As the mom of a relatively recent homeschooler, Chalkbeat’s February 17, 2022, post entitled, Home schooling nearly doubled in NYC since pandemic’s start, instantly caught my eye. They reported that:
This school year, roughly 14,800 children across the five boroughs have opted to learn outside of school walls, according to internal education department data obtained by Chalkbeat. That number jumped by nearly 7,000 — or 88% — since the pandemic hit with the biggest gain occurring this school year, as more than 4,000 new students registered to home-school. The largest increases were in districts with higher shares of low-income students…. Some may have been unhappy with what they saw when their children were in online classes last year, and families of color, in particular, may have been upset witnessing firsthand curriculum that wasn’t culturally responsive. For others, it was a trust issue: They felt their children were safer at home because of COVID fears or other school-related violence.
The post profiled several families, but the one that hit a nerve with me most was:
Seventeen-year-old Jonica Jenkins this week returned to finish her senior year at Frederick Douglass Academy II after spending these past several months as a home-school student, learning from her family’s Harlem apartment.
Jenkins’ mother Johndca Spencer had wanted to home-school her three children years prior to the pandemic, but was too busy running a home cleaning business. When that business fell apart after the pandemic shut down many parts of New York City, Spencer reevaluated.
The main reason for the return to a traditional school: Spencer didn’t know how colleges would accept her daughter’s home-school diploma, and she worried it wouldn’t carry as much weight as a Regents diploma from a brick-and-mortar school.
Spencer wasn’t sure how to find out the answers to her questions.
“How can you prove you graduated — just because your mom said you’re done?” Spencer said. “Basically I was on my own with that. The red tape surrounding that for this state was too much to navigate, especially when you’re not getting any assistance … There’s not enough resources and not enough help, and I just didn’t know how to access it.”
Without finding a community of families with high school seniors, Spencer felt ill-equipped to navigate her daughter’s graduation.
My son, Gregory Wickham, convinced me to let him homeschool starting with fall of 2020. My key stipulation was that he do all the paperwork himself. He has been blogging his journey, here. Both of us have received so many questions about the ins and outs of homeschooling similar to those posed by the mom above, that I asked Gregory to put together everything a new homeschooling family would need to know.
Here is Gregory’s end to end resource overview:
If you wish to homeschool yourself, you will need to use a variety of different resources to navigate the process. You might not know which resources to use, or which ones exist, so I will explain the ones I used.
- Deciding to Homeschool
Firstly, before you decide to homeschool, read The Teenage Liberation Handbook. It provides an essential overview of homeschooling and unschooling, and will introduce you to options you had most likely never considered. It will help you contextualize homeschooling as a framework for life instead of a replacement for school. Every teenager who wants to carve their own educational path will find something useful in The Teenage Liberation Handbook.
If you decide to take the legal step of unenrolling from school to officially start homeschooling, you will need to familiarize yourself with your state/district’s laws on homeschooling. Students in New York City must follow the state laws and DOE instructions. (More on those later.)
- Planning Your Studies
Before you take the step of formally declaring yourself homeschooled, you should plan your first year of classes. I took a more traditional approach than the unschooling discussed in The Teenage Liberation Handbook, so I used resources that worked as direct replacements for the academic resources that schools provide.
I used Khan Academy as the core of my curriculum for most of my classes, and I paced my progress so that I would finish in time to take the corresponding AP exams. For Physics, I used Dan Fullerton’s videos on YouTube. And, for AP exam preparation, I used Albert.io.
I didn’t use my textbooks very much, but I did have textbooks selected for each of my classes. Many textbooks can be found for free online by Googling their title and adding filetype:pdf at the end of your search, or by downloading them from an ebook library. I recommend finding more than one textbook for each class, then deciding which ones, if any, you want to use. You can always change your mind later.
- College Prep
If you want to go to college and save time and money, I strongly recommend taking as many AP exams as makes sense. Also, if you’re in NYC, take as many College Now courses as you can. They offer in-person, hybrid, online, and asynchronous courses in a wide variety of subjects, so you should be able to find an appropriate course for you.
If you know what college you want to go to, you can plan your homeschooling around which credits they will accept. CUNYs almost always accept credits from other CUNYs, including College Now credits. Many large colleges and universities have websites which will tell you which courses from which universities will be accepted for credit. If a college doesn’t have the information you need, you can typically email their admissions or transfer student department to get the answers you need.
Students can typically earn up to 15 credits through College Now, which is equivalent to one semester of coursework, which would allow you to graduate early from any colleges which will accept the credits. If you also take AP exams you could potentially shorten your college career by another semester or two to save time and money.
- Legal Considerations (in NYC)
In order to start the process of legally homeschooling, if you are in New York City, you will need to submit a Letter of Intent and IHIP. I’ve explained how to do that in past posts, and it’s a fairly simple and quick process. That article also explains how to register for AP exams as a homeschooler, which is essential for earning college credit.
You will need to submit quarterly reports to the DOE, and at the end of the year, you might have to take an annual assessment in accordance with state regulations. I didn’t have to do this during the year I homeschooled, because that requirement was temporarily suspended due to the pandemic. The rules regarding this may change, and you can keep track of those changes here.
There are, technically, ways to create a homeschool high school diploma, but requirements are different in different circumstances, and it’s complicated. In my opinion, the best option for graduation for homeschoolers is to get a high school equivalency (HSE) diploma by taking the GED, TASC, or HiSET. This will make you eligible for federal funds when attending college, and will be an easier credential to provide to colleges, employers, and other institutions.
Registering for and taking the TASC (New York State’s high school equivalency exam) can be difficult, but once it’s done, you don’t have to worry about changing regulations or new requirements. You can find TASC prep books at the library and use the practice tests to prepare for the exam.
I strongly recommend taking the TASC as soon as you are eligible. Don’t wait until the end of your senior year. If you think you’ll be able to pass, take it as soon as you can. Some college applications might require you to already have your HSE diploma when you apply, so you can’t wait until the end of the year.
The best part is, when you homeschool, you can change your mind about how to do things. You can and should experiment with which study methods work best for you. Find out whether you prefer YouTube or textbooks. Find out how many practice problems you really need to do. I can guarantee that at least one thing your teachers told you about what you have to do to learn was wrong. Most likely, 99% of the advice on studying that your teachers gave you, even if it works, was not what works best for you. Don’t limit yourself to what works. See if you can do better.
Finally, find out what rules apply to you, and do whatever you want to do within those bounds. You only have to do what is required, but you don’t necessarily have to do it in the way they want you to. Suggested dates and deadlines are only suggestions. If you don’t like them, change them. Schools may advise against taking six AP exams in one year or taking two dual enrollment courses at the same time, but when you homeschool, those decisions are up to you.
Have more questions about homeschooling in NYC? Post them in the Comments and we’ll do our best to answer!