As published in the Northern Express on November 9, 2019
When the time came to send our children to school in the Metro Detroit suburbs 20+ years ago, my husband and I were excited to try the sparkling new public school a mile away. It had all the shiny bells and whistles, and it was located in a highly rated district. We were confident that both of our kids would fit in and do well.
For many reasons, the experience did not go as planned. Instead, over the years, our children ended up trying a combination of public schools, private schools, and best of all, home school.
Home-schooling might not be for everyone, but it is an excellent option for many children and families. Teaching our kids at home was a great experience for us and really fit our Libertarian lifestyle and philosophy.
In 2016, 2.3 million children were home-schooled in the United States. This number is growing at about 5 percent per year. About 50,000 children are home-schooled in Michigan.
And according to the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), the choice is often a beneficial one: “The home-educated are typically above average, on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development.”
Academically, NHERI finds that home-school students consistently score 15 to 30 points above public school students on standardized academic achievement tests, regardless of their parents’ formal education or income.
While some might argue that the home-schooling community “skims from the top,” that is absolutely not true. In fact, those with children who have trouble learning in the public schools are the most attracted to homeschooling.
Well-meaning family and friends of home-schoolers often worry about “how the kids will be socialized.” Yet research shows “home-schoolers do very well with peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service, and self-esteem.”
The flexible nature of home-schooling allows children more time to develop both hobbies and relationships. Downstate, we belonged to a home-school group at our church, in addition to several groups for sports, music, and much more.
There are also many home-school church and social based groups throughout northern Michigan.
Friends of ours who run Flynn’s Orchard and Farm to Door Market in Mancelona find that home-schooling suits their family quite well. In addition to home school, their young children learn and apply real world skills helping their parents run their farmers market booth.
The family belongs to Purity Ring Family Theatre, which meets in Petoskey. The kids just tried out for Little House on the Prairie, to be performed in mid-April.
The flexibility that the Flynn family enjoys was a benefit for us, too. My children were motivated to finish their home-school work by lunch each day so that they could play outside, work on puzzles, music, or more. There were also many more opportunities for educational family trips and day outings.
Why did my family end up home-schooling when we initially intended to take the traditional public school route?
There were many reasons. At age 6, my normally well-behaved son was constantly getting into trouble for disrupting the class. He finished his work quickly but, like many six-year-olds, he felt the need to talk to others when he was bored. For this, the school wanted me to pursue having him labeled as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but we thought he was just a typical boy and didn’t want to put him on medication.
At the same time, several girls in my daughter’s second grade class were sexually abused by an older student on the playground. The administrators denied it, and they tried to make the parents of these girls look like lunatics.
At the time, I was on the PTO board and also a journalist. During my own investigation, I found out that the boy was found guilty of the sexual assault in criminal court, and that the school district had settled out of court for lots of money.
I was angry and appalled, so I helped write a front-page newspaper story calling on the school district to answer the questions that many parents were asking. Over the holiday break, reality set in. We realized that we could not send our children to a school where second graders were abused, and officials were dishonest about our kids’ safety.
We also realized that the public-school district administrators are accountable to no one. Of course, we had a school board, but members were encouraged to keep quiet at meetings until they attended school board classes and gained experience on the board.
Our family’s experience with the local public school was painful, but it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to us. Our daughter home-schooled for three years before attending a local Catholic school. Our son, on the other hand, home-schooled at least part time from third grade through high school. Both of them ended up with fully paid four-year college scholarships. More importantly, both of them are happy and thriving adults.
In summary, home-schooling was a great experience for our family, and more and more families are trying it all the time.
If you or your children are not happy with your local public or private school, why not home school?