BACK-to-School sales are hitting stores across the country but an increasing number of parents are preparing for a decidedly non-traditional Back-to-School – those choosing to homeschool their children. Many people think of homeschooling as something reserved for the religious and the free-spirited but nothing could be further from the truth. Homeschooling is no longer a fringe movement. It is a viable mainstream option for many parents. It’s also a choice my wife and I have made for our family.
Homeschooling has traditionally been done by Christian families but the main reasons parents choose homeschooling today don’t strictly resonate with religious families. Parents are given a way to develop customized curricula for their children. In addition to faith-based learning parents have the freedom to emphasize the values they feel should be incorporated into their child’s education. They also have the flexibility to add educational day trips to their mornings and afternoons.
There are a number of options for homeschoolers to replace the assumed loss of socialization that scares off some parents. Go on Yahoo Groups and do a search for “homeschool” in your area and you will be amazed at the sheer number of options at a parent’s disposal. Go on Meetup and search for homeschool groups in your area or do a Google search for homeschool co-ops and you’ll realize homeschool children have more opportunities for socialization than children in school.
As we’ve made inquiries and learned from other parents, we’ve found a plethora of other homeschool-only opportunities for our kids. There are homeschool-only gymnastics classes, bowling leagues, ice skating open skates, play places that run homeschool-only specials, learning opportunities at Liberty Sciece Center and museums and small group classes run by different counties once or twice a month. The possibilities are endless and give our children not only the chance to learn outside of school, but to socialize with a lot of other kids and families who share the same lifestyle.
The variety of co-ops to join can range from the art type we’ve chosen to academics-only types that run in various towns on one day per week. Your high-schooler can take a Chemistry class taught by a certified Chemistry teacher. Your 6th grader can take creative writing. Your 4th grader can take Spanish. Your 4-year old can go to Coop Preschool.
There are even homeschool sports leagues for your high school aged kids. New Jersey has those too and it’s growing at a fast pace (and as long as they meet the same eligibility requirements as other students, homeschoolers can now also play sports at their local public high school).
Homeschoolers in New Jersey have proms, science fairs, academic debates and all the other “social” things schooled children get to experience.
Homeschooling also lets parents alleviate any concerns they may have about the condition of public schools. Academic standards at our schools can be dubious. There are a lot of negative things across a very wide spectrum that will give any parent pause when it comes to public schools. Situations will arise involving bullying and gossip, gangs, drugs, cheating and all other kinds of peer pressure.
We don’t all live in blue ribbon school districts, our children don’t always get the best teachers or classes and not every family can afford private education. Homeschooling offers a practical alternative. Not only that, “statistics show homeshoolers, on average, scored 37 percentile points above their public school counterparts on standardized achievement tests.”
Choosing homeschooling is both a very brave and a very crazy choice. It has allowed me to spend more time with my children, it has helped strengthen their faith and it has allowed my wife and I to have a more direct involvement with their education. Social interactions at school are being replaced with social interactions outside of school. Our children are involved in an art co-op where they attend “school” on Tuesdays for chorus and violin classes, and where they can register for any sort of art class they want next year – music, drama, dance, art, computer graphics, etc. Our children are still involved in Girl and Cub Scouts, karate, our daughter is starting gymnastics and Pioneer Club and our son is playing football this season. Our little one is going to Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) with my wife starting in a few weeks as well. This is all in addition to the “homeschool-only” events we’ll be attending throughout the year.
This is not to say homeschooling is for everyone because for many families school is a necessary component in their life. Parents thinking about joining this trend should not be scared off by the stigma attached to homeschooling. The opportunities for you and your children are endless and if you do your research and are willing to take the time and effort to make that brave and crazy step you will find it has the benefit of making your family unit stronger.
If you are interested in homeschooling or just want more information on homeschooling check out the National Center for Education Stastics and the Homeschool Progress Report 2009: Academic Achievement and Demographics.
Read More: NJ.com