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Book Jacket

Trade Paperback
700 pages
Jun 2004
Harvest House Publishers

Mary Pride's Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling

by Mary Pride

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt



    Foreword by Michael Farris
    Preface to This New Edition

    Part 1: What’s It All About?

  1. What’s So Great About Homeschooling?
  2. How Has Homeschooling Changed?
  3. Answers to Your Questions About Homeschooling
  4. Why Do So Many Families Homeschool?
  5. Ten Things You Need to Know Before You Get Started
  6. You Can Do It!

    Part 2: Steps to a Successful Homeschool

  7. Finding Your Goals
  8. Making Your Plan
  9. What to Join
  10. What to Read
  11. Where to Shop
  12. What to Expect

    Part 3: How Kids Really Learn

  13. The Five Steps of Learning
  14. Your Child’s Discovery Channels
  15. Your Child’s Thinking Style

    Part 4: Education 101

  16. Getting Them Ready to Learn
  17. Preparation of the Environment
  18. Twaddle, Begone!
  19. What Goes In
  20. Thinking It Through
  21. What Comes Out

    Part 5: Popular Homeschool Methods

  22. Back to Basics
  23. The Charlotte Mason Method
  24. Classical Education & Great Books
  25. Contests
  26. Laptop Homeschooling
  27. The Maloney Method
  28. The Montessori Method
  29. The Principle Approach
  30. The Robinson Method
  31. Unit Studies
  32. Unschooling
  33. The Eclectic Method

    Part 6: Taking the Mystery Out of Unit Studies

  34. Ingredients of a Successful Unit Study
  35. Mary’s Secret Unit Study Recipe
  36. Create Your Own Character Unit
  37. Create Your Own History & Geography Units
  38. Create Your Own Science Unit

    Part 7: Planning & Record Keeping

  39. How to Get Organized
  40. How to Keep Great Homeschool Records

    Part 8: Testing & Standards

  41. National & State Standards
  42. Evaluating & Testing

    Part 9: Homeschooling Your Special-Needs Child

  43. Special-Needs Homeschooling: You Can Do It!
  44. How Real Are Learning Disabilities?
  45. Beating the Labeling Trap
  46. Help for Distractible Learners
  47. Help for the Challenged

    Part 10: Homeschooling Your Gifted Child

  48. Help for the Gifted
  49. Talent Searches
  50. What About Acceleration?

    Part 11: Homeschooling with a School or Group

  51. Co-ops & Clubs
  52. Private & Christian Schools
  53. University Model Schools
  54. Public School Classes & Activities
  55. What About Charter Schools?

    Part 12: Homeschooling Away from Home

  56. Field Trips
  57. Family Educational Travel
  58. Conferences, Retreats, & Homeschool Days for the Whole Family
  59. Specialty Camps for Kids
  60. Outdoor Adventures for Kids
  61. Worldview & Leadership Training for Teens
  62. Homeschooling Around the World

    Quick Resource Guide

    Where to Find Curriculum

  1. What the Research Shows About Homeschooling
  2. Homeschool Laws by State & Territory
  3. Homeschool Groups by State, Province, & Country
  4. Contests Homeschoolers Can Enter
  5. What to Do If There’s a Social Worker at Your Door
  6. Meet the Reviewers


    General Index

    HSLDA Information & Application



Chapter 1

What’s So Great About Homeschooling?

Are you one of those people who was not in the 99th percentile on every test? Have you learned to think of yourself as an “average” person, or perhaps even “slow”? Are you one of the millions who entered kindergarten with bright-eyed enthusiasm but who lost their love of learning along the way? If you are, then this book is for you.

Or perhaps you were in the 99th percentile. You soared gracefully through school while others waddled. This book is for you too.

“When 40 percent of our eight-year-olds cannot read as well as they should, we have to do something.”

Former President Bill Clinton

Has your child been labeled “learning disabled” or “dyslexic” or “retarded” (or even “gifted”)? Have you have gone around and around with the school, trying to find out what the label means and what the school plans to do about it? Are you looking for a sensible way to help your child, one that doesn’t depend on federal funding or special programs? Would you like to see dramatic improvement in your child’s academic progress? The sources that can help you are right here.

Maybe you have already decided to teach your children at home. You look at the schools near you and are not thrilled at the prospect of incarcerating your children in them for 13 years. You have precious values that you want to pass on, and you are determined to fight for your children’s souls and minds. This book is especially for you!

Learning at home is the magic key that millions of people have used to unlock the educational treasure-chest. No longer must you or your children climb the academic beanstalk in competition with a hundred other Jacks, each of whom can only succeed by knocking his fellows off into the depths. No longer must you spend a fortune on college credits for knowledge offered elsewhere for a pittance. No longer must you watch your child shrivel up under the burden of a label that some trendy educrat has stuck on him or her. In the comfort and privacy of your own home you can learn whatever you want to, whenever you want to—and so can your children.


In 2002, the U.S. Department of Justice found that 71.5 percent of high-school seniors had used alcohol in the past year, while 31.2 percent had used marijuana, 6.6 percent had used hallucinogens, and 5.0 percent had used cocaine. The Bureau of Justice Statistics noted that this likely underrepresented the problem, as dropouts and truants, two groups likelier to use drugs, were not included.

Though drug use has declined slightly since the 1990s, in and around school is still where most children are pressured to try drugs.

Current estimates now place the number of homeschooled children at over two million. That’s a lot of practical, one-on-one teaching experience homeschoolers have gained over the past decade, since the movement changed from a tiny trickle into a full-grown flood.

While homeschoolers cover the entire political and lifestyle spectrum, we do have one thing in common:

We believe that parents can do a great job of teaching their children at home.

No, let me put that more strongly:

We know from experience that you can do a great job
of teaching your children at home!

Homeschooled children consistently test academically ahead of public-schooled children. (See the detailed research summary in Appendix 1.) In most categories, they even surpass the test scores of children from the finest private schools. The one exception? Math computation speed. Moral: homeschool moms don’t like math drills!

Generally, homeschooled children are at least one year ahead academically. When it comes to reasoning skills, homeschooled children test an unbelievable seven years ahead of public-school children!

The academic rocket boost homeschooling provides often translates into homeschooled children winning competitions. Although homeschooled kids are just a fraction of the schooled population, and most homeschoolers don’t enter competitions (a situation I expect to change as information about contests become more accessible—see the chapter and appendix devoted to contests in this book), it’s becoming more and more common for homeschoolers to win, place, or show in academic competitions of all kinds. A few prominent examples of some of these pioneering contestants:

  • In 1997, a delighted Rebecca Sealfon was the first homeschooler to win the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. Three short years later, homeschoolers swept the Spelling Bee, winning first, second, and third places!

  • In 1999, homeschooler Rio Bennin won the Intel Science Talent Search, the USA’s most prestigious science competition for high schoolers. Accepted at Harvard, Berkeley, and Cambridge University in England, he chose to go to Harvard.

  • Also in 1999, homeschooler David Biehl won the National Geography Bee.

Homeschooled kids are performing brilliantly in everything from music competitions, to science fairs, to writing competitions, to Latin and mythology competitions, to sports and martial arts. They have won essay contents, chess contests, and math contests. They have received community service awards and been recognized by members of Congress.

Homeschool graduates have been accepted into Ivy League universities such as Harvard and Yale. They have served with distinction in the military. They have joined apprenticeship programs, served as missionaries, and started their own businesses.


In 1999, students in a Columbine, Colorado, high school were mowed down by gun-toting peers. Columbine High, not coincidentally, was one of the pioneers in “death education” courses.

Often, they have done this at younger ages than their schooled counterparts. While nobody in the homeschool movement advocates whizzing through school for its own sake, thousands of homeschoolers have been mature enough and well enough prepared academically to start taking community-college or Advanced Placement courses at age 16 or earlier. Both are favored options for these younger children, because they save money, allow students of high-school age to accumulate credits toward a college degree in a more prominent institution, and allow kids to live at home when they might be too young to go away to college.


“Mr. President…I was reading just the other day a prominent survey of the condition in elementary schools. It is fairly alarming. It suggested that 4 out of 10 students in elementary school today are frightened by some aspect or fearful of violence in the school. Mr. President, the survey concluded that 3 out of 10 students in elementary school will have property stolen from them in the schools. It suggested that 1 out of 10 will be confronted with a deadly weapon while they are in school.

“So, 4 in 10 are fearful; 3 in 10 are going to be robbed; 1 in 10 is going to face a weapon; and all of them will tell you the nature of drugs and the availability of drugs.…”

Senator Paul Coverdell, Remarks before the Senate of the United States, Sept. 22, 1997

Freed by homeschooling from the necessity of following rigorous school schedules or attending class in one physical location, some families have shared adventures that range from sailing trips around the world to professional and semiprofessional careers in theatre, dance, circus, and other performing arts. Still others have become expert cyberspace “netizens,” creating their own websites, writing their own programs, publishing their own electronic newsletters, or attending online academies.

Take a look at the homeschooled kids featured on the section pages throughout this book for just a small taste of the success homeschoolers are enjoying. Truly, homeschooling has more than proved itself as a road to success in education…and in life.

But man does not live by test scores alone; most parents choose homeschooling for reasons beyond academics. The list of public school deficiencies is familiar and depressing:

The 15 Habits of Highly Defective Schooling
  • drugs
  • violence
  • gangs
  • morally and theologically questionable curriculum
  • peer pressure
  • an alarming number of teachers who can’t pass basic competency tests
  • censorship of traditional religion
  • plummeting test scores
  • dumbed-down curriculum
  • age segregation (the notion that people learn best in the company of dozens of people exactly their own age)
  • isolation from community life
  • busywork
  • little to no one-to-one interaction with the teacher
  • lockstep learning (your child has to learn at the same speed as everyone else)
  • lack of opportunities to pursue special projects and interests

In all these areas where public schools fall short, homeschools excel.


Since 1995, librarians everywhere have been making serious efforts to cater to homeschoolers. In February of that year, Library Journal ran a lengthy article reviewing dozens of homeschool books and magazines.

Now there even is a book for librarians on the sole subject of how to serve homeschool families!

Ten Ways Homeschool Beats “Regular” School

1. “Isolation from community life.” Not a chance! For most home-school families, Friday is Field Trip Day. Everyone piles in the car to visit local businesses and educational attractions. Many homeschool children volunteer or work in the community on a regular basis. And all of us hang out at the library!

Unusual Homeschool Fact: According to Library Journal, homeschoolers
now account for a staggering 20 percent of all library checkouts!

2. “Drugs, violence, and gangs.” Not in my backyard! It’s extremely rare for a homeschooled child to be charged with any crime. In the few instances we’re aware of, the child had until recently been educated in a school situation. Jails are not packed with homeschooled kids; they are packed with people who have had the benefit of ten or more years of being “socialized” in public schools. Added benefit: homeschooled children don’t have to cope with increasingly unsafe school environments.

3. “Little to no interaction with teacher.” You wish! As opposed to regular school classes, where the teacher asks all the questions, home-school provides children with the chance to ask their questions without fear of other children calling them names for doing so. This means you answer a lot of questions!

4. “Lockstep learning.” Not a problem at home. If your child doesn’t “get it,” you can always come back to that lesson in a day, a week, a month, or even a year. If, on the other hand, he wants to zoom ahead, you can feed him the advanced courses he craves without the social problems he would face in public school.

5. “Censorship of traditional religion.” At home we are free to move beyond the Easter bunny and Santa Claus. We are also not forced to endure having our children subjected to one-sided propaganda for religious and philosophical points of view that we disagree with.

6. “Peer pressure.” Did you know that the number one predictor of whether your child will be a genius or not is how much time he spends with adults? It’s true! As the Bible says, “He who walks with the wise becomes wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”

7. “Lack of opportunities to pursue special projects and interests.” We have a section in our magazine, Practical Homeschooling, where we print photos of homeschooled kids who have won various contests or done special projects. Over the years these have ranged from model rocketry to designing stamps for the Post Office. It’s a lot easier to talk Mom and Dad into letting you do these things than to get a classroom teacher to redesign the year’s curriculum to accommodate your child’s special interest!

8, 9, and 10. “Dumbed-down curriculum…busywork…morally questionable curriculum.” Not a problem if you own this book!


The schools have reduced the time spent on academic subjects to about one-fourth of the school day. The majority of the day is spent on psychological courses, counseling, social services, and other nonacademic activities. Even worse, these nonacademic courses use a methodology that used to be called values clarification and is now known by its generic name of nondirective. That means that schoolchildren are presented with dilemmas, situations, and various problems of modern living, but given no direction as to the correct or expected behavior.

The Phyllis Schlafly Report

Three Big Advantages of Homeschooling

Three advantages of learning at home that you’ll notice right away are price, freedom, and options. Home educational products come wrapped in Kraft paper and delivered by the mailman. Classroom products come wrapped in classrooms (very expensive) and delivered by the school administration (likewise, very expensive). Home learning can be done at your convenience, and in most cases there are no deadlines at all.

At home, you have thousands of choices at your fingertips. Away from home, you either are limited to whatever options are offered in your geographical area—or forced to pay exorbitant sums for transportation in order to get to that great seminar in San Diego or that workshop in Bangor, Maine. At home nobody nags you or grades you unless you want them to. Schools, however, run on grades, and you must do the work they require when they want you to do it and in the way they want you to do it, or you come away empty-handed.

Let’s look at how you can reap the advantages of price, freedom, and options by learning at home.


What do you think you’d pay for private guitar lessons from guitar legend Doc Watson? $100 per hour? $200? More? Homespun Tapes will sell you 90 minutes of this Grammy Award winner on video, teaching you all his tricks for just $39.95. This amounts to actually ten or more hours’ worth of lessons, as in person you would be taking a considerable amount of lesson time practicing the techniques. Further, you can rewind the tapes and hear Doc Watson over and over again. No real-life teacher is that patient! When you count these latter factors in, the price of a lesson from a musical master comes to less than the price your next-door neighbor would charge.


The Washington Post just conducted a public opinion poll to find out what are the top “worries” of Americans.…Topping the list of worries in the Washington Post survey, identified by a whopping 62 percent of respondents, was this: “The American educational system will get worse instead of better.”

The Phyllis Schlafly Report


“When you look at the condition of our reading proficiency, our basic skills—reading, writing, adding and subtracting—we are not comforted by the data…”

I have spent the better part of the last two years talking about the fact that we have a drug epidemic in the United States, particularly among our younger teenagers.We have seen statistics that show that drug use has doubled in the last 36 to 40 months. These are schoolchildren, Mr. President. If you go to these schools—and I invite anybody to do it—the students are very savvy, they know exactly what is happening, and they know that there are drugs and violence surrounding their environment in school.

“An American family ought to at least expect that when their child graduates from an American high school, they can do the ABC’s, they can read, they can write, and they can do their arithmetic, and they are not behind. Society spends millions upon millions of dollars retraining these students by the time they get to college.”

Senator Paul Coverdell

What would it cost for you to send your child to one of the top private schools in the country? The going rate is now over $7,000 per year for these elite schools, and even those who have money are often turned away because there are fewer places than would-be students. You can, however, get one year of the Calvert School program, including teacher grading and counseling, for between $850 and $900. Calvert’s home-taught graduates consistently demonstrate the same achievement as its classroom students. You have thus purchased virtually all the benefits of one of the nation’s most exclusive schools at a fraction of the in-person price.


School, like time and Amtrak, waits for no man. The oldest grandfather in graduate school has no more freedom than the youngest preschooler when it comes to deciding when he wants to learn. The whole class must lurch forward at once, and laggards are left holding a lonely “F.”

Under our present inefficient “credentialing” system, which focuses more on classroom attendance than actual knowledge and experience, education becomes a form of involuntary servitude. You give up control of your own life in order to (you hope) gain that coveted credential. You are not allowed to proceed at your own pace or select the educational content or method you prefer. This applies equally to children and adults, with the major difference being that adults can switch from one institution to another or walk away from the whole thing if they are totally disgusted, whereas children usually have no choices at all.

At home, you are in control. You can pick and choose from a variety of sources instead of being tied down to whatever is physically available in your area. You can do the work when it is convenient for you. If you are looking for knowledge, not credentials, you can skip the whole stupefying mass of busywork and tests and concentrate only on what interests you. Learning becomes a pleasant adventure rather than a burden.


Lovers of the offbeat and unusual are sure to be delighted with the educational offerings available at home. From talking globes to authentic pioneer stories to science riddles, the homeschool market is popping with surprises! Buy a bridge-building construction kit for your granddaughter! Find out how to teach decimals with colorful “french fries”! Dance about the room to grammar songs! Cut out and assemble a Viking village! Play a grammar card game!

Some items you need are available only at home. You can’t just bop down to the local Wal-Mart and pick up the organizers reviewed in this volume, for example. And I am seeing an increasing number of products specifically designed for families learning at home, from complete curriculum to clever games and teaching devices.


My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother;

For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.

King Solomon (Proverbs 1:8,9)

On reading instruction, are you stuck with whatever method the local school uses, no matter how poorly your children respond? Not at all! There are dozens of excellent programs, and although most public schools and even a goodly number of private schools pass them by (witness our national illiteracy), that doesn’t mean you can’t rescue your children by reaching for Alpha-Phonics or Sing, Spell, Read and Write.

And, thanks to community organizations, co-ops, and innovative new schooling options (all covered later in this book), your children can also enjoy group learning activities. In fact, homeschooled kids on the average participate in more such activities than schooled kids!

Change Your Child, Change the World

In the long run, any positive transformation of our culture has to begin at home. If everyone lived the way most homeschool families live, there wouldn’t be any crime, broken families, or wars.

You’re in the right place to make a real difference in the lives of your children and everyone whose lives they touch. At home you can give your children a safe, happy childhood…a superior, caring education…and help them grow into people who will care for their own children and reach out to make a difference in the lives of others.

There is no more important task.

Excerpted from Mary Pride’s Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling by Mary Pride. Copyright © 2004 by Harvest House Publishers. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.