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"Home schooling" is a term that is both broad and imprecise. It can refer to something as simple as sitting a child down at the kitchen table to do his math homework or as complex as attending group studies online. Home schooling can be taken for one course, or even a part of a course; a year or grade; or all schooling from kindergarten through twelfth grade. There are several common reasons for taking home schooling as a substitute for attending a traditional institution.

1. The commonest seems to be religious; children are home schooled to avoid the difficult issues of Darwinian evolution or sex education. Home schooling for these reasons can seriously interfere with college admissions. The goal of higher education is to broaden a student's way of thinking, and that can be particularly difficult for a student who starts out with a much narrower range of viewpoints than the rest of the class.

"The Christian home school subculture isn't a children-first movement. It is, for all intents and purposes, an ideology-first movement. There is a massive, well-oiled machine of ideology that is churning out soldiers for the culture war. Home schooling is both the breeding ground – literally, when you consider the Quiverfull concept – and the training ground for this machinery. I say this as someone who was raised in that world."

2. Home schooling to prevent disorientation when a family moves around frequently is another common reason, and can be much less troublesome when it comes time for the student to attend college. This is especially true if the home schooling included reputable online classes or advanced studies of any sort. However, it is common to send the child to a traditional school for at least the senior year of high school, and preferably for one other year (perhaps eighth or ninth grade) to encourage socialization with the student's peers. This is advisable even if online classes allow for students to interact during class. Talking heads are never the same as human interaction.

"Central to these synchronous sessions is the online classroom software our teachers use, which includes a whiteboard for live online instruction, multi-student discussion and collaboration, and space for instructional slides, as well as file and video sharing. This technology enables teachers and students to conduct a live virtual discussion as if they were in a physical classroom."

If at all possible, children should participate in field trips or summer camps to encourage learning in the context of physical group interaction. Emotional development, anger management, and time and organizational skills are all different when working with others in the same physical space.

Some children are home schooled because of physical or emotional limitations that prevent their success in learning in a traditional group setting. This will create many fewer problems in gaining admission to college if the limitations are physical; many more colleges have conformed to the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act than have high schools, if for no other reason than that there were too many schools for primary education and too few budgets to accommodate the needs of every child. [Note that the ADA applies to schools that were built after the law was passed; older facilities, already limiting opportunities, rarely put money into physical improvements when computers and microscopes are also needed.]

Home schooling to compensate for emotional problems, especially those associated with anger management or age-appropriate group interaction, will be seen as a much greater problem at the college admission level. In fact, I would advise keeping home schooling to a minimum, while the student is gradually introduced to group learning situations, especially with appropriate counselors and specially trained teachers. (Obviously, I would also recommend living in a wealthy school district!)

Home schooling for the gifted child is often the most troublesome.

Doogie Howser

Doogie Howser, M.D., a TV show from 1989 to 1993.

Long before the concept of home schooling existed, there were children who were capable of doing college-level work in elementary school, but they needed the time to grow up socially and emotionally (not to ignore romantically) as part of their overall growth. Individualized programs are actually best-designed for these students: they are often eager to learn, quick to grasp concepts, and happy to be reading books that match their mental age rather than their physical category. Activities like soccer camp and swimming lessons are much more likely to compensate for the limitations of home schooling among this group than they are among any of the other groups I've discussed, because the student has the broadest set of interests and the fewest externally imposed limitations.

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What are some free/low-cost ways for a gifted middle school farm boy to explore science and engineering?

How does college admissions evaluate home schooled students?

Will you home school your child? Why?

How should a home schooled/unschooled student prepare themselves to fare well in Ivy League School admissions?

Should a home-schooled applicant have her part-time job boss write a teacher letter of recommendation?

Should I switch to home schooling or community college in my senior year? I have a 3.83 unweighed GPA and 1450 SAT score and have mostly A's in school.

How can home schooled students be admitted to Ivy leagues specifically Yale?

Is anyone aware of anybody who got accepted to a 4-year university degree with a GED?

How would I fare as a homeschool student applying to Ivy League colleges?

Because home schooling can have different legal requirements in each state, we prefer to assist on a consulting basis in finding the controlling regulations for your locale as well as programs that will meet the needs of your state's Department of Education as well as of your child.


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