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Questions + Answers

Homeschooling

Frequent questions

  • Question 1: I am homeschooling my child, who does well in every subject but reading. Do you have any suggestions for teaching phonics?
  • Question 2: If a child is homeschooled, does he or she still qualify for special services through the public school?
  • Question 3: I am homeschooling my child. Should her language arts instruction be based on whole language, sight words, or phonics?

Expert answers

1) I am homeschooling my child, who does well in every subject but reading. Do you have any suggestions for teaching phonics?

The resources below may give you some ideas for new ways you can approach phonics instruction with your child:

This next article from Reading Rockets describes the elements of effective reading instruction. It may be able to guide you in ensuring that you have addressed all of the key instructional components when teaching your child to read:

If, after trying some of these teaching strategies, your child is still having a hard time with phonics, you may want to consider other reasons for his difficulties. There are many children who are bright, but also have a very challenging time learning the basic skills of reading. Many of these children learn differently and require more explicit and varied instruction in mastering literacy skills than other kids their age who seem to learn how to read and write almost effortlessly.

This is not a reflection of the intelligence of the children who struggle, but a sign that there may be something impeding their progress. This discrepancy between ability and achievement is, in part, what defines a learning disability. It can be difficult to hear that your child may have a learning disability, but it is important to keep in mind that, by definition, people with learning disabilities have average to above average intelligence. They may need to be taught in a different way than they've previously been taught and may need to be shown learning strategies that work for them.

Discovering your child's learning differences, as well as ways to work through them, may help him to become an advocate in his education, to learn compensating strategies, to feel better about himself and his ability to learn, and to more fully reach his academic potential. The following articles describe some common characteristics that children with learning disabilities exhibit:

If, after reading these articles, you suspect that your child is showing signs of a learning disability, you may consider requesting an educational evaluation through your public school, which is free and within your legal rights as a parent to request.

This evaluation is a way of gathering information so that you can better understand your child's strengths and weaknesses, as well as the best ways to help him become a more successful and willing reader. The evaluation will also give you an opportunity to consult with educators about your child's specific needs. The following articles will provide you with information about educational evaluations and an overview of the evaluation process:

2) If a child is homeschooled, does he or she still qualify for special services through the public school?

The following is an excerpt from an article by LD OnLine’s legal expert, Matt Cohen:

“The rules relating to eligibility for services for children who are electively being given home schooling by their parents vary from state to state. You will need to check with your state's regulations to determine your child's entitlement to related services while in homebound education. If your state does allow for related services while your child is in homebound education, it is incumbent on the school to offer the services and develop or schedule a program for them to be provided. However, this will require further investigation of your state's regulations or procedures.

Unfortunately, however, in some states, homebound education is treated as the equivalent of voluntary private school placement. Under the federal regulations, school districts have very limited obligations for children who are voluntarily placed in private schools. In brief, school districts are obligated to provide a small fraction of their funding to the total population of children who are voluntarily placed in private school, but have no obligation to the specific child and complete discretion as to how those funds are used. As such, if your child is regarded as being a voluntary private placement, the school may not have any explicit obligation to your child. It would be wise for you to investigate the nature of the relationship and responsibility of the public school to home school students to assess what your rights and options are. You should seek out consultation from a knowledgeable special education attorney in your area in order to get assistance with this question.”

Contact your local school and get an answer from them. Find out what sorts of home-school partnerships, if any, are available for you and your child. The following articles talk about already existing partnerships located around the country and include information about homeschooling children with learning disabilities:

3) I am homeschooling my child. Should her language arts instruction be based on whole language, sight words, or phonics?

After much debate over the best way to teach reading and writing, the growing consensus is that a combination of strategies is best, that all effective language arts programs have common components, and that no one program works for all students. The following article describes the elements of effective reading instruction and may be a good way for you to evaluate your program for balance and thoroughness:

As far as emphasizing sight words or phonics, it’s important that both elements are taught since they are both critical components of reading and writing proficiency. Another important component of literacy is a genuine enjoyment of the written word. The following articles from LD OnLine and Reading Rockets may give you some new ideas for promoting literacy:

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