FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions: Getting Started
10 Steps to Successful Homeschooling.
See also DoE Home Instruction Questions and Answers
If you don't find your question answered, or you want to post some further information, please fill out the form at Ask Laurie. See also some Recently Asked Questions. Laurie Spigel is available for educational consultations.
if I hire a tutor to help homeschool my child, does he/she need to be a NYS certified teacher? Do I need any type of certification?
The answer to your question is no. You, as the parent or teacher, do not need any certification, nor does a tutor. You can even test your child yourself if you want to. (See the FAQ: Testing page for details on testing.)
When you write your quarterly reports, if you are using a tutor or instructor, you should include their name by that subject.
If a group of parents hires a teacher for more than fifty percent of their educational hours, then, in the eyes of the law, they have created a school, and are no longer subject to homeschooling regulations, but to another set of regulations that govern schools. But many parents hire tutors for various subjects, and for co-op groups for one or two days a week, and have their children take classes with other homeschoolers's groups or in "after school" classes, and there is no problem with that, nor do those instructors need any certification.
I plan on homeschooling, but I am so afraid that I will not meet the standards of DOE, is it safe to start with a curriculum first to help me keep within standards? If so what non secular curriculum would you recommend for kindergarten-6th grade?
[I plan on homeschooling, but I am so afraid that I will not meet the standards of DOE]
Relax. Homeschooling is always scary at first, but there is nothing to fear. The DoE cannot impose their standards on you! That can only fault you if your paperwork is not done properly. So long as you list all of the required subjects (and everything else they require you to say, such as the hours per year), they can't complain. Testing is required every other year in grades 4-8, and every year in grades 9-12. If your child does better than 33 1/3 percentile on these tests, then they cannot fault you. This is the cut-off for special ed schools. If your child does test in the lower third percentile then you only have to show "adequate academic improvement" over the course of each year, and that could be proved by the child's next test, which only has to be as good or better than the previous test in order to show adequate academic improvement. If you are confused, I can explain this again. You can read more about the paperwork requirements at Step One: Know the law of Ten Steps to Successful Homeschooling).
[is it safe to start with a curriculum first to help me keep within standards?]
Since you don't have to worry about their standards, you don't have to worry about safety in this way. I would rather ask which curriculum is best for your child, than what is best for the DoE. Personally, I thought that the DoE standards were so awful that I never even tried to stay within them. I don't see education as proved by test scores, or the completion of a workbook. Rather, I see real learning as experiential and fun, a life-long adventure. I wanted my kids to see it this way too, so we pretty much left the DoE curriculum and standards behind.
[what non secular curriculum would you recommend for kindergarten-6th grade?]
First, I suggest that you join NYCHEA, where you will find cooperative learning centers, classes and field trips, for every age, in nearly every neighborhood in the city. You might end up spending Wednesdays playing soccer with other homeschooled kids, going to museums, using the Natural Classroom series in Central Park, and more. Your kid will find lots of other kids to play with and learn with, and you will find other parents to lend you their support. When it comes to choosing your textbooks, workbooks, and making your educational plan, think about how your kid learns best, and what excites him or her. Then choose an approach that will work best for your child, and be willing to change it as your child grows and changes. You can browse the sidebar of this website, under books & resources, which are listed by subject. Here I have listed the favorite picks of the best teachers and homeschooling parents I know. Or you can tell me what ages your children are, what grades they are in, what neighborhood they live in, and what their interests are, and I will send you some suggestions. Another good resource is Bank St. Bookstore on 112th St. & Broadway. Go upstairs, where the teachers go, and you will find loads of choices. I took my kids with me, and had them choose their own textbooks.
There are loads of suggestions on this website, such as What's Free or Cheap in NYC and the various resources pages (see the blue sidebar). But the best advice I can give you is to listen to your children. Encourage them to pursue their passions. Turn off the TV and take walks, read to each other, play games, have fun together and the learning will occur naturally. See also FAQ: Getting Started
I don't believe that there is any one right choice that suits every single family. Each family is different, each child is different, and each school is different.
I have seen some wonderful schools, the kind that make a child want to rush out of bed every morning. I've known kids who complain bitterly when they are sick that they can't bear to miss school. If you have a place like that in your community I know that there are happy, healthy, active children who are learning all the time.
Ask yourself these questions: Is my child unhappy at school? Is s/he having trouble learning? Does s/he come home angry, frustrated, miserable? If so, then you might want to consider changing the educational environment of your child. Homeschooling is a viable choice worth exploring. A child doing well in school who yearns to learn more is an ideal candidate for homeschooling, which provides the freedom to learn as much as we want.
Most schools lower their expectations to meet the "average" child in their school. But no child is average in everything. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Imagine if education meant building those strengths, focusing on the talents and inclinations of the individual; at the same time, buffering and supporting their weaknesses, giving them extra help as needed. In this type of environment every child would flourish. In this type of environment even a child already doing well can improve remarkably, exceeding expectations.
Homeschooling is legal in every state. See Know the Law.
Once, as a member of a panel of homeschoolers speaking to a class of graduate students in education at Columbia University, I was asked the question, "What do you do when you cease to be a resource for your child?" I was, momentarily, taken aback. I had never considered myself to be my child's sole resource. I looked this fellow teacher and graduate student in the eye and asked, "Are you the only resource in your classroom?" There was a pause as the entire room realized that a classroom is full of books, computers, other teachers (music, sports, etc.), and then to realize that each and every student (and their families) is a resource as well....
I don't equate homeschooling with good teaching as much as I equate it with good parenting. Teaching comes in many forms. Some subjects I teach, but some are learned elsewhere. As a homeschooling parent you are in charge of your child's education. Sometimes, instead of being the educator, you are the educational facilitator. It's not possible or logical for all of your child's education to come from you, so relax. No child gets it all from one place. There are so many resources to choose from! The city library system and the Internet can supply you with every lesson plan, textbook, and course outline on every subject at every grade level. Anyone can do this! And for no more money than it takes to get a library card and a computer with Internet access.
Some people think that when children are in school the work is all done for them. But every parent knows that is not true. You must get the child up on time, get the child to school on time, make sure the child is prepared. You must help with the class trips or deliver the birthday cupcakes or volunteer for the fundraising drives. You must pick your child up on time, and then do endless hours of homework with your child instead of family playtime. I've heard parents wonder what the teachers are doing during the day because they have so much homework every night. Homeschooling really isn't much more work than school. Often the work has less pressure, since you are making your own rules instead of following someone else's.
Homeschoolers create their own schedule and figure out what works best for them. Many say that they are able to cover most academic subjects working in the mornings until 1 or 2 pm. That leaves the afternoons free for experiments, field trips, physical education activities, art or music, in-depth projects, and family time.
We all want our children to have friends and build relationships and learn how to interact cooperatively. School is not necessarily the best place to learn this. Unfortunately, a great deal of awful behavior is passed around in schools, and teachers often aren't able to see what is going on. Smaller groups, in a lower pressure environment, are more successful in building social skills. See Group Activities. See also Bully OnLine, a large resource on bullying and related issues. The NYS Dept of Ed. has a page on Social/Emotional Development and Learning (SEDL). Watch the video of Laurie's interview on Joy in Our Town
The DoE core curriculum home page, all grades: http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/ciai/cores.htm. The DoE language arts core curriculum, all grades, (2005): http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/ciai/ela/elarg.html. Many well-respected educators think that these lists are overloaded with separate (disconnected) goals, and they tend to miss the mark. See our page on Grade Levels, Standards and Benchmarks and Step Six of the Ten Steps to Successful Homeschooling. Laurie is also available for personal curriculum consultation.
There are standard curricula and grade-level goals available. See our page of Grade Levels, Standards and Benchmarks
But please don't let yourself be limited by standardized goals. The real answer to this question is that your child will tell you. You just have to listen closely. If your child is bored, then you should increase the level of the material. If your child is confused or overwhelmed, you should lower the level of the material. Like most people, you should expect your child to be more ahead in some things than in others. Also, not every school (nor every home) sets the same standards. If you were to compare Harvard University with, say South Dakota Community College (a name I just made up), although they both might be colleges, well, you know that they wouldn't be the same. So don't limit yourself to standard expectations. Instead, change the rules! Why not decide within your own family, teacher and student together, what the expectations and goals will be? Set goals that you find attainable, and set standards that excite you!
Homeschooling high school is an exciting experience, especially in NYC. At this age, students are independent enough to take on an internship and to explore the direction they want to go in. Community colleges, museums. and CUNY offer free or low-cost college courses to high school students, and many other institutions offer internships or scholarship opportunities (see What's Free or Cheap in NYC). For a different perspective on high school education, you might read The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn. Also look at 101 Marvelous Money-Making Ideas for Kids by Heather Wood for ideas on how your child can supplement his or her allowance.
No, sometimes it is easier, but it depends on the college. Some colleges require a certain number of community college credits, or a GED, or Regents exams (these are the things that make you eligible for state aid or entry into SUNY) or extra SAT lls. But other colleges actually make it easier if you are a homeschooler. For my son, Kalman, homeschooling was definitely an asset in his college application. NYU was looking for diversity and homeschooling was a guarantee of diversity. But it was the freedom of creating his own educational program throughout high school that was Kalman's real asset. It gave him the opportunity to focus on his career goal and build a full resume, write a sharp and funny essay, develop a gorgeous portfolio, all of which takes a great deal of time. Without homeschooling I don't think his college application would have been nearly as strong as it was. I suggest that you inquire directly to the college(s) you are interested in and ask the question: "Are your application requirements the same for homeschoolers as they are for other students?" Answers will vary.
See Step 10 of the 10 Steps to Successful Homeschooling for lists of homeschooler-friendly colleges.
Usually any school will admit a student if they take and pass certain tests. In NYC if a child continues to stay registered at the appropriate grade levels for his/her age, that child should be able to reenter school at any time at their grade level. Once high school starts, however, the NYC public schools require Regents exams to make yearly promotions. To reenter high school you might be required to take all of the Regents exams for your previous high school years. Any exam that you didn't pass would be a course you would have to take again.
There are many states where you can do a part-time arrangement, but unfortunately New York is not one of them. To find out about the laws of another state and the practices of their local school administration, contact a support group in that area.
No. There are exceptions when the principal of a school agrees. You can always ask. However, homeschooled high school students can take courses at branches of CUNY (free, through their College Now program) and community colleges.
See NYS Dept of Ed. Home Instruction Questions and Answers:
19. May a student instructed at home participate in the instructional program of the school district?
The legislature has not authorized part-time attendance and, therefore, a student instructed at home may not participate in the instructional program of the school district except for dual enrollment opportunities the district may make available under Section 3602-c of the Education Law and for special education programs and services the district is required to make available. 20. May a district provide dual enrollment services under Section 3602-c to students instructed at home?
Pursuant to Education Law §3602-c, instruction in the areas of occupational and vocational education, gifted education, and education of students with disabilities may be furnished to students enrolled in nonpublic schools. With that exception, which is not applicable to home-instructed students, boards of education are not authorized to instruct pupils on a part-time basis.
So far as I know, there is nothing in the law that says you must report the discharge to your child's previous school. But in all fairness, the board of ed is so overworked, understaffed, and swamped with paperwork, that your daughter's school will probably not get notified unless you do it yourself. I began to homeschool my youngest son in fourth grade. I phoned the school during the summer break to inform them. They asked me to please send them a copy of my LOI (Letter of Intent to homeschool) that I had sent to the bd of ed. Although this was not legally required of me, I offered to do it anyway, and asked only that the school, in return, send me a copy of my child's records. Of course, I never got those records (which they had agreed to send), although I did send the school a copy of my LOI. They are so overworked. If sending them a sheet of paper can help their overburdened school office, it seems a small thing to do.
You ask a really good question. Creating and designing a curriculum for a child is very important, and there is no easy answer. Personally, I find the NYS curriculum lacking. I see most kids in public schools not doing too well academically, and they are typically two years behind their peers in public schools in European countries. The NYS Dept of Education has what you seek. You need to click on a few buttons, but it is all there. For example, here is the Language Arts Curriculum. Download the file and print out info on grades K-12.
After you have looked at a NYS sixth grade curriculum, please consider that relying on grade level can be a slippery slope towards a weak education. In public schools they must teach to the middle, or even to the lowest level of a given class or group of kids. But none of us are in the middle in every subject. Most of us are ahead in some areas and behind in others. Human beings are actually born like this, all with different strengths and weaknesses. You might end up teaching your sixth grader at a ninth grade level in one subject, and at a fifth grade level in another, but this would all be the sixth grade level FOR YOUR CHILD. Homeschooling allows us to create a curriculum tailored for the child, and allows the child to learn at his or her own pace.
Kids given this kind of freedom and encouragement often become experts in their favorite subjects, studying at an adult level in their chosen interest. Consider creating a curriculum tailored to your child's interest. For example, my oldest son loved the theater. For his literature (English) curriculum in 11th and 12th grade he read mostly plays. For history he studied the history of theater and the history of directing, reading plays from the ancient Greeks up to modern plays written about apartheid in South Africa. I was quite pleased with the education that he got, even if it wasn't the most traditional sort, and it certainly got him into the college of his choice (NYU), where he majored in film. I can give you examples of kids with other interests. One child I know who is fascinated with mice is studying his science through mice (their anatomy, their evolution, their habitat), reading every mouse story and book in the library (a great selection including The Rescuers, The Tale of Despereaux, Redwall, and many others) finding mice in art, writing stories and poems with mouse characters, and so on. So you see how a curriculum can mirror a child's interests, which, of course, dramatically increases their motivation to learn. Of course you will never find a “mouse curriculum” in any school (or an “aviation curriculum” or a “birds of the world” curriculum, etc.), but you can certainly create one. Some fascinating small museums tell the history of the world through a narrow lens, such as the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, or the Higgins Armory Museum in Worcestor, MA, which specializes in the story of iron, concentrating on the Middle Ages.
For specific curriculum suggestions listed by subject, click on each subject on the sidebar on the homepage. In general, I recommend EPS Books (Educational Publishing Service) for grammar workbooks designed for every age and grade level. I like their Daily Language Workout which requires fifteen minutes a day and has kids correct mistakes in other people's writing. I know of private schools that use epsbooks, including Wordly Wise 3000 (vocabulary workbooks). Singapore math kept my kids advanced in math. If you use Singapore you might want to start a year back, since they tend to be two years ahead of American schools, and more on a par with Asian and European schools.
Student are more motivated when they are involved in choosing their own workbooks or textbooks, so go shopping together. I highly recommend: Bank Street Books (112th St. on Broadway) for grades K-8 -- go upstairs to where the teachers go, and the Barnes & Nobles text book annex (on 18th St. on the SE corner of Fifth Ave.) for grades 9-12 -- go into the back room on the ground floor, filled with endless stacks of new and used college and high school texts, but even these may be dumbed down and some might be too simple or boring for you and your child. Also, a first year Latin (or French or Spanish) text will be here just as easily as anywhere else, but probably with more choices to choose from, alongside dictionaries and grammar books and readers and maybe even a comic workbook in that language. I make an annual pilgrimage to one or both of these two stores every fall, spending hours sitting on the floor browsing through one book after another until we find what we like.
Tip: Your proof of homeschooling (letter from the board of ed. or your subscription label from a NYCHEA newsletter) will get you an educators' discount card at Barnes & Noble.
You do not have to wait! You can take your daughter out of school today if you want to! Just inform the school and then send a Letter of Intent to the head of your local school district (see Know the Law) within two weeks of commencing homeschooling. Why wait? If your daughter is troubled she can begin to take her life back right now. Many schools are troublesome places these days, and many kids are losing more self-esteem each day they have to go back. Homeschooling will helping your daughter to take back control of her life, and give yourself back a family life at the same time. Why keep yourself at the mercy of the school’s yearly schedule? You can start your year over right now!