General Information - What is Homeschooling?



The main part of intellectual education is not the acquisition of facts but learning how to make facts live.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes

What is homeschooling?

Parents begin homeschooling the day their child is born. They teach him how to walk, how to talk, how to behave properly, how to say his abc's, how to count to 10 and write his name. Perhaps they even teach him how to read. Then at age five, they make a decision to continue home schooling or to send their child to a "real" school. Many people, famous and not-so-famous, have been successfully educated at home including this SHORT list:

Artists: Claude Monet, Andrew Wyeth and Ansel Adams

Business Persons: Soichiro Honda (automobiles), Colonel Sanders, Ray Kroc, Andrew Carnegie, Horace Greeley and Joseph Pulitzer

Explorers: Davy Crocket, Sir Ernest Shackleton and George Rogers Clark

Judges: John Jay, Sandra Day O'Connor, John Marshal

Political and Military Leaders: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson, Winston Churchill, William Penn, Daniel Webster, Douglas MacArthur, George Patton, Matthew Perry and Robert E Lee

Preachers and Missionaries: Jonathan Edwards, Hudson Taylor, Dwight Moody, John & Charles Wesley, Joan of Arc and William Carey

Musicians: The Hansons, Mozart, Irving Berlin, Noel Coward, John Philip Sousa and Mendelssohn

Movie Stars: Charlie Chaplin, Whoopi Goldberg, Dakota Fanning, Hillary Duff.

Movie Stars that Homeschool: Lisa Whelchel, Kelly Preston and John Travolta

Physicians and Nurses: Clara Barton, Albert Schweitzer and Elizabeth Blackwell

Scientists: Blaise Pascal, Booker T. Washington, Sir Frank Whittle, Alexander Bell, Thomas Edison, George Washington Carver, Cyrus McCormick, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, William Lear (airplanes) and Mary Leaky

Sports: Tim Tebow (Heisman Trophy winner)

Writers: Agatha Christie, C.S. Lewis, Rosemary Sutcliff, Walt Whitman, Beatrix Potter, Thomas Paine, L. Ron Hubbard, William F. Buckley, Jr., Pearl S. Buck, Hans Christian Anderson, Alex Haley and Louisa May Alcott

More famous homeschooled Americans: Famous Homeschools and Homeschool Parents.

Take the Famous Homeschoolers Quiz and see how many you recognize!

Here is a brief timeline of education history*:

For over 4000 years, education was received in the home, parents being a child’s only instructor. Homeschooling was the norm.

During the next 1600 years, parents continued to teach their children at home. With the advent of the synagogue, many Jewish parents sent their male children to teachers at the synagogue who taught them the law using the rolls of the sacred Scriptures as their textbooks.

It has only been during the last 400 years that schooling outside the home has become more of the norm. The first educational institution outside the home in the American colonies was established by John Cotton in 1635. The purpose was to establish a school for poor children and orphans so that they could read the Bible and obey the laws in the community. Most families continued to teach their children at home, while wealthier families hired tutors to teach their children either at home, at the home of the tutor, or at small community schools run by the parents.

From the founding of our country until the early 1800s, the over-all literacy rate was higher than it is today. Very few people were unable to read. Children were taught a trade by their parent or in an apprenticeship program. Most children who entered small community schools already learned how to read and write at home. Colleges were established in the 1700s but were for biblical and classical studies.

1805 - DeWitt Clinton helped to form a school for “the education of poor children, who do not belong to, or are not provided for, by any religious society.” It is the first secular school in America. As Oliver Van DeMille, president of George Wythe College, says in his book, A Thomas Jefferson Education, “Historically, the primary goal of public schools, the reason they were instituted, was to educate the poor so that they could get a job and take their place in society. The middle class already had private schools and apprenticeships, and the wealthy were tutored at home.” The creation of a uniform common school system also required standardization of curriculum and instruction. This is the beginning of the graded school and graded textbook resulting in a one size fits all curriculum.

1856 - a German immigrant establishes the first American kindergarten.

1857 - the NEA (National Education Association) is formed.

By the early 1900s, the authority and responsibility of education shifted from the parents to the state.

1914 - World War I begins. WWII follows shortly after and continues through 1945. During this time, many women in America work in factories producing equipment and supplies for the military while their husbands fight in the wars. This is the beginnings of American women working outside the home and mandatory public school attendance.

By 1930, all states have passed compulsory education laws.

1965 - the Head Start program begins.

The return to homeschooling begins in the 1960's & 70s & 80s.

By the year 2000, an estimated 1.7 million children are being homeschooled once again.

For more information on the history of homeschooling, read History of Homeschooling on AtoZ, A Brief History of Homeschooling, and Politics of Survival on HSLDA's site (includes information on African Americans and the homeschool movement).

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Why do people homeschool?

The answers are varied. Here are just a few:

Religious: Many homeschool to give their children an education that includes a Biblical perspective on all subjects.

Scholastic: Statistics has now shown that home educated students do far better academically than most public schooled children. The individual attention that the child gets in homeschooling can help a delayed learner catch up and an advanced learner go at a pace that will challenge him to work at his potential.

Financial: Parents who would prefer sending them to a private school but cannot afford the tuition often opt for homeschooling as the next best alternative.

Family Time and Influence: Many homeschool so that they have more quality time with their children. Flexible scheduling allows them to school around the parent’s work or travel schedule. This in turn helps family to experience a closeness that is not possible with a normal school/work schedule.

To Prevent Negative Influences: Parents homeschool to keep them from destructive influences such as unsafe school environments, negative peer pressure, and humanistic teaching.

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Is it Legal?

Check the legal facts about your state at Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).

For laws in other countries, check out the information found at A to Z Home's Cool Homeschooling.

Oklahoma Law:

Oklahoma is the only state with a constitutional provision guaranteeing the right to home school. Read the actual law: Even though this is the law according to our Constitution, you would most likely get in trouble with DHS if you only homeschooled for three months! It is recommended that you adhere to the following Oklahoma public school law as recommended by HSLDA:

  • Children must attend school from age 5 to 18.
  • Children must attend 1080 hours of school per year
    • T. J. Schmidt, HSLDA attorney quote August 2009: “A homeschool parent should provide roughly 1080 hours of instruction. If a homeschool parent provided the quiavalent of more than 6 hours of school activities a day they could theoretically finish their school year in less than 180 days. For instance, a parent could do 7 hours a day of instructional related activities (just about everything can be used as a learning environment-not just textbook/workbook time) be done in around 155 days. Some student may need more time to cover their homeschool material. The bottom line is that homeschool parents should provide other means of education to their children that is adequate and comparable to that provided by the public school. If a parent completes a years worth of academic instruction in an amount of time that is comparable to 1080 hours they would be in compliance iwth Oklahoma law in our opinion.”
  • Parents are not required to be or use certified teachers.
  • Parents are not required to use state-approved curricula.
  • Parents must teach the same basic subjects as public schools but the texts and methods are left up to the parents. Subjects required to be taught: reading, writing, math, science, citizenship, U.S. Constitution, health, safety, physical education, and conservation.
  • Parents are not required to test their children.
  • Parents are not required to initiate contact with, register with or seek approval from state or local officials.
  • Parents are not required to permit public school officials to visit or inspect their home.

    Note: This summary does not constitute the giving of legal advice. For more information, contact HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) at 540-338-5600 or HSLDA offers legal protection to homeschoolers across the nation. The cost is $100 per year per family.

Medical Requirements in Oklahoma. Check the Oklahoma State Department of Health for information on immunization requirements in Oklahoma.

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Do homeschooled children get into college?

Homeschooled students do go to college at the same rate as public schooled students.

Most colleges do admit homeschoolers, even ivy-league schools.

Scholarships are given to homeschoolers.

Many homeschoolers, just as their public schooled counterparts, do not go to college and are perfectly happy. They start their own businesses, work in the technical fields, get married, go into ministry, go in the service, or go in the military.

Note: The biggest problems for homeschoolers as stated by colleges and schools who have accepted homeschooled students:

(1) Lack of good skills in advanced math: Use a good curriculum. Send them to Co-op. Hire a tutor. All colleges require Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II. If the child does not have it in high school, he will have to take it in college as a noncredit course.

(2) Composition: Spend more time on composition than grammar. They can learn grammar while doing composition but not necessarily true in reverse.

(3) Meeting deadlines and follow through: Get your children in the habit of finishing assignments. Set deadlines and insist that they meet them. Have consequences if they don’t. Set a good example. Don’t sign up for things and then don’t go - follow through and commitment.

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What about Socialization?

If you mean:

  • Does the child work well in a group or on a team?
  • Is the child awkward in social situations?
  • Does the child use appropriate manners in public?
  • Does the child respect others?

If the above is what you mean, research during the past 20 years confirms that homeschoolers are just as well or better adjusted than traditionally schooled children. I've personally noticed that if parents (whether public schooling or homeschooling) are well-adjusted socially, their children are also, and vice versa. It's not the type of school they attend but rather the social skills modeled by the parents.

There are an abundance of social opportunities available to homeschooled children today including extracurricular classes, sports programs, co-op classes, support group activities and field trips, volunteer programs, and church activities. After the first year or two, most homeschool families have problems trying to keep the number of outside activities under control.

For more information about socialization, read HSLDA's article on the research done by Dr. Brian Ray:

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Should I Homeschool?

Here are some questions to ask yourself that may help you decide. If you answer yes to all of them, then you are a great candidate for homeschooling. If you answer no on any of these, you might want to get additional counseling, determine if you can change that answer, or consider another option.

  • I have the time to homeschool my children. No one is going to do it for you. If they do, it won't really be homeschooling. That comes under tutoring. Exceptions to this as tutoring would be a relative who is helping you to homeschool such as a grandmother homeschooling her grandchild.

  • I have the financial resources to buy curriculum for my children. Contrary to some opinions, it does take money to homeschool. I recommend allowing $300 minimum, up to $1000+ per year. It will cost more the first year and in high school.

  • My spouse (and/or custodial parents) and I agree on homeschooling our children. Besides the fact that it is extremely difficult to homeschool without agreement, it may lead to DHS getting involved because the spouse or custodial parent turns you in for neglect. This happens occasionally in divorce situations, so good recordkeeping is ESSENTIAL!

  • I love to read and enjoy learning myself. If you love to learn, you'll instill that love in your children. If you don't, maybe you will develop it as you teach your child. But, if you are not interested, don't start.

  • I am able to maintain control of my children in the home. This is extremely important. If you have difficulties in this area, get help first.

  • I am committed to work on a schedule and complete tasks as needed. Again, extremely important. Your schedule doesn't have to be like the school's or your neighbor's, but you do need a schedule and to be able to complete tasks.

  • I am willing to make the commitment to homeschool. Make it one year at a time, up until high school. After that, I recommend a four-year commitment. It is difficult to get a homeschooled child back into public school.

  • If I have a high school student, my high school student wants to homeschool. High school is not the time to pull your child out of school if your child is not in agreement. Too much depends on his/her motivation.

Homeschooling is a wonderful alternative for many families and its success has become well documented. However, it is NOT a miracle worker. It does not guarantee that your child will graduate early, get a full scholarship to college, obtain a super job, or become someone famous. None of us are perfect. As parents, we're not perfect teachers. Our children are not perfect students. But with the right motivation, a good plan of study, and a commitment to persevere, homeschooling can be a good solution for many people. If homeschooling is not for your family, look into alternatives such as switching schools, private schools, tutors, or online learning.

Recommended Reading: 16 Greatest Mistakes Homeschool Moms Make.

*Sources of information for Homeschool Timeline:
1. The Right Choice by Christopher J. Klicka.
2. The American School 1642-1985 by Joel Spring. 1986 by Longman Inc.
3. Can’t Buy Success by Marvin Olasky, World Magazine, May/June 2001. Pgs. 7-14.
4. Our Schools in War Time and After by Arthur D. Dean. 1918 by Ginn and Company.
5. The Special Educator's Book of Lists by Roger Pierangelo, Ph.D. 2003 by John Wiley & Sons. pgs. 2-22.

Go to Getting Started in Homeschooling

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Copyright © 2004 - by Cindy Downes