View Full Version : Home Schooling Questions

09-18-2010, 11:46 PM
Any home schoolers? I am planning on having one of my characters home schooled which I know nothing about. Would appreciate any help regarding the following questions: 1) How does a child advance from one grade to the next. Do they take a standarized test and is the information submitted to a state agency. 2) Are grades recorded and sent to a state agency? 3) How do home school kids graduate? How are they evaluated for college admission beyond the SAT's? 4)Do they ever take tests together with other homeschoolers? I realize rules vary from state to state and am particularly interested in Maine but any feedback would be appreciated. Thanks.

09-19-2010, 12:05 AM
The official website for the Maine Department of Education has an FAQ section with very helpful answers. It looks like Maine is stricter than some states. There are annual assements. The state does not issue diplomas.

I don't know if it will fit your story, but online K-12 schools have become very popular. These should provide a diploma.

I've never heard of homeschool students taking regular tests together, although I'm not sure about the annual assessments required in Maine. There are some homeschool activity groups that organize field trips and other activities to make sure kids get enough socialization.

Clair Dickson
09-19-2010, 12:23 AM
My understanding-- from Michigan-- is that around here there is little oversight. The parents decide if the kid is in the next grade. Some homeschooled kids will take the GED to prove high school competency before going onto to college.

Little known fact: many colleges will take students who have not earned a GED or high school diploma. They administer a placement test-- if Johnny is not ready for college math, he takes Math 098 (for example). Because the class is less than a 100 level (college level), it doesn't count towards credits required for graduation, but the college gets those tuition dollars anyway (and that's why colleges do it-- they get extra money.)

09-19-2010, 12:24 AM
Thanks, Ferret. I did look at Maine's site but found it somewhat confusing. In fact, several of the links took me to a Texas site. I did not look at the FAQ section where I am headed next. So thanks for pointing out something I missed.

09-19-2010, 12:35 AM
Thanks Clair Dickson. As someone who is an adjunct at a State U, I knew this was true at the community colleges but did not know it was so wide spread. If there are no uniform standards in place for educating our children it makes for scary times ahead, since we have already fallen behind the rest of the world in science and math.

Clair Dickson
09-19-2010, 01:25 AM
This is a different issue entirely, but I don't think standards are the answer. As a high school teacher, I may go over Aportrophes (or insert whatever concept) a thousand times and still know that a good number of my students will still sprinkle them liberally. Is that my fault? I can cover the standards, but there's no responsibility on the student to prove they got any of it. (And tests aren't the answer, IMHO.)

I don't think most schools are the biggest problem. Even the most destitute school and supply-deprived teacher can have successful students IF the students really, really want to learn the material. It's the students who don't appreciate their "free" (tax-payer supported) public education that derail the whole process, IMHO.

But, like I said, that's a separate issue. =)

09-19-2010, 01:41 AM
Here are the laws, and also the recommendations, for NC, where I live.


They have to take a standardized test in mandated subjects. It's not mandated who gives the test, or where. It's not mandated that the results of the test are used for anything.

The educator does have to have a High School diploma or GED.

I know someone who homeschools her kids, and her situation/skills drive me crazy. I know someone else where her situation/skills kicked ass.

I don't know how I feel about the rights thing, but it does disturb me when I see someone with few skills creating her own degree program for her kids, yeah.

09-19-2010, 03:15 AM
homeschooling varies widely, not just from state to state, but from family to family. regardless of the legal requirements, which you can easily research for your book's setting, there is a huge spectrum of what different hs families do. some are very "school at home" in which they "do school" during specific hours, follow strict curriculum, give grades, etc. that is becoming less and less the norm, though.

many homeschoolers are more project and experienced based. they spend a ton of time outside the house, on nature walks, at the science museum, at the homeschool chess/drama/judo/japanese co-op. these kind of homeschoolers don't tend to use grades, or split things up into subjects. it's more of an approach that learning is integrated - baking can be a lesson in reading, fractions, chemistry, and home ec.

colleges LOVE homeschoolers, because they are used to being self-motivated. homeschooling is really gaining in numbers and most colleges are really open to seeing a non-traditional transcript that describes what the homeschooler has been involved in over their teenage years. an internship at the local natural history museum, for example, might take the place of a classroom science and/or history class. also, a lot of homeschoolers start taking community college classes in their early teens and have that kind of transcript to show to universities. here is a good little online article about one homeschooler's experience and admission into MIT: http://www.suite101.com/content/grown-up-homeschoolers--college-admissions-a211397

there are a lot of different kinds of homeschoolers, and it would be great to be specific about what kind your character is. if you can tell a bit about your character, i could hazard a guess. OR, you could look up some of these types: Classical, Waldorf, Montessori, Unschooling, Charlotte Mason.

and FINALLY, i just recently found out about a new publishing company looking specifically for manuscripts with a main character who homeschools: http://www.doliferight.com/ i haven't worked with them and don't know them personally, but there it is, if you are interested.

let me know if you have any more questions. (i am a homeschooler to be, though my daughter is only 4.5, so right now i just call what we do living. i have, however, researched the crap out of the whole thing.)

09-19-2010, 03:58 AM
Thanks for the link Backslashbaby and Clair Dickson for your comments. And thanks JoyMC for your response. My two characters are teenagers who are both home schooled but in different ways, one using a rigid curriculum and the other more hands on leading them to chose different life paths. Their relationship is the focus, but they are initially attracted to each other by this common experience. I haven’t really developed this scenes where they discuss their homeschooling situation yet but when I do I may just take you up on your offer. The links proved interesting. Will have to keep the doliferight one in mind if not for this manuscript for the future.
Thanks again to all who responded

09-19-2010, 07:56 AM
I've homeschooled my two kids for the past 9 years. The main thing to understand about a lot of homeschoolers, including us, is that it's more of a "groove" than a promotion from year-to-year. You teach to the child, not to some administrator's standards.

Example: My current 5th grader is doing "7th grade" science because he likes science. He's way "behind" on learning cursive, but he's reading at high school level. Two weeks into our school year, he's wrapping up his 4th grade math book and about to start the 5th grade one. He's just right for HIM.

Interests are the key to homeschooling. I meet folks who try to do "school at home" but they often burn out. My little one loves animals and Star Wars, so we've done Star Wars math, hovercrafts, lasers, etc...through a Star Wars unit. We've learned ecosystems, biology, and botany through studying animals. He's never had a test in his life.

My 9th grader had his first test last year when we administered the ACT Explore test at home--he scored in the top 5% nationally. When I put him into the local high school this year, he "placed" out of their US government class. They wanted to test him on Biology but he refused because he didn't want to go a year without science. When they asked what we used to teach him US gov't, I just pointed to the books we used together in 5th grade, following the national elections together, and encouraging his interests. He watches CNN and loves politics. He's not loaded down with busy-work so he has time to explore that interest and has worked for 2 campaigns already. In school for a few weeks now, he's made straight A's. I'm especially proud of his 98 cumulative in Algebra. (Math has been a challenge to him so we spent a full year on pre-Algebra to prepare.)

They're not geniuses, they're just REALLY learning instead of memorizing stuff for a test and then forgetting it.

Final example: my eldest loved Greek history, but hated Rome so we focused on the cultures that the Romans conquered. He loved the Germans so we studied them and the ancient Brits--before, during and after the Romans. OTOH, my 5th grader is currently studying Rome with me--loves it! He compared gladiators with our pro football players who have super-short careers often ending in injury. They're both learned the same history from completely different viewpoints...but they'll not soon forget it.

There's no way a teacher in school could customize this much to every child. Homeschooling is a luxury that I'm grateful we've managed to afford. If you take into account one lost income out of two, it's the most expensive education in the world. Homeschooling families often make HUGE sacrifices to keep a parent at home, teaching. I work part-time in the evenings at a local bookstore to make up a tiny fraction of what I could make in a real day job, plus I get a discount on books.

The myths about homeschooling are ridiculously outdated. We meet-up for homeschool social groups once or twice a week. Our kids play baseball, do scouts with the schoolkids, etc.

It would be refreshing to read fiction with realistic views of homeschooling. I recommend contacting your local homeschool groups and interviewing several homeschooling families.

Warm regards,


P.S. The site I recommend for finding info about hs in general, state laws, and your local groups is "A to Z Home's Cool."

09-19-2010, 05:54 PM
Thanks, Lucie, for your insight. As someone who educates part time, despite it not being my career thrust, this topic has been eye opening. Hopefully, I will do it justice in my story and am grateful for everyone’s input. And congrats on your success in providing your children with an unique and fulfilling educational experience. They are truly lucky.

Joanna Hoyt
09-20-2010, 03:10 AM
I was homeschooled in Maine from 1986 to 2000. For most of that time my family was allowed to submit a portfolio showing the work I'd been doing for our annual evaluation. I did take a few standardized tests to reassure my schoolteacher relatives. But most of the time I wasn't moving through material at grade level. In history I spent one year studying the early explorers, another on the Revolution, another comparing the Constitution and the Articles of Confederation and thinking about how governments should be organized, etc. Science was a combination of book-learning and field biology. I got together with other homeschoolers for sports, dances, 4-H, philosophy discussions etc, but not for test-taking. And especially in my teens I learned a lot through mentors. Our local paper ran wrote a review of a book that won the Nobel Prize in economics; I read the book and wrote to the review's author, sparking a correspondence mentorship that lasted two years.

The Maine homeschooling law changed shortly before I finished homeschooling and also moved out of state, and I am not sure what's going on there now.

09-24-2010, 01:06 AM
Any home schoolers? I am planning on having one of my characters home schooled which I know nothing about. Would appreciate any help regarding the following questions: 1) How does a child advance from one grade to the next. Do they take a standarized test and is the information submitted to a state agency. 2) Are grades recorded and sent to a state agency? 3) How do home school kids graduate? How are they evaluated for college admission beyond the SAT's? 4)Do they ever take tests together with other homeschoolers? I realize rules vary from state to state and am particularly interested in Maine but any feedback would be appreciated. Thanks.

This is our 9th year homeschooling. Children move forward when the parents move them forward. Some states require tests to prove they are learning but none require tests to move forward in a grade level. Most homeschool kids are in several grade levels at the same time - we are a year ahead in math, two years in vocabulary, behind one in writing, ahead one in science etc.

I haven't done grades for about 5 years now - no one ever asked me my kids grades. When they "get it" we move on. There is no such thing as failing in homeschool. You just learn it again until you understand and then move forward.

Parent graduate their kids and most take the SAT's for college if they plan to go. Some graduate at 16 and go to community college. Some just begin working. Parents make the diplomas or order them online (that's what I did for my daughter) I also made her a transcript.

You can take the IOWA test and have your children scored compared to the other homeschoolers who took the test, or you can take the CAT as well. They give you a percentile number for comparison.

It is all highly individualized and if you have a character who is homeschooled you can pretty much do whatever fits them as long as you follow the rules for Maine which are here: http://www.hslda.org/laws/analysis/Maine.pdf