Continued from page 1

—Do I want to use a textbook?

—How will I keep track of my child’s progress?

The key is knowing your child, Ms. Hedin said.

She urges parents to discover their children’s interests, what excites them and what they want to learn.

“Then, together you begin to seek out resources and curriculum. You do it as a team,” she said.

Home-school associations provide a forum for families to share ideas, resources — even instruction. It’s a way to find out what has worked for others and what hasn’t, and what is available in the community to supplement home learning. Many associations hold conferences that include workshops and exhibits on curriculum. Some offer standardized testing, with certified proctors, for families that want it.

Ms. Hedin said she’s not mathematically inclined, so when her son wanted to learn algebra she went to a local home-school support group to find other students who were interested, and placed an ad for an instructor.

She also formed a small cooperative with other families to take field trips, do crafts and plan other projects built around various themes. “We were really active with other home schoolers,” she said.

“We support one another,” said Shelly Nelson of the Crossroads Areas Home School Association of Bloomington, Ill.

When people inquire about curriculum, Ms. Nelson said, she asks about their teaching style and their child’s learning style.

“There are different ways to educate your children,” she said. “When you get to the junior high and high school level, I believe there is a great need for some books.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean going to one curriculum company for all subjects, she said. “You choose the best curricula for each subject level.”

But buying curricula and textbooks can be costly, especially if it means purchasing several until you find one you like.

To help parents, the association’s National Home-School Honor Society chapter created a curriculum closet filled with material collected from publishers and home-school families. Some of the 400 or so volumes are religion-based; others are secular.

One company offering home-school curricula is Time4Learning. Operations manager Jennifer Eaton said the computer-based material is “like your textbook laid out on your desk.” Often used along with other materials, the programs also grade children’s work and track their progress.

Story Continues →