I realize the title is a bit redundant, or perhaps more of an oxymoron, but homeschool classes and programs have been very valuable to us.
I feel classes outside the home was the thing that we needed to give my daughter (especially) the extra boost to get into even her most far-reach college choice. She was able to show that not only had she met the recommended academic guidelines to make her college ready, but that she had far exceeded it by taking as many elective classes as she did core classes.
Now classes outside the home are not for everyone. There are certainly many pros and many cons. I will list some of them for you.
Pros of outside classes:
Reference letters: We had to find people to call on for academic and other references for college admissions and for internships and such. The outside classes provided plenty of people to call on to help with these letters.
Mom is not the font of all knowledge. In fact, I actually despised some of the subjects, and was glad
to turn them over to someone else, even temporarily.
Friends: My kids met lots of friends who they had plenty in common with. Some of their best friends were met through homeschool programs and classes.
Credentials: Whether the classes or programs provide the student with a progress report at the end of each completed class, or a full accredited transcript, it is good to be able to show that the child could excel outside the home, when judged by other people. This isn't necessary for all core courses, but even one or two classes taught by someone other them mom shows that the child's success is consistent even outside the home.
Cons of outside classes
Not having a schedule is very freeing for homeschoolers. Once you sign up for a class outside the home, you are once again at the mercy of a schedule that has been set for you. This can alter your
entire homeschooling dynamic. For some, the structure is great. For others, it makes life difficult.
Failure: Sometimes it just doesn't work out. Whether it be that the student can't keep up, or that the class is not run smoothly, sometimes it can just be a bad fit and/or a bad experience. Sometimes, this can be avoided by asking other parents before entering your child into a program or class to find the best fit. Other times, the parent needs to step in and help the child until they get the hang of the pace of the class. I also have to strongly advise that you not let one bad experience keep you from trying again.
Bad Grades: This piggybacks off the previous point, but it is important to understand that sometimes bad grades happen. At that point, it is up to the homeschooling parent to decide how that grade will be used. When the child is in an accredited program, they can have the student take the class again to hopefully raise the grade. If it is an unaccredited program, the homeschooling parent has the right to evaluate how and why the grade was given and perhaps retest the child to apply a grade that they think is more fare.
Stress and anxiety: Homeschool classes can cause the same kind of stress and anxiety that public school classes caused, and may very well remind you why you took your child out of school in the first place. When this happens, it might be a good idea to drop a couple of classes so your child can adjust, or to quit, and try again when the child is more ready.
Summing it up
To sum things up, classes outside the home can be very valuable for homeschoolers. I suggest that you try a couple of classes in the elementary and middle school years to see if it is something your child likes, and before throwing them into a high school program. My personal suggestion, and what I did was to stick mostly to elective classes that would end up as pass-fail on the transcript anyway, and classes that I felt ill-equipped to teach... like foreign language and piano.
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