Home Sweet Homeschool

Pry Family Quilt

The number of parents who are educating their children at home has dramatically increased in recent years.

By Tara Turner

Homeschool. A word that can stir up so many different thoughts and emotions. Home-schooling, or also commonly known in some countries as Home Education, is typically led by parents or guardians and sometimes even tutors can be hired to help.

Simply put, homeschooling is a progressive move-ment around the world in which parents choose to educate their children at home rather than enrolling them in a traditional public or private school. Families may choose to homeschool for a multitude of different reasons, including dissatisfaction with the current educational options, religious or educational philosophies, or the belief that children are not progressing within the traditional school structure. 

Homeschooling is not new. When Europeans began to colonize and settle into North America, there was a lack of education options. Most parents believed that their children should have a good foundation of literacy, therefore having to assume the teaching role themselves. The most modern homeschool movement began sometime around 1970 when John Holt, a former private school teacher and educational reformist, began to argue that the focus of formal schools was directly on rote learning. He disagreed with this method and quickly became an advocate for homeschooling. Holt once said, “Children learn from anything and everything they see. They learn wherever they are, not just in special learning places.” Holt was among the founders of the HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association), a United States based organization that seeks to serve homeschooling families through legal representation. Homeschooling has been legal in all 50 U.S. states since 1993. 

What caused the recent sudden surge of homeschoolers? The Coronavirus pandemic just might have played a role. The social-distancing pandemic forced families to seek out solutions that would reliably meet their health and safety needs, childcare needs, and the learning needs of their children. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, during the first week of the pandemic, about 5.4% of U.S. households with school-aged children reported homeschooling. By fall, that number grew to 11.1%. (A clarification was added to the school enrollment questionnaire to ensure that households were reporting true home-schooling rather than virtual learning.) That is an increase of more than double the number at the start of the 2020-2021 school year when compared to the prior year. Navigating remote learning more than took its toll on parents and students. When public schools moved to online learning, many students experienced fatigue and confusion from staring at a computer all day, which resulted in failing grades and lack of interest. At the same time, more parents were working from home and had flexible schedules which made them more available for homeschooling instruction. Families soon realized that public and private schools were not the only options when it came to education. Even after schools reopened, and vaccines became widely available, many parents have chosen to continue their homeschooling path. 

Homeschooling in today’s modern world has a wide array of appearances. Homeschooling today looks like being outdoors exploring nature, taking family hikes, performing science experiments, going on field trips to local museums, putting puzzles together, reading stories, singing worship music, watching educational videos, writing letters, gardening, tackling a list of chores, or following a recipe. Homeschooling doesn’t have to look a specific way. Families can make it what works for them. Each journey of homeschooling looks very different from another. Homeschooling parents are not judged by their backgrounds, college degrees, experience, or credentials. To be successful only requires you to have an open mind and the desire to self-educate your children. And maybe a little bit of patience along the way. Homeschooling isn’t so much an addition to parenting. It is what parents naturally do every day.

But what about the social aspect of homeschooling? Wouldn’t my kids miss their friends? There are many avenues in homeschooling that allow for children to be social butterflies. In our very own local com-munity, there are many homeschool co-ops which allow families to meet and work together towards a common goal. This is usually done through group classes, large group presentations, field trips, educational activities, and other events such as dances or graduations. The bottom line? Homeschooled children have plenty of opportunities for socialization, and when it’s made a priority, homeschooled children can have more exposure to people both within and outside of their own circle of friends. There are studies that suggest homeschooled children grow up with stronger friendships, better relationships with their parents and other adults, and a greater empathy for people in general. If there is one thing that homeschooling cultivates, it is being open minded to different people and experiences. Lynn Dean from The Homeschool Resource Roadmap said it best, “School isn’t the goal. Living well is the goal, and learning is just the tool that gets us there.” 

Homeschooling isn’t a path that you wake up one day and decide to embark on. The path is usually complicated, fearful, exciting, and overwhelming. My husband and I had casually brought up the topic of homeschooling once or twice during simple dinner conversations. At that time, we had a seven-year-old daughter in a public school, and a three-year-old son who would soon be going to preschool. Between the alarming questions our daughter was asking us from hear-say at school, to the class reading material she was bringing home, we knew that the path of public school was not for our family. It wasn’t just about what public school was teaching our daughter, it was also about what they were not teaching her. We started more seriously discussing the possibility of homeschooling. The weight of this decision weighed heavily on us for a long time, and we knew it was a decision not to made casually. We gave it a great deal of thought and we prayed about it. We finally felt sure that homeschooling was exactly what we were to be doing with and for our children. I drove to our local Board of Education office to turn in our “Intent to Homeschool” papers to make things official. The fear was daunting, but I knew that God wouldn’t call us to do something that He wouldn’t then equip us for. We’ve now been homeschooling almost four years and haven’t looked back since. I like to think we’re preparing our children for life, not for tests. We have good days, bad days, easy days, and hard days. Homeschooling has been the most rewarding, challenging, and beautiful journey we have ever been on. Being a homeschool mom is the job I never knew I wanted. 

The Veen family of Hagerstown made the decision to homeschool their four children while Jessica was a teacher, and their children were in school and daycare full time. After the difficulty of juggling the chaos, and some public-school happenings that didn’t quite sit well with them, Jessica and her husband began to question the education path that their children were on. They too, prayerfully considered what to do. It became clear to them that homeschooling was the right path for their family. “Homeschooling is such a gift. It allows kids to work at their pace. You can move through things they master quickly and slow down when they struggle with a concept. It also gives you time to explore their interests.” Schooling at home also allows kids to demonstrate their understanding of a topic in many ways, not just traditional tests or writing papers.” When asked to define homeschooling, Jessica commented, “I would say that homeschooling is learning as a family in a variety of places and ways. It’s not traditional school at home, it’s a lifestyle of learning and growing in a meaningful way that works best for your family.” 

The McClain family of Hagerstown began their homeschool journey back in 2013 with their now oldest son leaving the public school system after second grade. Although the McClain’s had a positive school experience, they couldn’t accept the fact that their son was spending more time with his teachers than he was with them. They felt strongly that the Lord had given them children to raise and disciple, which in turn led them to homeschooling. The McClain family has found that having their children at home allows them to build rich relationships, while having great dialectic conversations along the way. Each of the six McClain children learn in a different manner and homeschooling gives them the freedom they need to discover their own specific needs. Mom Sarah McClain feels that keeping a regular structure has been the most challenging part of homeschooling. Sarah says it’s a constant learning experience for their whole family, and requires regular tweaking of their schedules, all while learning a lesson of flexibility and grace. I asked the McClain family how they would define homeschooling- “Homeschooling is schooling that is parent led. We do not believe this means every single aspect of the teaching must be done at home, or even by the parent, but that the child’s education is crafted and executed by the parents. We are part of an amazing community of likeminded families who regularly pour into our kiddos, and doing life with these families has been a beautiful part of our homeschooling journey.” 

The Helman family of Chambersburg have three children who they homeschool for very different reasons. They say their oldest has was becoming more withdrawn and insecure as each grade passed. They decided to pull her from public school after second grade. Their middle child is quick-witted and very bright, and after requesting academic acceleration, they were told he did not qualify. Their belief was that even dedicated teachers were simply too consumed by challenging pro-fessional, the child’s education is crafted and executed by the parents. academic and behavior dynamics to be able to fuel thriving students. They then pulled their son from public school. Their youngest and third child was to enter kindergarten during the height of Covid-19, and since they had already begun their homeschooling journey, virtual kindergarten was out of the question for them. Mom Diane feels that in a healthy homeschool environment, the world is wide open to the student. They are free to express, experience, and pursue a variety of interests that supersede the traditional avenues that often pigeon-hole traditional students. For example, their middle son opted to pursue a short course on physics. Their daughter added French baking recipes to her week and picked up playing the Ukulele in her spare time. She also has had the freedom to explore math as her brain is ready to comprehend it. As for their youngest son, he is now studying Spanish language. Diane believes that homeschooling allows students to be vibrant individuals who can become confident in general life skills. I asked the Helman family to define homeschooling- “Education without the system, learning without the programming, curiosity without the seat belt. Home education respects children.” 

I spoke with Denise Moler of Hagerstown who has been a Homeschool Reviewer for the state of Maryland for twenty-four years, to get her personal take on homeschooling. “Of course, I am in support of homeschooling. In the past twenty-four years, I have seen so many positive things come out of homeschooling, not only for the children academically but for family cohesiveness and structure as well.” I asked Denise about any differences she has seen between homeschooled students and public-school students. “The main differences I see are homeschooled kids having more interest in schooling, and more confidence and respect for others, especially their families.” Denise explained how her homeschool evaluations and reviews are completed. “I evaluate by making sure the children are being schooled in the subjects they would have if they were in institutionalized schooling. Plus, I give advice for any changes that may be helpful.” When asked if she personally recommends homeschooling, Denise replied, “It is not necessary, but I highly recommend it. It can be most beneficial for children making new friends. Also, colleges are very interested in homeschooled students. Many studies have been done and the proof is there.” Denise is a wealth of information, and is also the owner of Faith Home School Academy, which you can find on Facebook. 

Homeschooling is an amazing adventure. If you are considering beginning that adventure, Facebook can be a very helpful tool. There are many groups and pages dedicated to service homeschooling families. Be sure to check out the following pages: Homeschool Freedom, Homeschoolers of Maryland, Great Homeschool Conventions, Classical Conversations Inc, Homeschool Connectors of Washington County (MD), Faith Home School Academy, FISH Hagerstown. The community of homeschoolers is a massive one that is packed full of people who would love to answer questions, and share their thoughts, wisdom, and encouragement. All you need to do is reach out. 

If homeschooling could be wrapped up into one word, it would be Freedom. Freedom to learn at your own pace. Freedom to choose which curriculum to use, and to have fun while learning. Freedom to slow down in a fast-paced world and find joy in all of life’s moments. Freedom to treasure those moments that you will never get back. 

Hagerstown Magazine