When the topic of “school choice” comes up, most people think of charter schools, alternative schools, or private schools. Yet a rapidly growing number of families are making the choice to educate their children at home. According to latest estimates, over 4% of students nationwide are homeschooled, and the trend is accelerating.
Colorado state senator Kevin Lundberg recently explained to the Franklin Center’s #AmplifyChoice Conference attendees why homeschooling is so attractive to parents. “Homeschoolers typically track two grade levels above their peers, their socialization skills are far advanced over students from traditional schools, and they are highly sought by universities and employers because of their great variety of skills and independence of thought,” he said.
North Carolina is one of the states that has seen attendance at traditional public schools give ground to private, public non-traditional, and homeschool alternatives in recent years. In fact, the number of homeschooled students spiked 10% just last year, according to the North Carolinians for Home Education (NCHE).
My daughter is one of many homeschooling parents in North Carolina, having left a successful professional career to teach her twins (boy and girl), now six years old. Her main concern about traditional schools is the waste of precious time. “Public school kids spend so much time at their desks in class, on testing, waiting in line, and doing homework,” she said. “I think children need more time to explore their individual interests and to develop social and personal skills. I worried that my twins wouldn’t have the time for sports, advanced science activities, travel, field trips – the things that I had time to do when I was a kid.”
And she has not been disappointed. She learned that there is a vast network of resources for homeschoolers, and social media makes finding and organizing educational, athletic and social activities easy. Her children attend foreign language lessons, nature trips, music events and instruction, competitive sports programs, and many other activities on a regular basis, in addition to their structured class-time at home.
The results are promising: one of the six-year old twins reads at grade 4-5 level and the other is advanced at math and pre-engineering skills. That illustrates my daughter’s biggest surprise about homeschooling, and perhaps the most significant advantage over traditional schools. “I thought that teaching two children of the same age would be easy, ” she said. “But I found out they learn in entirely different ways. In the homeschool setting I can give them a lot of individual attention and structure their work to suit their learning styles individually. I don’t know how a teacher of twenty or thirty students could do that.”
Parents who are considering homeschooling are often asked whether they are concerned about their children missing the traditional schools’ social environment. For many, that’s the point – they prefer a setting that reflects their own values rather than the pop-culture, secularism and political correctness they perceive to be prevalent at public schools. And homeschool parents are pleased to find that their children actually get along well with children of all ages, and adults, too. “It’s not unusual for young teenagers to engage constructively with elementary-aged kids,” my daughter explained. “There isn’t the competition and bullying that you find in a group of traditional-school kids who spend most of their time with people their own age.”
Some families wonder whether they have the skill set to successfully teach their children at home, but that isn’t usually a problem. Children learn very efficiently on their own when provided good materials, environment, and opportunity. And supplemental resources abound, such as online classes and materials, cooperative programs with schools and universities, sessions with private businesses aimed at homeschoolers, and classes shared and organized with other homeschoolers. For the most part, success relies on the parents’ motivation.
Homeschooling is not an option for many families whose parents must both work, or who just prefer to not be saddled with the responsibility. But those parents who are able and willing to take the plunge are finding homeschooling to be an outstanding choice for their children.
Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side
Teach your children well
Their father’s hell
Will slowly go by
And feed them on your dreams
The one they pick’s
The one you’ll know by
Harmony. Harmony. Harmony!