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The Complete Idiot's Guide to Homeschooling

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"The Complete Idiot's Guide to Homeschooling" is a step-by-step manual written for the new and inexperienced homeschooler. The explanations, resources, and recommendations apply to families homeschooling for a wide variety of reasons and to families who "afterschool" their children. If you find yourself teaching subjects you know little about, undecided about what curriculum to choose, or concerned that your children may miss out on band, drama, or sports, this guide provides practical advice from an author who has homeschooled four children.

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"The Complete Idiot's Guide to Homeschooling" is a step-by-step manual written for the new and inexperienced homeschooler. The explanations, resources, and recommendations apply to families homeschooling for a wide variety of reasons and to families who "afterschool" their children. If you find yourself teaching subjects you know little about, undecided about what curriculum to choose, or concerned that your children may miss out on band, drama, or sports, this guide provides practical advice from an author who has homeschooled four children.

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Editorial Reviews

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This guide is indispensable for any parent who wishes to educate their children in their own home. It tackles the legal elements of homeschooling, guides readers in developing a homeschooling philosophy and approach specific to their needs, provides numerous resources for new homeschoolers as well as their students, and outlines a curriculum for every age group. By focusing on the overall benefit to the child throughout, this book will help readers keep their ultimate goal in sight at all times: providing the best possible education.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780028639895
  • Publisher: Alpha Books
  • Publication date: 2/16/2001
  • Series: Complete Idiot's Guide Series
  • Pages: 408
  • Product dimensions: 7.37 (w) x 9.13 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author

Marsha Ransom, mother of 4 children and freelance writer, has been homeschooling for 12 years. Over the years, she has homeschooled all grades, K through 12. Residing with her husband, Dwight, and children in southwest Michigan, she enjoys reading, cooking, walking on the beach, and downhill skiing. She has been published in a variety of publications, as well as online, and is a field editor for Taste of Home Magazine.

Marsha is actively involved with her local homeschool support group. She served on the planning committee for their homeschool cooperative, where she teaches creative writing and coordinates field trips. She also speaks at homeschool conferences and curriculum fairs, providing support, information, and encouragement. Marsha is always available as a resource person for new homeschoolers, and is a state liaison person for the National Home Education Network, helping homeschoolers find local support in her state. She has compiled an extensive file of helpful Web sites, and enjoys linking homeschoolers with information via e-mail lists, bulletin boards, and Web sites.

After her son Ryan, an automotive student at the county technology center, became the first to be placed in a dealership through the Automotive-Youth Education Services (AYES) program, both were invited to become members of the center's AYES Advisory Board and the center's National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation, Inc. (NATEF) recertification board. As homeschooling parent and student, they brought a unique perspective to discussions of new policies. Ryan is now an instructor in the automotive technology program at the center, and Marsha is a member of a subcommittee of the AYES Advisory Board which interviews and selects candidates for AYES placement.

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Table of Contents


1. What Is Homeschooling?

The Good Old Days: Homeschooling's Humble Beginnings. Homeschooling in the Last Century. Is There an Easy Definition?

Homeschool, Home Education, and Home-Based Learning. Unschooling? What's That? What Does Deschooling Mean? The Bottom Line.

Why Homeschool? What's in It for You?

We Never Settle Down. Learning Just Isn't Happening. Religious Reasons. Dangerous School Environments. Closer Families. The S Word. Money: The Bottom Line.

Defining Your Goal.

I Want to Homeschool, but I Can't Right Now. I Want to Homeschool, but Where Do I Start? One Size Doesn't Fit All: Why Every Homeschool Is Unique.

2. Homeschooling Facts and Figures.

How Many Homeschoolers Are There, Really?

According to the NHERI. What the HSLDA Says. Other Studies over the Years. Why These Numbers Are Just Guesstimates.

How the Numbers Have Grown. Famous Homeschoolers: Past and Present. Well-Known Homeschooling Speakers and Authors.

David and Mary Colfax: Homeschooling Pioneers. David Guterson: The “Why Homeschool?” Advocate. Raymond and Dorothy Moore: The Grandparents of Homeschooling. John Taylor Gatto: 1991 New York State Teacher of the Year. Cathy Duffy: Flexible, Creative, Eclectic Curriculum Designer. Grace Llewellyn: “Rise Out” Advocate Extraordinaire. Cafi Cohen: The “You-Can-Do-It” Guru of College Admissions. Patrick Farenga: President of Holt Associates.

3. Quick Answers to Beginners' Questions.

What About Socialization?

Getting Along with Others. Will My Child Get to Go to the Prom?

Don't I Need Credentials to Homeschool My Kids? How Can We Afford This?

Shifting Your Priorities. More for Less.

What About Team Sports?

Some States Have Homeschool Access. Why Most Homeschoolers Aren't Begging to Participate in Team Sports. Intramural Sports Teams/Private School Teams. Homeschool Sports Teams. Alternatives: Skiing, Skating, Martial Arts.

How Can I Tell If My Kids Are Learning? How Can I Teach Subjects I Don't Understand? Can I Homeschool Part-Time? Should I Give Grades? How Can My Child Get into College Without a High School Diploma?


4. Getting Legal: Alternatives to Compulsory Attendance.

Homeschooling and Your Rights.

Yes, in Every State and Province. Not All Laws Are Created Equal.

How Do I Know What the Laws Are in My State?

Where to Go for Advice. Obtain and Read the Statutes for Yourself. Speak with Knowledgeable Home Educators.

Evaluating the Research.

Exactly What Do I Have to Do? Give Officials Only What They Ask For.

Complying with State Regulations.

Curriculum Requirements. Reports. Evaluations. Testing.

5. Approaches to Home Education.

What's Your Educational Philosophy? An Overview of Homeschooling Approaches.

School-at-Home: The Traditional Approach. Unit Studies: Concentrating on a Theme. The Living Books Approach: Twaddle-Free Learning. Unschooling: Interest-Oriented, Real-Life Learning. Other Approaches: Classical, Waldorf, Montessori, and Eclectic.

You Don't Have to Do It Alone!

Support Schools. Part-Time School Attendance. Tutors, Mentors, and Apprenticeships.

6. Finding Support.

What's an Umbrella School? Would an Independent Study School Be Helpful? Checking Out Local Support Groups.

How Do I Find One? Will It Fit My Educational Philosophy? Does It Offer Cooperative Classes?

National Support Organizations. State Support Organizations. Other Resources You Can Turn to for Support.

Magazines and Periodicals. Books. Vendors. Newsletters. Homeschool Conferences and Curriculum Fairs.

Online Support.

Bulletin Boards. Chats. Web Sites. Online Vendors.


7. So Much to Choose From.

Finding Out What Suits Your Family.

Your Family's Worldview. Rethinking Your Educational Philosophy.

Evaluating Materials.

Learning Styles: How Do Your Children (and You) Learn? Your Child's Emerging Personality. Becoming Aware of Interests and Goals. Stretching the Family Budget. What If These Materials Don't Work Out?

8. Sixth Grade in a Box: Using a Full-Service Program.

Full-Service Programs from A to Z.

Correspondence Schools. Independent Study Programs. Home-Based Education Programs. Online Programs. Multimedia: Video and CD-ROM. Texts, Worksheets, and Record Keeping. Will We Have Time to Do Hands-On Projects?

How Can I Tell If This Program Will Work for Us?

Your Family's Worldview. Your Maturing Educational Philosophy. Considering Learning Style and Strengths. Interests and Goals. The Bottom Line: Dollars and Sense. What If We Don't Like the Program?

The Pros and Cons of Using a Full-Service Program.

9. Out of the Box: Planning Your Own Curriculum.

Using One or Several Scope and Sequences as Models.

Scoping Out a Scope and Sequence. Who Learns What When? Finding a Scope and Sequence.

Can I Write My Own Scope and Sequence?

Start with Your Kids. What Are My Kids' Interests? Your Goals and Priorities.

Where Do I Find Resources? Real Life as the Curriculum.

Translating Real-Life Experience into Educationese. Compliance with State Homeschool Requirements. Covering All the Subjects. Finding Resources Within Your Community.


10. Learning at Home with Three- to Five-Year-Olds.

You Are Your Child's First Teacher. Please Read to Me. Using a Purchased Curriculum.

Preschool-at-Home: The Traditional Approach. Using the Unit Study Method.

Creating Your Own Curriculum.

Hands-On Projects. Arts and Crafts. Pretend Play.

The Real-Life Approach. Eclectic Preschool.

Purchasing Select Materials. Using the Community as a Resource. Playgroup.

Organizing a Cooperative Preschool. Hand-Me-Down Education.

Learning from Older Siblings. Learning by Doing: Being a Helper.

11. Homeschooling Six- to Eight-Year-Olds.

Start with the Basics.

Reading Out Loud Is Fundamental. Reading Instruction: Make It Fun and Nonthreatening. Writing: Parent as Scribe, Child as Artist. Let's Talk About Language: Narration. Arithmetic: Hands-On Is Important. Science: Natural Is Best. Responsibility/Accountability: Helping Out at Home.

Using a Purchased Curriculum.

School-at-Home: the Traditional Approach. Using the Unit Study Method. Living Books.

Creating Your Own Curriculum.

Hands-On Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmetic. Involve Kids in Making Learning Materials. Imaginative Play Counts!

Avoid Comparisons: Some Learners Blossom Later! Keep Lessons Short and Sweet.

12. Homeschooling Nine- to Twelve-Year-Olds.

Accentuating the Positive and Alleviating the Negative.

Advantages for Your Child. Advantages for You and Your Family.

Involve This Age Group in Curriculum Planning. Building on the Basics.

Language Arts: Letters to the Editor. Math: Graph Allowance or Earnings. Science: Experiments and Bug Collections. Responsibility and Accountability: Daily/Weekly Chores.

Selecting a Curriculum.

School-at-Home. Unit Studies. Living Books. Unschooling. An Eclectic Program.

Designing Your Own Curriculum.

Keeping Your Goals in Mind. Focus on Strengths. Find Fun Ways to Work on Weaker Areas. Use the Community as a Resource.

13. Teenagers in the Homeschool.

What's Your Goal?

The College Question. College Requirements. Alternatives to College.

Analyzing Diploma Programs.

Do You Need One? Checking Out Other Options.

Do-It-Yourself Academics.

Attacking Difficult Subjects. Preparing the Homeschooled Teen for College. Mentorships, Apprenticeships, and On-the-Job Training.

College Admissions. Preparation for the World of Work. The Socialization Question.

Community Service. Sports. The Prom. Graduation.

14. Homeschooling Kids with Special Needs.

How Homeschooling Can Help Your Child with Special Needs. Focusing on Your Child's Special Needs.

Seek Out Others in Similar Situations. Support Groups for Special Needs. Homeschool Support Groups. Consider Community Resources.

Where Else Can I Find Support?

Newsletters and Magazines. Books. Online.

Umbrella Schools That Offer Special-Needs Support. Design Your Own Learning Program. Honor Differences and Focus on the Positive.


15. Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3.

To Test or Not to Test? That Is the Question.

What the Studies Show. Why Is So Much Emphasis Put on Test Results?

Assessing Your Child's Learning.

Should You Test Your Child? Some Do, Some Don't, and Why.

Standardized Testing.

How Can I Prepare My Child? Reasons to Use Standardized Tests.

College Entrance Testing.

Do Entrance Exam Scores Tell the Whole Story? Alternatives to Entrance Exams.

16. Other Assessments for Measuring Progress.

Projects: A Real Learning Experience. Discussions: Open Communication Is the Key. Awards: Proof Positive of Achievement. Journals: A Barometer of Progress.

Kids' Thoughts and Memories. Teens' Journals for Record-Keeping Purposes.

Evaluation: Looking at Learning from All Angles.

Determining Grades for Nontraditional Learners. A Little Self-Analysis. What Does Your Child's Mentor Think?

Portfolios: Whatever You Want to Present.

Take a Scrapbooking Class for Inspiration. What a Memento! Perfect for College Interviews.

Letters of Recommendation.

17. Keeping Records.

Where Do I Start?

K.I.S.S.-Keep It Simple, Sweetie! I'm a Piler, Not a Filer!

What Should You Include in Your Records?

Keeping Outside Records.

Umbrella School Records. Independent Study School Records. Government Agency Records.

Purchased Record-Keeping Systems. Do-It-Yourself Record Keeping.

Calendar Records and Cardboard Box Files. Creating Units and Credits. Folders by Activity, Student, or Subject. Record Keeping Using Journals and Portfolios.


18. Getting a Grip: Keeping Burnout at Bay.

Scheduling Your Day: Learning to Go with the Flow.

Teaming Up to Tackle Cleaning and Other Chores. Tracking Academic/Text Work. Integrating Activities: Maximizing Learning Time.

Organization 101: Organizing Your Home.

Dejunk. Keep Materials Accessible.

Rich Educational Environments.

What's Cooking in the Kitchen? Gearing Up in the Garage or Workshop. How Does Your Garden (or Yard) Grow?

Turning Life's Surprises into Learning Experiences. Visitors: Capitalize on Natural Socialization.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade!

Home-Based Business: Life Is a Great Teacher. Model Lifelong Learning for Your Children.

Share Your Hobby with Your Child. Reading and Using the Library. Take Care of Yourself First. Community Service.

19. Self-Directed Learning: The Key to Motivation.

The Essence of Self-Directed Learning. Vignettes of Home-Educated Kids Today. Fostering Independent Learning.

Techniques That Work. Materials That Encourage Independence.

Kids Can Learn to Find Their Own Resources.

Getting Acquainted with the Library. Finding Tutors, Mentors, and Teachers in the Community. Using the Internet Constructively. Offering Your Children Choices.

Getting Credit for Life Experiences.

20. Dealing with Doubts.

Are We Doing What We're Supposed to Be Doing?

Scope and Sequence Critique. Eye the Competition.

Success Stories

Talk to Other Homeschoolers. Where Were You This Time Last Year?

Read Your Records.

Focus on the Donut, Not the Hole! Determine What Needs to Change.

Realize That Self-Doubt Goes with the Program.

You're Learning, Too! Relearning Takes Time.

Talk About Your Doubts with People Who Understand.

Seasoned Homeschoolers. Supportive Friends. Understanding Relatives. Sharing Success Stories Helps You, Too!

21. Involvement in the Homeschooling Community

Getting the Most from an Existing Support Group.

Organizing a Group Project. Getting Other Parents Involved Lifting a Group Out of the Doldrums. Starting a Newsletter/Phone Chain. Parents' Night Out. Daytime Playgroups/Activities. Organizing Field Trips.

Starting a New Group.

How to Let People Know. Getting Your First Meeting off the Ground. Scheduling Activities.

Starting a Homeschool Cooperative.

Getting the Word Out. Planning Meetings. Setting the Ground Rules. Who Teaches What, When, and Where? Good Record Keeping Is a Must. Volunteer Work Can Be Bartered for Services.

A More Relaxed Approach. Reaching Beyond Your Area.

Contact Other Support Groups. Plan Larger Field Trips with Several Groups. Collaborate on Bringing in Speakers and Fundraising.

22. Cyber Learning.

Mining the Internet.

What's There for Me? Searching the Web Effectively. Friendly Online Communities.

Creating Internet Lesson Plans.

What Do You Want to Learn? Finding Online Scope and Sequences.

Creating Internet Unit Studies.

Pick Your Theme. Don't Reinvent the Wheel. List Your Subject Areas. Do a Search.

Cyber Schools.

Elementary and Middle School. High School. College.


Appendix A. Glossary.

Appendix B. Curriculum Winners and Selected Resources, Including Dynamite.

Web Sites.

Appendix C. Homeschooling Support Organizations.

Appendix D. Independent Study Programs and Support Schools, Publications, and Vendors.

Appendix E. Bibliography.


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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2002

    Not as good as I was hoping

    By the time I received this book, I had already done all my research from the internet. This book is really very basic. It's helpful for the ULTIMATE beginner to homeschooling. But for anyone who knows anything beyond the mere basics, I wouldn't really recommend it.

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