Educational Alternatives

Any parent will tell you that each child is different, especially when it comes to learning styles. Some thrive in a structured classroom while others bloom in a more creative and open setting. If the classroom environment is just not for you or your kids, perhaps you are considering homeschooling.

Homeschooling family

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, upwards of two million children are homeschooled, and that number grows by 15-20% every year. Every parent arrives at the decision to homeschool through their own unique circumstances, but there are some shared characteristics among homeschooling families.

The profile

Research gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that homeschooled children are:

  • Slightly more likely to be female.
  • Most likely to be of non-Hispanic, White ethnicities.
  • Usually living in a middle-income household with a married couple.
  • Probably with a non-working adult for most of the day.

That same research shows that parents who choose to homeschool do so for a variety of reasons, including a lack of confidence in their school district, a belief that homeschooling provides a superior education, objections to subject matter covered in local schools and a lack of a challenging curriculum.

A personal perspective

Tori Dennis, RN, is a certified nurse midwife and mother of three in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Her decision to homeschool her children (ages 15, 13 and 11) was based on her personal experience in school. "During my high school years, a lot of girls became pregnant," she says. "Most students were having sex, drugs were available in school from 7th grade on up. Then news of 'school shootings' began springing up around the country." All of these factors encouraged Dennis to look into educational alternatives and homeschooling seemed like the best option. "It was the best choice for my family because I want my daughters to have a better atmosphere to learn in, without the negative social pressures," she says.

A typical day

A homeschooler's typical day varies greatly, but Dennis says her day includes an early morning workout at the gym with her girls, chores at home and school work from 9 a.m. until about 4 p.m. "We use a video DVD program by ABEKA that includes math, reading, Bible, language, spelling, handwriting, health, science and history," she says. "My role is to grade quizzes, tests and oral reading."

Considerations

Although homeschooling was the right option for her, Dennis acknowledges that homeschooling isn't for everyone. There are certain types of students who seem to excel, including those who are self-motivated or highly gifted. Additionally, kids with issues like dyslexia or attention deficit disorder can really benefit from the one-on-one attention. Some other benefits include "no homework in the evening and no peer pressure," says Dennis. "I am able to spend a lot of time with my children, instead of the one or two hours in the evening like most American mothers."

If you are looking for educational options that invite parental involvement in a setting other than a traditional school, homeschooling may be worth considering.

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Comments

Comments on "The homeschooling debate"

Karen January 31, 2011 | 9:07 PM

I tried online public school, which turns out is pretty much like home school except you don't choose the curriculum. It was a terrible experience. Our relationship became even more shaky than it was before and his grades suffered.

Carol October 27, 2010 | 3:38 PM

I have one teen, and two more on their way. If I ever find there aren't enough opportunities for quality socialization within the homeschool community for my teenagers I certainly won't look to institutional education to provide it for them. Of course homeschool groups aren't perfect, but there is much less clique-ishness, bullying, and negative peer pressure there than in the school institutions. The teen years are a wonderful time for a student to explore their special interests and expand their talents. They can find ample opportunities for meaningful social interaction while engaging in activities with others with similar passions. Why hamper them by making them submit to an institutional setting? Instead, they can take advantage of the flexibility inherent in their homeschool lifestyle and devote many hours to honing their special skills, volunteering to benefit causes they care about, apprenticing with professionals in the career field in which they're interested. And there they will find others with whom they can socialize. Homeschooled teens can also choose more conventional means of interacting with others, through sports teams, church groups, bands & choirs, Scouts, 4-H, Civil Air Patrol, etc. Many school districts allow homeschoolers to join the teams, bands & clubs in their local schools, while still doing their academic work at home.

CeCe October 27, 2010 | 8:42 AM

Several other of the homeschoolers who posted here have younger children. As the mother of several teens,I have to say that socializing older homeschoolers is definitely a challenge! Some of their friends move, go off to middle school or high school, or are engaged in the tougher course work which limits social interaction. It has negatively affected my children. Homeschool groups can be clique-ish - don't kid yourself, I have seen it with my own eyes! My younger children may end up going to high school...but I will be watching closely!! My oldest is 17 and attending a local community college for her senior year. She is beginning to make friends and even found a Bible study on campus! But these last few years with middle and high schoolers has been tough on them socially. They won't always be 9 or 10 and willing to be led around by mommy all of the time!!!!!

tiernan October 23, 2010 | 8:18 PM

Wow...thanks for the comments everyone. I wanted to write this article becauase I am considering homeschooling my 3 kids, not because our school district is terrible (it's actually quite good) but I don't always agree with what they teach or how they teach it. You've all given me food for thought. :-) -tiernan

Carol October 20, 2010 | 7:10 PM

Certainly the issue of socialization is one of the top homeschooling concerns. However, the fact is that there are ample opportunities for satisfying social interactions both within the vast homeschool community present in most neighborhoods across the country and through all the typical settings available to every child such as family, neighbors, clubs, teams, etc. Furthermore, freed from the artificially homegenous groupings found in the typical institutional-school classroom, homeschoolers learn to interact well with people of all ages and situations. They tend to be less age-, gender-, and grade-centric and more accepting of differences in others. They also tend to be much less peer-dependent, more able to make decisions without concern for what their peers might say. This is a character quality which will benefit them greatly once they leave home to go to college or to live on their own. Homeschoolers are better equipped to make their own choices without being easily swayed by the crowd.

Renita October 20, 2010 | 11:58 AM

I am a homeschooler and have homeschooled since my oldest daughter would have entered Kindergarten. She would be in 4th grade in public school, but because of catering her education to her level of learning, she is working on an advanced 5th grade curriculum this year. The only homeschooling kids who are NOT socialized are those kids whose parents don't make it a priority. My kids have social interaction with different groups of kids of various ages practically every single day. We have extra-curricular activites such as Phys Ed, Ballet, Community Bible Study (where kids have their own classes at their age level), field trips, co-operative classes (where a group of parents share the teaching), church classes, as well as other playdates. When we go to a park or somewhere like that, it is the homeschooled kids who are reaching out to the other kids at the park. They don't have that fear of being unaccepted by the other person that most public school kids face.

Rene13 October 20, 2010 | 10:54 AM

I have a friend that is homeschooling her daughter. I beleive her now teen is way behind in schooling as her writing is that of a fifth grader and her drawing even worse. She has no socialization with other teens and is much too adult acting for her young age. She doesn't interact with anyone her own age and I believe she will always be somewhat behind in social skills so needed to get along in the world today.

Steph H October 18, 2010 | 11:29 AM

As a community manager for an online education company, I can tell you that there are many opportunities for socialization nationally and locally for families online and at in person events. It really can be as interactive socially as you want it to be.

Elda Brown October 18, 2010 | 11:15 AM

I agree with Anouk - I have the same concerns about socialization as well as what the kids do once out of the house for college. It's a fine line that I'm not sure how to approach. Luckily mine are still very young, but the pros and cons of homeschooling are definitely on my mind already.

Lisa October 18, 2010 | 11:01 AM

This year I put my 8th grade son in public ONLINE school. It is free and they provide a computer for the student because it is considered public school. However, don't be fooled...this IS homeschooling. The online schools will make it sound like this is easy, but it's a very very hands-on experience. The parent will be spending hours/day helping with questions, tutoring, and checking work before sending in. It has been a terrible experience for us. If you don't have that kind of time to spend on lessons then this is not going to work. The teachers do very little (if anything) to help. My son went from mostly C's in a classroom setting to all F's in online school because of the lack of support and lack of time on my part that I was not aware I'd have to put in. Arizona Connections Academy is not recommended, and I've heard the same about AZ Virtual Academy. Just remember that it IS homeschool, no matter how much they try to sell you on the idea of how easy it is. It's NOT!

Anouk October 18, 2010 | 10:08 AM

I would consider homeschooling my kids if the school system where we lived was sub-par. I had a great experience with my school years and would like to expose my children to the social aspect and team work most school offers because that is how real life is. I have friends that were homeschooled until the end of highschool and they did very well in college. Most kids end up partying "hard" when they enter college not just the homeschooled kids.

Kelsey October 18, 2010 | 9:57 AM

It's kind of a toughie. There's the socialization aspect to the classroom -- but you also open your child up to bullying, cussing, fighting, back-talking, cliques, gossip, etc. I, personally, was scarred by the the clique mentality as a child. But I know some people who were homeschooled, too, and boy oh boy were they in for a rude awakening when college hit. Needless to say, those people ended up partying, um... hard.

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