Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Home School option

August 20, 2001: 10:38 a.m. ET

Why a growing number of parents are educating their children at home
By Kamala Nair

NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Deanna Busch runs a tight ship. Classes start at 6:30 a.m. – those who are not in their seat by then receive detention. Like other teachers, Busch does not allow gum chewing. She requires homework to be finished on time and tests to be taken in silence. The only difference is: Her students call her "mom."

Like most military families, the Busch's lifestyle takes them all over the world. When her husband was posted in Korea, Deanna Bush had a chance to preview schools for her six young children. Unsatisfied with the quality of education offered by the Department of Defense, she decided to take her children's education into her own hands.

She began researching the home schooling concept, reading books such as "The Big Book of Home Learning," by Mary Pride, which recommends curriculum and lesson manuals. She attended home school conventions, which are held annually in every state, where she visited exhibits displaying a variety of useful books and curriculum. Within a year, she added "teacher" to her list of qualifications, and turned their home into a classroom.

A growing contingent

According to the ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management, the Busch family is not alone. The home schooling population has grown from 10,000-to-15,000 children in the late 1960s to well over 1 million today.

The most common tools parents use when beginning to home educate their children are annual conventions, the Web, and correspondence programs, which test children and design curriculum for their specific needs. About 20 percent of home schoolers belong to these programs, which also keep records of academic history and issue diplomas upon graduation.

While currently only about one-third of parents educate their children at home beyond the elementary level, Chris Klicka, senior council at the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), estimated that roughly 80 percent of new home schooling parents plan to educate their children through high school. In such cases, parents themselves issue their children transcripts and diplomas.

Research conducted by the HSLDA indicates that since home education families are not dependent on public, tax-funded resources, they save United States taxpayers more than $7.5 million a year. However, parents who school children at home pay the same amount in property taxes as everyone else. Parents pay about $450 annually to teach one child at home, about $6,000 to send a child to public school, and anywhere from $1,000 to more than $6,000 to send a child to private school.

Busch said her costs have increased as her children grow older, reaching around $800 per year for her 7th and 8th graders, because she sends their assignments to certified teachers through a correspondence course, who provide grades and transcripts.

Busch emphasized that fusing the roles of parent and teacher can be a big sacrifice for parents. Because they are generally one-income households, money is often an important factor, especially for military families who don't earn a large income.

"But the sacrifice and hard work pay off," asserted Busch, who will be sending her oldest son on a $1,000 scholarship to begin high school at a prestigious parochial school in Washington, D.C.

Home schooling, which once was outlawed in most states, is now legal throughout the United States, and its popularity has grown steadily over the past several decades.

While the Department of Education does not impose any federal restrictions on home education, each state has its own policies regarding the issue. South Carolina, for example, requires a parent to enroll with the local school district or with an accountability association. The parent must have at least a GED or a high school diploma, must teach for 180 days out of the year, and keep records and samples of their children's work.

Other states, such as Arizona or Kansas, simply require parents who home educate to register with the state, but do not monitor the children's progress as closely.

According to ERIC, while home schooling families come from all major ethnic and income groups, the typical family tends to be large, religious (Christian), conservative, and white. They are also generally middle-class, better educated, and more likely to be part of a two-parent family.

About 10 percent of these families belong to the military as well, since many parents feel that forcing their children to migrate from one school to the next is harmful to their development.

"My oldest son has been to the same grade school even though we have moved so often. Our house and our friends change continuously, but his education has stayed constant," said Busch.

Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), said the most commonly stated reasons that parents give for home schooling their kids include: teaching them specific philosophical and religious values; controlling their social interactions; developing close family bonds; and promoting high-level academics.

At the same time, he said, many parents feel that schools today are breeding grounds for morally corrupt behavior and attitudes. "Parents do not want their kids to be exposed to all the violence in schools these days," said Gloria Ferber, of the Grace Home School Association, based in South Carolina.

Academic and social implications

In fact, advocates argue that educating children at home not only protects them from moral corruption, but that it also leads to increased maturity and a higher level of academic achievement. Through a nationwide study conducted by NHERI, Ray discovered home educated students to be scoring, on average, at or above the 80th percentile in all areas on standardized achievement tests. That is well above the national average, which is in the 50th percentile. According to ERIC, college admission statistics are also a measure of success. Home school graduates have reported admission to more than 1,000 different colleges and universities, at last check.

While there is no conclusive research suggesting that additional time with peers is preferable to more time with individuals of varying ages, parents who choose to educate their children at home say that the increased exposure to people of all ages they receive through community activities and involvement with support groups, increases their self-confidence and maturity.

"Kids should not be learning what's right and wrong from other kids – they should be learning from adults," said Busch.

Although home schoolers are an ever-growing contingent, the practice still remains controversial. Organizations such as the national Parent-Teacher Association and the National Association of Elementary School Principals oppose this mode of education, and the National Education Association has called for more rigorous regulation of home schooling.

Conversely, groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union believe that parents have a constitutional right to teach their own children. The majority of Americans, while they don't necessarily promote the institution, believe in a parent's right to take charge of their children's education, and many state legislatures have amended their laws to provide greater flexibility for home schooling.

Klicka, of the HSLDA, acknowledged the limitations that home education poses to children, in terms of access to labs and athletics. However, he firmly believes the individual attention and disciplined learning environment it provides outweighs the cons.

"Home schooling parents feel their children need to be educated based on the values this country was founded upon," he explained. "A lot of people are concerned that their kids will become an academic or social statistic. They want their kids to be literate and to be able to have the necessary skills to succeed." graphic

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