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Volume 3 Issue 7

How Do I Teach My Child What I Don't Know?

by Bonnie Burns, Managing Editor, Home Study International

One of the two facts I remember about my high school physics course is you cannot get suction out of a 32-foot straw. (The other fact I'll leave for another time.) Like most people, much of what I learned in high school has settled into the dark recesses of my mind, only peeking out now and then.

It's no wonder that parents, separated by years from their own K-12 experience, have many questions and sometimes even fears when faced with the challenge of homeschooling their children. I might not know much about the laws of thermodynamics, but I do know that it doesn't take an Albert Einstein to educate children at home. But you do need love, time, patience, and good resources.

Parents have three basic choices in setting up a homeschool: (1) use curriculum that you personally gather from hither and yon, (2) use a curriculum provider, (3) use a combination of hither and yon and a curriculum provider.

As the managing editor of Home Study International, a homeschool curriculum provider, I am intimately acquainted with services offered by our school and others like us. Home Study International, like many other providers, offers a complete curriculum from kindergarten through high school. Just like most public and private schools, homeschool providers begin with the core curriculum (the basic, essential knowledge and skills)-language arts (English), reading, math, social studies, and science. For the elementary grades, handwriting and spelling are also considered essential parts of the curriculum. But we're more than just curriculum providers-that sounds so cold and formal. HSI has already created the daily lesson plan-the plan that divides a textbook into tiny (daily) morsels, which we call our parent's guide or study guide. Our plans tend to sooth parents because we provide the teaching on paper. This means the parent has instructions to give instruction, which means no frustration in pulling materials together to teach long division. We are the warm arm, the "mother" for mothers.

Some curriculum providers require that you order an entire grade. At Home Study International, we allow parents to order one subject or an entire grade. HSI also offers an accredited plan, which means a qualified HSI teacher will grade the student's tests, or a non-accredited plan (for K-8), which means the tests are not graded by HSI but by the parent at home. Parents can supplement, if they feel it is necessary. It is crucial that children are well grounded in the core curriculum because these are the courses that provide the building blocks for all learning.

Homeschooling parents are often worried about how to teach their children, especially how to read; this concern is well-founded because reading is such an essential life skill. For those parents unsure of their abilities to teach the basic skills, curriculum providers offer complete programs that are usually built upon two components-a textbook and an instructional guide. Typically, the textbook is produced by a group of teachers and editors working under contract with a publishing house. The curriculum provider may have already chosen one for students and parents to use or may furnish parents with a short list of possible textbooks for them to choose from.

However, a textbook is only part of an educational package. What do you do with the textbook? That question, and more, is answered by the instructional guide. This guide (HSI calls a parent or study guide as mentioned before) divides the course (and textbook) into manageable instructional units, identifies clear objectives, provides daily lesson plans and activities, and sets up performance evaluations and testing periods. The instructional guide, usually developed by the curriculum provider, is really the heart of any course and the parent's best friend. By following its lead, parents can rest assured that they have fulfilled the requirements for that course. The best instructional guides also allow for parents to adapt and supplement to meet individual needs.

Homeschooling in high school may present more serious problems for many parents because of the demands that high school subjects such as chemistry, geometry, European history, and Spanish may put on parents. After all, when was the last time you used the Pythagorean theorem? HSI offers a state-approved, accredited program. This means qualified teachers grade the student's assignments, and the student receives a report card at the end of each course. Student textbooks and study guides outline and explain daily work. Most of our courses are two-semester courses with assignments sent to HSI once a week-that means no more than 18 assignments per semester.

HSI also provides an in-house advisory teacher that can be reached through e-mail, fax, or phone. He answers questions, calms nerves, advises, and provides almost everything except a visual presence.

At the high school level, students need a curriculum that will help prepare them for college. The increased emphasis on math and science makes it harder for parents to meet their students' needs in all areas. After all, even homeschooling students need to worry about SAT or ACT scores. HSI offers high school courses in business and secretarial, English, fine arts, health and home economics, history, foreign languages, mathematics, religion, and science. We are constantly revising and adding new courses. Within the past two years we have added physics, geography, and Spanish III to our offerings.

Remember that Home Study International and other curriculum providers are service organizations. They exist to help you. For example, at HSI we tell parents to pick and choose-courses only, or textbooks only, or workbooks, or parent's guides, or a complete grade. A curriculum provider can help parents fill in the instructional gaps for their children. For instance, if you have a strong math background, let your child have the benefit of your expertise, but don't feel badly if you have to look to a curriculum provider for English or history.

Home Study International exists to serve you and make your homeschooling experience a delight. Ask for our K-12 catalog or our college catalog. Call us at 1-800-782-4769, visit our web site at , or write us at Home Study International, 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, MD 20904-6600.

By the way, in case you forgot, Grant Wood is an artist who painted American Gothic.

Copyright © 2006 Modern Media