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6 questions homeschool families are sick of answering



The secret life of homeschoolers


As a mom who schooled my own kids for six years, I was asked the gamut of inquiries, ranging from what our schedule looked like to my qualifications as an instructor. My kids were asked, "Why aren't you in school today?" by more strangers than I could count.

Whether you wonder why your neighbor's kids are learning in their backyard, or you're considering it for your family, sit back and learn the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about homeschooling.

1: How do your kids get socialized?
Homeschooled kids are out and about in the community constantly. It might be at a co-op class with other students, a family trip to the museum, a field trip with fellow kids, or just interacting with store clerks, the local veterinarian or a bank teller. Homeschooled kids join town sports, take music and dance lessons, art classes, and various activities with others from their community.

Holly of Staatsburg recalls a field trip to the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook. "Kids of all ages came together to learn at whatever level they were ready for. That's the beauty of homeschooling."

The homeschool community in the Hudson Valley is vast, with families happily getting together for socialization and enrichment. Many co-ops comprised of local families meet weekly and offer classes in various topics ranging from creative writing to science to knitting. There are dances, robotics leagues, even philosophical gatherings organized specifically for the homeschooling community.

READ MORE: Twin mom shares her successes and failures on her journey to public school

Robert, and his wife Aimee, of Newburgh saw a need for deeper connections and involvement for homeschooled families and began an organization called Classical Conversations in the Hudson Valley. He explains, "My wife and I direct a homeschool community where other homeschoolers get together and we support them in their needs. We wanted support but no one else was doing it in our area, so we decided to host it."

2: How do you know what to teach?
In New York State, parents are legally required to correspond with their district, and submit written intent to homeschool, provide an outline for what they plan to teach, and supply a report each quarter stating what material has been covered and how the student is performing. State standards of learning are available online and parents often refer to these, as well as many instructional guides such as the beloved series, "What your X-grader needs to know."

Online Facebook groups such as Hudson Valley Homeschoolers offer an opportunity for parents to share resources, ask questions and receive support as they design their curricula.

Homeschooling allows kids to follow their academic passions because lessons are tailored to their own strengths and weaknesses. Holly of Staatsburg shares, "My son discovered a love of historical fiction. He devoured everything I could find, so we took a field trip to the maritime museum in Erie, Pennsylvania and sailed on the Brig Niagara, a restored vessel from the war of 1812. This kind of deep and hands-on learning is possible because homeschooling is so flexible."

3: Are you qualified to homeschool?  
Most homeschool parents are not licensed teachers, but are well-versed in their children's learning styles, needs, strengths, and weaknesses. Guidance in what and how to teach are available from countless sources, and even a brand-new homeschooling parent can seek support and quickly get an understanding of what is required for success. Parents can school their children themselves, hire tutors, or use educational resources such as classes and online learning programs.


4: How will they succeed in the "real world?"
They succeed in the real world every day! In fact, homeschooled kids often learn many practical and domestic skills as part of their schooling. Cooking classes, completing chores, grocery shopping, and knowing how to advocate for themselves are just a few examples of life skills that can be incorporated into daily schooling and life. "My kids get to do their laundry, make doctor's appointments, come up with a grocery budget, and learn how to change the oil in our car. All things we can do thanks to homeschooling," Kelly, a mom from Bedford, shares.

5: What about college?
Homeschooled kids head off to college just like their peers. Books and online resources such as the Facebook groups Hudson Valley Homeschoolers College Bound and Homeschooling for College Credit offer guidance to parents and students throughout the process. Some homeschooled students begin college coursework at their local college as early as age 16, even earning their Associate's degree by the time they graduate from high school. Lisa, a
Middletown mom, shares, "My husband was homeschooled and went to college and became an electrical engineer."

6: How do you have the patience to homeschool?
I view homeschooling as an extension of parenting. At first, you have no idea what you're doing, and you're scared, but you build your confidence through experience, learn from your mistakes, rely on others for support when necessary, and keep going until suddenly you are moving forward.

People ask, "How do you keep your kids from fighting all day? My kids would drive me crazy with the arguing!" Lisa, a homeschooling mom from Fishkill, explains, "Some days, my kids aren't listening, and keep getting into fights. Other times, they're excitedly doing a science experiment, or researching a community service project, even cuddled up on the couch reading. Those moments make it all worth it."

Stephanie Sandler is a clinical psychologist and mom who writes about homeschooling and gluten-free cooking and health.