Homeschooling in the News: Your Weekly Update

Homeschooling in the News: Your Weekly Update

The PISA results are in, and once again, the United States’ student test scores look pretty grim compared to those from other developed countries. The test, taken by 15-year-olds from 69 different countries, shows that nearly a third of the U.S. test participants aren’t hitting minimum math competence. 

Obviously, many factors come into play when it comes to these kinds of numbers, but the O.E.C.D., which analyzes the test data, does have a few notes. “Generally speaking, the smartest countries tend to be those that have acted to make teaching more prestigious and selective; directed more resources to their neediest children; enrolled most children in high-quality preschools; helped schools establish cultures of constant improvement; and applied rigorous, consistent standards across all classrooms.”

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Questions about homeschoolers participating in public school extracurriculars continue to pop up—this week, in West Virginia, where some parents want to open up public school extracurricular activities to private school students and homeschoolers. If you’re in WV, here’s your chance to weigh in.

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And finally: College acceptance letters are so 2015.

The University of Wisconsin at Green Bay is sending its college acceptances out via Snapchat. Yes, this means students are now forced to pose with screenshots for their “look-where-I-got-in” selfies, though if they’re willing to wait a few extra days, the full acceptance packet will arrive in their mailboxes the old-fashioned way.

Homeschooling in the News: Your Weekly Update

Homeschooling in the News: Your Weekly Update

It’s a short news week, so let’s jump right in:

We’ve got a new Secretary of Education! What, if anything, will this mean for homeschoolers? Time will tell, but Betsy DeVos is an advocate for school choice in Michigan.

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We talk a lot about how homeschooling offers students they might now have in traditional classrooms, and here’s a great example: Homeschooled teens participating in Generation Joshua may have contributed to the results in a few key Senate races. (If anyone knows of a similar liberal organization, please post in the comments!)

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And finally, should homeschoolers be allowed to participate in public school extracurricular activities? New Jersey’s Lenape Regional High School District says no, turning down a 9th grade homeschooler’s request to play on his public high school’s team. Honestly, I see both sides of this, but I think I tend to come down on the side of it being fair — if not always fun — that public school activities can be reserved for the kids who attend them. What do you think?

Homeschooling in the News: Your Weekly Update

Homeschooling in the News: Your Weekly Update

Good morning!

The controversy over an Alberta Christian homeschool continues, and CBC talked to some former students about their experiences. (Aside: It's so interesting to me that people think accreditation protects against a bad education or creates a good one. The U.S. school system seems to indicate that just isn't the case.)


I love stories about things other homeschoolers are doing—like this Indiana homeschooler who’s been building this gorgeously intricate fairy house for the past few months. (I wish there were more pictures!)


For a lot of families, online schools offer a kind of middle ground—they take the burden of at-home education off parents’ shoulders while still allowing a more flexible academic experience for kids. But they may not be the right fit for every student, and online high schools may not always deliver the education students need, according to  this interesting CNET report.


And finally, good news for students applying to college: The new FAFSA form (the form that determined how much federal financial aid a student is eligible for) is easier than the much-vilified old version of the form—but it’s still a job to fill it out, according to NPR.

Homeschooling in the News: Your Weekly Update

Homeschooling in the News: Your Weekly Update

Fellow homeschool nerds will be interested to check out the National Center for Education Statistics’ report Homeschooling in the United States: 2012. (That’s the most recent year data’s been compiled for.)  Of note: There were an estimated 1.8 million homeschoolers in the United States in 2012; about one-third of middle and high school homeschoolers took online courses in 2012; and about one-fourth of homeschool parents took a course to prepare to teach their kids at home. 

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Homeschooling is on the rise in Israel, where compulsory education laws mean parents who want to homeschool must get permission from the school and have check-in visits with the country’s Education Ministry. Israel’s Education Ministry estimates that there are 550 homeschooled children in the country, which doesn’t sound like a lot but which represents a huge jump from the 229 homeschooled children reported in 2008.

“Why homeschooling? Because it’s great fun,” says Sagi Galor, the father of one of the homeschooling families profiled in this piece.

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College costs may be increasing in the United States—the average cost-per-year for one of Forbes magazine’s top 10 colleges is a whopping $64,602—but students who are willing to think outside the geographical box can find affordable higher education overseas. France, especially, seems poised to become an international education destination for U.S. students.

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Usually election years are a great learning opportunity for homeschoolers (and if you’re pulling together a last-minute plan of study, we have some great resources in the fall issue), but the tone of this year’s election has made it harder to bring into the classroom. The Boston Globe peeks inside a few classrooms to see how teachers are handling the election this year — though it’s not homeschool-specific, there’’s a lot of interesting input from teachers navigating these complicated issues that might prove useful for homeschool parents, too.

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And finally, homeschoolers have long appreciated Minecraft’s educational potential, but the popular online game has recently launched Minecraft Education, designed for use in classrooms. The best part about the launch: The starter teacher’s guide to Minecraft, which may be just what you need to finally, really understand how the Minecraft world that your kids are so obsessed with actually works.

Homeschooling in the News: Your Weekly Update

Homeschooling in the news

Just when you think homeschooling is finally losing its weird factor, the U.S. Secretary of Education pipes up with concerns about homeschoolers missing out onexperiences with peers and interaction with non-parent adults. He basically hits the annoying homeschool commentary trifecta, managing to bring in socialization, the “I know some homeschoolers who are awesome, but” argument, and the suggestion that homeschoolers don’t get “the range of options” more traditionally schooled kids do. Kind of a bummer, right?

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The fastest growing homeschool demographic? African-American families, who are opting into homeschooling in growing numbers, thanks to lack of access to higher level math and science classes and to racial-based bullying in addition to the desire for a personalized education.  

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Letting go of extra stuff can have all kinds of benefits — and for at least one mom, homeschooling was one of them. Prior to her toy purge Allie Casazza counted down the minutes until nap time and couldn’t wait for her kids to go to school; after scaling down stuff, she opted to become a homeschool mom.

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And finally, election day is drawing nigh. NPR summarizes where Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump stand on educational issues.

Homeschooling in the News: Your Weekly Update

A little roundup of homeschool stories in the news

Homeschooling in Romania has been making headlines since two high-profile parents have opted to pull their daughter out of the Romanian school system. “I’ve realized that the education system, organized in groups of people who have to demonstrate in front of others how much they know and how much they’ve learned, is obsolete for the times we live in,” wrote former pop singer Dana Nalbaru on her blog, explaining her family’s decision. Homeschooling isn’t officially recognized in Romania, though some families have gotten around the legalities by enrolling in umbrella schools abroad.

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It’s no secret that homeschooling and entrepreneurship go well together, but it’s always inspiring to read about a family business like Jalen’s Bakery in Fresno, California. Jalen Bailey was just 8 years when he decided baking was his passion, and his mom was able to help him through the process of starting his own business.

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One of the pluses often cited by homeschoolers is the fact that homeschooling lets kids work at their own level rather than some arbitrarily determined grade level—if you’re aces at math, you can keep moving ahead; if history isn’t your thing, you can pursue it at your own pace. A recent study suggests that this flexibility may be an even bigger benefit than we knew—in some classes, as many of half of the students may be ready to work at a higher grade level.

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And finally, homeschooling has proven a good option for some kids with ADHD, and one mom talks about her experiences homeschooling her son with ADHD in a recent issue of ADDitude magazine: “We’re free from the idea of grade levels, and instead of teaching a first grader, I can just teach Blaise, with all his quirks and difficulties and strengths.”

Homeschooling in the News: Your Weekly Update

A round-up of homeschool-related news from around the world

It’s a quiet week as far as homeschool news goes, but here’s what’s on our radar:

  1. The news catches up to something homeschoolers have been saying for a while: Homeschooling in 2016 looks really different from homeschooling a decade ago.
  2. A 12-year-old homeschooler becomes the youngest Ivy League student on record. Jeremy Shuler was too young to set up a Common App account and had to submit all this paperwork via snail mail, but he started Cornell as a freshman this fall.
  3. Who doesn’t love getting a peek inside other homeschoolers’ lives? This photo collection definitely shows what real-life homeschooling looks like.
  4. Texas is one of the easiest states to homeschool in, as far as legal requirements go, but some Texas families may turn to homeschooling for less-than-happy reasons, thanks to a statewide commitment to reducing special education numbers.

Homeschooling in the News: Your Weekly Update

Our weekly roundup of homeschool news you need to know

We thought it be interesting to include a weekly roundup of homeschool-related news stories here on the blog. (If you like this and would like it to be a regular blog feature, let us know! We’ll use your feedback to decide whether this is something we should keep doing. :))

1. Homeschoolers continue to outperform their traditionally schooled peers on the SAT, researchers found after analyzing 2014 test scores. “These are notably large differences,” wrote the researchers. Homeschoolers whose tests were considered in the analysis also had significant demographic differences from schooled participants, notably race (most homeschoolers—more than 70 percent—were white) and parental education level, which tended to be higher in homeschool families.

2. Preschool is the new kindergarten, but do kids really benefit from such early academic readiness? Probably not, discovered a senior fellow in economics studies at the Brookings Institution, who found that preschool attendance had almost no impact on future test scores. (This article also suggests that Sesame Street can work much like a preschool equivalent of Khan Academy.)

3. Though the Department of Defense doesn’t keep track of homeschool statistics, homeschooling seems to be on the rise in military families, where frequent moves and deployments make homeschool’s flexibility a bonus. “We we just kept homeschooling through all of this because it gave us the flexibility we needed,” said Rebecca Owens.

4. It’s too early yet to tell how California’s new, stricter vaccination laws will affect the state’s homeschool numbers, but at least some families are opting to homeschool rather than opt in to the now-required vaccinations for public school.

5. And finally, if you’re planning a trip to Colonial Williamsburg this year, you can enjoy significant savings during the site’s homeschool days from Sept. 10 to Sept. 25. In addition to reduced ticket prices ($8 per student instead of the usual $20), homeschoolers can participate in hands-on activities and interactive experiences.

What’s happening at home | school | life

Our secular homeschool podcast, online classes, book club, new bloggers, and more--a little update from HSL

We’ve been so busy this summer, I thought it might be a good idea to round up all the cool things that have been happening here at home | school | life into one post, in case you’ve missed anything while you were busy with your own summer adventures.

We have a podcast! (It was Suzanne’s idea.) The Podcast with Suzanne and Amy is a fortnightly podcast about the places where home, school, and life intersect, plus lots and lots of book talk. We’ve recorded five episodes so far; you can listen to them here or on iTunes.

We offer a smart, eclectic mix of online classes for late middle school/high school students. We set up these classes to be interest-driven and intellectually rigorous—two things I know I’m always looking for as the parent of a newbie high schooler. I’d love to see them all fill up with awesome kids — for us, these classes are as much about community as about learning about Hamilton. (Not that we’d ever knock our five-dollar Founding Father!)

And speaking of community, we’re pretty thrilled to introduce home | school | life reads, a middle grades book club led by our resident Book Nerd Suzanne Rezelman with optional weekly assignments and a monthly online meeting. We’re kicking things off with The Westing Game as our September read—you should join us!

We’re making a small change to our group subscriptions deal: You can still get a subscription to home | school | life magazine for $10 per person when you subscribe with a group of at least 20 people, but we’ll only be offering the group subscription option in September and January.

We've been adding new stuff to the subscribers’ library all summer. If you’re a subscriber, when you log in, scroll down past the current issue to see what else is available for free download. (And if you’re not a subscriber, you can become one right here.)

You may have noticed that we’ve added some terrific new writers to our blogging team. If you’re catching up on posts, start with the ones from Molly, Carrie, and Cate. (And of course Shelli, Rebecca, and I are still posting, too.)

Because we recognize that we may overstuff your library list now and again, we’ve added a little section to the site where we can let you know when books we’ve recommended on the blog or in the magazine are on sale. We’ll only be posting book deals for books we’ve actually recommended, so it’s not just a willy-nilly books-on-sale list. (Though we appreciate those, too!)

We’re also in the process of updating our Best Cities for Homeschool Families list for 2017—and we’d love your input. Nominate your favorite homeschool city here.

And, of course, we're also hard at work on the most important thing we do here at home | school | life: We're well into work on the fall issue of HSL and look forward to sharing it with our awesome readers in October.

And finally—want to know whenever a new post goes up on the home | school | life website? We've set up a Bloglovin feed that will shoot you an email when we post something new on the blog. There's a sign-up link in the right sidebar, and you can also sign up right here:


Everyone Loves a Sale: 10% Off HSL Online Classes

It's a Flash Sale! Save 10% on HSL homeschool classes for two days!

It’s a 48-hour flash sale! For two days, you can register for any of our awesome online classes for just $247, -- 10 percent off the regular class price. Each high school-level class (we provide a written evaluation and transcript grade at the end of the class) is 12 weeks long and includes one, one-hour online class session per week and 24/7 access to a private class discussion forum. Classes are fun, intellectually engaging, and taught by passionate mentors with strong educational backgrounds. So here’s your chance to:


Register now! This sale ends Saturday, August 13 at 9 a.m.

Take a Peek at Our Fall Class Schedule!

home/school/life magazine's online homeschool classes for fall! :)

Oh, my gosh, you guys, I am so excited about the fall classes we’re offering through home/school/life! I think about what these kinds of classes would have meant to me as a slightly-too-well-read teenager longing to connect with other people who shared my obsessions, and I feel so incredibly fortunate to be able to play a role in creating that kind of learning experience for homeschoolers. Our fall class lineup is full of nerdy goodness, from creating your own apocalypse to discovering the meaning of life to giving stink-eye to fairy tale conventions to making sense of Doctor Who’s ethics and more! Here’s your sneak peek at what’s coming this fall. (Classes start after Labor Day and continue through December 5, with a break for Thanksgiving.)

(A note: We describe these classes as “academically rigorous” because we do expect students to complete weekly reading and viewing assignments and to participate in class discussions. These are Socratic classes that run on student engagement and participation. They are definitely not traditional classroom classes nor should the workload be stressful or overwhelming.)

Q&A: Teaching Current Events in Your Homeschool

Great resources for teaching current events in your homeschool.

One of the things I want to be sure to do as a homeschooler is to keep my kids plugged into what’s happening to the world at large. Are there any great current events resources you recommend?

You’re wise to introduce current events early in your homeschool. Students who participate in elementary and middle school current events classes are more than twice as likely as their non-news-informed friends to follow politics and world news as teens and young adults. Finding the right resources is just part of the plan, though. To really engage kids in current events, you need to find opportunities for them to interact with the news, says Thomas Turner, Ph.D., a professor of education at Tennessee State University. Let your student come up with opening and closing arguments for a controversial news case, engage in family debates, or put together your own newscast of the week’s most important stories. Older kids can follow a story across different media to see how the news changes depending on the outlet and whether it’s in a newspaper, magazine, or television broadcast. You can certainly use your regular newspaper and nightly news programs to study current events, but if you’re looking for a kid-friendly introduction to the news, these resources (most of which take summers off) fit the bill:

CNN Student News :: A 10-minute daily newscast covers the day’s top stories. Maps, background-information articles, and discussion questions help put the news in context.

Student News Daily :: Thoughtful discussion questions help kids make sense of the day’s news. This is a good resource for introducing the idea of media bias and helping students recognize bias in reporting.

PBS NewsHour Extra :: Get current news stories organized by subject. Smartly compiled lesson plans help kids build an understanding of how news affects history, geography, society, and more.

Scholastic News  :: Age- appropriate current events are pulled from Scholastic’s print magazines.

Time for Kids :: The pop culture vibe of this magazine-related news website may appeal to news-reluctant tweens.

The New York Times Learning Network :: In-depth analysis of recent news stories teaches kids how to approach news. The site also taps into the Times' extensive archives to illuminate historical events.

Tween Tribune :: The editors of this middle school news resource have a knack for choosing news stories that appeal to younger readers.


Originally published in the summer 2014 issue of home/school/life magazine. Do you have a question about homeschooling? Email us, and we’ll try to help you find an answer. Questions may be published in future issues of home/school/life.