What’s Involved in One of the Nation’s Fastest Growing Educational Trends?
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~Michelle Wiley, Homeschooling mother of four
One of the fastest growing trends in education is families choosing to homeschool their children as an alternative to public or private schools. The National Home Education Research Institute estimates that in 2010 approximately 2.04 million U.S. children were homeschooled, a seven percent increase since 2007.
Why Families Choose Home Education
Charlene Peavey, the conference coordinator for the Georgia Home Education Association, who has also homeschooled her own five children for the past 25 years, says there are many reasons why parents choose home schooling over other education models. “At least half choose to home educate because of the curriculum choice,” she says. These parents either object to morals or values expressed in standard school curriculums or they’re dissatisfied with the academic standards.
Another large portion of parents desire to insulate their children from the social environment or negative peer influences that they judge to be prevalent within a school or system. Concerns over the ability of school administrators to manage problematic student behaviors keep these parents from placing their children there.
A third much smaller group of parents find themselves in a situation in which they have no other alternative. For whatever reason, their child has been told he or she may no longer attend a school.
Various other reasons for homeschooling abound and not all spring out of unhappiness with traditional classroom education. Michelle Wiley, a former public school teacher, and her husband, Jason, never thought their children would attend anything other than public school. Michelle describes their choice to homeschool their four children, Parker,11, Spencer, 8, Brendan, 7, and Sara Kate, 5, as a Christian calling, something they were led to do not as a rejection of anything in particular but as an embrace of a biblically prescribed way of raising their children.
Advantages of Home Education
One of the biggest advantages of home education is that the parent or parents have flexibility. The curriculum for each subject area, instructional strategies and school calendar can be tailored to fit the family and each individual child’s strengths, weaknesses and learning style. “Being able to enhance a subject the child is really interested in, being able to speed up or slow down in a subject according to the child’s needs,” makes home education very appealing, says Peavey.
Families who perhaps find December to be a particularly busy month can block it out of their school schedule. Students who discover a personal interest in outer space can engage in self-guided in-depth study. Parents can provide lots of hands-on activities for children who prefer to touch and do. “I really enjoy being with my kids, flexibility in our calendar, and taking ownership of their learning,” says Michelle.
The second advantage Peavey appreciates about home education is the socialization aspect. She recognizes that this is often where naysayers of home education focus their attention. “Social skills aren’t learned in a classroom environment. They are learned in life,” says Michelle. By the very nature of home schooling, argues Peavey, the child hones better social skills.
Because multiple ages of children generally learn together, as opposed to the traditional classroom in which children are grouped by age and ability, homeschooled pupils develop communication and interaction skills with children both older and younger.
“The parent can choose social situations for the child,” Peavey adds. Homeschooled does not mean isolated. These students still play on sports teams, attend church and Sunday school, go to camps and enjoy a multitude other child-centered group activities.
Closer family relationships is a third advantage Peavey mentions and Parker Wiley wholeheartedly agrees. “I like that I get to see my family more,” says Parker. “I get to be with my brothers more and bond with them.”
Siblings take on the responsibility of learning together. Older children help younger ones. Tasks of daily living, known in kid jargon as chores, become shared learning experiences. Points of study become dinner table topics of discussion. “Everything is always in a learning mode,” says Peavey, and everyone in the family is in that mode together.
“Homeschooling our children has really given me the gift of time,” says Michelle, “time to really see and evaluate the hearts of my children and encourage growth in so many areas, time to laugh with my kids, time to watch the relationships between my children develop into sweet friendships.”
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