With liberty comes responsibility...

The Heart of Homeschoolers on an Equivalent Education

by | Dec 6, 2016

Home educators choose this method of education because they want MORE for their children, not less, and they are deliberate about educating their children well. We’ve asked homeschoolers in the IAHE Homeschool Discussion group how they would prove they are providing an equivalent education as required by Indiana law.

With liberty comes responsibility. Here are practical ways that Indiana homeschoolers enjoy the flexibility of providing an “equivalent education.”

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To me, providing an equivalent education means that over the course of a school year (approximately 180 days of instruction) I’m teaching, instilling in and otherwise imparting to my children knowledge equal to or better than what they’d receive at a public institution. I’m equipping my child(ren) with the tools, knowledge and skills, appropriate for their age, they will need to become a contributing member of society once they reach adulthood and if they should choose to attend university the knowledge required to be able to gain admittance to an accredited college or university.

I would just show a test booklet from math, stacks of library books we are reading for history, handwriting books, and grammar book, etc. Evidence of their education is lying all around our house. They can both read above level.

We homeschool not to shelter our children from the world or to spit in the face of those who’ve chosen the noble profession of teaching. It is our belief the modern education system is failing, and we would be failing our children to trust in it. In the end, who answers to them for these failings? It isn’t the local school…it’s us-the parents!

My child is six-years-old; I am educating him in reading, writing, math, history (medieval to WWII), English grammar, Latin, geography, poetry memorization, public speaking, and science. In addition, he is learning practical things such as gardening, cooking, household tasks, and how to budget money. For six, I believe that far surpasses “equivalent” to our local public school three blocks away.

Honestly, I don’t want my child to have an education equivalent to public school. I want it to be better. I would probably be more apt to point out what children in public schools aren’t learning and give my reasons why I think they should be learning those things and then talk about the things we do to make sure that my child is learning those things.

I could write a tome on this, but in the simplest terms, I would say that I am giving my children an equivalent education by ensuring that they are prepared for the collegiate environment. I provide a true college prep program. I don’t care for “equivalent” to be defined in that way necessarily, but that would be the easiest way to defend myself, especially now that I have a graduate who was accepted into Purdue’s Engineering Program.

An equivalent education is one that gives my child the tools to be a self-sufficient, well-adjusted, capable, caring person in their community. I would argue that this is the same educational goal schools (say they) have, but a homeschooling parent is BY FAR more adept at accomplishing it simply due to the situation homeschool provides. We are able to work one on one with our child, know their strengths and weaknesses better than anyone else in the world, and therefore can better facilitate the resources needed to help them reach this goal.

Academically, we do reading, writing, language arts, Bible, math and a combo of social studies/science daily. We have gym and art once a week. Our curriculum is solid, and they would be welcome to look through any and all curriculum we are using as well as my daily lesson plans.

Socially, we are in 2 co-ops, church, involved in homeschooling field trips, and play outside with the neighbor kids. I keep a record of most of these activities.

We also practice a lot of real world application, cooking, cleaning, time management, service to others, earning wages. Again, most of this goes along without curriculum, and they would be welcome to look at my lesson plans/curriculum.

I also keep all assessments, which are accessible at any time.

It must remain undefined for parents to maintain control. If forced to defend our home education, I would probably list all the usual subjects we do, but also list all the extra subjects we study, the customizing we are able to do to fit our student’s needs, and also the fact that we aren’t limited to one grade level. We can work ahead on some subjects, and we can spend extra time on whatever concepts need extra time.

It is insulting to think that parents only provide their children an “equivalent” education to that of the government. Parents provide their children with an education that is full of love, care, and attention that could NEVER be equivalent to any other setting-it is far superior. There is no one who is more invested in the success of a child’s education than his or her parents. Therefore, parents who choose to homeschool are investing their time and talents far more deeply into their children than any other educational practitioner could. I say this as a former public school teacher. As much as I invested in my students, I could never invest in them what I am able to do for my children at home. The whole problem with this question of “equivalent” education is presupposing that somehow home educators are only striving to give their children the same education like that provided by the government-when in reality, our goal is to provide a far superior educational experience. The question should be-“What could public education do to emulate the magnificent education provided by homeschool parents?”

At home, we are diligent in teaching our children age-appropriate Arithmetic, Phonics, and Reading. Beyond that, we enrich our time together with historical facts ranging from the beginning of time through current events, world geography, and elements of the English language. We also institute the fundamentals of learning language and understanding many of our legal and scientific words through the use of Latin.

We employ a variety of learning methods to reach each of our children-all very different in their learning styles. For our daughter who is advanced in reading and arithmetic, we encourage reading books above her grade level (she’s in second-grade). She enjoys books about Robinson Crusoe, biomes, and endangered species. Of course, she enjoys books about Ramona in her non-educational time. She enjoys math and is gifted. She’s currently at the third-grade level and is enjoying learning about fractions, number lines, etc. Our middle child, also a girl, is very kinesthetic. For her, we utilize manipulatives during her math lessons. During reading and enrichment activities we use American Sign Language allowing her neural circuitry to make the connections in the way she needs. Our littlest learning, a 5-year-old boy, is left handed and learning how to in more control of his fine motor skills through copy work. He’s working diligently to learn to write. During math time he weighs objects on a scale, stacks linking cubes, enjoys tangrams, or works on writing his numbers. During phonics time, we work on his speech (he’s receiving speech therapy services), works on See and Spell cards, and writes words such as “house,” “chair,” “boy,” etc. He’s an auditory learner and is quick to pick up on a song and takes great joy in sharing it. He’s quite the performer. For all of our children, we introduce our history, geography, English, Latin, math, Bible, and science grammar work through song or chant along with ASL hand motions and visual presentation by writing our grammar work on a chalkboard.

All of our children practice handwriting each day-the girls, cursive, and our son, printing. We choose to teach our children cursive writing for two reasons. First, research indicates executive function is tied to the motor and neural processes involved in the practice of handwriting. Second, our founding documents are written in cursive. Our children will not know which freedoms are being taken from them if they are unable to read these essential documents.

Weekly, they give presentations before their peers to practice and hone the skills of public speaking. They spend the week preparing their presentation, deliver it, and ask for questions from the group.

Our children (ages 5, 6, and 7) can hold a discussion about William the Conqueror, what you’d expect to see in a tundra, what deciduous forests are and why, basic geometry facts, Copernicus, or even talk to you about their favorite artist and how we imitated their work at home. Is this equivalent to a public school education in pre-K, first-grade, or second-grade? No. It far exceeds it.

Through all of it, our goal is to ensure our children master these concepts before we move on or assume they’ll either pick them up at a later time or simply be left in the dust. The teacher/student ratio in our classroom is 3:1. Their public school peers have a ratio of 1:20+. Our children have a much higher probability of mastering these basic concepts than their public and private school peers. This will, in turn, build a strong foundation for them and their future learning. We want them to be life-long, joyful, and capable learners not just for this short period of “educational” time in their lives but also for the remainder of their days.

When my son was two, I started planning his homeschooling. I wanted a good education for him. I graduated from an Indiana public school, and I learned very little. I was taught to study for a test where I regurgitated the answers I had crammed. No thinking, just studying for tests. I learned to think and critically synthesize information in college. I felt robbed of an education when in college looking back at high school. I was determined my children’s education would be different. As early elementary students, they would learn through play. In kindergarten through 3rd-grade, Science would be very important because they are so curious.

As I have walked the path now with three students in school, my children are learning much more than I ever dreamed they would, and they love to learn, create and explore. The passion my eight-year-old has for reading has him reading above two grade levels. My Kindergarten and second-grader last year blew me away during a conversation about what a seed was. The Kindergartener didn’t like my answer to her question of what is a seed when I said it’s a baby plant. Her 2nd-grade brother listed the parts of a plant cell for the answer, which seemed to be acceptable to her.

My children are learning math, English, reading, science, geography, history, Latin, art, and music, which might be equivalent to public school, but it might be at a different pace and it’s definitely a different learning style. My children are learning a great deal more than the children in public school simply because as their teacher, I have more time to teach them. I don’t have a standard test to teach toward, so I can feed their quest for knowledge about their backyard insects and animals. I can let them learn about drag and watch them create parachutes. I can teach them about water in its different forms and watch as they teach their three-year-old brother through Science experiments and demonstrations. The education I offer them just might be a bit better than equivalent.

When I consider my academic goals for my children’s education, if at all possible, I want to leave many doors open to them. I want them to be ready and able to pursue college, vocational, technical training, or the military.

(I say this with the disclaimer that I do not believe all options are on the table for all students, or that homeschooling should only be the province of families whose children are likely to be high achievers! I believe that homeschooling must remain a protected option for families whose children will never achieve college, the military, or possibly even other types of training. There are children with special needs who deserve and require a customized education in a safe, home environment, too. So I really am speaking for MY family when I say that these are my academic goals.)

So then if these are my goals, call it the “Ready for Anything” approach, I start by finding out what these various institutions require for admittance. What do colleges want to see, what do trade and vocational schools require, how hard is the ASVAB, etc.?

Knowing that, I begin to work backward to see what high school courses would be customary and beneficial. Then I take another step down into the logic/dialectic stage, or middle school, and see how to prepare children for high school. Next, I look another step down at elementary, to see how to prepare for the logic stage. Lastly, I look at toddlerhood and preschool, and learn that a good start is about so much more than books…readiness is not what we hear from the schools, but something more organic…(sorry, soapbox)…

Anyway, all of this consideration leads to a sort of Pre-K through 12 scope and sequence in my mind. I search for materials that will help ME teach my children through each of these stages, and I retain the big picture of what came before and what’s coming next.

Because I’m working toward similar end goals as the public schools (although I’m a million times more flexible, according to my children’s interests, strengths, and needs), I find that much of the same content is covered, although frequently in wildly different ways.

My fifth-graders study English grammar. My elementary students learn about Indiana history at some point. My high schoolers study chemistry, algebra, and economics…

This is an equivalent education in the sense that I cover at LEAST the fundamental purpose of most public school courses, and my children are at LEAST as well prepared for adult life as the students of any local school.

It will never be equivalent in that I facilitate other studies that the public schools do not even attempt or pretend to offer, such as biblical Greek, or world history at the elementary level. It will also never be equivalent in that I skip everything the public schools do that I count to be nonsense at best and harmful at worst!  My children, however, are here learning the basic subjects, for approximately 180 days per year, and they are ready for the world when they leave here. My students receive an equivalent education.

Now, could I prove it? Yes. I keep course descriptions and booklists for each child, every year. They create a portfolio of their best work. I can defend my scope and sequence, as well as my pedagogy because I have been considering all of these things for many years now.

Will I prove it? Not unless a judge requires! Two reasons:

  1. I want my children’s homeschool to stand according to the same requirements other young adults face – their transcript and SAT/ACT scores must be enough. (Plus WorkKeys for trade schools or whatever.) If I want my school to be seen as the private institution that it is, under law, I need to stand up for my rights to set the curriculum and oversee the implementation unless and until someone *with the authority to do so* orders me to defend it.
  2. I run a pretty good school, but I don’t want to let the authorities know what I do, nor how, because I honestly do fear being used against my fellow homeschoolers as some sort of standard against which all are measured. We can’t let that happen. Not when the unschoolers among us, the special needs learners, and all the other outliers REQUIRE freedom to be different from a school. This I believe.

We should all continue to give only what is required when it comes to information about how our homeschools’ operations are conducted. We should submit to the law but volunteer not one iota more than is required to protect our freedoms.