Why do we home school?
"According to the National Home Education Research Institute, the number of homeschoolers rose from 1.2 million in 2003 to an astounding 2.4 million in 2006. With this staggering increase in those receiving an education from home we have to wonder why people are choosing this form of education."
Since our decision three years ago to home school our children, I'm often asked, "why home school?" The truth is, there really is no one simple reason why we made the decision to pull our children from public school and dedicated the time and resources needed to home educate successfully.
According to the U.S. DOE's "Homeschooling in the United States: 2003", 85 percent of homeschooling parents cited "the social environments of other forms of schooling" (including safety, drugs, sexual harassment, bullying and negative peer-pressure) as an important reason why they home school. 72 percent cited "to provide religious or moral instruction" as an important reason, and 68 percent cited "dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools." 7 percent cited "Child has physical or mental health problem", 7 percent cited "Child has other special needs", 9 percent cited "Other reasons" (including "child's choice," "allows parents more control of learning" and "flexibility").
Unlike most parents who choose to home school, we did not make the decision for religious reasons. Bedford county schools, while keeping to the laws regarding separation of Church and State, do offer a great deal of leeway with regard to prayer at sporting events, upon news of a tragedy, etc., even allowing the Gideon's into the classroom. We are satisfied with the amount of [Christianity] religious freedom the schools here allow...trust me, the public school I attended in southern California allowed no religious flexibility.
While I wish the days of prayer before class still existed, I do not think my children need to mix religious beliefs with classroom studies...in our opinion, that's what bible study and Sunday school at church is for. Think about it, if we allow religious studies into the public classrooms it will not be limited to Christianity. Personally, I prefer my children not study and learn the Koran, Vodou, Judaism, etc., even it does mean a trade out to allow in the open study of Christianity in public schools. Home educating allows us the freedom to introduce religion into our studies if we choose to do so, but with full control of the type of material, amount of material, etc. So, in part our decision was dictated by religion, but we do not incorporate religion into our academic studies.
We tailor our academic material to coincide closely with the public schools', and even cover controversial material, such as Darwin's theory of Evolution. Yes, we are a Christian household. But we are also a "realist" household, and as such I believe my children should be aware of significant scientific events/theories within the world as a whole...that does not mean they have to believe it. Darwin's theory of Evolution is just that...a theory. If I don't arm my children with this controversial knowledge, then what becomes of them in college where they are expected to know it? I also teach them about other theories, including Creationism...again, just a theory. This is where we differ most from the "typical" home school family.
So then why do we home school? Because home educating gives us the freedom and control to provide our children with the type of education we feel will serve them best in today's world. Who is more dedicated to your child's future success than you, as a parent? Home educating further allows us to connect and bond as a family, and to instill moral training into our children's development...something no longer incorporated into today's [public] classroom.
My daughters are closer to one another than I could ever have imagined being to one of my siblings, and every day is a "learning day" when you home school. We study the type of leaves indigenous to this area when on a trip to the park, the amount of sodium and cholesterol levels in today's foods when eating at McDonald's (an oxymoron, I know), and visit zoos and museums in numerous cities surrounding our own.
Study results often show that home school students test up to (30%) thirty percent higher than publicly educated children. Regarding SAT and ACT tests, homeschooled and formally-schooled students averaged higher scores on college entrance tests. Belfield (2005) found homeschooled students to have SAT college-admission scores higher than private-religious school and public-school students.
Standardized test results for 16,000 home educated children, grades K-12, were analyzed in 1994 by researcher Dr. Brian Ray. He found the nationwide grand mean in reading for homeschoolers was at the 79th percentile; for language and math, the 73rd percentile. This ranking means home-educated students performed better than approximately 77% of the sample population on whom the test was normed. Nearly 80% of homeschooled children achieved individual scores above the national average and 54.7% of the 16,000 homeschoolers achieved individual scores in the top quarter of the population, more than double the number of conventional school students who score in the top quarter.
In summary, multiple studies show that home-educated students in grades K to 12, as a group, score above average on standardized academic achievement tests. And it is believed approximately sixteen billion tax dollars are saved annually because of parent's choice to home school. So, how could someone criticize our decision to home school?
Opponents of homeschooling state several categories of concerns relating to homeschooling or its potential effects on society:
- Inadequate standards of academic quality and comprehensiveness;
- Reduced funding for public schools;
- Lack of socialization with peers of different ethnic and religious backgrounds;
- The potential for development of religious or social extremism;
- Children sheltered from mainstream society, or denied opportunities that are their right, such as social development;
- Potential for development of parallel societies that do not fit into standards of citizenship and the community
In rebuttal to these oppositions--with regard to our personal situation--I offer the following details:
ˇ My husband and I are both college educated. I have a dual major B.A. and A.A from an accredited university. I worked in the California public school system and passed the California C-BEST exam on my first attempt. I currently teach Spanish, algebra and drama with the Bedford County Homeschool Enrichment Program (HEP), and formally taught Spanish in an industrial setting for a local fortune 500.
ˇ It is my understanding that when a child is registered to homeschool as an Independent under the school board of education, that some funding is still received (I have been told this information second-hand, so please do not consider this factual without further investigation).
ˇ Our children are actively involved in local recreation sports activities and events. They play on socially diverse teams, and study other cultures and ways of life in their "world geography and cultures" coursework.
ˇ Our children attend the Bedford County Homeschool Enrichment Program (HEP) co-op. They meet one day a week and attend classes in a structured classroom setting, go on field trips, and are involved in community events, such as the recent 2009 Festival of trees "Christmas around the world" at The Fly cultural arts center.
ˇ Again, my children are taught to understand other cultures and way of life; are actively involved in social public activities, such as soccer; and observe the world around us with interest and curiosity.
I stand firmly behind my decision to home educate my children, in order to give them the best advantage in life. If anyone objects to my decision...bring it on!
But again, I do not recommend home school for everyone. And if you choose to home educate, do so for the right reasons...most importantly, what is truly in the best interest of your child educationally and socially. Research the subject beforehand and consider co-ops, classes, groups, and clubs to keep your child submerged in the world outside your home.
Do not hide your children from the world, or they will not be prepared to face it on their own. Do not fully discourage conformity--for it is needed in certain situations within the real world--but remember also to teach your child to embrace diversity and encourage individuality. Home educating gives you a lot of control in shaping your child into the type of person you wish them to become....do not abuse that power, nor take it for granted.
For those of you who want more information about how to home school--or are trying to determine if it is even the right choice for your family--and want to know what resources are available to aid you, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FYI to those of you who have made the very discriminatory, ludicrous remark that homeschoolers account for a large part of our wasted tax dollars and the welfare plague burdened on society....take a look at these INDEPENDENT, STUDY-DOCUMENTED FACTS: