Homeschooling is on the rise. After last year’s lockdowns, many parents unexpectedly found themselves having to teach their children at home for the first time. But during that period, they also realized that it doesn’t take an expert to offer a child an education.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported that homeschooling doubled last fall. This was after removing factors like families utilizing virtual learning through a public or private school. The greatest increase was seen in black students, but all ethnicities saw a significant rise in homeschooling.
One of the main concerns expressed by parents is masking. The media coordinator for Midwest Parent Educators, Jacklynn Walters, told the Washington Examiner, “Parents want their kids to be able to go back to school without a mask mandate or without a vaccination requirement. They’re just wanting the freedom to make a choice.”
Despite the popularity of homeschooling, there are still a lot of parents who aren’t sure where to start. So The Epoch Times interviewed Cathy Mullins, founder of the St. Louis Homeschooling Activities, Resources, and Encouragement (SHARE) organization.
She explained how she and her husband weren’t very wealthy but wanted a good education for their son. After he was born in 1981, she met a neighbor who was homeschooling and started from there, but it was the birth of her second son, Jesse in 1988 that really made the choice a necessity.
Jesse was born with Down’s Syndrome. Cathy described his love of life and his bright smile. Then, at just 2 years old he had a metabolic stroke and lost his ability to talk, walk, and use his hands.
Determined to care for him and her eldest, she found every resource possible despite a tight budget. “I’d go to the conferences and the hall with all the vendors and all the stuff like that and the materials. I’d be like oh gosh that’s 59 dollars, I don’t think we’re going to pull that one off, I’ll just go to the library and make worksheets.”
She said that co-ops were a great help as well. “A dear friend of mine, we’d co-opt together and a couple of other people would join us sometimes, but oh my gosh, what we did with these kids. They were in every venue you could think of.”
This led to more community connections that eventually gave her the idea to start SHARE. She admitted that home education is difficult because, “You’re always in teacher mode,” but that individualized learning helps each kid to enjoy learning. She also noted that it gives parents more power to guide their children and build stronger familial bonds.
Using that to encourage homeschooling is at the heart of her organization. She also expressed an understanding that although she believes that all children can benefit from it, not all parents are up for the task or in a position to be a teacher.
This led her to offer some support for school teachers, “I know there are good teachers. Just lots and lots of good teachers who just love kids and want to see them learn and just get excited when they see the light bulb go off, and I think they’re there, but somehow between their unions and whatever else is political that’s going on with the world they’re just having to be swept up with all this other stuff. And I feel sorry for them.”
When working to aid parents who are interested in homeschooling but just starting out, she likes to ask, “Did you graduate from high school? Okay, then I think you can do this.”
She also uses the unrealistic setting of modern-day classrooms as an example to help parents build confidence, “What person in society sits in a room with 30 people and 1 person in charge of them?” calling institutionalized education “the cookie-cutter approach.”
Mullins expressed a wish to see more apprenticeship programs to take the pressure off of teens who aren’t sure what they want to do for a living or if they want to continue their education after they graduate high school. She admitted that when she was young she didn’t know what she wanted to be and that the pressure to decide before graduation was stressful.
Eventually, she realized that her love of children and learning new things could be utilized in education. Her commitment to her children and teaching was also driven by her faith. Although Missouri state requirements do not consider bible study or other religious studies core classes, she did teach it every day, and she attributes those lessons to her family’s success.
That faith also helped her and her family through many difficulties, including Jesse’s death. He passed away at age 27. It was a tough time for her and her family, but her belief system was so closely linked to her life’s work as a home educator that SHARE lived on.
Now that her eldest is grown up, remembering her boys and their journey is part of her daily connection to other homeschoolers. “I always say I’ve got one in heaven and I’ve got one going to heaven.”
The SHARE organization is a Christian-based group, but they are happy to accept people with all beliefs. She smiled about it and said, “Our focus is on home education,” and detailed their philosophy of inviting others to benefit from sharing in education and the lessons that carry us well beyond our childhood.