Saturday, March 18, 2006

Home Schooling: Answers to Questions Parents Most Often Ask, by Deborah McIntire and Robert Windham

Home Schooling: Answers to Questions Parents Most Often Ask is an indispensable book for the beginning home schooling parent. When our family took the plunge into homeschooling in 1996, we had very little background, only minor understanding of the laws and expectations of the local school district, and we had only minimal support from family and friends. In fact, we found that much of our extended family was skeptical and saw it as a fad which they hoped we would abandon before our children were permanently scarred. Yet, with the help of this prize of a book, we had all our questions answered and we found the encouragement and support we so desperately needed.

Complied by Deborah McIntire and Robert Windham, both parents, and both with extensive backgrounds in education, Home Schooling: Answers to Questions Parents Most Often Ask, is put together in a simple, straight forward manner. Beginning with the initial frightening questions, such as "Why home schooling," "What about socialization," and "What if I have no teaching background," the authors give multiple examples, including quotes, of home schooling families from a plethora of socio-economic and educational backgrounds. Plainly laid out are the many reasons why a family might choose to home school its children, as well as the benefits, the myths about socialization, resources for support groups and financial considerations.

The book then goes on to talk about organization, including what a typical day might look like for a variety of family types, as well as materials and suggestions about how to find curriculum. One entire chapter is dedicated to explaining the different types of curriculum choices, such as textbook-driven programs, theme-driven programs, interest-driven programs, and how to teach several grades at once. Also helpful are pages on learning styles in children and understanding the best types of curriculum for the child's learning style combined with the parent's teaching style. There are also pages and pages of convenient check lists, record sheets, and charts of household chores, learning logs, and evaluations for parents and students to use in planning.

One of the biggest fears of new home schooling parents is the issue of certification and legalities. Each state is different and this book explains to parents how to find out about their state's laws. It even has information about Canadian laws as well. In addition to showing parents how to home school their children legally, the book gives information about standardized testing and it goes into an in depth description of the different options in record keeping and annual evaluations. Evaluation of the home schooled student often puts parents into a panic, as they compare their children to other children in traditional schools, or even to their home schooled contemporaries. This book encourages parents not to compare their children to other children, and it helps them to know how their child is learning, adjustment issues, and how to deal with learning disabilities.

Of course, home schooling is much more than academics and legalities. This book also goes into great depth about how to balance the demands of home schooling with the rest of our lives. It addresses the one-income family, as well as how to organize the home living space. Household chores are discussed, as is encouragement about the mom, or primary home schooling parent, getting some much needed space. An entire section is dedicated to avoiding burnout.

Finally, the book discusses extra-curricular activities and integrating the entire family into the home schooling realm. Each chapter in the book is wrapped up with an attractive photo of a real home schooling family, along with their names and ages of the children, as well as an encouraging or humorous quote from one or both parents.

All in all, Home Schooling: Answers to Questions Parents Most Often Ask, is a treasured resource for the beginning home schooling family, as well as the seasoned veteran who simply needs reminders, convenient reproducibles, or encouragement to press on in an endeavor that is well worth the effort. And as if this all weren't enough, the appendix in the back of the book is chock full of valuable resources including curriculum contacts, government educational agencies, support groups, testing materials, and common, household, commercial learning games. For encouragement and all the information one will ever need, do not hesitate to turn to Home Schooling: Answers to Questions Parents Most Often Ask.

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