by Rebecca Hecking
An exponential growth in homeschooling resources has accompanied strong growth in the number of families opting to educate their children at home.
Prior to 1990, only a few thousand U.S. families chose homeschooling. By 2003, the U.S. Department of Education estimated that 1.1 million U.S. children were being homeschooled.
Today, it’s easy for a homeschooling family to be overwhelmed with resource choices. To help, we’ve cooked up a “buffet” of resources, specially prepared for Delaware Valley parents.
Appetizers: Background Info
• The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child: Your Complete Guide to Getting Off to the Right Start by Linda Dobson (Three Rivers , $16.95).
• The Homeschooling Option: How to Decide When It's Right for Your Family by Lisa Rivero (Palgrave MacMillan, $14.95). A new resource with a focus on special needs children.
• The National Home Education Network’s website addresses issues of concern to potential and new homeschoolers. www.nhen.org.
Salads: State Groups
State parent volunteer organizations provide information on legal requirements for problem-free homeschooling. On their websites you’ll find basic information on state law, help connecting with others in your area and other information.
• Delaware Home Education Association, PO Box 268, Hartly, DE 19953, www.dheaonline.org.
• Homeschooling in New Jersey, www.homeschoolinginnewjersey.com.
Entrées: Local Resources
The following is a sampling of homeschooling resources available in the Delaware Valley.
Homeschoolers can frequently take advantage of educational resources at museums, libraries, parks, and galleries. Parents can often receive educator discounts at shops and bookstores. When in doubt, ask.
At area attractions, homeschooling families can avoid crowds by attending on days when there are fewer public school field trips. Spring is field trip season, so off-peak times include fall and winter mornings and early afternoons as well as mid-to-late afternoons and evenings throughout the school year.
• The Brandywine Zoo, 1001 North Park Dr., Brandywine Park, Wilmington, DE 19802, 302-571-7747, www.brandywinezoo.org. The Zoo features WILD homeschool education programs. Recent offerings include a morning of math with the zookeepers and animals.
• City Gates Academy, PO Box 7581, Wilmington, DE 19803, 302-229-9626, www.cgade.org. This Christian cooperative offers mixed-age group courses on a wide range of subjects. Students are graded and receive report cards. Subject areas include multimedia art, literature and composition, physical education and Latin.
• The Franklin Institute Science Museum, 222 N. 20th St., Phila., PA 19103, 215-448-1200, www.fi.edu. The Franklin Institute provides programs specially designed for homeschooled kids. Recent workshops include “The Science of Mummies,” “Physics at Work,” and “Identity.”
• The Greater Philadelphia Homeschool Science Fair, www.fair.science-resources.org. The fair will be held Feb. 9 on the campus of Villanova University, Villanova, PA. The fair is open to students in PA, NJ and DE. See the website for registration, directions, and other information.
• Open Connections, 1616 Delchester Rd., Newtown Square, PA 19073, 610-459-3366, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.openconnections.org. Open Connections is a unique learning center offering hands-on, child-led learning opportunities for children ages 4 and up from homeschooling families, located on a 28-acre reconfigured farm near Newton Square. Open programs for ages 4-9 can include activities such as weaving, math games or woodshop. Group Tutorials for ages 8-18 allow students to choose a topic and explore it in depth. Other programs include theater for teens, nature programs, and cooking in foreign cultures.
• Science Resources, 210 Lindbergh Ave., Broomall, PA 19008, 610-355-9174, www.scienceresources.org/index.shtml. Science Resources offers advanced lab classes, math Olympiads, and tons of enrichment opportunities in the fields of science and engineering. Science Resources is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting quality science and technology opportunities for kids.
• Woodmere Art Museum, 9201 Germantown Ave., Phila., PA 19118, 215-247-0476, www.woodmereartmuseum.org. The Museum provides “Art for Homeschoolers” classes for ages 6-12, along with other opportunities such as classes in watercolors, portrait painting and sculpture.
Side Dishes: Websites
Homeschooling information abounds on the net. Websites provide links to local support groups and curriculum resources. Use state and local searches to find nearby fellow homeschoolers. Joining a local group can provide support and connection that can mean the difference between success and struggling to provide a full program.
• A to Z Home’s Cool offers a huge array of resources, from online chats to links with local support groups. homeschooling.gomilpitas.com.
• Home Education Magazine provides both print and online resources on diverse education topics. It is nonreligious and caters to a wide range of homeschooling families. www.homeedmag.com.
• Home School Legal Defense Association, a Christian-focused group, advocates for homeschooling legal rights, www.hslda.org.
• Jon’s Homeschool Resources is one of the oldest homeschooling sites on the net. It’s not flashy, but has features for both new and experienced homeschoolers. Use the “local support group” link to connect to groups in your neighborhood. www.midnightbeach.com/hs.
Special Menu: Challenges
For families of children with educational challenges, there are many homeschooling resources. www.learningabledkids.com.
• Deafhomeschool.com, a comprehensive guide to homeschooling for parents of deaf or hard of hearing children. www.deafhomeschool.com.
• Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page, for families of gifted children. www.hoagiesgifted.org/home_school.htm.
• Homeschool Zone offers support for families of children with autism and ADD. www.homeschoolzone.com/add/autism.htm.
• Learning Abled Kids offers information for families of children with ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, and a variety of learning challenges. www.learningabledkids.com .
Rebecca Hecking is a freelance writer and former homeschooler.