Homeschooling: A Viable Educational Option

This homeschooling paper/article was orginally written in 2006, while I was working on my degree (hence the academic tone and APA format). I’ve shared it with a few new homeschoolers since then, but this is the first time it’s been generally available. Because of the rigid format, I was only able to use a few of the many examples I have of successful homeschool graduates. There are so many. Anyway, enjoy the article and if you have comments, please share them.

Also, feel free to link and reference this, but please do not copy and paste it anywhere without permission. Thanks!

Homeschooling: A Viable Educational Option

by Shannon Stoltz

When it comes to education today, parents and teachers alike are looking for ways to meet the needs of all students. Children come to education with different learning styles and interests. According to the Multiple Intelligence Theory, introduced by Howard Gardner in 1983, students even have different intelligences – at least nine of them. Unfortunately, most traditional schools only cater to two of the nine intelligences and two of the three main learning styles.

In an effort to meet the educational needs of all children, educational reformers have called for more school choice, open enrollment, privatization, and magnet schools (Bippus, 2005). In the 1990’s, the charter school movement joined the educational options (US Charter Schools, n.d.). School administrators are calling for raising parental accountability (Bippus, 2005). School officials are looking for more and more ways to involve parents in their children’s education (Davis & Lambie, 2005 & Monteverde, 2005).

Homeschooling as an Option

While schools and reformists look for ways to involve families in the school environment, many parents willing to take an active role in their child’s education are looking to homeschooling as a means to adapt school to their child. Legal in all American states, home-based education allows parents to individualize their children’s education to meet the individual needs and learning styles of their children.

By eliminating the social distractions and generalized approach of a classroom, parent-educators are able to customize their children’s education based on learning styles, social needs (introvert/extrovert), family dynamics, and the child’s natural strengths and interests. A child with strong auditory skills may use music, audio books, or documentaries. Kinesthetic children may use clay, salt, or sand for language arts and manipulatives for math. Introverted and intrapersonal children may be given the time and space they need to absorb what they are learning. Active children may jump on a trampoline during recitation or do quiet activities while listening to a book read aloud.

Rather than learning in theoretical environments or in contrived controlled situations (like a classroom store or school garden), homeschoolers integrate learning into their everyday world and use real-world situations for learning. Homeschoolers are involved in their family businesses, learning entrepreneurial skills; plant home gardens and sometimes raise small livestock; and shop with their parents and on their own.

Because of their flexible schedules, homeschoolers take advantage of community resources to further their learning experiences. They take classes from local colleges or subject matter experts, obtain private tutoring, and volunteer in the community. Elisha Blankenship, a homeschool graduate and the associate producer of the Sean Hannity Radio Show, began volunteering in political campaigns at the age of eight, allowing her to participate in 25 political campaigns by the time she reached college (Igarahsi & Sweetman, 2006).

While in traditional schools, students are introduced to subjects at the same time. Homeschool students have the opportunity and the time to learn subjects when they are developmentally and emotionally ready. Students then progress at their own individual rate, taking the necessary time to understand a subject before moving on. Advanced students are not held up by other students and slower students are not left behind.

Parents as Educators

While the benefits of homeschooling are plentiful, parents often question their ability to teach their own children. Doubts are cast by those like Dennis Evans (2003), director of Educational Leadership programs at UC Irvine, who says that parents lack the skills needed to teach. While parents may need training to teach a classroom of 20-40 students, parents interested in teaching their own are capable of doing so.

Research shows that there is no correlation between a parent’s teacher certification and the [homeschooled] student’s academic performance (Ray, 2004). In fact, research shows that students are more apt to succeed when their social, emotional and academic development are fully supported by their families (Davis & Lambie, 2005; US Department of Education, 1997). Even the US Department of Education recognizes that parents need to help their children learn (US Department of Education, 1997).

For children to be successful in school, parents and families need to be actively involved in their children’s learning… In fact, many studies show that what the family does is more important to a child’s school success than how much money the family makes or how much education the parents have (US Department of Education, 2005).

When parents-educators need assistance, help is plentiful. Homeschool support groups exist for each of the 50 United States and in most developed countries. Online groups share ideas, challenges, and support with parent-educators from around the globe. Print and online publications dedicated to home-based education flourish. Books, home education conferences, and homeschool supply companies all provide opportunities for parent-educators to learn from veteran homeschoolers.

Socialization of Homeschoolers

The most frequent concern about homeschooling is socialization. Many opposed to homeschooling insist that a child cannot be properly socialized in a homeschool environment. Unfortunately, this misconception is opposite of the truth. As Lucinda Kennaley (1998), the mother of three homeschooled children, describes below, homeschoolers typically have more than enough opportunity for socialization.

The experience of a homeschooled child doing lessons is not at all like the solitude of an otherwise-schooled child completing homework alone at night. In homeschool, there are co-ops for everything from science, math and environmental studies to physical education and art. There are baseball get togethers, chess clubs, field trips, study groups and reading clubs. Homeschoolers participate in dance, music, gymnastics, scouts and 4-H with school kids, as well as plays, horseback riding, reading groups, library programs, college classes, debates and more with otherwise-schooled kids and always-schooled others. Since most of these activities involve other people, parents are hard pressed to control the socializing that naturally occurs (Kennaley, 1998).

Not only are homeschoolers typically involved in extracurricular and faith-based activities, they are also involved in civic and volunteer activities, exposing them to a cross-section of age and cultural groups. Research shows that homeschoolers are significantly more civically active than their public-schooled peers (Ray, 2003). According to a research study of adults who were homeschooled for five or more years, previously-homeschooled adults “were very positive about their homeschool experience, actively involved in their local communities, keeping abreast of current affairs, highly civically engaged, …tolerant of others’ expressing their viewpoints…” (Ray, 2004).

Today, successful homeschoolers are so integrated into the fabric of our lives, we often are not aware that they were homeschooled. Household names like Florence Nightingale, Thomas Edison, and Ansel Adams were all homeschooled (Ferris, 2006). Homeschool graduate, Christopher Paolini authored the bestselling novel, Eragon and spent a year promoting reading to children (Frank, 2004). Drew Colfax, one of three homeschooled brothers accepted to Harvard in the 1980s, completed both medical school and law school and is now an attorney in Washington D.C. fighting for fair housing (Relman & Associates, n.d.).

While not all homeschool students become famous, the impact of homeschooling definitely makes a positive mark. Ansel Adams wrote “I trace who I am and the direction of my development to those years growing up in our house on the dunes, propelled especially by an internal spark tenderly kept alive and glowing by my father” (as cited, Ferris, 2006). Parents who are willing to keep that spark alive and take responsibility for their children’s education should consider homeschooling as a viable option.

References

Bippus, Stanley. (2005, Nov). Raising accountability for parents too. School Administrator, 49.

Davis, Keith M & Lambie, Glenn W. (2005, December). Family Engagement: A collaborative, systematic approach to middle school counselors. Professional School Counseling, 144-151.

Evans, Dennis L. (2003, September 3). Home is no place for school. USA Today, p. 11a.

Ferris, Michael. (2006, January). Meet Famous Homeschoolers. Transcripts retrieved February , 2006 from HSLDA.org website: http://www.hslda.org/docs/hshb/65/hshbwk2.asp

Frank, Barbara. (2004, May 24). Christopher Paolini and Eragon: A Homeschool Success Story. Retrieved from A to Z Home’s Cool Homeschooling website: http://homeschooling.gomilpitas.com/articles/052504.htm

Kennaley, Lucinda. (1998). The truth about homeschooling and education. Retrieved January 29, 2006 from the National Home Education Network website: http://www.nhen.org/nhen/pov/editors/default.asp?id=158

Igarashi, Jenefer & Sweetman, Tim. (2006, Winter). Homeschool Success Story: Elisha Blankenship. The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, pg. 72-74.

Monteverde, Daniel. (2005, August 15). Teachers urge parental help. New Orleans CityBusiness, p. 12A.

Ray, Brain. D. (2003) Homeschooling grows up. Retrieved January 29, 2006 from http://www.hslda.org/research/ray2003/Socialization.asp

Ray, Brian D. (2004, Fall). Homeschoolers on to college: what research shows us. Journal of College Admission, 5-11.

Relman & Assoicates. (n.d.). Our Practice. Retrieved February 9, 2006 from http://www.relmanlaw.com/practice.html

US Charter Schools. (n.d.). History. Retrieved January 29, 2006 from US Charter School website: http://www.uscharterschools.org/pub/uscs_docs/o/history.htm

US Department of Education. (1997). Family involvement in children’s education: Successful local approaches. Retrieved January 29, 2006 from US Department of Education website: http://www.ed.gov/pubs/FamInvolve/execsumm.html

US Department of Education. (2005). Helping your child succeed in school. Retrieved January 29, 2006 from the U.S. Department of Education website: http://www.ed.gov/parents/academic/help/succeed/index.html

Copyright 2006 Shannon Stoltz

Shannon Stoltz is a work-at-home, homeschooling mom to four fun kids. As a writer and consultant, Shannon balances homeschooling with work, juggling the roles of wife, mother, teacher, and business person. She embraces living life with her family and thoroughly enjoys raising responsible children who love to explore their world. Shannon can be reached at www.shannonstoltz.com or www.workathomehomeschoolingmom.com

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One Response to Homeschooling: A Viable Educational Option

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