Valerie Lynn Witt, M.Ed.
268 Big Hanaford Rd.
Centralia, Washington 98531
Keywords: Homeschooling, home schooling, home education, needs, Washington
Homeschooling is a topic that fosters heated emotions and raises many questions on both sides of the issue. There are some educators who believe that the education of children is best done by professionals, and that children who are schooled at home are disadvantaged socially as well as academically. On the other hand, there are dedicated homeschoolers as well as a growing number of professional educators who vehemently deny such notions. In the past, many of these beliefs have been based on a priori knowledge and/or feelings. With this in mind, however, more data are needed. While there are many aspects of homeschooling that should be addressed (e.g., social and moral development, academic success), the purpose of this descriptive study was to add to the body of information that already exists concerning the typical homeschool profile, and to target areas of need that could conceivably be met by public and/or private institutions. This was done by visiting homeschool support groups across the state of Washington, thereby getting a broad sampling of parent educators from all regions. Washington State statutes concerning homeschooling have fostered one of the most favorable and unrestrictive legal environments in the U.S., making the task of initiating and completing a study of this size and scope a bit less formidable.
Homeschooling is growing at a steady pace, and educators cannot ignore it or hope that it will go away. Opposing the trend will only serve to create barriers to open communication. There are many determined parents who are dedicated to homeschooling. The question is, “does it work?” and if so, “how can public and private institutions facilitate even greater success in the home-school environment?” To answer these questions it is necessary to study the homeschool phenomenon, documenting its potential as a viable educational alternative for those who so choose, and to ascertain what community assistance could help homeschoolers fill that potential.
It is possible that there are a large number of homeschoolers, especially those just entering the arena of homeschooling, who would benefit from a spirit of cooperation from local Educational School Districts (ESD’s) and private schools, instead of indifference, distrust, and at worst, open hostility. It is also reasonable to believe that these same institutions would benefit from additional monetary incentives that could be generated through the development of homeschool programs. There are some subjects that many homeschoolers may not feel confident enough to tackle, or that they do not have the resources to teach effectively. Driver’s education, science labs, extracurricular sports, advanced mathematics, and music are just a few of the courses that could be offered to the homeschooled student for the mutual benefit of both the school district and the homeschool family.
In order to facilitate and encourage the development of some of these programs, it is necessary to assess areas of need in the homeschooling community. Surveying homeschoolers who already take advantage of support groups would most likely reach the population of parent teachers interested in outside programs and services. In general, are homeschoolers traditional two parent families? Are they conservative, liberal, or somewhere in between? Are they even interested in programs other than what they can provide themselves, and if so, where would they be willing to go for such services? These are some of the questions that this study seeks to answer.
Review of the Literature
Reasons for Homeschooling
Although homeschooling parents cite many reasons for their choice to educate their own children, it has been reported in recent studies that there are several reasons held in common by most. Researchers such as Kilgore (1987), Mahan & Ware (1987), Rose (1986), Van Galen (1987 & 1988), and Williams (1984) have identified several main reasons parents choose to homeschool:
1. Parents believe that their child has unique needs that the traditional school setting cannot meet. These needs can be anything from specific learning disabilities to giftedness.
2. Parents want themselves and their children to be in control of the learning process.
3. Parents believe that the family bonds are strengthened through the process of homeschooling.
4. Parents have strong religious convictions, values, and morals that they believe are being undermined by the current educational system.
5. Parents are dissatisfied with traditional educational systems. This is not really surprising, considering that the illiteracy rate is growing at an alarming rate every year. A U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee report (1989) estimated that between 20 to 27 million adults lacked the basic skills in reading, writing, and math necessary for today’s job market, and that more than ten billion dollars were spent by the federal government on illiteracy every year.
Despite suspicions to the contrary, recent studies seem to indicate that homeschooled children score at or above the national average on academic achievement tests. Wartes (1987, 1991), project leader for the ongoing Washington Homeschool Research Project, reported that the median scores of the homeschoolers taking the Stanford Achievement Test in the years 1986-90 were in the 64th to 68th percentile. Frost (1987), Director of Education at Chicago Research and Training, found in his study of Illinois 3rd to 6th graders that the average composite score was at the 70th to 74th percentile, and that a case could be made for the academic success of home educated children. A researcher from Christian Liberty Academy found that test scores of randomly picked students averaged two to three grade levels above the national norms (Frost, 1988). Hewitt Research, an organization dedicated to promoting and helping homeschoolers, found that their students performed near the 80th percentile on standardized tests. A study conducted by Ziegelman (1986) demonstrated that head start preschoolers taught at home by their parents developed language proficiency skills at a significantly greater level than those enrolled in center-based programs. Rakestraw (1988) of Georgia Southern College found that almost all of the 84 homeschoolers she used in her study tested at or above their appropriate grade level.
A study reported by the Smithsonian Institution of twenty geniuses noted three ingredients that were common in their experiences: (a) warm, loving, educationally responsive parents and other adults; (b) little contact with children outside the family; and (c) freedom to explore their own rich fantasies and interests under the careful guidance of the parents (McCurdy, 1960). It is interesting to note that these three ingredients lend themselves to the homeschooling environment.
In an article written for G/C/T, McMillan (1985, p. 56) describes the flexibility and freedom to learn that a gifted child can experience through homeschooling. She goes on to say: “Homeschooling releases the gifted child from pressure to either conform to the average student mold or to excel in every discipline at once.” Kearney (1984) also suggests that some gifted children would be better served by the homeschooling environment.
In a study conducted through the Pathways School, Richardson, Texas (Quine & Merek, 1988) it was discovered that homeschooled students entered Piaget’s intellectual stage of post concrete operational thinking at much earlier ages (10-11) than the current national average (15-20).
Ray (1986) gave several possible reasons for the success of homeschooled students:
1. Low teacher/student ratio. The interaction between student and teacher is much higher and more productive. The child experiences far more adult-to-child responses than available, or even possible, in a formal classroom setting.
2. High level of involvement of parents in their children’s learning process. The parent knows at all times where the child is at in the learning process and what subjects may need remediation/enrichment, which is not always the case in the traditional classroom setting. The parent has the long term educational plan in mind, not just a succession of grade levels to be completed.
3. Positive role modeling of parents to their children. The parent retains the role of “significant other.”
4. Higher expectations of youth by adults. Students are not allowed to “just get by,” but are continually encouraged to work up to their abilities.
5. Learning is accomplished in the midst of daily routines, which allows for a high level of hands on learning. Moore (1982) contended that this environment also lends itself to the development of independent, self-directed children.
6. The curriculum and learning process is highly individualized and flexible. The adult can provide partiality to the student, something seldom encouraged or allowed in a formal setting, but sorely needed by young children.
7. Parent educators exhibit teaching characteristics that are often associated with success, such as variability, enthusiasm, task orientation, and clarity & organization. They are concerned enough about their children to shoulder the responsibility of their education.
A common misconception of opponents of home education is that homeschooled children will not become properly socialized because of isolation from society and their peers. They argue that children do not learn to live in the ‘real’ world. Although this may be true in rare cases, research shows that this is the exception rather than the rule. Wartes (1986) found that two thirds of the homeschoolers answering his survey usually or always scheduled daily time for interaction with other children. In light of research regarding socialization, it is necessary to ask if it is really in the best interests of children to spend large amounts of time interacting with their peers, especially in semi-supervised situations that sometimes occur in the classroom and on school playgrounds. Are social skills best taught by caring, nurturing adults, or immature peers who often lack the essential rudiments of getting along in an adult society? Proponents of homeschooling contend that the typical classroom is a contrived setting that hardly emulates the reality of day to day living. Indeed, as adults we reside and interact with persons of all ages and abilities, not a select group of same-age peers. Moore, an international expert on homeschooling and a developmental psychologist who has reviewed many studies on the development of young children stated: “The child that is with his peers more than with his parents—at least until the age of 12—will become peer dependent and negatively socialized.” (1984, p. 12)
The late John Holt, founder of Growing Without Schooling, argued that the social life of children in most of the schools he was familiar with was “… mean spirited, competitive, exclusive, status-seeking, snobbish …” (Kohn, 1988). Researchers and scholars such as Bronfenbrenner, Weininger, and Bowlby have suggested that social/emotional adjustment is best accomplished in the home setting (Moore, 1982). Educator and author Dr. Ruth Beechick (1992, p. 4) stated:
… numerous classroom activities are artificial ways to learn what is learned more naturally in everyday life in the home and family setting. Families, when they are not feeling pressured to be academic, are the ideal setting for young children to develop emotional stability, language and communication skills, knowledge about things and events around them, and a quality called disposition to learn.
So far studies concerning the social/emotional adjustment of homeschooled children seem to reflect the same positive outcomes as the studies dealing with academic achievement. Delahooke (1986) found that homeschooled students were less influenced by their peers, viewing their parents as primary authority figures. This is a welcome finding, considering the negative behaviors (drug abuse, promiscuity, rebellion, etc.) that can occur as a result of peer pressure/dependency. Taylor (1986) reported in his Doctoral dissertation that home educated children scored significantly higher than a public school norm group on the Piers-Harris Self-Concept Scale in all areas. Half of the students scored at or above the 91st percentile, with only 10% scoring below the national average. Studies by Kitchen (1991), Smedley (1992), and Shyers (1992) found that home educated children were more mature, better socialized, and exhibited fewer problem behaviors than their traditionally educated peers, and that homeschooled students may even possess higher self-esteem than conventionally educated students.
If these findings are representative of homeschooled children in general, then the argument that home educated students cannot be properly socialized is indeed a weak and moot argument. More attention should be directed toward identifying areas of interest pertaining to homeschool families and working towards development of programs that will address the real issues regarding the homeschool community. Since previous studies indicate that home education is having a good deal of success in both academic and socio-emotional domains, the purpose of this study is to provide the academic and homeschool community with a profile and needs assessment of the typical Washington homeschool family. It is hoped that this study will cultivate understanding and helpful dialogue for all involved, thereby fostering development and implementation of services that will provide further success and growth for the homeschooled student.
Phase One: Identification of Study Groups
A list was obtained from the Washington Homeschool Organization (WHO), giving the locations and contact people of all local homeschool groups registered with WHO in Washington State. Letters introducing the research project and asking permission to conduct on site studies were sent to forty local groups. A list of study groups was created from those organizations returning the permission slips. Homeschool groups which did not return permission slips were contacted by phone in order to get as much participation as possible. Of the thirty-one groups that gave permission, eight did so after being contacted by telephone. Several groups could not be reached because the contact person had moved with no forwarding telephone number and/or address. One group on the coast did not want to be involved because of fear of reprisal from a local public school superintendent, while one group leader in Eastern Washington was openly hostile and hung up on the researcher. Each homeschool organization or support group taking part in this study was assigned a number. As an extra incentive each group that was willing to be a part of this study was offered a copy of the concluding report and findings.
Phase Two: Development of Questionnaire
While waiting for initial responses from these groups, a multiple choice questionnaire was developed based on similar studies conducted by Kilgore (1987), Mahan (1987), Ray (1986), Rose (1986), Van Galen (1987), and Wartes (1987) that sought to profile homeschool families, as well as identify areas of concern. Questions seeking information regarding the homeschool family’s foundational philosophy/religion, personal attitudes towards television viewing habits, along with questions regarding outside activities were also added. In order to ascertain whether homeschoolers would be interested in services offered by public ESD’s, private schools, and/or educational consultants, several questions were included in the questionnaire with this in mind.
Phase Three: Pilot Study
As soon as the questionnaire was developed, a pilot study group was identified in Centralia, WA and administered the questionnaire. From this initial study potential problems with the logistics of the study or questions that needed to be changed/ clarified were identified for future on-site visitations. It was determined that questionnaires could easily be completed within the time constraints of a typical homeschool support group meeting with the deletion of several questions. Out of the original sixty questions, nine were identified as inappropriate for this study. Most of these dealt with reasons for home-schooling and did not lend themselves to clear answers that could be easily tabulated. Answers tended to be lengthy and time consuming, and would be better addressed in a future study. This left a total of fifty-one items.
Phase Four: Establishing Dates for Completion of Study
When the pilot study was completed, all groups that granted permission were contacted and dates were established for the actual on-site completion of the study. Questionnaires were completed on-site for all locations that could be visited in person by the researcher. Groups with conflicting dates were sent packets of questionnaires with instructions on how to complete them, along with return envelopes. For logistical and control purposes, only families attending that particular monthly meeting established by the researcher were asked to complete the questionnaire. Only one questionnaire per family was accepted.
Phase Five: Collection of Data
The researcher visited most (18) sites in person in order to gather questionnaire data and conclude the study. When two groups met on the same date, one was visited in person and the other was sent a packet of questionnaires. Each homeschool group that was sent a packet of questionnaires was also given explicit written instructions, as well as verbal directions given by telephone to the support group leaders. Included in the packet was return postage and a large manila envelope so that all completed questionnaires could be gathered after the support group meeting and sent directly back to the researcher. At each homeschool support group that was visited in person by the researcher, the questionnaire was introduced and the study explained in detail. The questionnaires were filled out as the researcher stood by in order to be of assistance and/or answer any questions. For the most part, respondents were eager, interested, and willing to be a part of the study group, as long as anonymity was assured. This phase took approximately six months to complete.
Thirty-one support groups across the State of Washington took part in this study. They were as follows:
Bonney Lake Home School Support Group, Sumner C.A.P.E., Selah*; Centralia Homeschool Assoc., Centralia*; C.H.E., Kelso*; Clark County Home Educators, Vancouver*; Eatonville Area Homeschool Assoc., Graham*; Grays Harbor Christian Homeschool Parent Support Group & Homeschool Plus, Aberdeen Greater Gig Harbor Home School Support, Gig Harbor*; H.I.S., Auburn*; H.O.M.E., Snohomish*; Home Schooling Families of the Palouse, Pullman HSA, Issaquah*; HSA, Kent*; HSA, Pierce County (Tacoma)*; Lewis River Home Educators, Ridgefield; Lower Valley Home School Support Group, Bickleton; Marysville Home School Support Group, Marysville*; New Horizons Support Group, Mattawa; Newaukum Christian Homeducators, Cinebar*; Olympia Home School Support Group, Olympia*; Pacific County Homeschoolers, Chinook; R.E.A.C.H., Lynnwood*; Seattle Homeschoolers, Seattle*; Skagit Valley Homeschool Assoc., Mt. Vernon*; South Sound Assoc. of Homeschool Families, Auburn*; S. Whidbey Homeschool Support Group, Langley; Tri-Cities Homeschool Support Group, Pasco; Valley Home Educators, Cashmere; West Plains P.A.T.H., Medical Lake; Whatcom Homeschool Assoc., Bellingham; Zillah Homeschoolers, Zillah (and groups marked with an asterisk (*) were visited by the researcher in person).
Phase Six: Statistical Analysis
As soon as all completed questionnaires were returned to the researcher, the responses were compiled and tabulated in percentage format by computer using the Abacus StatView program for the Macintosh. Since all questions were multiple choice, a simple percentage was calculated for each item. No attempt was made to ascertain whether or not there were correlations between any of the study questions. Although some correlations seemed obvious, they were not considered meaningful for the purpose of this particular study (i.e. level of income vs. choice of private school as an alternative to homeschooling, parent dissatisfaction with public school performance vs. the choice by the majority of the respondents to not consider public institutions as an alternative to homeschooling, etc.). A total of 575 individuals completed the questionnaire, representing 575 homeschool families across the State of Washington.
Summary and Discussion of the Results
While the size and nature of this study involved immense amounts of time and preparation, it has produced one of the largest insights into the homeschooling movement and its’ makeup across the State of Washington. It is logistically impossible to get a true random sampling of Washington State homeschoolers. The researcher found that some homeschoolers, for whatever reason, will not complete surveys. Homeschoolers in sections of the coastal region were reluctant to be identified for fear of reprisals from their local public school authorities.
It is reasonable to believe that there are non-Christian homeschool families who are not represented in the local support groups because of the religious nature of some of the groups themselves. These families would feel uncomfortable in such a group and would therefore not be represented in this study. It is also important to note that not all homeschoolers would necessarily choose to be involved in a support group, especially those who have been homeschooling for a longer period of time. They may not feel the need for additional support outside of their own group of family and friends. However, it can be assumed that the information gleaned from this survey represents a fairly accurate picture of those homeschoolers affiliated with the Washington Homeschool Organization (WHO).
Within the confines of this particular study, the Washington homeschool family can be described as a traditional, conservative unit consisting of two parents and 2-3 children. It is not surprising to find that most homeschool families contained two parents, since it would be extremely difficult as a single parent to take on the monumental tasks of bread winner and educator. While several races were represented, the majority identified themselves as Caucasian. Of the respondents taking part in this study, 85.6% stated that they are conservative Christians, and that they attend religious services regularly (Table 1).
Would you consider your family to be: Frequency
a. Conservative 464
b. Liberal 17
c. Middle of the road 59
d. Other 12
My family’s religion/philosophy is:
a. Christian (conservative/fundamental) 477
b. Christian (liberal) 36
c. Eastern religion (Bahai, Hindu, etc.) 1
d. Mormon 17
e. New Age 3
f. Other 23
Does your family attend religious services regularly?
a. yes 515
b. no 42
Most homeschooling is performed by the mother or female guardian. The majority of both primary (73%) and non-primary (78.1%) teaching parents have completed college courses beyond a high school diploma, with the mode being a Bachelor’s Degree. This coupled with the fact that most respondents felt that the public education system is doing a poor job educating America’s children would seem to indicate that academics are very important and highly valued by parents who choose to educate their children at home. When asked if their children had ever attended a conventional public school, 43.5% answered yes. Only 35.1% of parents stated that their children had ever attended a private school. However, when asked if they would enroll their students in a public school if they could not homeschool for one reason or another, only 16.5% answered yes. Contrarily, 63.9% said they would choose a private school.
Although homeschoolers come from many different geographic locations, the majority (58.8%) live in a small town or rural environment. While 26.2% listed their annual income as below $25,000, 73.8% have earnings above that level, with the mode being $40,000 +. 17.4% of the homes indicated that one of the parents possesses a teaching certificate. Nearly three out of four homes have been homeschooling for more than one year, and almost all participants (96%) stated that they were planning to continue homeschooling in the upcoming year.
Homeschool Setting and Operation
While most homes indicated that they owned a television, almost half (48.4%) of those homes stated that they viewed it six hours or less per week. 93.8% of homes with television stated that they closely monitored what their children were viewing. This is an interesting finding, since it would appear that homeschoolers are doing naturally what many educators, educational researchers, doctors, and librarians have been suggesting for years – i.e. limiting and monitoring television viewing habits. Either this knowledge is intrinsic, or they are taking the time to further educate themselves regarding the effects of television viewing and child development.
Repudiating the emotional speculations of some detractors and critics that homeschooled children are isolated and socially deprived, 94.3% of homeschool families stated that their children participate in organizations, clubs, lessons, etc. outside the home. Additionally, 96.9% of homeschooled children spend 3 or more hours per week interacting with other children outside the home. Evidently homeschooled children are not lacking in opportunities for social growth, and in fact the argument can be made that these children are socialized in more of a natural, real world atmosphere with ample opportunities to be a part of their community. Are socialization skills best obtained by interacting with socially adept adults in a loving, safe community, or by same-age peers who are often hostile and socially immature? Common sense dictates that the former is true. While it may be valid to aver that there will be anti-social fringe elements involved with any movement, the overwhelming number of homeschoolers who are performing at a more than adequate level should not be burdened with labels that they do not deserve. One cannot help but point out that there are anti-social, violent fringes within the confines of the institutional walls as well.
When asked questions regarding the views of others towards the parents for their decision to homeschool, the majority stated that their family, friends, and acquaintances had been supportive of their choices. Of those who had experienced disapproval (16.6%), only 38 parents answered that this sometimes causes them to doubt their decision to homeschool. This certainly says something about the dedication and abilities of homeschoolers in general to convince and/or demonstrate to others the propriety of their choice to educate their own children.
While methods of tutelage varied greatly from very structured to very unstructured, the majority (42.2%) of parent teachers stated that their homeschool routine is an equal blend of prepared curriculum and time devoted to their child’s special interests (Table 2). About 57% of the families indicated that they were involved with formal lessons and activities between 2 and 3.5 hours per day. Private tutoring is much more time efficient than a regular classroom setting, and would therefore require far fewer hours of formal instruction than what is necessary for a group of 25 or more students. While few hours may be devoted to ‘formal’ curriculum and lessons, everyday ‘informal’ procedures such as banking, shopping, meal planning and preparation, community service, 4-H, homeschool support groups, and other such activities should also be taken into consideration as an integral part of the homeschooling process.
Surprisingly, when asked if they had received some form of assistance from either public or private schools, 81.9% answered ‘no.’ The sources that could be of the most benefit to homeschoolers are being accessed the least.
This could be due to the fact that 52.7% of the homeschoolers who filed letters of intent to homeschool with their local school districts found personnel to be indifferent, disapproving, and in some isolated instances hostile. Unlike the districts and private schools that make themselves available to help parents who choose to homeschool, those that disparage or ignore the homeschoolers in their jurisdiction only create an atmosphere of distrust and alienation. Instead of defensiveness, ESD’s, as well as private schools, would be doing themselves a favor by seeking ways to creatively promote and work alongside in a mutually agreeable relationship with those parents who are willing to be such an influential and important part of their child’s rearing and education. Fortunately, there are more and more schools who are doing just that. It would be a wonderful sight to see older homeschooled students volunteering in elementary schools as tutors! This would not only benefit the young child who is in need of extra attention, but it would provide classroom assistance for the teacher, as well as wonderful opportunities for homeschoolers to give of themselves in the form of community service. Strong, nurturing families should be encouraged, not discredited. Educationalists and others who view the family as something suspect from which children should be distanced should themselves be carefully scrutinized for hidden agendas and biases.
|How many hours per day do you “formally” homeschool (pre-planned lessons or activities)?|
|a. 1 – 1.5||130|
|b. 2 – 2.5||154|
|c. 3 – 3.5||152|
|d. 4 – 4.5||73|
|e. 5 or more||30|
|Is your method of homeschooling:|
|a. Very structured, considerable use of tests, workbooks, or other prepared curriculum||70|
|b. Somewhat structured||154|
|c. About an equal blend of prepared curriculum/time devoted to child’s special interests||233|
|d. Somewhat unstructured, based on child’s special interests||45|
|e. Very unstructured with very little use of a prepared curriculum||50|
|Have you received some sort of assistance during this school year from:|
|a. a public school district||50|
|b. a private school||38|
|c. both a public & private school||9|
Meeting the Requirements of Washington State Law
When asked if they were aware of Washington State laws regarding homeschooling, almost all (95.5%) answered yes, and the majority had filed a letter of intent to homeschool with their local districts (Table 3). Of those who had not filed a letter of intent, most stated that their reason for not doing so was because their children were under the age of eight. When asked if either parent had completed a course in home based education, the majority said that they had not. When asked if they met with a certified teacher for at least one hour per week, almost all said no. This is not surprising, since the majority of those surveyed had completed more than two years of college work themselves, thereby meeting and/or exceeding the requirements of law.
|Has either parent completed a course in home based education as provided for in Washington’s homeschooling law?|
|a. Yes, both parents||23|
|b. Yes, only primary teaching parent||188|
|c. Yes, only non-primary teaching parent||2|
|Are you aware of the Washington State laws regarding homeschooling?||534||25|
|Do you meet with a certified teacher at least 1 hour per week in order to come under the teacher supervision option of the Washington State homeschool law?||31||524|
|Did you file a letter of intent to homeschool with your local school district?||376||174|
Table 3. Awareness of Washington State laws regarding homeschooling.
65.6% of the parents said that they were planning to have their students tested with a standardized test. 136 respondents stated that they were not going to have a formal test done, almost the exact number (131) who had noted that their reason for not filing a letter of intent was because their children were under eight years old. It is therefore reasonable to believe that many of these parents were not having their children tested because they were under the mandatory school age of eight.
Services Identified as Potentially Beneficial or Not Beneficial
When answering questions regarding services that they might access, the majority of homeschoolers said that they were not interested in seeking part time participation of their students in either a traditionally structured public (77.6%), or private school (62.4%) (Table 4). For whatever reasons, these parents do not consider traditional school settings as viable alternatives. However, when asked if they would be interested in participating in public school programs organized and designed for homeschoolers, 42.4% answered ‘yes.’ About 62% responded that they would participate in the same kind of program if offered by a private school. If local public school districts made educational support services available on a mutually agreeable basis, only 15.7% of those responding said that they would probably or definitely not make use of some such service. Just over 10% said that they would not make use of the same service offered by a private school. Additionally, 68.7% said that they would be interested in the services of a public school teacher trained to encourage and help homeschoolers go about the task of educating their children.
|Would you be interested in seeking participation of your child as a part time student in a traditionally structured public school.||117||301|
|Would you be interested in seeking participation of your child as a part time student in a traditionally structured private school?||181||300|
|Would you be interested in seeking participation of your child as a part time student in a type of public school program organized and designed for homeschoolers (e.g., attend school 1-2 times a week)?||205||279|
|Would you be interested in seeking participation of your child as a part time student in a type of private school program organized and designed for homeschoolers?||279||173|
|If the local public school district had a teacher available strictly for the purpose of encouraging and helping home-schoolers with problems they may run into, offering advice, or informing homeschoolers of services and resources avail-
able to them, would you be interested in such a service?
Although most parent educators felt that public schools were doing poor jobs of educating America’s children, they do not necessarily view the public school district as an adversary and will use this resource if it is designed to meet their needs. Almost nine out of ten (88.1%) homeschooling families taking part in this survey stated that they would be interested in programs and/or services other than what they could provide themselves.
It is impracticable to routinely stereotype homeschoolers—they come from heterogeneous backgrounds, philosophies, and locations. Their curriculum is as individualized as their students, and their methods of teaching are copious. They may reside in a Bellevue mansion, or they may live off of the land. However, there are certain characteristics that seem to be shared by many. While some of the conclusions of this study may be surprising to those not familiar with the homeschool movement, they are consistent with other studies conducted thus far. Services and programs that would be attractive to homeschoolers have been tentatively identified, as well as those that may not be worth developing. This study also addresses and puts to rest some of the issues and arguments detractors utilize in their criticism of the homeschooling experience (i.e. socialization), thereby focusing much needed attention on the real issues concerning the homeschool movement.
The findings of this survey indicate that Washington homeschool families are conservative, two parent families highly involved in the instruction and training of their children. They value academics, as evidenced by the level of education achieved by the parents. The majority have been homeschooling for more than one year, and plan to continue in the future. They actively take part in activities outside the home, and allow time each week for socialization with other children who are not a part of their immediate family. They are secure in their decision to homeschool, and are given outside support of significant family members, friends, and acquaintances. While most of those surveyed believe that public schools are doing a poor job educating students, they do not necessarily view school districts as antagonists and are not averse to using public school resources if designed to encourage and help them in their task. They are more than willing to access services outside of the home, and would welcome opportunities for participation in programs and activities designed for homeschoolers by public and/or private schools interested in the success of their children. Creative educators and school districts would be doing themselves and homeschoolers a great service by developing and implementing programs to meet the needs of the growing number of families who are choosing to take on the enormous and admirable task of educating their own children.
One such program of particular benefit to both professional educators and homeschoolers would be the services of a homeschool educational teacher consultant. State law currently allows an educator to supervise up to thirty students. Since most homeschoolers are not interested in a traditional structured classroom setting, a professional teacher consultant appreciative of the uniqueness and dedicated to the success of each homeschool family would be a welcome colleague for many home educators. This person would serve as more of an encourager/resource person who could help direct parents toward available curriculum suitable to their needs, educate them regarding childhood growth patterns, learning styles, record keeping, and other pertinent issues. This consultant could also document completed studies, as well as issue credit for homeschoolers seeking to earn high school diplomas. A teacher consultant program could be developed for utilization in the public as well as the private school sectors as a homeschool extension service. From the responses obtained from this survey, such a program would indeed be welcome.
Another program that would be of particular interest to the college bound homeschool student is in the area of foreign languages. A certificated teacher who could offer some such course might be a welcome resource for many. As the homeschool movement grows and matures, it can be assumed that more and more students will be looking for ways to meet college entrance requirements regarding the study of languages.
Since many homeschoolers rely on income from one wage earner, an equipment loan program would also be a welcome addition to local communities. Obtaining surplus equipment from school districts and supportive businesses, along with enthusiastic promotion of such a facility would be a positive and worthwhile endeavor. Microscopes, overhead projectors, computers, and other such items could be put to good use by home educators who might not be able to otherwise afford them. In addition, such a facility could be used as an occupational training center. Older homeschool students could be taught to operate the center in exchange for on-the-job training in basic office skills. These same students could also gain valuable skills in speaking and public relations as they present and promote the concept of ‘their’ center to groups, businesses, and public officials.
Homeschoolers are willing and waiting—it is now up to imaginative, visionary educators to create and implement programs that will benefit both home educators and traditional institutions. With cooperation and understanding, all can work together toward the task of developing responsible, well-educated young people who can step confidently into their roles as tomorrow’s leaders.
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