An estimated 32,000 students are home schooled in Arizona. The reasons for home schooling are as varied as the students themselves and range from health issues to religious beliefs to travel schedules to academic considerations.
Still, myths and misinformation about this alternative to traditional schooling abound. Here are 10 things you may not know:
1. Home school is different from online school. Online schooling is a virtual public school that takes place at home. The curriculum is chosen by the state, and students must work at a predetermined pace, meet benchmarks and pass standardized tests. A certified teacher oversees the records and progress of each student. Home-schooled students have much more flexibility when it comes to curriculum and testing, but finding curriculum and monitoring progress falls to the parent(s).
2. Standardized tests are not required. Participation in state standardized testing is optional for home-schooled students. If a child wishes to return to a regular public classroom setting, he or she will be tested to determine the appropriate grade-level placement.
3. Home-schoolers may be eligible to attend public schools for part of the day and can participate in extracurricular activities. Parents who are interested in having their home-schooled child attend public school for particular classes should contact their school-district office to understand their policies on accepting home-schooled students. As far as interscholastic activities, students who reside within the attendance area of a public school are allowed to try out in the same manner as a pupil enrolled in that public school.
4. Prestigious universities accept home-schooled students. Not only do home-schoolers get accepted into highly competitive universities, these students sometimes have an advantage over traditionally schooled applicants because they can take highly challenging coursework, such as Advanced Placement and dual enrollment, while taking advantage of the flexibility afforded by home schooling to develop special areas of talent or interest. One thing to consider when choosing to home school a high-school student is that transcripts will have to be provided to colleges. This means that parents need to be vigilant about recordkeeping, curriculum and testing.
5. Home-schooling requirements vary by county. Parents should contact their county office of education to determine the requirements. Statewide, every child 6 through 16 is required to receive instruction in at least reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science.
6. Registering for home schooling is easy. An affidavit of intent must filed within 30 days from the time the child begins to attend a home school. A certified birth certificate and other legal documents may be required. Information on how and where to file the required paperwork can be found on at the Arizona Families for Home Education website.
7. Support networks are available. Home-school support groups provide opportunities for home-schooling families to interact through educational and social activities, including field trips, park days, art classes, P.E., curriculum exchanges and co-ops.
8. Socialization is part of home schooling. Students who are home schooled have many opportunities for socialization through support groups, extracurricular activities and extra time with family and friends. One of the points that home-schooling families often make is that their children are socialized for the real world by being a part of the (all ages) real world rather than spending the majority of their time in an age-segregated classroom.
9. Curriculum choices are wide-ranging. Parents who home school are in a unique position to choose curricula based on their child’s learning style and interests. They also can try different curricula and approaches until they find the one that matches their student’s needs.
10. Home schooling is a lifestyle choice. Many families who decide to home school do not make it through the first year. To home school a child is a big commitment requiring organization, dedication and patience. But home schooling also affords families the freedom to make choices for their family, such as how they will spend their days and what values they will instill.