Homeschool families love what they do. They love the freedoms that are afforded to them. They love the fact that they can suit their homeschool program to fit their values and objectives, and they love the flexibility to do so on their schedule. However, there are some common traps that homeschool families need to be on the lookout for in order to ensure that they meet their goals with integrity, value, and purpose and that their students have an easy access to post-high school options. Several of these common traps can easily be avoided with a little attention to scheduling and accountability.
1 - Often, homeschool families try too hard to make themselves look like the local public school. They tend to run themselves from activity to activity and co-op class to co-op class in an attempt to fit the model that other schools have. Another similar symptom of this is in thinking that every subject must be taught from a text book with worksheets and posters to create. The trap of trying to look like a public school at home prevents many homeschoolers from utilizing fantastic resources and options that are available to them in on-line courses, block schedules, and modified daily routines. In the long run, trying to look like the local public school will dilute the freedoms that homeschoolers have just by virtue of choosing to homeschool.
2 - One of the biggest mistakes that homeschoolers make is to spend too much time on non-core subject activities with the hopes that their students will be noticed by competitive college recruiters for such teams and organizations as Debate, Football, Drama, or Choir and Band. When this happens, homeschool students are left with core academic deficiencies. Students become compromised in their academic foundations and find themselves unprepared for college work. Be sure that these activities are not the foundation of your homeschool program. Academics must take priority!
3 - Not taking standardized tests seriously is another mistake that homeschool families make in their homeschool programs. While some colleges will accept simple portfolios as proof of the work that a student does while in a homeschool setting, nothing speaks louder to the college admissions officers than a high score on an SAT or ACT test. Taking the time to prepare for these tests appropriately, and earning high scores while enjoying the flexibilities of homeschooling, will open many more doors to a homeschool student than not doing so.
4 - And finally, homeschool families often fall into the trap of thinking that they do not need to be accountable to anyone when they plan and implement their homeschool program. While each family should have the freedom to design their program to fit their unique goals and objectives, assuming that they are meeting the state standards, it is still always a good idea to have an accountability partner for your students. This can take several forms, some of which might be an outside adult who works with your student in a particular subject area and provides an objective assessment of their skills, or a homeschool coach who you check in with on a regular basis. Get feedback from others on how your homeschool program is doing and on any areas that need strengthening for your student's sake.
As a homeschool parent, it is easy to get lost in the freedoms that you have in doing school in this way. However, with freedom comes responsibility. Responsibility to your program, your children, and to the community around you in which homeschooling is still scrutinized. It is important to be a homeschool family with purpose, accountability, and planning. These core values will allow you to equip students with solid academic skills, and therefore train future leaders. No one intends to "water down" the academic foundation when they begin to homeschool, and statistics will show that most do not, but on occasion, it is good to review your homeschool program to ensure that you are not falling into any of these traps.
A successful homeschooling program is not just about the options for college that your student will have, but avoiding the pitfalls that drag your student's prospects down. You can give your student many more choices when it comes time to leave for college if you provide a thriving environment for your homeschool. With improved choices come increased opportunities for their future, something that should be a part of a successful homeschool program.
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