If you are considering home schooling, you are living in the right state to start! With an estimated 300,000 children being home schooled, Texas leads the nation in the number of families teaching their children at home.
Texas legally classifies home schools as private schools, and therefore doesn’t require teacher certification, curriculum approval or compulsory attendance.
That doesn’t mean home schools are a free-for-all. Officials from your local school district can make a “reasonable inquiry” to determine the following:
The instruction must be “bona fide.”
The curriculum must be in visual form, such as books, workbooks or video.
The curriculum must include five basic subjects: reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics and good citizenship.
- What About Curriculum?
As a parent, you are responsible for choosing the curriculum you will use to instruct your children, and you can choose one that accommodates your child’s individual learning profile and your family’s needs. There are many programs out there, some with materials you can view online.
Most parents order curriculum directly from the publisher or online provider after consulting with other home school parents and doing their own research. There are also online correspondence courses, in which teachers give assignments and grade work.
While there are curriculum kits that cover a full range of subjects, you can choose to mix and match materials and delivery methods. For example, you might hire a tutor to teach mathematics, order workbooks for spelling help and use an online program for good citizenship.
You might notice a lack of mandatory coursework in science, music, the arts, health and physical education. It will be up to you to fill those gaps. If you take on the responsibility of educating your child at home, you are also responsible for providing instruction beyond the basics.
2. Is Socializing Difficult?
According to many home school parents, the problem is not in finding social opportunities, but in deciding which to choose. The Austin Area Homeschooler’s website (main.org/aah) contains a wealth of possibilities, from chess club to soccer. There are picnics, parties and “park days.” For older home schoolers, a social club hosts two or three social activities a month. Besides ice skating, movies, swimming and dances, the social club even produces a yearbook.
3. Will I Feel Isolated?
As an Austin home school parent, you will not be alone; our area has plenty of support systems in place. Social events may appear to be child-centered, but parents use these times to network, get feedback and share resources.
Some parents join together in a more formal way through co-ops. A home school co-op is a group of families that pools their collective resources to provide subject matter expertise. For example, one parent may speak a foreign language, while another parent may be a talented vocalist and another can teach web design.
4, What Is the Texas Virtual School Network?
If you want to home school but would rather provide support than act as the primary instructor, the TxVSN Online Schools (OLS) might be for you. This program provides a virtual school administered by a select number of Texas public school systems.
The biggest difference between home schooling and OLS is that children in OLS programs are considered to be Texas public school students, with all the state regulations that apply, such as a minimum of four hours of instruction per day and participation in standardized testing.
If you think the OLS program may be right for you, visit txvsn.org to learn more. Consider this option carefully. While you will receive free support, you also lose some of the freedom that many home school parents deeply value.
- What If I Change My Mind?
You can always re-enroll your child in your local public school. At the elementary level, the transition should be smooth. But a middle or high school may not accept all the credits on your child’s secondary school transcript.
One benefit of home schooling is that it allows your child to follow her interests. That said, an in-depth knowledge of Greek myths won’t immediately help a child dropped into a public school’s Texas History class. To avoid this situation, align your child’s home school studies with the state curriculum—Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS—so that your child can jump back in without missing a beat.
Here’s a final bit of advice: if you have a high school home schooler, keep impeccable records. They will come in handy for either re-entry into public school or for college admissions.
Jennifer VanBuren is a Georgetown mother of three school-aged children, an educator and a childbirth doula.