What qualifications are required of parents who homeschool?

The law in Georgia states, “Parents or guardians may teach only their own children in the home study program, provided the teaching parent or guardian possesses at least a high school diploma or a general educational development (GED) equivalency diploma, but the parents or guardians may employ a tutor who holds a high school diploma or a general educational development diploma to teach such children.”

The law only requires a parent to possess a high school diploma or equivalent to homeschool their child, but I believe there are many other qualifications a parent needs to homeschool.  I’m not talking about higher education.  I’m talking about a commitment to their child and to fostering an environment of learning.

Above all, parents who homeschool should love learning.  It doesn’t matter how educated you are, but do you love to learn?  Are you willing to learn along with your child?  Explore the world of ideas and great thinkers?

Parents who don’t like to read are probably not going to foster the love of reading in their child.  Sometimes a child will have a natural propensity for learning, but I believe if given the right environment, all children will want to learn.

One of the best ways to get children to learn is to create an environment full of educational opportunities.  Leave books on the coffee table and children will want to open them.  Be willing to answer their incessant questions and teach them how to find answers.  They will keep asking more questions, and eventually they’ll start finding their own answers.

Parents who shrug off questions or the interests of their children because they are too tired or don’t think the child’s interest is worthy enough are doing a huge disservice to their children.  This is how children learn that what they think doesn’t matter.  They’ll resent learning what others think they should know, and soon they’ll hate learning altogether.

But follow your child’s interests, and it’ll lead you on a long journey that will take you everywhere you want your child to go and farther.  You’ll be able to motivate your child to read and write because he’ll see that by learning to read and write, he’ll be able to do what he loves better! (You don’t have to homeschool to do this either!)

Besides learning alongside your child, you’ll need to take time to research the various options available to homeschoolers.  There are all sorts of teaching methods, and no one method works for everybody.

In addition, parents should learn about their child’s particular learning style.  This will help you tremendously as you decide what approach to homeschooling you want to take.  Discover Your Child’s Learning Style by Mariaemma Willis and Victoria Kindle Hodson or similar text is a must-read for all parents.

Homeschooling comes with its own sacrifices.  Though it doesn’t have to cost a fortune, most families who homeschool live on one income.  However, some parents manage to both work, and there are single parents who homeschool too, but whatever your situation, it will certainly be a sacrifice on your time.

Every mother knows that her free time diminishes with each child she has, but homeschooling mothers, especially, get little free time.  It can be frustrating and exhausting, especially if you don’t have a good support network of friends and family.

Depending on where you live, you may have to drive to find other homeschoolers or activities and classes to join.  Homeschooling parents have to be willing to get out there and meet other families and children so that their kids can socialize.  This can be easier said than done, but fortunately there are more and more opportunities for homeschoolers to get together.

Just like parenting in general, homeschooling parents need to be flexible and willing to change if their approach isn’t working.  They need to listen to their child and the needs of the whole family.  If you are a controlling person with an inflexible agenda, you will have a tough time homeschooling.

Helen Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan, said, “Children require guidance and sympathy far more than instruction.”  Parents of homeschoolers will succeed if they are willing to guide their children on a path of life-long learning.

Note: This column was first published in the The Barrow Journal on December 14, 2011.

What qualifications do you think homeschooling parents need to possess?

I would love to hear your thoughts. I try my best to respond to every comment, but please be patient with me.

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