“Homeschoolers are just … a … little different!”

“Homeschoolers are antisocial. They hide and don’t mix well with … us!”

“Homeschoolers are poor and ignorant. They can’t learn. All they do is watch television!”

“Homeschoolers have lice!”

If you are among those who do not know much about homeschoolers, you might be surprised to learn that homeschooling is one of the fastest growing movements in America today. But what has caused this latest phenomenon in education?

Since the sexual and social revolution of the 60’s, America’s public schools have been on a downward spiral, deteriorating not only socially, but academically as well. Because of the decline in morals and in educational standards, thousands of parents who never would have entertained the thought twenty, or even ten, years ago now homeschool their children.

Although the majority of homeschooling families are Christians who teach their children Biblical standards and a love for God as well as strong academics, many non-Christian families have decided to homeschool. With the recent brash of violence against both students and teachers, it has become obvious that the spiritual and moral vacuum in our schools has opened the door for tragedy. Homeschooling offers one solution for parents who are concerned for the well being of their children in such an unstable and sometimes hostile environment.

Because of the surge of interest in homeschooling, each state in America has had to adopt laws, or educational policies at the least, that provide a standard for homebound instruction. Some states like West Virginia have little or no guidelines where homeschoolers have total freedom to “do their own thing”. Other states like Pennsylvania have a list of requirements that includes a yearly evaluation by an educator and achievement testing in selective grades.

When considering the actual academic program of the average homeschooler, one pertinent question comes to the forefront, “How can a parent with only a high school diploma teach subjects like algebra and chemistry?”

Dozens of publishing companies, both religious and secular, have seized a marketing opportunity by providing top quality curricula and resource materials for homeschoolers. Besides textbooks, some of these companies provide cassette tapes, CD’s, and classroom lectures on video or satellite. An ever-increasing market is the internet where several companies already offer full academic programs on the world wide web. With such programs available, parents serve as monitors, supervising their children’s study time. Assignments and tests can be sent to the publishing companies’ home offices where the paperwork is scored and graded. At the homeschooling families’ discretion, credit is accumulated toward earning a diploma that is accepted, and even welcomed, in most colleges and the armed forces.

But what about the average day in the life of a homeschooler? Does he watch TV or play all day long?

With rare exceptions, homeschooling families are well disciplined and conscientious. Children rise early to crack the books, often in a makeshift classroom that has evolved from a spare bedroom or den. After the entire morning is consumed in study, a trip to the local library or a museum in the next town might be on the schedule.

Homeschoolers far outshine their public school counterparts in reading interests and knowledge from field trips. The average homeschooler reads 25 to 30 enrichment books a year and goes on about 5 to 10 school-related field trips to enhance their education.

Socially, homeschoolers are usually neither outcasts nor islands onto themselves. Generally, children who are homeschooled are more secure than their public school peers. Bonds among family members are strong and supportive. With the absence of pressure to conform to a rebellious peer group, homeschooling children help one another and respect those in authority in a strong nuclear family unit.

Because of the freedom of schedule, most homeschoolers develop passions for the fine arts. The many hours available to develop such young talent often produce proficiency in music or theater at an early age. It is also not uncommon to find homeschoolers who can quilt, paint, or design their own web pages for the internet.

Homeschooling families often avail themselves of one of several homeschool support groups usually found in any given area. The groups provide activities that range from regular writing classes, gym time, or science “lab” to practicing and performing plays, concerts, or competing in team sports.

Academically, homeschoolers do not take back seats in any discipline. With the excellent variety of texts and resource materials at their disposal, homeschoolers have the world at their fingertips. Any subject required for college entrance is available for homeschoolers today. From the primary grades to senior high, national standardized test scores reflect students who are two to three years above their own grade level in reading, math, and language.

Recent statistics prove that homeschooling is no joke. It is estimated that there are 850,000 homeschoolers in America today, and the number is expected to increase to a million in the next few years.1Homeschoolers are making their mark in national scholastic contests like the geography and spelling bees held annually in Washington, D.C. Over the last few years, homeschoolers have placed first to third in both. In the spring of 2001, a homeschooler won the Gold Award at the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards held in Washington, D.C. (sponsored by Scholastic Incorporated, New York)

Regardless of the public’s opinion of homeschooling, the facts speak for themselves. Most homeschoolers are performing well and are here to stay. Their academic programs are solid, and their futures are promising.

As far as their watching too much television? They’d rather go fishing!

[Marsha Hubler has a master’s degree in education and is a certified evaluator from Middleburg, Pennsylvania. She has evaluated hundreds of homeschoolers over the last 12 years in the Susquehanna Valley where she resides.]

1“The Daily Item”. Newspaper, Sunbury, PA., p.2A, Friday, Aug. 3, 2001