Cero grew up on a 900-acre farm in West Virginia in a community with about 15 other
kids. Instead of going to a regular school, they were homeschooled together in groups
split by age. Some of their teachers were officially trained. Others were parents.
Some classes were traditional, but not all were: Science classes were sometimes held
at the local fish farm. A biology class might be a nature walk. English class might
mean seeing a local play or visiting the library.
The kids had a lot of input into their own schooling — which meant their
teachers were flexible. Discussions would go on as long as the kids were learning.
And although there was a rough schedule, if a lesson was leading somewhere, the teacher
wouldn't suddenly stop at a set time to teach another subject.
Cero and his classmates didn't always know what to expect. And sometimes they had
to do extra work themselves to fill in the gaps. But it paid off: Cero went on to
college at the University of Wisconsin.
Why Do Parents Homeschool Their Kids?
Believe it or not, attending school is not a legal requirement in the United States.
It is a legal requirement that all kids be educated, though. When parents believe
they can give their children a better education — or have other reasons for
not wanting to send their kids to a local school (such as wanting to provide them
with religious instruction) — they may choose homeschooling.
Homeschooled students can learn just as much as they would in regular schooling,
provided they and their instructors (usually parents) work hard to cover all the subjects
and experiences necessary. Overall, parents who homeschool tend to have higher levels
of education than parents who do not. They already have a grasp of numerous subjects
and the skills to educate themselves about teaching their kids.
It's been a while since most parents sat in an algebra class or a bio lab. So they
have to know how to find the information necessary to teach their kids. Public schools
or school districts often provide homeschooling parents with a curriculum, books and
materials, and places to meet. Some public schools will point parents to tutors and
other resources for brushing up on forgotten subjects. Or parents may enroll in continuing
education courses at local colleges or universities.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Homeschooling
The more than 1 million kids who are educated at home know that it has a lot going
for it. Students who are homeschooled may benefit from the one-on-one attention. For
instance, if you don't understand something in math, the whole class won't be moving
on without you — you might be the whole class! And if you really excel at something,
you can keep learning more at your own pace.
Students who are homeschooled also may get out in their communities more than other
kids their age. They may get to experience hands-on education at museums, libraries,
businesses, marinas, and other community resources. They also might volunteer or participate
in "service learning" where they take on local projects.
But homeschooling isn't as simple as sitting down with mom or dad and opening whichever
book you feel like. Laws and requirements vary across the United States, and it's
up to homeschoolers to comply with local regulations. So homeschooling can be a lot
of work for parents: They need to know what the law requires them to teach, research
resources on those subject (and learn more about the subjects if there are gaps in
their knowledge), and then do the actual teaching.
It's not just parents who need to do more work when it comes to homeschooling:
Often the students do too. As homeschooled kids become teens and old enough to guide
their learning, they may be left more on their own to find resources and do their
own research. (It may be challenging at the time, but working independently like this
can put homeschooled kids ahead of the game when it comes to preparing for college
A kid who's homeschooled may not have the convenience of some school facilities,
such as a gymnasium, science lab, or art studio. These may be less important for little
kids, who can do their science projects in the kitchen or have art class outdoors.
But when it comes to teaching teens, homeschooling parents may need to find a way
around such limitations.
Some parents who homeschool their kids form groups so their students can join together
for art classes or group learning activities, like field trips. And some public schools
let homeschooled kids participate in certain classes or extracurricular activities.
Sharing lesson time can be good for homeschooled students for another reason: It provides
social interaction that they might not have if they're not part of a class.
Finding Social Outlets
Homeschooled kids might feel cut off from other students their age — especially
during the teen years when friendships are so important. The good news is that, with
homeschooling a growing trend, there are plenty of other homeschooled kids out there
to connect with either in person or virtually. Local libraries sometimes have information
for homeschooled students and can put them in touch with one another.
Libraries and local public schools also may offer extracurricular activities, groups,
or clubs for teens that are open to all. Local rec centers or teen centers are another
good resource for meeting people your own age if you are homeschooled. Check with
local colleges, too, to see if any of their activities or programs are suitable.
There's a myth that homeschooled kids are somehow "weird." Of course, that's not
true: Colleges and universities recognize homeschooling as a legitimate education.
In fact, some have special application and enrollment avenues for students who are
homeschooled. (Homeschooled students still have to take college entry tests like SATs.)
Homeschooling gives students lots of advantages — such as more flexibility
than local schools to focus on specific subjects needed for a future
career. So if you attend a local school and know or have a chance to meet a homeschooled
student, you guys could learn a lot from each other!