Ask A Homeschool Mom: Reader Submitted Questions


Sharon Bettis is a former elementary school teacher and mother of four grown children, all of whom were homeschooled and went on to attend college. Thank you Sharon for answering some of our reader-submitted questions!

How can I teach my kids math if I am terrible at math?

Today’s homeschoolers have options. In the elementary years, curriculums often come with video instructions so you can learn with your student. Your job then is to interpret the video instruction and make sure your learner understands and does the required work to show they get it. You don’t have to be the expert, you just have to be sure your child is learning and moving forward in a timely manner so they meet the yearly goal for that level.

At the high school level, you can pay for online courses. If you decide to go with a textbook approach, you can tap into Khan Academy or other online math help websites. Some local homeschool tutorial services, like the one we used (Good Company Tutorials ), offer high school math courses that meet once or twice per week in person. For higher-level math coursework, we hired tutors once they surpassed our comfort level. All were able to tackle their college math courses. We justified the cost because it was minimal in comparison to private school education.

If you homeschool a high school student do they receive a diploma or a GED? Will they be able to go to college? 

We issued a diploma. I would highly recommend getting one through HSLDA. In addition to the resources on their website, they are nationally known and reputable. 

We began preparations for college entrance at the outset of their high school career. I kept detailed records of their coursework with descriptions and grades by semester. I also began to develop an academic resume which included co-curricular activities like speech and debate competitions as well as sports, clubs, awards, projects, hobbies, etc. Finally, we put together a philosophy of education signed by my husband and me. This showed the college that we had been intentional and thorough in our approach to homeschooling. These three documents accompanied the typical requirements when our students applied for college. 

Additionally, many colleges make provisions for high school students to take classes online or in person. Community colleges are particularly affordable and accessible. One of my students decided to be an art major and as a non-artist homeschool parent, I was relieved to learn about RISD’s teen certificate program. I pulled the course descriptions directly from RISD’s literature and included the evaluation. AP Courses and SAT prep classes are available online and at the local tutorial groups. CLEP courses are another option for earning college credit during high school

How do you motivate a preschooler to learn things like letters and numbers without them getting frustrated and running away?

As a former elementary teacher, part of my training was to make and use learning games in the classroom. Making learning fun is easier than ever with the many online recourses and curriculum available. Young children are easily entertained and easily distracted, so adapting to their moods and attention is crucial. Short lessons that feel like games that can be repeated and rewarded create an atmosphere where they “can’t wait to play”. Including friends or siblings can help create motivation and small doses of competition that also help. If a child is running away, the activity may be difficult or feel burdensome. Try to rework or repackage the process or change the time of day while working toward the goal until a better outcome is reached.

Why would someone choose to homeschool instead of distance learning?

Many schools are deciding how to reopen in the fall. This week, I heard of one school district that decided that the younger grades need to go back to the in-person classroom while the older grades will continue to use the distance learning model. I thought this was reasonable. 

However, in-person is always better instruction because the feedback you get while watching your student in the learning process is irreplaceable-particularly for younger students. Parents who are able to be all-in with their time and attention may see good results. These are the same parents who would do well to homeschool because they can choose their curriculum, set their own schedule, and teach each child according to their learning style. They are able to individualize instruction and the children are interacting with a real person who supports them emotionally but can provide accountability and see firsthand if learning has taken place. 

For the older grades the same is true but maybe based on the individual student or subject. Two of my high schoolers thrived in the online environment and the other two didn’t. We steered clear of online courses for the two who didn’t do well because it was overwhelming, caused headaches, and a lot of anxiety. Certain subjects seemed to work better and it made a difference in how the class was taught online. A live classroom with live and regular feedback worked better than a once a week check-in where the student was completely self-directed. If your high school student thrived in the online environment, then that might be a fine option for them. One benefit of homeschooling is that you can direct their education according to the method that fits your family and your student best.