The number of parents and children involved in the adventures of homeschooling is rising, according to parent–teachers. Support for them is also growing, both in their communities and in their homes.
The Carolina Center for Educational Excellence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, now in its fourth year, has a webpage full of class offerings for homeschooled students. “There is quite some demand—otherwise I wouldn’t do it,” said Björn Hennings, director at the center, referring to the programs offered on the website.
Through the center, homeschooled students as young as 5 years old can take a class in elementary science, a 7-year-old can take a chess class, and an older student can take a class in physics or an environmental science class that revolves around a nearby creek study.
Hennings said that it was the biology department’s grad students who first took up offering classes to homeschooled students, first starting up classes in 2009. As Hennings points out, it may be difficult to conduct chemistry experiments on the kitchen table, and that creates a need for homeschool support.
“It was just the idea to do outreach and serve the students in North Carolina that started the program,” said Hennings.
As a result of research into homeschooling, support groups have formed that connect homeschooling families using social media and co-ops, creating places where homeschooling families can learn together.
Wendy Hilton, co-owner and social media director of hiphomeschoolmoms.com, has been homeschooling her 3 children for 15 years.
Hilton was first led to homeschooling when the best school she could find for her non-verbal autistic daughter was one-and-a-half hours away. Unable to drive over three hours a day to and from the school, Hilton began teaching her daughter herself. Homeschooling her other two children just fit in naturally.
With over 17,000 “likes” on their Facebook page, and a website forum, Hilton said that Hip Homeschool Moms is a place where moms post questions, get answers, and have some fun. There is friendship, encouragement, giveaways, and craft and snack ideas.
According to Hilton, the forum is a great place for parent–teachers to give and find advice. Topics include how to find a balance between housework and homeschooling, and how to work from home while homeschooling.
Hilton said that one of the aspects of homeschooling that is so popular is the homeschooling co-op. “Some people love co-ops and some don’t. It’s up to the family,” said Hilton, who prefers to go with what interests her children, following her family’s own beat.
“It depends on the family … which route they want to go: the more independent, flexible route or the one that is a little more regimented,” Hilton said, adding that for the latter, a co-op or homeschool learning group can provide the right environment.
Hilton continues to homeschool for several reasons. One reason is that she can guide what her children learn about science, faith, and provide skills necessary to survive in life. She enjoys taking the time to get to know her children and helping them develop moral values and a good work ethic before they go to college or get married.
As for the rising popularity of homeschooling, Hilton sees child welfare and education standards as key factors.
“There are a lot of advantages to homeschooling. It used to be for religious reasons, though now it is increasingly a choice because of the safety and better education,” according to Hilton.
And if you ask a homeschooling family about socialization today, they might think you are being funny. Hilton’s children are in a homeschool speech and debate class, and also take piano and dance, and participate in sports, and still find time to get together with other families and relax.
Another thing that Hilton enjoys is when homeschooled students play together. “It’s not unusual to see older kids with the younger kids,” said Hilton.
Carol Topp, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and author of “Home-school Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out,” homeschooled her 2 daughters, now in college, for 14 years, and they were in a co-op for 12 years.
Topp said that she homeschooled for academic appeal at first, but she then found that she loved the opportunities it gave her children. “We continued because we loved the flexibility and the freedom,” said Topp.
“We took our kids on great field trips,” said Topp. They went to China in September 2003 for 2 weeks.
“Most of our family vacations were in September when the weather was so great but the prices were low,” said Topp. There was also freedom to take a step back from a frustrating subject and then go back to it refreshed, and freedom to advance in a subject that her daughters excelled in.
According to Topp, homeschooling is growing in popularity by leaps and bounds. “There were not as many opportunities 10 to 20 years ago as there are now,” said Topp.
Her daughters were in an orchestra as acted in plays, and Ohio has homeschool football and basketball teams that play on the national level. Topp is seeing increasing opportunities for homeschoolers in their community.
For example, there is “a gym holding classes for homeschoolers during the day when homeschoolers are available and the gym is available,” said Topp. She said that there are more homeschoolers nowadays, and gyms are recognizing that.
Topp also said that in a co-op, parents should share the work. “I have seen many people burn out because they are doing too much. They need to make it a team of people that all pitch in together and share the load,” advised Topp.
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