Home Education Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

General Questions About Homeschooling

1. Why do people choose to educate their children at home?

Aaron Falbel <falbel@media-lab.media.mit.edu> answers: "There are probably four major reasons why people choose to keep their children out of school:

"1. Religious reasons -- people feel that schools do not address the spiritual issues and values that they want to convey to their children. In addition, schools do teach other ideas (e.g. evolution) that are at odds with their religious beliefs.

"2. Schools are bad for kids -- These people also want to shield their children from the harmful effects of school, but not primarily due to their spiritual values. Often their children have tried school and have had bad experiences there. These parents have seen their children come home from school depressed, angry, feeling stupid. In earlier years, these same children used to be curious, energetic, and happy. Other times, parents don't even wait for school to have such deleterious effects. They never send their kids to school in the first place, knowing full well what will be in store for them.

"3. Political beliefs -- Some people choose to homeschool because of their political beliefs, which tend toward libertarian or anarchist leanings. These people try to disengage themselves as far as they can from institutions of all kinds that encroach on their freedom. These families practice an ethic of self-reliance. They are frequently rural, back-to-the-land types, and frown not only upon schools, but also upon hospitals, prisons, the military, large corporations, and in general, most of the systems and institutions of industrial society.

"4. Close Family -- Some people homeschool simply because they like their children too much to send them away on the school bus each weekday morning. They enjoy the company of their children and wouldn't dream of surrendering them over to some impersonal agency and deprive them of what they feel in a close, loving, nurturing atmosphere.

"Note well, however, that these group are by no means distinct. There is considerable overlap among all four groups. There are also, to be sure, some major differences."

Alan Moses <alan@edstar.gse.ucsb.edu> adds: "I'd like to phrase an answer to this question in a positive sense, without resorting to comparisons with school. In addition to the religious, anti-school, political, and family reasons for homeschooling, people homeschool for **educational** reasons; namely that human beings learn best when they are following their interests, that learning is a natural activity that is not dependent on teaching, that learning is an activity that takes place in the world and thus involves family and community as well as the individual, and that homeschooling provides the best environment to support this concept of learning."

Rowan Hawthorne <rowan@sea.east.sun.com> shamelessly advertises: "If you are interested in child-centered learning, you might want to try The Learning List. Write to learning-request@sea.east.sun.com and ask for a copy of the charter."

2. What is the difference between homeschooling and unschooling?

>Alan Moses <alan@edstar.gse.ucsb.edu>:

"As I understand the way the Growing Without Schooling crowd uses the terms, unschooling refers more to the process of removing your child from school and overcoming the negative effects of the compulsory education process; homeschooling is the more general term referring to home-based learning. I'd love to come up with a better term than homeschooling, due to the implication that the child is spending all their time at home (see my comments on "socialization" below); but it's the best I've seen so far."

Heather Millen <rpm1@cornell.edu>:

The process explained [above] could actually be considered "de-schooling" rather than unschooling. Unschooling is child-led learning in a home environment rather than duplicating school and its curriculums at home. Most unschoolers don't follow lesson plans, or even have "school learning" time structured into their day. Subjects are covered when the child's interest dictates not when the "educational experts" say its time for every child to know that subject.

David Mankins <dm@world.std.com>:

Unschooling, for this unschooler, is based in the beliefs that children:

- are incredible learning machines, as shown by their ability to learn language and to function in society with little or no explicit instruction

- are insatiably curious about the adult world,

- and are driven to learn by these features, and sometimes children learn *despite* our attempts to teach them!

Unschoolers also believe, or at least this unschooler believes, that *imposing* an agenda on a child is more counter-productive than helpful, because it doesn't take the child seriously.

I think a lot of this can be justified by reflecting on one's own learning experiences. Nobody makes me learn new things, I just do because learning is fun, or because I want to know about this subject for my own purposes (even if those purposes are as prosaic as justifying my paycheck). The same is true for children.

I think it is also motivated by a certain kind of respect for the rights of children. *I* don't want to be told what or when to study, what right have I to tell another what to do and when?

Unschooling requires a lot of faith in your child, that they will learn the things that are important for them to know despite not being ``forced'' to, that their seemingly patternless play is experimentation that will pay off in insight, and that they will stick to a subject through the ``hard parts''. Again, reflecting on one's own experience can help solidify this faith, as can reflecting on the behavior of one's own children.

3.What are the regulations for homeschooling in my state?
How many days/hours are you required to teach?
At what age is my child required to attend school?

Sandra Petit <Sandra_Petit@agwbbs.new-orleans.LA.US> offers:

"I have the Home School Manual, and the Home School Source Book. I would be happy to answer any queries regarding school age, required hours or other state regulations, as stated within these sources. The books are copyright 1990 but laws change pretty fast. However, it would be a starting point for a beginner. I don't know the legalities of actually putting the entire section here so I would hesitate to do that."

[ See the resources section below for more information on these books. Remember to try your local library first! ]

4. Where can I get textbooks for a relatively low cost?

The first place to go should always be your local, county, state or university library.

[ Anybody have good ideas here for purchasing books and textbooks? ]

5. What about "socialization?"

Sandra Petit <Sandra_Petit@agwbbs.new-orleans.LA.US> mentions:

"I also usually mention that the socialization I think my child would get at school is not the kind I would choose for her myself. I don't mean that there are not any good children at public school. Of course that's not true. However, if your child is home then you can better control the outside influences on that child, particularly as a very young person-before their values can withstand peer pressure."

Alan Moses <alan@edstar.gse.ucsb.edu> remembers:

"I attended the Northern California Homeschool Association conference this past weekend in Sacramento, and David Colfax commented that the media has pretty much stopped asking him the "socialization" question, since it's becoming obvious that homeschoolers are the best socialized kids in the country. This matches my perception of our kids and their friends - in small groups, on camping trips, and in large groups like the conference, it is a pleasure to see kids of mixed ages and interests interacting with consideration for each other and a minimum of hassles. One friend of mine takes a pre-emptive approach to "the socialization question" (which seems to be the first or second thing we all get asked by non-homeschoolers) and the "workbooks at the kitchen table" image some non-homeschoolers seem to have. She begins talking about homeschooling by saying, "Two of the things I like best about homeschooling are all the positive social contacts the kids have, and that they get to spend so much time learning in the community."

Other ideas include:

Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts
outside classes (gym, dance, choir, piano, art etc.)
neighborhood children
church groups

Dale Parsons <dale@mhcnet.att.com> forwards the following quote from Seymour Papert (one of the principle developers of the Logo programming language and Lego Professor of Education Research at MIT):

Nothing enrages me more than when people criticize my criticism of school by telling me that schools are not just places to learn maths and spelling, they are places where children learn a vaguely defined thing called socialization. I know. I think schools generally do an effective and terribly damaging job of teaching children to be infantile, dependent, intellectually dishonest, passive and disrespectful to their own developmental capacities. I think that the examples I have given of learning in a computational environment provide a glimpse of a context for learning in which socialization would be based on a potentiation of the individual, an empowering sense of one's own ability to learn anything one wants to know, conditioned by deep understanding of how these abilities are amplified by belonging to cultures and communities.

Seymour Papert "Tomorrow's classrooms," **New Horizons in Educational Computing** from a 1982 interview


COMPARISON OF SOCIAL ADJUSTMENT BETWEEN HOME AND TRADITIONALLY SCHOOLED STUDENTS. Shyers, L. Edward, Ph.D. University of Florida, 1992. 311pp. Chairman: Paul J. Wittmer

Traditional schools provide for regular classroom contact with children of the same age, and it is assumed that this regular contact with other children aids appropriate social adjustment. By their very nature, home schools do not provide for regular formal classroom contact with children other than siblings. Because of this obvious difference, parents, educators, legislators and courts have questioned whether children schooled at home are as socially well-adjusted as their agemates in traditional programs. Investigation of this possible difference was the focus of this study.

The results of this study imply that children between the ages of 8 and 10 (sample universe for the study) have similar beliefs about themselves regardless of how they are schooled. All age groups in both research populations had self-concept scores higher than the average national average as measured by the Piers-Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale.

The results of this study further indicate that children from both schooling environments participating in this study achieved scores on the Children's Assertive Behavior Scale revealing slightly passive understanding of social situations.

According to the results of this study, children between the ages of 8 and 10 who had been educated entirely in a home school had significantly fewer problem behaviors, as measured by the Direct Observation form of the _Child Behavior Checklist_, than children of the same age from traditional schools. Children of this age in this study, who had been educated entirely in traditional schools, revealed problem behaviors above the normal range for national populations of the same age.

It can be concluded from the results of this study that appropriate social skills can develop apart from the formal contact with children other than siblings. This supports the belief held by homeschool proponents.

6. Do public schools have to help us in any way?

Louisiana--Sandra Petit <Sandra_Petit@agwbbs.new-orleans.LA.US>:

"As I understand it, homeschoolers in our area will be allowed to use new textbooks [from the public schools] if they are available, but they must leave a deposit--50%?--of what the books are worth. I don't know how this will work with workbooks."

Massachusetts--Rowan Hawthorne <rowan@praxsys.com>

"The superintendant of each school district is responsible for overseeing the education of children, whether in school or at home. In some towns (such as Brookline), this means that the superintendant will make many school services available to parents educating their own children. It could conceivably mean that some superintendants could give you trouble, though I haven't heard of any cases."

7. How will I know what my child is expected to accomplish for any given grade?

Alan Moses <alan@edstar.gse.ucsb.edu> opines:

"Whose expectations are we talking about here? One of my strongest motivations for homeschooling is to avoid the imposition of artificial external constraints on what my children should be learning at any given time. There is ample literature out there supporting a wide range of individual differences when it comes to what a child should be able to do at a certain calendar age. Having grade based expectations is only an issue if you are trying to manage a class of 30 different children as if they were all the same. And if for legal or administrative reasons you find yourself faced with having to take some sort of norm-based achievement test, homeschooled kids seems to do just fine compared to their schooled peers, so this is no reason to structure your learning approach to these artificial measures.

"To whatever extent possible, evaluation should come from the learner rather than being imposed on the learner. If your child is frustrated because she wanted to understand something and has been unable to overcome some stumbling block, this will be obvious to you as a parent, and you can offer help as indicated. Likewise, the recognition of accomplishment should also emanate from the child - they needn't be dependent on us to validate what they've done."

8. What is the first step in educating our children at home?

Sandra Petit <Sandra_Petit@agwbbs.new-orleans.LA.US> thinks:

"I would say the first step is to get to know your child. Though we see them everyday, sometimes we are not really aware of the person inside that little body and how things look to them. Sometimes I have to stop myself and say, why should she know this already-how would she have learned it? Also, to learn HOW your child learns best. Then to read, read, read and see just what would fit into your life."

Alan Moses <alan@edstar.gse.ucsb.edu> mentions:

"Given the opportunity, children willingly and aggressively educate themselves. Give them the freedom to set their own agendas, be sure they have the time, space and materials to do what they are interested in, be there when your child asks for guidance and support, and be attentive to their needs. In short, trust them, and love them."

"[The homeschooling movement is] in effect, though certainly not by design - a laboratory for the intensive and long-range study of children's learning and of the ways in which friendly and concerned adults can help them. It is a research project, done at no cost, of a kind for which neither the public schools nor the government could afford to pay."- John Holt, "Schools and Home-schoolers: A Fruitful Partnership," Phi Delta Kappan, Feb. 1983.

What follows are listings from the growing body of research on homeschooling that address frequently voiced concerns. We chose these listings because they are either frequently cited in other works about homeschooling, or are more accessible to the general reader than other academic studies. Some universities and colleges will allow anyone to use their libraries, and they are more likely to have these journals and books than a public library. Some citations on this list appear in several categories because one study often covers many different questions about homeschooling.

Research that supports the claim that homeschoolers do as well as or better than their schooled peers academically :

Greene, S. (1985) Home study in Alaska: A profile of K-12 students enrolled in the Alaska Centralized Correspondence Study. Resources in Education. (ERIC document Reproduction Service No. ED 255 494)

Rakestraw, J. (1987) An Analysis of Home Schooling for Elementary School-age Children in Alabama. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL.

Ray, B.D. & Wartes, J. (1991) Academic Task and Socializing. In J. Van Galen and M.A Pittman (Eds.) Home Schooling: Political, Historical, and Pedagogical Perspectives. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Richman, Howard. (1988) Homeschoolers Score Higher - A Replicable Result. (available from Pennsylvania Homeschoolers, RD 2, Box 117, Kittanning PA 16201)

Wartes, J. (1990). The Relationship of Selected Input Variables to Academic Achievement Among Washington's Homeschoolers, [16109 NE 169th Place,] Woodinville, WA: Washington Homeschool Research Project.

Research that supports the claim that homeschoolers are not deprived of social skills or experiences:

Delahooke, M.M. (1986). Home educated children's social/emotional adjustment and academic achievement: a comparative study. Doctoral dissertation, California School of Professional Psychology, Los Angeles. Dissertation Abstracts International, 47 475A.

Montgomery, L. (1989). The effect of home schooling on the leadership skills of home schooled students. Home School Researcher, Vol. 5 (1), 1-10. Taylor, J.W. (1986) Self-concept in home-schooling children. Doctoral dissertation, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI.

Research that supports the claim that homeschooling parents do not need to be certified teachers to help their children learn:

Rakestraw, J. (1987). An Analysis of Home Schooling for Elementary School- age Children in Alabama. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL.

Ray, B. (1990) A Nationwide Study of Home Education: Family Characteristics, Legal Matters, and Student Achievement. The National Home Education Research Institute. 25 W. Cremona St. Seattle, WA 98119

Wartes, J. (1990). The Relationship of Selected Input Variables to Academic Achievement Among Washington's Homeschoolers, [16109 NE 169th Place,] Woodinville, WA: Washington Homeschool Research Project.

Research that supports the claim that the number of homeschoolers is increasing in the United States:

Lines, P. (1987). An Overview of Home Instruction. Phi Delta Kappan, March 1987.

Lines, P. (1990). Home Instruction: Characteristics, Size and Growth. In Home Schooling: Political, Historical, and Pedagogical Perspectives. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing.

Research that supports the claim that homeschoolers encounter no special difficulty in getting into college or finding employment:

Barnaby, L.(1984) American university admission requirements for home schooled applicants, in 1984. Doctoral dissertation, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT. Dissertation Abstracts International, 47(3), 798A.

Webb, J. (1989) The Outcomes of Home-based Edcation: Employment and Other Issues. Educational Review, 41(2).

Sources for more research information:

The Moore Foundation, Box 1, Camas WA 98607 (Dr. Raymond Moore)

The National Home Education Research Institute, 25 W. Cremona St. Seattle, WA 98119

(Dr. Brian Ray) Articles in academic journals about homeschooling can be accessed using the ERIC database (available in many public and university libraries); when searching in ERIC be sure to look at all the forms of the word "homeschooling" (i.e. home school, home-school, home education, etc.) in order to get the largest number of references. You can also write to the National Home Education Research Institute (see above) for details on how to obtain their current bibliography of home-schooling articles. To obtain a copy of a dissertation, be sure to get correct reference numbers from the University Microfilms International (UMI) Dissertation Abstracts database or books (according to their literature they are "the only central source of accessing almost every doctoral dissertation accepted in North America since 1861"). Contact UMI at 300 N. Zeeb Rd., Ann Arbor MI 48106; 800-521-0600.

Magazines that report or print homeschooling research:

Education and Urban Society. Special issue: Understanding Home Schools: Emerging Research and Reactions. J. Gary Knowles, Ed. Volume 21, No. 1, Nov. 1988

Growing Without Schooling, 2269 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge MA 02140

Home Education Magazine, PO Box 1083, Tonasket WA 98855 (Their Jan./Feb. 1991 issue contains a special section on research.)

Home Education Researcher, The National Home Education Research Institute, 25 W. Cremona St. Seattle, WA 98110 The Teaching Home, PO Box 20219, Portland OR 97220

Books that report homeschooling research:

Moore, Raymond and Dorothy (1988). Home School Burnout: What it is. What Causes It. And How To Overcome It. Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt. The Moores have written many other books about homeschooling based on their research and studies; this is their most recent. Some of their other titles are (1979) School Can Wait . Provo, UT: Brigham Young Univ. Press; (1982) Homespun Schools . Waco, TX : Word Books; (1984) Homestyle Teaching. Waco, TX : Word Books. Van Galen, J. & Pitman, M.A. eds. (1991). Home Schooling: Political, Historical, and Pedagogical Perspectives. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing. Webb, Julie (1990). Children Learning At Home. London, UK: Falmer Press

Books and articles related to, but not specifically about, homeschooling research:

Arons, S. (1983) Compelling Belief: The Culture of American Schooling, Amherst, MA: Univ. of MA Press. Studies the conflict between the individual and institutionalism in education, with a section on homeschooling.

Farenga, P. , ed. (1991) Homeschooling In The News, Cambridge, MA: Holt Associates. Collection of national print media articles about homeschooling that are not academically oriented. Useful for seeing how the mass media portrays homeschooling.

Holt, J. (1981) Teach Your Own: A Hopeful Path for Education. Bantam/Doubleday/Dell, NY.

McCarthy, Oppewal, Peterson, Spykman, (1981) Society, State, & Schools, Grand Rapids, MI: Eermans. This is a scholarly study that advocates multiple educational systems that tolerate pluralistic worldviews.

Resnick, L. (1987) Learning In School and Out, Educational Researcher, December 1987. 13 - 20. Shows that practically none of the skills learned in school are transferable to the world of work.

Seefeldt, C. ed. (1990). Continuing Issues in Early Childhood Education. Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill. Chapters by Dr. Raymond Moore about delaying school entrance and by Susannah Sheffer, editor of Growing Without Schooling, about homeschooling.

Tizard, B. and Hughes, M. (1984). Young Children Learning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press. Ample evidence that children of working class parents learn more effectively at home than in nursery schools.

This is one of many articles available from Holt Associates about homeschooling.

Excerpted from: Holt Associates Inc., 2269 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140 (617) 864-3100

9.What good references and resources exist on the net?

The World-Wide-Web! If you have direct-access, and the ability to use X (or Windows or a Macintosh), find out about Mosaic. If you don't have those graphics capabilities, there are text-only programs for exploring the information resources available through the World-Wide-Web that are freely available (Lynx is the name of one).

From: PHIKLEPP@ACS.EKU.EDU (Gene Kleppinger)

Besides using reference tools and everything else on CD-ROMs, I have no personal recommendations right now. But I do have one suggestion: assuming you have telnet or gopher, get to the University of Maryland's Reading Room and look at what's in Computers, under HomeEducation. (Gopher to U Maryland, or telnet to info.umd.edu and login as gopher; then choose Educational Resources, then ReadingRoom.)

There's a "report" there (dated October 1992) about Internet resources with educational themes; I believe it even mentions this mailing list. The appendix contains a long, annotated list of service providers, Internet educational forums and published literature.

The report is available in electronic form from home-ed-approval@world.std.com. It is 93K long, so be sure your mailbox has enough room:

From: dkline@nrel.gov (David Kline)

My oldest (13) has gotten considerable mileage out of an educationally-chartered online resource called Cyberion City. In fact, Howard Rheingold thought this was such a novel idea -- the use of a MUD in homeschooling -- that he wrote it up as a sidebar to the article in Wired magazine (July/Aug 1993).

I'd be happy to send further details and instructions to get to Cyberion City to anyone who would like it. Just kline@well.sf.ca.us is the preferred address.

10. How do I find things on the Internet?

There are books on this subject. Anything we put here will go out of date very quickly. Probably a good place to begin is:

Big Dummy's Guide to the Internet

EFF is proud to announce that the Big Dummy's Guide to the Internet is now available for free download from our ftp site. The Big Dummy's Guide is a user guide for novices on all the Internet has to offer.

The genesis of the Big Dummy's Guide was a few informal conversations, which included Mitch Kapor of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Steve Cisler of Apple Computers, in June of 1991. With the support of Apple Computers, EFF hired a writer (Adam Gaffin) and actually took on the project in September of 1991.

The idea was to write a guide to the Internet for folks who had little or no experience with network communications. The Guide is currently posted to "the 'net" in ASCII and Hypercard (Mac) formats. We have been giving it away on disk at conferences, and we hope to have a print edition available for a nominal charge soon. We're hoping to update this Guide on a regular basis, so please feel free to send us your comments and corrections.

EFF would like to thank the folks at Apple, especially Steve Cisler of the Apple Library, for their support and gentle prodding in our efforts to bring this Guide to you. We hope it helps you open up a whole new world, where new friends and experiences are sure to be yours. Enjoy!

The Big Dummy's Guide to the Internet can be downloaded by anonymous ftp from ftp.eff.org. The ASCII version is located at pub/Net_info/EFF_Net_Guide/netguide.eff.

[I realize what appears below is something of an advertisement, but I'm including it anyway since it has some valuable information and it's still cheaper than all the internet guides being put out these days) --- dm]

BOBRANKIN@delphi.com <Bob Rankin> writes:

I noticed some mention of Internet resources in the FAQ but not a lot of specifics on how to access them. Same goes for the Internet articles in the latest "Practical Home Schooling" magazine and Sunday's NY Times. So here's "Doctor Bob's Internet Tip of the Day" for finding Internet resources on any topic.

Use "gopher" to get to the gopher.earn.net system. Then try the choice labelled "Other Gopher and Information Servers". This menu will have an entry for "Veronica". (If you know another way to access Veronica, fine.) Select a server to handle your "gopherspace" query and enter keyword(s) that describe what you're looking for, like "Declaration Independence" or "chemistry". Hopefully, you'll be rewarded with a menu of pointers to the desired resources!

By the way... I have authored two informative reports on the Internet which may be of interest to the readers of this group.

If you have e-mail only access to the Internet, you can still use Gopher, FTP, Archie, Veronica and WAIS! My 8-page report "ACCESSING INTERNET SERVICES VIA E-MAIL" explains in detail how to do it all using just e-mail. Easy to follow, step by step instructions. (EMAIL or HARDCOPY)

Are you a little overwhelmed by the Internet? There are lots of info-gems out there, but it's not easy to find 'em. My 12-page report "100 Cool Things - Doctor Bob's Internet Tour Guide" gives you an introduction to the "tools of the trade" and then takes you step-by-step to over 100 interesting Internet destinations! (HARDCOPY ONLY)

To order either report, send just $5.00 and SASE to:


(For electronic delivery, send only $4.50 and your e-mail address!)

This FAQ was created by Dave Mankins (dm@world.std.com)

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