New to Homeschooling
For those new to homeschooling, the process can be overwhelming. On this page, you will find a few introductory ideas and videos about homeschooling and education, D.C. services for homeschoolers, and some thoughts on curriculum to get you started. Remember, no two families homeschool the same way, and that's o.k.!
Why do families choose to homeschool?
There are a variety of reasons, including but not limited to:
-The family feels like homeschooling provides an exceptional education and social outlet.
-Kids have time to pursue their passions.
-The local school may be unable/unwilling to meet the needs of gifted students or students with learning
-Some families feel like schools are too rigid, give too much homework, and rely too heavily on testing.
-One parent travels a lot for work, and the family would like to travel together to have family time.
-A child may have a medical condition that prohibits them from attending traditional school.
-Social interactions at school may include bullying and other problematic behaviors.
-Children may experience racism, sexism, homophobia, or transphobia in their schools from other students, teachers,
or staff. Parents might also be frustrated with a lack of diversity and representation in the school curriculum.
-Families want more time for activities like art, music, and physical education, which are declining in some schools.
Do all families homeschool the same way?
Not at all. Each family is unique and is following an individual educational journey. Some families have a relaxed approached, going with what works, some write their own curriculum, some use only scripted curriculum, some use a mixture of different approaches, etc. Most families take some time before they figure out what works for them, and that can (and usually does) change as the kids get older. What works for one family might not work for another, and what works for one child might not work for their sibling. In addition, different families will have different goals. While it is important that all kids have a strong education in the basic subjects, they will have different passions that will take them on unique paths, and homeschooling can provide kids the freedom to pursue their individual interests.
How do parents teach their kids everything they need to know?
In the DMV area, homeschoolers are instructed by their city/state as to what subjects they need to cover with their children. Parents can choose to:
-Purchase curriculum for different subjects.
-Write their own curriculum.
-Enroll their children in local homeschool classes.
-Enroll their children in online classes.
-Help each other out by teaching each others' kids subjects they are proficient in.
Should I enroll my child in a full time, online school?
Each family's needs are different. For some families, having the structure of an online school gives them the feeling of security, and they do not have to search through curriculum websites, trying to sort out what is the best curriculum for each subject. Another benefit of these programs is that some of them may be accredited, which could be helpful (or not) for High Schoolers when applying to colleges. For others, these online schools are too rigid, and they require a lot of time at home, working, which can be isolating and leave little time for group activities and personal interests. Another drawback of a full time program is that if there is a part of the program you do not like, you may not be able to deviate from it, which is a reason many families homeschool in the first place. There is no right or wrong answer--whatever works for your family is best. And remember, with homeschooling, you have flexibility--if something isn't working, you can always change it up and go in another direction.
How do I choose a curriculum?
You can consult other homeschool parents and read reviews of curriculum online to get an idea of what might be useful. Also, if you are on any homeschool listserves, you can ask around if anyone has curriculum they are selling. Buying used curriculum can save you a lot of money, and you can thumb through it before purchasing it. Here is one website that reviews curriculum: https://cathyduffyreviews.com/#.
I want to keep my child on track with common core standards; how do I do that?
There are two main ways:
1. Choose curriculum that is designed to meet common core standards. Their program description will indicate that they do so, and how. You can always call the company to ask for more details if you are unsure.
2. Check the common core standards and make sure that whatever curriculum you are using meets the standards. You can find the common core standards here.
I want to create my own curriculum; am I allowed to do that?
Every state has it's own regulations about curriculum, but it is fairly common for homeschoolers to create, in varying degrees, their curriculum.
How do I keep a portfolio?
If your state requires you to keep a portfolio, you can inquire with your local Office of the State Superintendent of Education to find out your exact requirements. Here is a simple way to start:
-Keep a binder, separated by each subject you are required to record.
-Put worksheets, certificates, drawings, and lesson plans in your binder as they are finished.
-You do not need to put everything your child does into the binder. Most states want to see samples; make sure you
know what your state requires for submission.
-Put dates on the work.
-If you attend an educational program, event, workshop, or show, and you have a ticket stub, put that in your binder as
-Keep logs: books read, music practiced, hours spent doing physical education, etc.
-Take pictures and make a collage of educational activities your child has participated in.
What is a homeschool umbrella group?
Homeschool umbrella groups are organizations that help monitor a homeschooler's progress and help parents adhere to their state's regulations for homeschooling in lieu of state reviews. D.C. and Virginia do not have umbrella groups, but Maryland has several. Some parents report satisfaction with umbrella groups because they find it less intimidating than dealing with state reviews. Other parents may not want to pay the fees associated with an umbrella group, they may not want to be affiliated with a religious organization (most of the umbrella groups are religious), and many parents find the review process by the state to be easy and helpful.
If I am not testing my child, how do I know what they know?
Because you are your child's primary teacher, you will be able to assess what your child knows as they go along in their lessons. Schools rely on testing because one teacher in a class of thirty cannot assess every child in every lesson. In homeschooling, because instruction is individualized, there is more opportunity for immediate assessment and feedback.
If a parent feels like they need to administer tests in order to make assessments, they can always do so. Parents can write their own tests, use worksheets, or inquire about standardized testing from their state.
If I decide to send my child to school, how will they know what level my child is on?
If your child is going into high school or lower grades, the school will most likely test them. They may also ask for samples of work; if you are keeping a portfolio, then you already have that.
My child has special needs--can I receive services through the public school system?
Some states will provide services for homeschooled children; you can check federal and state regulations here.
What happens when my child applies for college? Don't they need transcripts/report cards?
You can make transcripts/report cards from templates that you find online. There are also professional services you can use to help you put together your child's transcript. Colleges know that homeschoolers do not always have the same kind of record keeping, and they may ask for copies of some of your portfolio materials, letters of recommendation, and, in some cases, a GED certification. And homeschoolers can take the SAT or ACT just like any other student.
Some High School aged homeschoolers also enroll in local colleges for a few of their classes (called dual enrollment). If the student does well, this is also an indication to that they are ready for college.
*These days, most colleges and universities are familiar with homeschooled students, and many welcome these students
without asking them to jump through extra hoops, like requiring a GED. Homeschooled students often present as mature,
well rounded, and intellectually astute, and many colleges and universities are excited to have these students.
How will my child prepare for the SAT or ACT?
High Schoolers who attend traditional school who want to do SAT or ACT preparation often attend prep classes. Homeschoolers have those same classes available to them.
Am I eligible for an educator's library card?
In D.C., homeschoolers are eligible for an educator's library card. For the benefits and application process, click here.
Does my child qualify for a DC One Card?
If you are a D.C. resident, yes! To get your DC One Card:
-Go to any DC One Card service center. They are listed here.
-You will need to bring a copy of your OSSE confirmation letter proving you are a homeschooler.
-Register and manage your DC One Card online here.
-Once registered, your account should indicate that your child's card is eligible for use as a library card for D.C. libraries and as a valid I.D. for the Department of Parks and Recreation.
-Click here for the DC One Card FAQs.
Does my child qualify for the D.C. Kids Ride Free program?
If you are a D.C. resident, yes! Please visit the transit website here for information.
How do I register my intent to homeschool in my city/state?
Each family is individually responsible for notifying the proper city/state agencies of their intent to homeschool their child and for abiding by their city/state regulations for homeschooling. Below are some links that may be helpful for homeschoolers in DMV area:
Office of the State Superintendent of Education of D.C.
Centralized IEP Support Unit Referrals (D.C.)
Maryland State Department of Education
Virginia Department of Education