By Diane Flynn Keith
Millions of children nationwide (with a large increase during the pandemic) learn at home in kitchens converted to classrooms. Homeschooling is the fastest-growing educational alternative in the country today.
Parents homeschool their children for a variety of reasons:
* Some have educational philosophies or religious beliefs that are inconsistent with public and private schooling.
* Many homeschooled their children during Covid-19 lockdowns and liked it so well, they continued to homeschool after schools re-opened.
* Others begin homeschooling to rescue their children from the de-socialization taking place on school campuses – to prevent exposure to drugs, gangs, and risky social behavior.
* Parents choose homeschooling to achieve academic excellence by custom-tailoring a curriculum suited to their child’s interests, learning styles, and needs. Most students, including those with learning differences or special needs flourish in the one-on-one environment of a homeschool.
The latest nationwide studies of homeschooled students support the claim of homeschooling proponents that home education is more successful than public education. The National Home Education Research Institute reports that homeschooled students scored, on the average, in the 80th to 87th percentiles on standardized academic achievement tests. The national average for public schooled children is the 50th percentile.
The successful, documented track record of homeschoolers is one reason that college admissions panels have adapted their application process for the home educated.
Homeschoolers have been accepted at major universities and colleges including Harvard, Yale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, all of the University of California campuses, and even the U.S. Military Academies.
How do homeschooling parents go about teaching their children at home? There is no one right way to homeschool and no one-size-fits-all mindset. Many agree that developing a personal educational philosophy is a good way to start. Homeschooling advocate, the late Jackie Orsi, a former Trustee with the California Homeschool Network, elaborated on this idea, “There needs to be a parental vision of the kind of whole person you hope to raise, someone who is not merely knowledgeable but also productive, civil, generous, creative, responsible, self-assured, wise, and ultimately, lovable. That’s a parent’s complete task, of which schooling the child is just a rather minor part of the whole.” Once a philosophy is developed, it guides the parent in choosing from a variety of methods:
- Some homeschoolers re-create traditional schooling at home, complete with textbooks and recess.
- Others attend Home Study Programs through public school districts. Teachers help parents develop a course of study for their children and supply resource materials. The parent executes the plan at home (like a teacher’s aid) and reports back to the school district monthly.
- Charter Schools offer Home Study Programs providing curriculum development and teaching assistance. Some provide families $1000 per student in educational credit toward the purchase of consumable educational materials.
- Homeschoolers may also become members of private school Independent Study Programs. These programs vary but generally supply record keeping, guidance, support, and curriculum counseling.
- A few home educators employ tutors to instruct their children at home.
- There are families that engage in what is known as “unschooling” or interest-initiated, child-centered learning. Parents act as facilitators — providing materials and resources to satiate their child’s own interests in any particular field of study.
- Educational technology provides many options to the classroom at home. Educational software includes everything from pre-K activities to complete curriculum packages for grades K-12. The Internet offers research opportunities in every subject along with online, interactive homeschool classes and college courses. Audio and video courses are available. Public television offers courses for credit through community colleges.
- Home educators also participate in correspondence courses. Private schools offer complete curriculum packages for pre-K through high school. A number of colleges and universities provide high school correspondence courses and give college credit for them upon completion.
- Most home educators utilize a wide variety of resources. They may allow for interest-initiated learning in some areas and blend it with unit studies in history or science. They may also use a textbook for math, take foreign language classes outside of the home, and supplement their studies with classes at local museums or with a correspondence course. They use an eclectic mix of educational tools to custom-tailor a learning program that emphasizes their child’s strengths, and helps to manage weaknesses.
Parents have a profusion of resources to choose from in the task of educating their children, not the least of which is the public library. Homeschooling advocacy organizations provide all kinds of assistance, counseling, presentations, publications and products for parents pursuing home education. Homeschooling parents organize cooperative classes, field trips, park days, and social events that can be accessed through regional homeschool newsletters and support groups. Additionally, major textbook publishers and testing services now package their product lines specifically for homeschoolers.
Homeschoolers, like their school-going counterparts, also participate in after-school sports programs, dance classes, 4-H projects, music lessons, scouting, and church activities. They enjoy friendships with neighborhood kids as well. Opportunities for socialization prevail.
The phenomenal growth of the homeschooling movement makes the one-time underground activity easily accessible today. While homeschooling may not be right for every family, it is definitely a viable educational alternative. Perhaps you and your children will forego the back-to-school sales and join millions of other children who learn at home. Intrigued? Then please explore the rest of this website to discover resources and support for homeschooling families. Keep the home fires burning. DFK
About the Author
Diane Flynn Keith homeschooled her two sons for 14 years in the San Francisco Bay Area. She produces Homefires.com an online journal and resource center for homeschool families. She offers support and encouragement to thousands of homeschool families through her numerous free e-lists at Yahoo Groups. (To join the lists visit: Support Networks.) Diane is the author of the book, “Carschooling: Over 350 Entertaining Games & Activities To Turn Travel Time Into Learning Time,” published by Random House. She is also the publisher of ClickSchooling – a FREE daily e-service that provides recommendations for great educational websites on the Net.