Taking the Home-Schooling Route
Brought to you by The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
By Leslie Dahm
The coordinator of the Des Moines Schools Home Instruction Program offers some perspective on why many parents choose to home-school!
More than Religion
What motivates parents to choose this educational alternative? The stereotype is that most families home-school for religious reasons. Religion, however, is only one of many reasons, others being issues of trust, educational quality, and special needs.
Home schooling does allow families to incorporate their personal religious beliefs and values into all areas of the curriculum. Handwriting practice can incorporate scriptures, and reading can revolve around the Bible. We have had an increasing number of Jehovah's Witness families. Home schooling gives them the extra time in their day to do the service work that their religion requires.
- Trust is the key reason for many families. Parents do not trust schools to keep their children safe in a society that they see becoming increasingly violent and unhealthy. They worry that schools will teach conflicting values. They don't trust the schools to give their children the individual time and attention necessary to assure learning of basic skills.
- Parents of special education students want to give their children an opportunity to learn at their own level without being labeled or embarrassed by comparisons to other students their age. Parents who work with such a child learn firsthand about their child's limitations, and many times they quit blaming the schools for not teaching them. Our teachers work with these parents to assure that the instruction meets the needs of the student as identified in the student's last Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
- Home schooling can give gifted students additional time to explore their academic interests and talents. For example, ballet dancers, actors, and musicians have participated in advanced training classes in their own fields during the day and home-schooled at night.
- Some of the most satisfied home-school families have been those whose children suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Most school officials agree that it is difficult to meet these youngsters' needs in a classroom. At home, parents can plan shorter instructional periods to match shorter attention spans.
Home-school families' opinions of the public education system represent both ends of a continuum. Some believe that schools push students into formal learning at too young an age. They don't want to "teach" their child to read until age 8. This does not mean that they do not provide a rich learning environment for their children--in fact, they surround them with resources and engage them in activities that enable them to learn through interaction with their environment. Other parents don't believe their children have benefited from the trend toward whole language and developmentally appropriate strategies.
Parents usually find that they can teach in fewer hours than the students would be enrolled in school each day. Some families teach in the evenings and weekends to accommodate their work schedules. Some teach four days a week, but work into the summer months.
A Learning Experience
We do not recommend that parents home-school as a way to solve problems. For the majority of families, in fact, home schooling is not a workable situation. It requires major lifestyle changes that many families are not able or willing to make. Nevertheless, school administrators in our district have learned that our Home Instruction Program can accommodate many problems in a way that assures that the students' educational needs are being met.
This is an excerpt from an article that was first printed in the October 1996 issue of Educational Leadership. It is also featured reading in the ASCD PD Online course, Parents as Partners in Schooling. Want to learn more about the course and other online offerings? Follow this link to the PD Online site on the ASCD home page.