Homeschooling in 2017…what does it look like? Homeschooling has changed a great deal over the years. I’m what the homeschool community might call a ‘veteran homeschooling mom’ since I homeschooled my three children for over 15 years. Legalization and acceptance of the home education option have widened the demographics of those homeschooling families; the “average homeschooler” no longer exists. Fifteen years ago homeschool mothers were young, married, stay-at-homes who lived on a moderate income and wore denim jumpers. Today though, the homeschooling community does not have a specific income level, marital status, ethnic background, or age. More frequently today than in the past, will a father or grandparent take on the role of home educator. As you can imagine, homeschooled children benefit from the broader and more varied level of experience and educational background of these mentors.
Years ago, the reception homeschoolers received from teachers was skeptical, but the general high level of academic achievement of homeschooled students has allayed much of their concern. I find today a general acceptance and regard for the homeschool parent from public and private teachers alike. Within Hope Homeschoolers, just one of Polk’s several support groups, many mothers who had taught in public schools have chosen to homeschool their own children. A number of them even keep their certificates current in order to evaluate other homeschooled children or return to their profession in the future.
My children and I have heard everything from, “Do you do your schoolwork in your pajamas?” to “Don’t you worry about socialization?” Although most people know of a homeschooling family, several misunderstandings remain. Just what is homeschooling? How do families get started? What is a typical day like?
Just as each family has its own unique ‘family culture’, each homeschooling experience is unique as well. But for most of us the school day begins much the same as it does for everyone else, without the rush to pack lunches and get to the bus stop. Most families begin school as soon as beds are made, teeth are brushed, and Mom is ready.
Books used in homeschooling are purchased from various curriculum publishers or borrowed from libraries. Although mothers often tailor parts of the curriculum to the student’s needs, most things are constant. For example, math is systematic and logical, English begins with phonics and easy readers and continues on to literature and composition, social studies includes American history, and science is often a hands-on affair with labs and experiments, whether outside the house examining the phases of the moon, or inside doing frog dissections.
Homeschoolers today have many options. Some families prefer online courses and take advantage of the many virtual classroom options available, others choose a classical approach that includes the study of Latin and history beginning with the Ancients. The publishers of textbooks and curriculum have been quick to produce materials that can be used at home. Therefore, educating children at home is not the most inexpensive option. Homeschoolers pay taxes, but they also purchase DVDs, microscopes, computer programs, paper, and all the textbooks we require each year.
And what about socialization? Public school children spend 6 hours a day at school with their peers, which is where I assume people think socialization is best learned. The homeschooled student, however, comes in contact with people in varied social situations on a regular basis. Homeschool students take their lessons everywhere they go: at home with their brothers and sisters around the kitchen table, at the grocery store comparing prices, at the library listening to stories, or at the retirement home meeting and greeting residents. In the process, they learn to communicate comfortably with people of all ages. In addition, homeschooling families often host international students, arrange field trips to local facilities, and attend weekly physical education activities at Lake Parker soccer fields. When the homeschool movement began, few families were involved. Now, however, it is often hard for parents teaching their children at home to choose from the wide variety of activities available. Ingrown and unsocialized? Not anymore.
We began the homeschooling journey when my oldest daughter became school age. My husband and I loved the idea of guiding her education ourselves and inspiring a love for learning at home. When we began, we had not intended to homeschool through high school, but when the time came it was the most appealing option. Our children had access to college prep courses that enabled them to gain admission to college after graduating from high school. Our homeschool group provided a large, active secondary group of students, who were involved in student council leadership, Polk County Teen Court, campaigning in elections, and community fundraising events. We took advantage of opportunities to tailor their high school classes to include career shadowing and specialized training. Our oldest daughter graduated summa cum laude from the University of Florida, our son studied computer engineering at the University of Central Florida and is currently working in the field, and our youngest daughter is a senior at Gordon College completing a degree in linguistics and biblical studies.
So, what does homeschooling look like in 2017? Looking through the window of the home of an average homeschooling family, you might see children sitting beside their mother at the kitchen table or on the family room sofa reading books, doing worksheets, writing papers and lab reports. On another day, you would find them on their way to Chemistry class, 4H, book club, or a speech tournament. When Dad comes home, you might see him going over algebra equations or reading Jonny Tremain to the family. Homeschoolers can also be found on the local swim team, in ballet class, at the martial arts club, in the piano recital, and on the local little league baseball team. Homeschooling is an educational option that has come of age. Under the watchful eye of parents, homeschooling students work to build personal responsibility for life goals and aspirations. That’s what homeschooling looks like today.