A little bird told me the most popular session at this month’s Rocket City Mom Learning Expo was the topic of homeschooling. I was surprised, although I’m not sure why. Homeschooling has enjoyed steady growth in the past few years, becoming a more accepted choice for educating children.
As recent as 15 years ago, homeschooling was considered an oddball thing to do. Even I, the now almost-rabid home-based education advocate, thought homeschoolers were weird and their reasons were silly and why wouldn’t they want to send their kids to school to be “socialized” and who did they think they were, anyway, taking on the education of their children and did they think their kids were special or what?! Did I mention I thought they were weird?
The Numbers (or, allow me to bore you with some statistics)
In 2007 (according to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics), there were 1.5 million kids being home-schooled (more recent numbers say there are now around 2.5 million children being home-schooled). While that’s only about 2.9 percent of the school-aged population, it’s still pretty significant. Especially considering that number is trending upward. (Does that make it trendy? I hope not.)
Why are people homeschooling? Concern about safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure was the most cited reason, but also:
- Concern about the environment of other schools (85 percent)
- Religious or moral instruction (72 percent)
- Dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools (68 percent)
The Reasons (or, more on why we decided to travel this crazy road)
As for my family, we decided to home school for several reasons. First, we only have three acceptable choices for private school, but we crossed those out pretty early for various reasons. Second, we don’t like the things we know about our zoned-for school (and we didn’t like the answers from the BoE about the learning environment). Third, we believe this time in our children’s lives is very important as well as fleeting. As my husband is fond of saying, “Few parents have ever said, ‘I wish I’d spent less time with my kids.’” Forth, we really like the freedom that homeschooling affords us (and I think I’ve mentioned before that we like sleeping later than 6am).
The Stereotypes (or, You People are weird!)
Even though homeschooling is being recognized as a viable alternative to public and private school, there are still a lot of stereotypes about homeschoolers that need to be debunked. I’m not here to take on all of them, but I want to highlight just a few (based on us and others we know):
- Not everyone schools at home for religious reasons. That may have been the case several years ago, but there’s a growing population of homeschoolers (religious or not) who don’t incorporate Bible (or Koran or Torah or whatever) studies into their school day.
- Not everyone who schools at home does so because their kid is some kind of genius. Or the parents are geniuses and think they can do a better job.
- Some people are schooling at home because their kid has special needs. Or maybe they don’t want to have a label attached to their kid. Or maybe they don’t want to medicate their kid based on the will of the school.
- Not everyone who schools their kids at home is trying to protect their kids from The World.
- None of us are martyrs. We aren’t perfect and we don’t have some magical quality that makes us able to homeschool. Except maybe the desire to do what we feel is best for our particular kid. That doesn’t make us better. It just makes us different.
- Some have had bad experiences – either with the school or with other students – and have decided to take matters into their own hands.
Oh, and might I add: we aren’t weird. We’re just like you, but decided to do things a little different.