While I was browsing the net earlier, I found this article written by Joanne Spataro who is a homeschooled high schooler. She is the editor of Fresh Air, an on-line teen magazine and is also a movie critic for The Charlotte Observer. She and her family maintain an excellent web site devoted to homeschooling. Below is her take on homeschooling and being homeschooled.
“The new wave of homeschooling is here!
Homeschooling has gained overwhelming popularity over the last thirty years. Today, there are almost 2 million (and rising) homeschooled children in the United States. Many wonder why this educational alternative, which used to be illegal, has become such a trend. Many parents are choosing to pull their children out of the public school system for many reasons, including religious convictions, negative socialization, academic concerns, and political differences. Homeschooling is no longer a secretive practice like it was in the seventies: It’s a widespread way of life!
I’m part of the homeschooling wave. I’ve been involved in the movement for over six years. I’m proud to tell regular, public schooled kids that I’m homeschooled. Some people ask me questions about socialization or staying at home so much. Most of these people are parents or other adults, left in the dark. The kids I tell have a very different reaction: they sigh, “Oh, I wish I was homeschooled.”
The history and rise of homeschooling is truly a drama. Its original beginnings reach back to ancient times, and through the middle of the nineteenth century. This was when homeschooling was the only choice for parents. “Many regard homeschooling as a new educational phenomenon,” says Linda Dobson, a passionate homeschooling advocate and author of the popular pro-homeschooling books Homeschooling: The Early Years and The Homeschooling Book of Answers. “But that is simply a reflection of the bias of our times,” she adds.
Homeschooling was usually done at the kitchen table by parents, a hired teacher, or an older sibling. These children lived on farms and were in tune with the agricultural lifestyle. Along with their book studies, they would learn how to plant crops, make clothes, make soap and tools, and were taught building skills. They were able to learn more efficiently, quickly, and thoroughly than children in public schools do today.
But these simple times wouldn’t last for long. The first state laws that forced kids to go to public schools were put into place in Massachusetts, 1852. The agricultural lifestyle was fading as the industrial revolution began. With the child labor laws firmly in place, homeschooling disappeared.
It has been 150 years since government-supported schools were established. Yet, homeschooling hadn’t escaped everyone’s mind: Many authors and educational reformers were toying with the idea that maybe public schools weren’t letting kids live up to their full potential. Rebecca Rupp, author of “Getting Started on Home Learning: How and Why to Teach Your Kids at Home,” says, “The first members (hippies, homesteaders, and political libertarians) of the modern homeschool movement…found that homeschooling best suited their independent and/or distinctly non-mainstream lifestyles.”
Homeschoolers were dramatically increasing in size. But homeschooling couldn’t remain underground for much longer. The 150 year old anti-homeschooling law was a big obstacle. Brave homeschoolers battled the legislators for a new law. When homeschooling became legal again in the 1980s, the craze continued to spread like wildfire.
Homeschooling was about to get even bigger. Christian schools lost their financial stability in the eighties. Their otherwise tax-liberated status was taken away by new legislation. So, without enough green to support their schools, hundreds of the Christian schools folded like a deck of cards.
Parents were trying to decide whether to send their children to public school or to homeschool. They were determined to give their children a proper religious education. So, in turn, they gave a resounding ‘yes’ to homeschooling. But, the Christian curriculums, which earlier served the now defunct religious schools, were losing money. Later, they caught on, and appealed, to the new Christian homeschooling market.
Over the last twenty years, public schools have become especially bad. Today, its atmosphere promotes violence, like bullying, lack of safety, and drug use. Schools’ are also failing children academically: their watered-down curriculums and overcrowded classrooms distract kids from the joy of discovery. Government schools are scrambling to get their acts together.
But parents aren’t about to hold their breaths. Parents, 15 to 40 percent each year nationwide, are pulling their kids out of the system, bolding demonstrating they can do a better job. Many parents are more than willing to pay the extra money, and volunteer their time to educate their children the way they want. Parents can also provide something else schools can’t: one-on-one tutoring.
Special-needs children, with either a learning disability or being gifted, naturally need more attention than others. Also, parents of public-schooled kids don’t get to see them during the weekdays. With homeschooling, they can watch their children grow into happy young adults.
Parents worry they won’t be prepared to handle their child’s education. Today, though, they can easily access resources on the Internet for an at-home classroom. There are plenty of homeschooling support groups and educational options to choose from. Students can take full-length courses on the World Wide Web!
Escape the ordinary.
Homeschooling is an everyday adventure.”