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A Look at Homeschooling

Maybe the public school system could learn something from the homeschool community.

A few months ago at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday, I saw a mom showing a very well behaved 8-year-old boy flashcards with Chinese characters on them in Panera.  Homeschool alert! I figured this woman was either a very conservative Christian or a crunchy granola type. Being annoyingly curious and inappropriate, as is my MO, I struck up a conversation with her. She wasn’t either of the stereotypes I narrow-mindedly predetermined. She was very nice and talked to me for a while about her experiences homeschooling her kids. I learned homeschooling is way more organized than I thought and very in vogue at the moment. 

In 1980, homeschooling was illegal in 30 states. Now, it is legal in all 50 states with about 1.5 million to 2 million children being homeschooled in the U.S., roughly 3 percent of school-age children nationwide, according to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics. In the same study, it was found that between 1999-2007 the number of homeschooled children rose 77 percent. The actual number may be even higher because it is hard to track statistics on homeschooling since not all parents who homeschool report information to the government. However, the general consensus is the stigma associated with homeschooling is gone as it becomes more and more mainstream.

As for why more parents are homeschooling, it is not surprising the highest percentage listed religious and moral instruction (36 percent), the next most popular reason being concerns about the school environment (21 percent), followed by dissatisfaction with academic instruction (17 percent).

There is also a trend toward co-op homeschooling where small groups of parents take turns teaching the children and/or hiring tutors to assume some of the responsibility. The image of homeschooled children spending their days sitting at the kitchen table are long gone. Today’s homeschooled are out and about with many museums offering programs to homeschoolers as well as other hands-on activities, such as nature centers. There are endless websites dedicated to non-traditional learning opportunities in addition to a plethora of websites offering support and resources for homeschooling families.

I can teach a classroom of 28 fifth-graders who, between them, cover every learning and behavioral issue under the sun (note to my former colleagues — I said I could, I didn’t say I was good at it), but the thought of teaching my own boys scares me to death. I always believed it was better to leave their academics in the capable hands of those who did not give birth to them, thus eliminating the emotional turmoil involved in getting them to open a book. But, statistics indicate this might not have been the wisest choice. According to the Homeschool Progress Report 2009: Academic Achievement and Demographics, Homeschoolers, on average, scored 37 percentile points above their public school counterparts on standardized achievement tests.

Almost every study touches on a few other facts. It seems homeschooled kids are far from isolated from peers, do well in social situations, and are more likely to be involved in their community. The education level of the parents had little effect on the success of their children, as did state regulations, gender of the student, or how much parents spent on education.

Speaking of spending per student, in public school about $10,000 is spent on each student, each year, as opposed the $500 spent on the average homeschooled student. However, this number sounds a little fishy since the last time I took my kids to the aquarium I spent $74 on three tickets.

Bad puns aside, when I began this article I was dead set against homeschooling, as are many certified teachers. But, after doing research, I’m not so sure. Maybe the public school system could learn something from the homeschool community.

Sue Schaefer is a certified teacher and Academic Coach. Submit your education questions to Sue at susan.schaefer@academiccoachingct.com, visit her website at www.academiccoachingct.com and follow her on Twitter at sueschaefer1.

Marc Bulandr July 28, 2012 at 03:34 PM
This is a well written article. Regardless of the choice a parent makes, as long as it is well thought out with the individual needs of their children taken into consideration, it will be a successful educational experience.
Lennie Jarratt July 28, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Yes, it is amazing when you actually talk to home schoolers and find out that for the most part the stereotypes are just myths. Here are a few articles on that topic from years past: Homeschoolers: Write, Speak & Analyze Better http://educationmatters.us/2006/07/12/homeschoolers-write-speak-analyze-better/ Homeschool Robotics Team Wins World Championship http://educationmatters.us/2008/06/04/homeschool-robotics-team-wins-world-championship/ Homeschoolers Win National Spelling and Geography Bee http://educationmatters.us/2007/06/04/homeschoolers-win-national-spelling-and-geography-bee/ If teaching is a profession, why can a bunch of amateurs do so well? http://wheelgun.blogspot.com/2005/08/home-schoolers-education-monopoly.html
Lennie Jarratt July 28, 2012 at 03:53 PM
The link to the homeschool statistics is http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=91. As you can see 38% of parents reason for home school is directly related to the schools they are in, be it environment or academics. My reason for home schooling was academics.
Susan July 28, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Hi Susan. As a former public school teacher turned homeschooling mom, I used to feel exactly the way you did. "Who do these people think they are, teaching their kids at home?!" Big surprise. I think homeschooling is the best kept secret in education. Thanks for your supportive article.
J July 28, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Home schooling is a very good thing as long as it meets the child's needs. Being homeschooled for too long will severely stunt the social and emotional aspects of a child's education. Life experiences help to shape who the person is. If being homeschooled and isolated, then the child will be a misfit when he/she finally comes out into the real world. The child missed out on lots of ;'growing' experiences that are needed to develop the individual into a well rounded person which is needed later in life.
J July 28, 2012 at 04:35 PM
And, for the parents who do home schooling, in the BG area, it really doesn't make sense to live in the area since the taxes are so high and most of it goes into the school system anyway.
Lennie Jarratt July 28, 2012 at 04:47 PM
I see you are continuing to perpetuate the socialization myth that the author of the article even said was not true. Here are a few more articles to allow you to educate yourself: Homeschooled Students Excel in College http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/000000/00000017.asp Casting a Wider Net: Why Colleges are Recruiting Homeschoolers http://www.nseducationalconsulting.com/2012/02/15/casting-a-wider-net-why-colleges-are-recruiting-homeschoolers/ Homeschoolers: Write, Speak & Analyze Better http://educationmatters.us/2006/07/12/homeschoolers-write-speak-analyze-better/
Lennie Jarratt July 28, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Interesting that you complain about home schoolers being isolated in your last comment, but then turn around and tell them they should move in the next. LOL!!!!
Gabrielle McLeod July 31, 2012 at 02:21 AM
I've been homeschooled my entire life, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I was reading since I was three,aced Anatomy and Physiognomy at 14, took a practice PSAT the same year and got ten points away from National Merit. My little brother is 13 and doing Algebra II. If we had gone to public school, I don't think these things would've happened. We also have tons of friends and get to socialize a lot. I <3 my school because do my schoolwork and get to write books on the side. It works out so well. Go homeschooling!!
GuitarMan July 31, 2012 at 04:38 AM
I wasn't home schooled, but think the positive spin overlooks a few things. First, if a family can have a spouse working and the other spouse teaching the stage is set. Second, at least in Illinois, you will need to measure academic progress within the parameters and goals of the state. In large part this is the standardized test model. Third, I don’t believe a nation can rely on the ad-hoc skills of parents to insure our society remains well educated. Finally, several weeks ago Fareed Zakaria (Global Public Square – CNN) compared several modes of education from around the world. Based on the rating system used to rank nations a Nordic country, I believe Finland ranked number one. Of note was the fact that these students do far less home work, but are well educated, in terms of critical thinking. To whatever home schooling attributes success, I would hope they would appreciate sharing and multiplying this success to our nation as a whole. Less we are content to have a patchwork of teaching modes, and results, keeping the US around 27th in the ranking noted above. In short I think the home schooling trend in populated areas is more akin to some kind of protest against public schools, and the results are little more than quaint examples of isolated success dependant on the teaching skills of a particular parent.
LMJ July 31, 2012 at 05:30 AM
Please check your facts before posting something about, as you said, you know very little about. It shows. Start by checking the laws in Illinois, sir, for homeschool requirements. What you have said here is not fact, just assumptions and prejudice. Honestly, you should be more concerned about what public schools are putting out. Not a day goes by without some violent act, or problem coming from them. If that is superior education, I will pass. Whether any parent has an "akin to some kind of protest against public school", isn't really your business. Children are parent's responsibility, not yours. I don't know any parent, public or private (you did know that in Illinois, homeschool is considered a private school) that would purposely want to harm their children and not want the best for them, but yet you appear to think that homeschool kids are lab rats for the parents to destroy. Come on! Your spin on this subject in uninformed and being such an educated person, I am surprised that you didn't do real research instead of listen to gossip and hearsay.
Bob Gonzalez August 10, 2012 at 07:18 PM
My concern with homeschooling is the propagation of false religious views cloaked as science. Some homeschool parents teach their kids that the Earth is 6,000 yeas old and that creationism is a valid scientific theory.
Sully August 11, 2012 at 02:40 AM
Lisa, why are you being so defensive and why are you replying in such a hostile tone? Mr Myers was making an observation, stating something he believes, yet you pounce on him like a cat on a mouse. His statements are valid concerns, and your attempt to belittle him says more about you than it does him. I also share the same concern as Bob. Some parents don't want public education because it goes against their religious beliefs. It is especially bothersome at this point in time because while the rest of the world is moving forward with 21st century science, America's religious right is trying to do the opposite and wants to take the whole country with them. When kids are taught on solely biblical teachings, besides missing a lot of information, or learning something that most of the world knows is false, they rarely are allowed to practice critical thinking skills. They are taught not to question instead of challenging ideas.
Nightcrawler August 11, 2012 at 03:27 AM
Says the guy who belittles everyone he posts to on here....
Sully August 11, 2012 at 03:43 AM
No Joe (how many names have you used on here anyway?). You mistake disagreeing with YOU as being an all out attack. Sorry, it doesn't work that way.
Nightcrawler August 11, 2012 at 03:47 AM
Maybe you should go cry about it. You do whine a lot, after all.
Lennie Jarratt August 11, 2012 at 04:53 AM
You are correct @Joe, Sully likes to attack and belittle anyone who disagrees with him.
Sully August 11, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Nope, that's you too Joe. The one who resorts to name calling when you cannot defend your argument. And Lennie, I'm hurt. When was the last time I supposedly belittled or lied to you? Heck, I even asked you to look into legitimate investigation question on your profile page. Did you see it?
Abigail August 11, 2012 at 03:01 PM
My nieces are homeschooled and doing great. And the younger nieces who aren't of school age yet are learning right along with them. I think their parents made the right choice for their children because these girls out shine their cousins at every turn.
Lennie Jarratt August 11, 2012 at 03:29 PM
You stopped right after I announce my run for State Senate, funny how that happened. No, I didn't see your question. Please resend if you wish.
Sully August 11, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Your point, Lennie? Is there some sort of correlation between the two? Yes, I will repost on your page.
Sully August 11, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Hey Lennie, I can't seem to post a message on your page.
Lennie Jarratt August 11, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Don't know why. Just email me instead. There's a contact page on my website: http://lenniejarratt.com
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