Community Supporting Homeschool
Ask any home schooling parent about community support of their educational choice and they will share a story of criticism, scrutiny, sarcasm or worse. Such parents are often asked questions related to sports, friends, school functions or college. Acceptance of the children and the parents who choose home schooling over traditional education does not usually extend outside their home.
The Homeschooling Trend
Nearly half a million school-aged children are taught in a home school environment, reports the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) in Washington, D.C. These children comprise about 1 percent of the total school-aged population and roughly 10 percent of the privately schooled population.
The accuracy of these statistics is questionable, however, as not all home schooling parents are required to report their status.
Since many children are home schooled for only a few years, the percentage of children who reach age 18 with some home schooling experience is actually larger than 1 percent, according to the ERIC.
Center of Controversy
While popular, the practice of home schooling is still considered controversial. Due to scrutiny of public school systems and organizations such as the National Parent-Teacher Association, home schooling remains under fire.
In 1998, the National Education Association adopted a resolution that placed more "rigorous" regulations on home schooling practices. In addition, the National Association of Elementary School Principals maintains that education is "most effectively done through cohesive organizations in formal settings."
Unfortunately, it is not only the school systems and organizations that are "judging" home schooling. Communities, neighbors, friends and even relatives are offering their differing opinions about a parent's choice to teach his or her children from home.
Yvette De Luca, a home schooling mom from Phoenix, Ariz., feels that most adults do not understand the principal of home schooling and, as a result, they cannot accept it. "Honestly, I think home schooling makes a lot of adults nervous," she says. "In today's culture, many people can't comprehend why a parent would sacrifice material gain to educate their kid when the public schools will do it for you. They will look at my kids as weird or not normal. There are kids in our neighborhood who are actually not allowed to play with my girls for no other reason than that we home school."
Dealing with Family and Friends
When dealing with family and friends, the subject of home schooling can become touchy. They may not agree or understand the choice to home school. They will offer their insight, criticism, help or advice in an attempt to change parents' minds and place children in public schools.
The concerns that those close to the family exhibit are often founded on ignorance of the topic or misinformation, says Kathy Ishizuka, author of The Unofficial Guide to Homeschooling.
"Families may become concerned that a child will not have social skills, interaction with their own age group, or even a chance to go to college," Ishizuka says. "One way to get friends and family 'on your side' is to discuss their concerns and give them good, accurate and the most current information on home schooling, so they understand the why and how of what home schooling parents are doing. Educate them on your children's education."
Children of all ages love to be involved in all types of activities – Scouts, sports, academic competitions, musical or dramatic performances. This gives rise to another controversy: Does a home schooled child have the right to be involved in community activities, organizations or sports?
It varies by area, Ishizuka says. "The rules and regulations differ from state to state, county to county and district to district, as do the feelings toward home schoolers and their children," she says. "Where one district will allow children who are home schooled to belong to clubs that are normally just open to children who attend the public school system, other districts will state that in order to participate in these activities, the child must attend the school."
But home schooled children are still a part of the district, Ishizuka says. "Parents usually need to verify their status of home schooling with the district or school board. This is where the controversy comes in – if they belong to the district then they should have access to all extracurricular activities and programs."
Both the ERIC and Ishizuka recommend that a parent check into these types of concerns prior to registering their children as home schooled. However, there are alternatives to school-related activities. Programs offered at community centers, local teen groups, YMCA and YWCA locations as well as state, county and city home schooling networks all have activities that are open to home schooled children.
The interaction of home schooled children with children who attend public or private schools outside of a traditional classroom setting may also help in breaking the barriers of uncertainty and misinformation. "It's all about getting out there," Ishizuka says. "Once these children intertwine within a public school community and interact with the traditional school children, the children and their parents will discover that these children have just as much if not more to offer the community."
Sandy Cummins of Queensland, Australia, says her region has a home schooling group that meets every two weeks for fun and socializing. "I've only made it to two meetings so far, but I was impressed by the way that many children played together and interacted," Cummins says. "They don't care whether or not they are all home schooled – they are just kids being kids."
Homeschooling continues to gain popularity, but with that popularity comes criticism. This criticism from outside sources does not have to influence a parent's decision on their choice for home schooling. "Parents need to know that not everyone will agree with their choice to home school," Ishizuka says. "There are options available; the trick is to find them. Find out the specifics as they apply to your children and investigate local organizations for support, activities and available community groups."