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Parents Can Be Educators

Aug 17, 2007
Around the same time that most kids are packing up their pencil boxes and heading for homeroom, a growing group of the families are preparing for a year of learning at home.

When I was a kid, home schooling was definitely counter-culture, and sometimes even illegal. But today, a growing number of parents are opting to educate their own children with varying reasons.
Some do it for reasons of faith or to hold to a certain philosophy. Other parents aren't happy with their local school district or have children with learning difficulties who do better with one-on-one attention. Still others simply prefer the individualized learning their kids can do at home with the teachers who know them best: Mom and Dad.
Though my sons go to school, we home-educated the year before last. We blended books and other resources with packaged curriculum and did the standards: reading, writing and arithmetic. The boys took art classes, played basketball and learned about DNA.

Far from being bored at home without enough to occupy our time, we found a steady stream of workshops and other activities where we could get together with other local home-schoolers. And it was a great chance to realize just how many opportunities for education and enrichment there are in community for home-schoolers and non-home-schoolers.

Though home schooling is becoming more mainstream, home-schooled parents and kids still face predictable, but often misinformed, disapproval. When I told people of our plans to home-school, we got all kinds of unsolicited criticism.

What About Socialization?
This is an often asked question. I'm not sure where we got the idea that putting 20 to 30 kids in a classroom together is the best or only way to learn about normal socializing.

Think about it: when was the last time that you spent the majority of your waking hours with two dozen people the same age as you? The reality is that in order to be prepared for life beyond school, all kids need more than what a classroom alone has to offer. They need to be around people of different ages, races, religions and backgrounds.

The real world doesn't look like a classroom. I've never worked in an office where I experienced the kind of bullying, peer pressure and teasing that I saw in middle school, either.

Today, home-schooled kids can find a club or class for just about anything they're interested in, from science workshops through Impression 5 Science Center to physical education at the YMCA.

Older kids can take advanced level science or math classes or college courses. As far as sports and other extracurriculars go, there are club teams and community arts organizations. True, if your child is headed for the NFL, playing on a high school team might be a key part of his life plan. But let's face it: most kids have very little chance of becoming professional athletes. And homeschooled kids can and do go to college, even Ivy League schools.

Psychology and child-development courses are useful if you have to manage an entire classroom full of kids. But a parent doesn't need a degree to know how her own child learns best, how to tap into his passions, what makes him tick. Teachers don't have to know everything to be effective, but they do have to know where to get the information and be committed to helping the child learn it. Most home schooling parents I know are passionate about helping their kids learn.

I appreciate the hard work educators do every day teaching my children and the majority of kids, and think they deserve a round of applause. But I also think home schooling parents deserve a round of applause, not only for taking on the awesome responsibility of educating their children, but also the courage to hold on to that commitment in spite of nay sayers.

I hope that home schooling will continue to be better understood and more accepted, locally and nationally. In the meantime, I hope all the homeschoolers are having a great year so far, and I hope to bump into you some of you in your classroom, the world.
About the Author
Joyce Jackson is an educational expert and consultant in northern California. For her latest book and information see Homeschooling Easy.
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