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By Susan Makowski, Hanley Foundation Prevention Specialist

Even before COVID-19, school closures and online learning, parents have homeschooled their children for a wide variety of reasons.

Some families choose to homeschool because their local public education system is lacking in areas they feel are important. Some families are unable to afford a private school setting. Religious beliefs and parents’ desires to develop certain character qualities in their children also make the list. Some want to protect or shield their children from “the real world” for as long as possible. Still, others cite bullying or behavioral problems as the root of a family’s decision to educate at home.

Some families choose to begin homeschooling from the start.

They never send their children to a regular public-school setting. Other families homeschool up to a certain grade and then enroll their students in traditional schools. In our case, we decided to educate exclusively from home for grades kindergarten through eighth. In ninth grade, both of my children enrolled in community college classes earning both high school and college credits simultaneously. 

Flexibility is another factor that parents consider.

The flexibility that homeschooling offered my family was terrific. We were able to tailor our school schedule to that of my self-employed husband. If Dad was free for early morning fishing, school subjects could be completed later in the day. Numerous times we were able to adjust our school schedule around other important events happening in our lives.

Our family moved numerous times throughout our homeschool years.

The stability of being educated at home versus changing schools frequently was a benefit for us. With each move, our physical location changed, but school remained the same in our home. We even viewed moving as an educational opportunity to teach organization, preparedness and adaptability.

Socialization is always a topic for discussion and debate when related to homeschooling.

Some say homeschool students are awkward and shy. Others say they don’t know how to behave in social settings. These statements may be true in certain families. However, many homeschool students are self-confident and well-spoken individuals. Much of the difference here, I believe, depends on the individual child and their family environment as much as the method of education.

Homeschool families have many opportunities to involve their children in social settings if that is their desire.

There are homeschool support groups, church groups and community education groups. Also, any provider offering sports, music or art activities often includes homeschool students as well. The choices are many, and sometimes, the hours are few. The joke in our house was to remember that, ”to homeschool, you have to be HOME sometime.”

We chose to spend some of our schooling time in community education groups, often referred to as co-ops.

We were involved in many over the years. In these groups, parents volunteer to teach different subjects to a group of students.

Some of my fondest memories include watching my children and their friends crawl through a life-sized model of the ear, drawing a replica heart on a driveway with sidewalk chalk – following the veins and arteries in and out – and traveling from place to place on a giant floor-sized map as we learned geography. 

These memories not only include the academics that were taught. My children were experiencing these activities alongside their friends and peers. Additionally, some of my best friendships were formed during this time of my life. Talk about a win/win situation.

Another benefit of teaching your children at home is the fact that you are able to cater to your students’ individual learning styles.

The various learning styles include visual, auditory, tactile, and reading/writing. As a parent educator, you are able to determine which of these styles is most effective for your child and to concentrate your efforts on using those mediums.

In our classroom (home), we used many different learning techniques.

Reading aloud was one of our favorites. In fact, the curriculum we utilized was heavily literature-based. I think, sometimes, I enjoyed the books, as much, if not more than my son and daughter. For math, we used manipulatives in the younger years and a video-based program for upper-level classes.  Hands-on experiments were a way to make science come alive before our eyes. We did our best to learn lots and have fun along the way.

Homeschooling truly creates a family bond and can really be called a lifestyle rather than just a way to educate.

My children are 24 and 22 years old now. They are both college graduates. My son is a firefighter/paramedic, and my daughter is a licensed real estate agent working for a builder selling new homes. I may not be teaching them academics currently, but I continue to teach them life’s ways. They, in turn, educate me.

We consider our homeschooling journey and experience a success and wish the best to any other family considering homeschooling as their educational choice.