Homeschool. Often imagined synonymous with religious, the word conjures up images of mousy, long-sleeve, long-skirt wearing teenagers in desperate need of social interaction.
Sure, some are. The stereotype comes from somewhere, but for the most part, homeschool kids are as “normal” as anyone.
Parents choose to homeschool their kids for a variety of different reasons: catering the curriculum to suit their children’s needs or interests, creating their own schedule that works better for the family, hands on learning, less expensive than public school and many others.
My parents chose to homeschool me in middle school to avoid the exhausted “bullied in middle school” trope. To be honest, while at the time I wasn’t thrilled about leaving my friends, not dealing with nasty 13-year-old girls is one thing I won’t regret in life.
Despite my reservations in the beginning, during my homeschool years, I was more in control of my learning experience. I read constantly, often about history and science, and my mom and I discussed these topics at length. The only downside for me was the more I focused on my language arts, my math was pushed to the side, leaving me with a rather wobbly base for high school algebra to build on.
Despite my slight cautionary tale, homeschooling has many more perks than downfalls. For one thing, field trips are much more common for homeschool kids. Parents have the freedom to teach their children in every sort of environment. My cousin, who homeschools her elementary aged sons, often goes to the lake or hikes to hold their science lessons in an area where they can use all of their senses to learn.
Field trips are often organized to include other homeschool kids, parents and teachers in the area. A trip to the planetarium and the WFMY News 2 station in Greensboro, NC, mark my personal group field trips. Despite what is commonly thought of as non-social experience, the large homeschool community makes it easy to gain the socialization necessary for developing minds.
In North Carolina alone, there are almost 81,000 registered homeschools for the 2016-17 school year, totaling over 127,000 children between 6-years-old and 17-years-old, according to the North Carolina Division of Non-Public Education. Nationally there are 2.3 million children who take part in K-12 homeschooling each year, according to a study conducted by Dr. Brian D. Ray.
The majority of those 2.3 million are growing up the same way as everyone else. Homeschool communities host dances (yes, there are homeschool proms), start school bands, and even sports teams. In some communities, classes are held just like “normal school,” with classes full of children being taught together. The only thing different about a homeschool education is the freedom it brings to the learning experience and the right to choose what is and isn’t taught.
While the stereotype that every homeschooler gets all A’s and are inherently smart, is just that, a stereotype, according to the NHERI (National Home Education Research Institute), homeschoolers “typically score 15 to 30 percent percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests.”
The NHERI also found that parent’s education level was irrelevant when it came to homeschooler’s test scores, generally students scored above average. An official teaching degree was also not needed to impart knowledge to their children.
“Education is the foundation on which our future must be built,” Christine Gregorie said when sworn is as Washington’s governor in 2005. She was speaking on providing children with the recourses to begin kindergarten with the groundwork already placed. Homeschooling begins in that time of their lives. Parents who homeschool just make the informed decision to continue to build on the “foundation” they have created.
Of course, everyone should choose what is right for them and their family, especially when it comes to education. However, homeschooling is a viable alternative to public or private schools and just might be the right fit. And I promise, unless that is their natural disposition, your child will not turn into an interaction starved wallflower.