Homeschooling Expert: Author Tamra Orr

Homeschooling Author Tamra Orr

While increasing numbers of families are turning to homeschool as their educational choice, many others are completely in the dark as to what it entails. Myths and misconceptions regarding home education abound. LoveToKnow Kids turned to veteran homeschooler and author Tamra Orr to demystify the lifestyle.

About Tamra Orr

Although Tamra Orr was traditionally educated, she has always taught her children at home. "I first became interested in child birth," she explains. "Since both my husband and I had been good students who had bad experiences in public school, I was immediately intrigued." Orr's children, who range in age from 10 to 22, have all been taught at home.

In addition to being a home educator, Orr is also the author of several books, including:

Myths About Homeschooling

LoveToKnow (LTK): What is the biggest misconception people have about those who learn at home?

Tamra Orr (TO): There are so many. . . first, that we are all religious, which is far from true. There is a growing number of people of alternative faiths and atheists who homeschool.

Another is that we stay home all the time, when the truth is we are constantly on the go with classes and workshops and play dates and field trips.

The third one is that our kids won't be socialized. If they mean the cruel, competitive kind of socialization that we often see in public school, they are right (thank goodness). If they mean they won't be around other people and kids, they clearly know nothing about how homeschoolers really live.

LTK: Does this type of education produce college-bound youngsters?

TO: It certainly can. Will they be more prone to go to college? Actually, in the long run, I don't think so. They have usually been brought up to look at education from a more holistic standpoint, so they may weigh college against volunteer services, employment and travel as equal opportunities.

Deciding to Homeschool

LTK: Is home schooling effective for special needs students?

TO: I would think it serves them better than the traditional student. They are taught by someone who loves and understands them the most and in the way that is most meaningful and effective to them.

LTK: Is home schooling right for all families? If not, how can a family decide if it's right for them?

TO: Ideally, yes. Realistically, no. If you don't enjoy your children's company, don't homeschool. If you think that children must suffer in order to function well in life, don't homeschool. If you are keeping them at home just to do the housework, don't homeschool. Otherwise, do it.

Methods and Curricula

LTK: In "unschooling," families use no formal curriculum. Instead, parents follow their children's lead in education. Learning takes place through day-to-day life, with no structured schooling. What is your opinion of this type of child-led learning? Do children really learn this way?

TO: As a radical and dedicated unschooler, yes, I certainly do believe that children can learn that way. I have watched all four of mine do so in an unschooling manner. Remember, it doesn't mean NO education, it means student led education.

LTK: On the opposite end of the homeschooling spectrum are the packaged curricula. These programs usually give parents everything they need to create a school at home. Packages often include books, workbooks, tests, and teaching instructions. Is "school-in-a-box" an effective method for home schoolers?

TO: I suppose it would be for some, but I would guess that the families who use it the most are newbies/novices and like these because they are the most familiar. Over time, most families move away from this type of homeschooling. There are those, however, who love structure and thrive in this type of philosophy.

LTK: How can a parent choose the right curriculum or method for her family?

TO: Let the children take the lead. Follow what they like to do most and the method they learn with the best. Remember, they know more about what they want to know than you do.

LTK: What is the biggest mistake new home schoolers make?

TO: Bringing school home. Modeling homeschool after public school, complete with tests, grades, hours, etc. They overlook the incredible diversity and flexibility homeschooling offers and just do what they saw modeled when they were in school. Think outside the education box.

Advice for New Homeschoolers

LTK: What advice would you give someone considering home schooling?

TO: Never model what you do after one family or one book or one anything. Read lots of books. Meet lots of homeschoolers. Watch what looks right and intuitive to you. Listen to your children and follow their lead on what to do next. Cherish the moments with your kids as they explore their world.

LTK: Is there anything you would like to add?

TO: Don't listen to the advice of anyone who hasn't been there, done that. That includes school administrators, in-laws, nosy neighbors, national news reports or anyone else who is talking about homeschooling without personal experience and knowledge.

Homeschooling Expert: Author Tamra Orr