Home School 101: Are You Ready?
Just under 18,000 students were home-schooled in Arkansas during the 2014-2015 school year led by Benton, Pulaski, Washington, Faulkner and White counties, respectively. The following is a summary of regulations, resources and recommendations for those looking to educate their children at home.
1. First, take stock of your own strengths. Studies have shown that the benefits of home schooling are not affected by income, education or even if you’re certified. However, experienced home-schoolers say that adults who take this on have to be highly organized, consistent and disciplined enough to keep things on schedule in order for students to succeed.
2. Parents are in charge of just about everything. State law requires only completion of the Notice of Intent to Home School and Waiver, filed with your local superintendent, and successfully passing tests over a given grade level material. Everything else, from choosing the curriculum to purchasing books and study materials to the makeup of the school day, is in the parent’s hands.
3. Fortunately there’s plenty of help getting started. With more than a million students nationwide being educated at home, an entire industry has grown up to provide curriculum and materials to parents. Many of these offer helpful websites and customer service numbers that quickly and clearly answer any and all questions. In Arkansas, there’s even a tuition-free online charter school—Arkansas Virtual Academy—for parents who want the benefits of home education combined with a ready-made schedule, curriculum and study materials.
4. Public schools may provide assistance, but aren’t required to. Public school districts are not required by law to allow home-educated students (officially designed at “part time”) to attend a given class. However the state has constructed financial mechanisms for school districts to accommodate such requests. Home-school students may also request to participate in extracurricular activities (sports, fine arts or a school club) within their school district, subject to certain requirements and guidelines. No level of Arkansas’s public education structure may, however, award a diploma to a home-educated student per state law.
5. Support groups provide additional support and social outlets. A number of home school support organizations for parents exist to allow parents to exchange resources, lean on each other for help and also to provide social outlets and field trips for home-educated students. Many of these grassroots groups have grown up along geographic areas or share a common faith heritage, so take the time to research one that’s right for your family.