Austin Area Homeschoolers
Newcomers' Guide

Top 10 Questions

Most newcomers are dying to find the answers to a few specific questions. To save you the anxiety of reading through all of this publication, wondering if and when we are going to get around to your concerns, here are short answers to the most frequently asked questions.

On this page you'll find the Top Ten Questions for
Parents considering homeschooling
Home schoolers who are new to the area.
Parents with teenagers.


The Top Ten Questions for Parents Considering Homeschooling
(1) Is homeschooling legal? Yes! See "Homeschooling Laws in Texas" for details of the Texas laws on compulsory attendance.

(2) Where do I get the curriculum? In Texas, parents can choose any curriculum, as long as it teaches the basic subjects. You can purchase packaged curriculum, or you can design your own. See "Curriculum Issues" for more information.

(3) What about socialization? Children don't have to go to school to learn appropriate social skills. In fact, many homeschooling parents believe that children learn more appropriate social skills in mixed-age groups than in the artificial, age-segregated environment of most schools. See the section on "Why We Homeschool" for more information. For details about social opportunities offered by the AAH support group, see the section titled, "Austin Area Homeschoolers."

(4) How much does it cost to homeschool? The cost varies depending on the types of educational materials and services that parents choose to purchase. (See the section on "Curriculum Choices" for information about available options.) The most expensive type of homeschooling is probably a full-service correspondence school that offers teacher assistance; such schools can cost $250-$1200 per year. Parents who choose to purchase a commercially prepared curriculum covering all subjects can expect to pay $200 or more per year. (Some parents purchase new or used materials for some subjects and develop their own curriculum for other subjects.) For very low-cost homeschooling, parents can use books borrowed from public libraries as the core of their curriculum. Most approaches to homeschooling are much less expensive than private school tuition.
    Many homeschooling families find that the biggest cost of homeschooling is the second income that they sacrifice in order to enable at least one of the parents to spend large amounts of time with the children. Depending on the ages and personalities of your children and the flexibility of the parents' work schedules, it is sometimes possible to homeschool if you are a two-career couple or a single, working parent. 

(5) How on earth do I get started? First, read this entire packet of information. Second, decide which support groups best fit your family, and subscribe to their newsletters. Third you might want to locate several homeschooling books such as those listed in our "Recommended Reading for Parents" section, and begin reading them. Fourth, visit some homeschool activities, where you will find experienced homeschooling parents who will be glad to share their experiences with you. 

(6) How do I withdraw my child from public school? Don't worry, it isn't complicated! See the section in this guide on "Withdrawing Your Child From Public School."

(7) How can we homeschool with ________ [a baby and toddler in the house, two working parents, an unsupportive ex-spouse, etc.]? N ew homeschoolers can get tips on any of these issues by simply asking other homeschoolers to share their experiences. Visit an AAH park day, soccer day, or AAH parents' meeting to talk to some experienced homeschoolers. Subscribe to the AAH email list, where such questions are welcome. See the section on "Austin Area Homeschoolers" for information on these AAH resources.

(8) How do I find other homeschoolers? Join a support group and start attending the group activities. If you live in the area in and around Austin, Texas, you can refer to the section on "Austin Area Homeschoolers" for a list of some our group opportunities. The Subscriber's Web on the AAH-announce email list has even more activities listed.

(9) I don't live in the Austin, Texas area. How do I find a support group like AAH in my area? See the section "Support Groups" for ways to find existing groups. If there is no group in your city, or if you don't like the way your local group operates, start one yourself! Until you can find or develop a local support group, you can get help from national publications like Home Education Magazine and Growing Without Schooling (See "Recommended Reading for Parents"), or you can join a national or statewide email list. (See "Online Resources")

(10) Don't people have to be a little bit crazy to try homeschooling? Not at all! Come visit some homeschool activities to see how truly sane we are!  This isn't just an educational decission you are making put a whole lifestyle choice. 


The Top Ten Questions for Homeschoolers Who Are New to the Area
Experienced homeschoolers who move into the Austin area are often excited to see the wide range of homeschooling activities that are available here. Here is some information to help you get oriented to homeschooling in our area.

(1) What are the laws in Texas? It is easy to comply with the homeschooling laws in Texas. You do not need to register with any state or local officials. You do not have to have your child tested. See the section on "Homeschooling Laws in Texas."

(2) Do the local schools harass homeschoolers? Generally, relationships are friendly in the area in and around Austin, Texas.

(3) What about the daytime curfew for minors in Austin and some surounding cities? Many people do not realize that an Austin law prohibits minors from being in public places during school hours. There is an exception for homeschooled children who are with their parents or who are on an errand authorized by their parents. See the "Legal Issues" section for more information about dealing with this curfew.

(4) Do local public schools allow homeschoolers to participate in athletics or enrichment classes? This is not common in Texas like it is in some other states, although some individual parents have worked out arrangements with their local schools for part-time enrollment. The University Interscholastic League (UIL), the statewide organization that oversees many public school sports and academic competitions, does not allow homeschoolers or private school students to compete in their events. Many homeschoolers in Austin find their days are full of homeschooling activities, so they feel no need to lobby for access to these public school activities. 

(5) I see there several different support groups in Austin. What's the difference? There are two large organizations in Austin. Austin Area Homeschoolers (AAH) is an inclusive group with no membership requirements except that you homeschool in the Austin area, and no fees. CHEACT (Christian Home Education Association of Central Texas) is a Christian group that requires members to sign a statement of faith. We encourage newcomers to get information about both groups to see which one best fits their families. There are other small groups that are sometimes loosely associated with either AAH or CHEACT. Some families are members of more than one group. 

(6) How do we find out what homeschool activities are available? If you have access to email, subscribe to the AAH email list.  If you don't have email you may want to read the page about Austin Area Homeschoolers Activities.  Please note that it isn't as complete as the AAH email list Subscribers Website, but should help you if you don't have email.

(7) Which homeschool activities are best for meeting lots of people?  If you have young children, the Thursday AAH Park Day is a good place for children and parents to meet other homeschoolers. If you have older children, visit the Tuesday and Thursday soccer games. Details are in the "Austin Area Homeschoolers" section of this guide.  The AAH Not-Back-to-School Party that happens on the first day that Austin public schools are in session in the fall is a great place to see large numbers of homeschoolers.  The other great place is the AAH Valentines Day Party is a great place to find them in the spring.  To find out the details, you need to be a subscriber to the AAH email lists.

(8) In our previous town, we had _______.  I don't see that on your list of AAH activities.  When will we have something like that in Austin? When you start it! Our current AAH activities were started by families just like yours. Talk to some AAH parents, pick a time and place, advertise your event on the AAH email list and by word of mouth, and others will come if the activity appeals to them! To avoid a disappointing turnout, you may want to check the ongoing AAH events to make sure you don't schedule your event opposite an existing activity that draws from the same group of participants.

(9) Why doesn't AAH have officers or a board of directors? Isn't anyone in charge? Austin Area Homeschoolers has an intentionally loose organizational structure. (See "Our Non-Directed Support Organization.") While this sometimes presents a few challenges, it works well for us. Try out our group to see if it works for you. If not, we won't be offended if you choose another support group or even start a new one.

(10) Do I need to pay dues? How do I join AAH? We have no dues, no sign-up, no membership requirements at all. (Well we do ask that you be a homeschooler in the Austin Area).  Just start coming to our activities and subscribe to the email list if you want.  The only reason we ask about your family when you sign up for the email list is to discourage advertisers, especially the ones who think that a homeschool list is the perfect place to advertise their private schools.  Many families like to add their namaes to our directory, a list of participants' telephone numbers and areas of town, but it is not really a "membership list," since some families choose not to have their names listed. It is in the database on the AAH-announce email list, and you can add yourself as soon as you subscribe. 


The Top Ten Questions for Parents of Teenagers
When parents begin homeschooling after their children are already in high school, they usually have special concerns. They often feel pressure to decide quickly which homeschooling approach they will adopt. How will they obtain the records their children need to enter college? How can their child earn a high school diploma? This section will refer you to pertinent pages of this AAH Newcomers' Guide and to other resources that are particularly helpful for parents of teens.

(1) Where do I start? Read this section first, and then read the section on "Curriculum Issues." Next, read these two books about homeschooling, and share appropriate sections with your teenager: 
The Teenage Liberation Handbook, by Grace Llewellyn, and
And What About College?, by Cafi Cohen,
(Both these books are available from John Holt's bookstore, 2269 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MS 02140-1226. For credit card orders, call (617) 864-3100. www.holtgws.com) and available on Amazon.com
Finally, talk to experienced homeschoolers who have teenagers. AAH's homeschool soccer days are a good place to network with parents of older homeschoolers.

(2) I already withdrew my teenager from school! What do I do for curriculum right now? Relax! You don't have to make any immediate decisions. You are not required to be on the same schedule as the local public schools. While you research approaches and curricula, your son or daughter can keep his/her mind busy by reading good literature or challenging books on any subject that interests him/her.

(3) How can my teenager meet some other homeschoolers? For many older homeschoolers, the easiest way is by joining one of AAH's on-going activities-soccer, chess, math club, etc. Since the focus of each of these groups is a shared activity, newcomers have an easier time integrating into the group. Once a teen has met a few friends, he or she might feel comfortable attending one of the less structured events, such as a Social Club outing to a movie or coffeehouse. Many of our families believe that the Tuesday and Thursday Zilker soccer days are the heart of the AAH teen scene, and possibly the best place for newcomers to quickly feel that they are a part of the group.  Heck, some kids come who don't even play soccer come just to hang out.

(4) How do parents manage subjects like chemistry and biology if they don't have the money or expertise to do it themselves? Some homeschoolers use correspondence courses for advanced classes; the correspondence school provides any necessary lab materials. (See our sections on "Umbrella Schools" and "Correspondence Schools.") Others use community college classes. Sometimes a knowledgeable parent sets up a group class for homeschooling students. 

(5) How will my teenager get a high school diploma? In Texas, individual public or private schools award diplomas; the state does not. Many homeschooling families grant their own diplomas, since homeschools are considered private schools. A few families work with a correspondence or umbrella school that grants a diploma. Some students choose to take the G.E.D. test when they are old enough to be eligible (which may have negative reprocussions). Still other families avoid the need for a high school diploma by enrolling their children in community college classes while they are still in high school. Such schools often allow high school students to take courses before they have completed their high school studies. If you live in the Austin Community College taxing district, homeschooled juniors and seniors can take two classes per semester for free.  These students then use their community college records to gain admission to universities. (This to can have negative reprocussions.)

(6) How will my child be able to enroll in college without a traditional high school transcript? Many families prepare their own homeschool transcripts; these are accepted by  colleges and universities.  In fact Texas public colleges can't treat homeschoolers any differently than any student who graduates for a non-accredited private school.  A few parents use transcripts prepared by their correspondence and umbrella schools. The list of Colleges where homeschoolers have attended is huge.  Parents concerned about college admissions may want to read And What About College?, by Cafi Cohen; this book offers several different approaches to college admissions for homeschoolers. Another highly recommended book is High School: A Home Design Form-U-La, by Barb Shelton. This book shows you how to record all the things you do in a transcript format. See our section on "Transcripts and College Admissions."

(7) No one else is home during the day at our house. Can my teenager stay home alone and do his/her schoolwork? I can check the work when I am home in the evenings. This is an issue that must be considered carefully. It is possible for this arrangement to work for some mature, motivated students. You might want to think about how independent a learner your son or daughter is. Will he/she have enough access to someone who can help with difficult lessons? Will he/she be lonely, or is he/she a person who enjoys a lot of time alone? Does he/she have transportation, and if not, will he or she be able to take part in some of the group activities that are available for homeschoolers? It is probably not a good idea for teens who are having  problems (drugs, gangs, clinical depression, etc.) to stay at home unsupervised for long periods of time. Some homeschoolers with teens would simply say, "Don't," because it is too easy for bright curious minds to get in trouble unintentionally, and because for most kids they need help, encouragement, and someone to inspire them.  Yet, this method though has worked for a few homeschoolers.

(8) My child just got expelled from public school, and the school suggested we try homeschooling. Where do we sign up for the homeschooling program? Homeschooling is a do-it-yourself endeavor. You get to decide for yourself what educational methods and materials will work best for your child. This is not a program run by the government, and no visiting teacher will come to supervise your homeschool. 
    If you are looking for a structured program with oversight by teachers other than the parents, you can obtain one from a correspondence or umbrella school (See our sections on "Correspondence Schools" and "Umbrella Schools"). Contact several of these schools for information so you can decide whether they will meet the needs of your son or daughter. Also read the rest of this guide to see the other options that are available, since you might find that one of the other approaches will better fit your family's needs.  Our subscribers are constantly adding to our Subscribers' Website, so you will find more info in the files area of the AAH-announce list.

(9) What if we try homeschooling and don't like it? Will my child be able to enter the public school system again? Yes, your child can enter public schools after homeschooling, but you may or may not have trouble getting the school to give credit hours for the high school work the child did at home. (Students younger than high school level rarely have problems re-entering school at the same level as other students their own age.) Different school districts have different policies about high school credits. If you are working with an accredited umbrella school or state on line charter school, you probably will be able to transfer your child's credits easily. If not, you may be able to present your unaccredited home transcript, or your child might need to take placement tests or get credits by examination (CBE).  Some parents have their children take these as they finish their homeschool courses, just in case.  Read through the Credit by Examination area on the Texas Tech website http://www.depts.ttu.edu/uc/k-12/high-school/ for more information about CBE.

(10) What about the Senior Prom or Commencement Ceremonies? No problem. Our AAH Homeschoolers' Social Club sponsors a teen dance at least twice a year! Parents are also welcome to attend.  There is a dance on the night of AAH graduation for those who would like to participate.  There are others who advertise proms for homeschoolers in our area.  You'll see them advertised on the AAH-announce list, so there are lots of options.  For many years AAH has had commencement ceremonies for those who have participated in AAH and would like to help organize it. 

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