visit http://www.californiahomeschool.net online or call (1-800) 327-5339. In Shasta and Tehama counties call Terrie at (530) 347-2200.  

A 2 Z Home’s Cool

When I was first introduced to this site as a homeschooling parent, it came with a warning: “Be sure small children are safely occupied, and you have gone to the bathroom and have plenty of snacks on hand.” Why? The burst of information on the homepage alone ensures visitors will be occupied for quite a while. Thanks to former homeschooling mom Ann Zeise who runs the site, books, curriculum, car games, chat rooms and countless resources abound. 

Newbies will appreciate the bright-red link “Beginning to Homeschool,” which starts with, “You’ve made the decision to homeschool… what do you do next?” and leads viewers to the most common questions about where to start. Clicking on letters in the secondary navigation bar across the top accesses alphabetized lists of articles, lessons and links. From there, the site offers a range of possibilities for building a homeschooling experience to fit any family. Visit http://www.a2zhomeschooling.com.

Homeschool Buyers Co-op

This site was started with one simple premise: School districts get educational discounts – why not homeschoolers? This site pools homeschooler purchases to garner the same purchasing power as school districts, enabling homeschoolers to snag all of their educational needs for 10 to 90 percent off retail prices. Membership is free and comes with the promise of never selling your personal information or sending unsolicited emails. Benefits abound, even if members never buy a thing, thanks to their searchable database of free homeschooling resources, field-trip finder, and lists of contests and scholarships. Sign up for their free Clickschooling ezine at http://www.clickschooling.com to receive a daily email featuring an entertaining educational website to help your child learn. Visit http://www.homeschoolbuyersco-op.com.

Where to Meet Others?

The usual question that arises with regard to homeschooling is, “What about socialization?” But pose this question to many homeschoolers and the answer usually begins with an ironic chuckle. Given the individualized attention, kids often pick up curriculum much faster than in traditional classrooms, leaving plenty of social time. Most homeschoolers would agree that finding a support group should be one of the first orders of business once the decision has been made to homeschool. These groups offer parents and children a chance to meet, organize events, share resources, and of course, to socialize.

Redding Homeschool Network

With a whopping 500 families on their email list, this group may be just the answer for homeschoolers looking to schmooze. Started about 16 years ago by Erin Friedman and another homeschool mom, the group welcomes all styles of homeschooling, from charter school families to independent study to unschoolers. New members are sent links to “how to” homeschooling sites and are welcome to post questions and resource information.

“It’s very nice to be able to get advice from a variety of parents who have ‘been there, done that,’” explains Erin. “Families are all so different and have unique approaches to homeschooling, so it’s great to listen and take it all in from a variety of perspectives and then decide what might work for your own unique situation.”

The group’s calendar is constantly evolving; regular events include park days and playdates. Prospective members can join the Redding Homeschool Network Yahoo group. “New homeschooling families get to see firsthand that veteran homeschooling families are thriving and having a great time with their kids, and that’s a powerful, profound message,” says Erin, who can be contacted at erin@stillmarried.net.

Chico Homeschoolers  

Chico Homeschoolers is an all-inclusive homeschooling support network for Chico & surrounding areas. The group meets for shared activities, including weekly park days, and offers information & support. Those currently homeschooling or those interested in homeschooling are welcome to join the Chico Homeschoolers Yahoo and Facebook groups. For information call Meghan at (530) 228-7078.

Karen Hartline
About Karen Hartline

Karen T. Hartline is a writer and homeschooling mom living in Berkeley, CA, with her husband and two children. Her favorite aspects of homeschooling include fire drills (alone-time on Facebook) and parent/teacher conferences (muttering to herself).

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