Private Schools

April 11, 2001 1 min read

Help at Home: When Marsha Ransom began home schooling her oldest child, she designed a curriculum around her state’s guidelines, with neat, 50-minute blocks of study.

She’s come a long way in the 12 years since then. Having taught all four of her children at home, she’s learned firsthand that home teaching must be designed to fit each child’s and each family’s unique profile.

That’s part of the reason, Ms. Ransom says, that she wrote The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Homeschooling.

The new book joins more than 400 other Complete Idiot’s Guides, published by Indianapolis-based Alpha Books. Covering the subject-matter gamut from guitar playing to personal finance, the ubiquitous bright-orange-and-white guides have sold 15 million copies.

Ms. Ransom envisions her contribution to the series as both an all- inclusive beginner’s guide and a tool that established home schoolers can use to revitalize their practice. But she also focuses heavily on how families can create a schooling experience that uniquely suits them.

“The thing I wish I had had when I started was someone to say, ‘You don’t have to do it like anyone else. You can personalize it, make it your own,’” said Ms. Ransom, 45, a product of small-town Pennsylvania public schools who now lives in South Haven, Mich. “Even if you’re afraid to do anything except buy a packaged curriculum,” she said, “you can flex and tweak it.”

So Ms. Ransom’s book guides readers through an examination of their own educational philosophies and explains various approaches to home schooling, from the traditional to the eclectic, in an attempt to let each family find a good fit.

The book briefly explores the history of home schooling, then details how to get started, including knowing the relevant state laws. It outlines ways to choose or plan a curriculum for each age group, assess what a child has learned, find support, and prevent burnout.

With the home-schooled population already at a very roughly estimated 1.5 million children and growing by 5 percent or more a year, according to Brian Ray, the president of the National Home Education Research Institute in Salem, Ore., the market for books like Ms. Ransom’s is expanding.

“Many parents who might consider home schooling wonder, ‘Am I capable?’ and a book like this says, ‘Yeah, you’re capable,’” Mr. Ray said.

—Catherine Gewertz

A version of this article appeared in the April 11, 2001 edition of Education Week