There are 2.04 Million K-12 Homeschool Students in the United States as of 2010 ~ National Home Education Research Institute
I never planned to homeschool my children—never in a million years. Frankly, it was just not something that appealed to me, nor did I ever dream that it would become absolutely necessary, but it did. I attended elementary school in the 70’s myself, suburban public school, and received a fine education there. So naturally I assumed that my boys, now ages 9 & 12, would have a similar experience—oh was I ever wrong. I think most of us can agree that, overall, the quality of public education in the United States as well as the overall environment of our schools is circling the drain and has been for a few years now. Causes of this are highly debatable, political and polarizing, and my mission statement for my blog (yes, like Jerry Maguire I DO have a mission statement) stipulates that I will write about topics in a manner which will appeal to a broad audience. In other words, I have my own opinions on causality, but I won’t share them here—it’s not the proper forum. That being said, if someone would care to comment below and give opinions, please let ‘er rip! As long as you play nice, and are respectful of the opinions of those who feel differently, I’ll approve your comment. There is nothing wrong with healthy debate!
At any rate, as I said, I never planned to be a homeschooling mom. I have noticed that a lot of parents choose to homeschool for religious or moral reasons. This was not the case with me, and I have no objections to my kids learning about evolution, sex, etc. in a controlled classroom environment. Nor do I feel that I need to integrate daily religious education in with their grade level secular education. But, that’s just me, and if a parent does object to public school educational curriculum on religious grounds, that is their right and should be fully respected by all of us as Americans.
My personal decision to withdraw my 12 year old from 6th grade at our local public school this past January was instead an act of desperation—a last resort. He was failing every subject, and basically had been for the last couple of years, yet he was never held back, never recommended for summer school, and simply promoted along as if he had mastered the material for that particular grade. Now, in my day, (I can’t believe I’m old enough to say something like that) if a student was not cutting the mustard in one or two subjects, that child attended summer school. If they were failing the bulk of their courses, they were held back to repeat the next year in a total do-over. That’s just the way it was, and the way I assumed it would always be—again, boy was I wrong. Nowadays, it seems that the whole “No Child Left Behind” thing is being operationalized to include never holding any child back, even if it would be in their best interest. Somehow, I don’t think this is the “spirit of the law”. Nevertheless, this is what is happening out there in the trenches, folks! This is especially true for students who are categorized into the Special Education system, which these days can mean just about any sort of learning issue, from mild to moderate, to severe. My son has ADHD, making it extremely difficult for him to concentrate long enough to absorb classroom material, and this is especially apparent in math. Therefore, these days, in the public school system that translated into a team of teachers, administrators, and me developing an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) which included “special accommodations” for him at school. This seemed fine, but again problems arose when all good intentions were operationalized. In effect, he was placed with children whose abilities were far lower than his, and his bar was lowered beyond belief.
The long and short of all of this is that he was being passed upward from grade to grade, bullied relentlessly by the other children due to his Special Ed status and inability to keep up in his regular classes with the very common “Inclusion Model”, and drowning in a sea of educational bureaucracy. School bullying is on the rise in our public schools as well, but that is another topic for another day. I had to do something I considered radical—I knew I had to bring him home to save him. Once I saved him, I knew I had to then help him to understand his own worth and life potential. I truly believe that our story, sadly, is not uncommon nowadays. I am extremely fortunate that I live in the state of Florida, and we have free access to Florida Virtual School (FLVS), which is a fully online, fully accredited, high quality K-12 educational delivery system. The content is truly phenomenal! There is an impressive amount of interactive multimedia in each course, which are closely monitored by a licensed K-12 teacher. Make no mistake though—an adult must be present and maintain a high level of involvement at home. In other words, this is still homeschooling, just a good way to source and deliver grade level curriculum to your child, and have the whole experience overseen by a licensed professional educator. This program has been very successful and popular here in Florida. It basically amounts to a pilot program for this type of educational option which, hopefully, is being watched closely by other states and will soon be duplicated in a widespread fashion all across the U.S.
I’m about three months in now with my homeschooling experience and what a difference 90 days has made!!! My son has gone from failing everything, but inexplicably being passed anyway, to 2 B’s and one A in the three core subjects he is taking at FLVS. That A was celebration worthy, lemme tell ya! Math has been more of a challenge…Due to his experience and the damage that was done in public school, he was behind—way behind. In fact, I had no idea until I began to work closely with him at home, but he was actually at least two years behind grade level in Math. So we went back for some corrective action…I sourced some math curriculum from another vendor, Time4Learning, and we’re taking corrective measures now so he can learn the math I thought he already knew in order to catch up to the grade level he’s at with his other core courses. And he’s learning….so much! He randomly spouts facts to us now about science, ancient civilizations, and the short stories he’s reading and analyzing in his language arts course. And, aside from all of that, I have begun to see life and light in his eyes again…illuminated by his own realization that he is not a throwaway kid after all, and he can achieve a future of his dreams built upon a solid basic educational foundation. He’s even started talking about “when I go off to college”…WOW!
I sat down with my laptop this morning to write a very different blog about homeschooling…but this is what came out instead. I have read a lot of articles and blogs on homeschool lately, and none of them are really communicating these ideas in this way. The face of the American homeschooler is changing—and changing rapidly now. Stereotypes of homeschooling parents and homeschooled kids are crumbling as this practice moves into the mainstream…the typical, rather than the exception to the norm. This is my new reality, and my son’s as well. I am now thinking very seriously of bringing my other son home to school once he reaches 6th grade too—in his case by choice, not necessity. And that, I can assure you, is something I never thought I would ever do!
Most Common Reasons Given for Homeschooling (Source: National Home Education Research Institute):
- customize or individualize the curriculum and learning environment for each child,
- accomplish more academically than in schools,
- use pedagogical approaches other than those typical in institutional schools,
- enhance family relationships between children and parents and among siblings,
- provide guided and reasoned social interactions with youthful peers and adults,
- provide a safer environment for children and youth, because of physical violence, drugs and alcohol, psychological abuse, and improper and unhealthy sexuality associated with institutional schools, and
- teach and impart a particular set of values, beliefs, and worldview to children and youth.
Do you homeschool or wish you could? Do you disagree with educating children at home? Why or why not? Feel free to comment below, but like I said, play nice. This is a very emotionally charged topic, and the other guy probably feels just as strongly as you do!
For more information on Florida Virtual School, please visit the FLVS website at: http://www.flvs.net/Pages/default.aspx
To learn more about education policy in the United States, including No Child Left Behind, and Individualized Education Plans, visit the U.S. Department of Education website at: http://www.ed.gov/