When you first consider home education, common homeschooling terms can sound like a foreign language. Once you commit to homeschooling your children and spend a few months teaching them, you will learn there are even more words in a homeschooler’s vocabulary. Sometimes you don’t even know what you don’t know! Year after year, new homeschool terms continue to add up. For instance, homeschoolers of high schoolers have a vocabulary all their own.
In this series, I want to define many of those words, glossary style. My log of homeschool lingo has grown so long I’ve had to split it into two parts! Admittedly, there may be common homeschool terms I have overlooked and definitions I have oversimplified. Please feel free to contact me (see the bio at the end of the article) if you’d like to add vocabulary to my growing glossary. I’d love to hear from you!
Let’s get started defining some terms.
Academy. An outside-the-home academic option, an academy offers weekly classes (or more frequent classes) taught for a fee by someone other than a parent. Enrolled students gather together in a classroom setting for lectures, discussion, activities, and labs. Teachers are often professional educators and may assume responsibility for issuing grades. Some homeschoolers rely on an academy, especially for high school courses.
ACT. An acronym for American College Testing, this is a standardized test for assessing high school achievement and ability to complete college-level work. Usually taken in eleventh or twelfth grade, the ACT encompasses English, Math, Reading, and Science Reasoning, with an optional Writing section. Subscores are averaged to a whole number composite score, with the highest possible total being a 36. Currently paper-based, the ACT is gradually being computerized. Colleges tend to place an emphasis on tests like the ACT in their admission decisions for homeschoolers, but they also weigh high school grades, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, personal statements, and written essays.
Affidavit. Required in some states, an affidavit is a legal document, sealed and signed by a notary public, declaring a parent’s intent to homeschool his or her child(ren). Because it involves a notary, an affidavit is a more formal version of a notification. This affidavit is sent to the local school district in order to receive an Excuse from Compulsory Education.
All-Inclusive Curriculum. Also known as a boxed curriculum, this is a complete program for a full year’s education. Bought from one publisher or distributor and geared to one grade level, it includes all subjects, such as math, science, language arts, history, and the arts. An all-inclusive curriculum is usually comprised of textbooks, workbooks, and DVDs or online materials. Many families begin homeschooling by using an all-inclusive program.
Assessment. Also called an evaluation, an assessment is legally required in some states to evaluate a student’s academic progress. It is conducted by a state-certified educator, who will base the assessment on a sampling (or portfolio) of the child’s work and possibly a conversation with the parent and child. Assessors provide a written summary of the evaluation to satisfy state laws. Assessments can provide parents with a sense of confidence that their student is making adequate progress in various subject areas
Charlotte Mason. A British educator from the mid-1800s to the early 1900’s. Many homeschoolers have adopted her principles as the Charlotte Mason method. Her approach states that all children are able to deal with ideas and knowledge, so they should have direct exposure to great “living books” and noble ideas in each subject, including art, music, and poetry. The Charlotte Mason approach emphasizes knowledge of God as primary, chronological history study via source documents and biographies, oral narration, and written copywork; nature study; and memorization as a means of habit training.
Charter School. A public school operating independently of the local district. Usually managed by a board or a group of parents, a charter school is accountable for academic results and for upholding the promises made in its charter. Charter schools are open to all students, regardless of geographic assignment, and they often adopt innovative educational practices. Because charter schools receive state monies, students who enroll forfeit the right to homeschool (even if a student who is enrolled in a charter school completes all the assignments at home, they are still officially enrolled in a public school; this may limit flexibility and reduce a parent’s role in his or her child’s education).
Classical Approach. Also called the Socratic Method. Based on the Trivium, the classical approach is a method of educating children according to their cognitive development stages (concrete, analytical, and abstract thinking). This approach to homeschooling is primarily language-focused. It is literature intensive and works to find the links between all fields of study (such as correlations between math and science or history and literature).
Compulsory Attendance Laws. Laws enacted between 1852 (Massachusetts) and 1929 (Alaska) stating “school age” children are required to attend a school. Compulsory attendance laws differ greatly from state to state. Mandatory ages begin anywhere from five to eight and end from sixteen to eighteen (or younger if students have already graduated). The laws vary by the number of hours and the number of days children are annually required to attend school; a typical requirement is five hours a day for 180 days. An Excuse from Compulsory Attendance exempts homeschoolers from these laws.
Co-op. Abbreviation for cooperative. A homeschool co-op is a group of homeschool families meeting on a regular basis to provide educational and social activities for their children. Co-op families volunteer their time and talents to each other. Co-ops vary greatly in what they offer and how often they meet. For instance, some co-ops meet weekly for academic classes taught by the parents; other co-ops meet less frequently for guest speakers, field trips, or enrichment activities.
Consumable. Curriculum, especially math or handwriting workbooks, which children write in during the school year. Consumables are not able to be handed down to another child or resold because they are already “consumed.”
Counselor. In academic terms, a faculty member advising students on personal, academic, and career choices. In homeschool terms, a counselor is the parent. As students move into middle and high school, homeschool parents find themselves serving increasingly as a counselor (and perhaps less and less as the teacher). Parents work as a counselor to advise students on which courses to take and to prepare transcripts, issue diplomas, offer vocational opportunities, and guide the college admission process.
Curriculum. A structured educational plan. Many families begin homeschooling using a complete curriculum package covering all subjects, purchased from a single publisher. As they gain experience, confidence, and understanding of their student’s learning style, some homeschoolers will gradually assemble their own curriculum by combining purchased curriculum materials and free educational resources (library books, online materials, park and museum programs, co-op opportunities, etc.).
Diploma. A person who completes the final year of high school instruction in a homeschool according to state law may be issued a diploma by the student’s parent. Because home educators have legal authority to issue diplomas for their graduating seniors, those diplomas carry the same weight as diplomas issued by any other school.
Distance Learning. For homeschoolers, distance learning means Internet-based classes, Internet-based school, or correspondence courses. The Internet has provided an explosion of distance learning options to home educators. Some families occasionally select an online class for a child for enrichment or for outsourcing a difficult subject (for example, advanced math classes for high schoolers); other families enroll their child(ren) in distance learning programs that teach all subjects, select curriculum, provide grading, and issue diplomas. In the past, homeschoolers took advantage of distance learning correspondence courses, especially from Christian colleges; coursework was mailed to students, who in turn submitted assignments back to the schools by mail.
Dual Enrollment. A term indicating that a student is enrolled in two separate, academically related institutions. Generally, it refers to motivated high school students taking college courses and upon successfully passing the classes, receiving simultaneous credit toward graduation on both their high school and college transcripts. Typically a student must be enrolled in a public high school to be eligible for these state-sponsored programs. The courses are taught by a visiting college professor at a high school.
Early College. Students who are completing their high school course requirements while simultaneously earning a degree at a college. Often a student must be enrolled in a public high school to be eligible for these state-sponsored programs; however, the courses are usually taken at a local college campus. Homeschool students often transition to early college programs during their final year(s) of high school, potentially saving thousands of dollars on university tuition costs.
Eclectic. A combined educational approach, eclectic homeschooling is not a style itself but a combination of styles. For instance, an eclectic homeschooler might choose a structured textbook for math, a Charlotte Mason approach to science and the arts, and a classical approach to English and foreign languages. Parents who follow this approach are often veteran homeschoolers who are confident in the learning styles of their children. Not to be confused with either unschooling or a relaxed approach, eclectic homeschoolers adhere to a schedule and follow a set curriculum, often customized for each child.
Melanie Hexter and her husband, Matthew, started their homeschool journey in 1998. With two graduates and four children still at home, they ask the Lord to teach them how to uniquely educate each child. The Hexters love to travel the US, using their Colorado Springs home as a western base. Melanie is working on two books and offers several homeschool curricula, including the U.S. National Parks Unit Study, for download at www.LEMILOEpublishing.com. LEMILOE is their family motto: Live Every Moment In Light Of Eternity.