School is back in session, and, for most kids, that means
returning to the classroom. But some children travel no farther than the family room or
kitchen table for their lessons.
An estimated 2 million students are
homeschooled in the United States, and that number appears to be growing an
estimated 2 percent to 8 percent per year, according to the National Home
Education Research Institute.
In fact, statistics show a 74 percent increase since 1999, more than 12 times the increase
of public school enrollment over the same period, says Robert Kunzman, a
professor at Indiana University who studies homeschooling.
Here, moms who homeschool explain why they've chosen this path and
discuss some of the pros
Barbara Zuzow of Glendale, Calif., began homeschooling her 7-year-old
daughter when she reached preschool age. Zuzow was pregnant with her second child, and
was worried that her daughter might feel displaced if she was sent to school just
as the new baby was coming. And after one year
of homeschooling, her daughter was reading so well and so far ahead of other
kids her age that Zuzow decided to stick with it.
Sarah Green of Altadena, Calif., who has homeschooled her two sons, Aidan,
12, and Austin, 14, since kindergarten, was
motivated to take teaching into her own hands because the "public schools are a
challenge, and private schools are an arm and a leg." It also helped that several of her friends
from church were also homeschooling or about to, so she had a built-in support
group. In addition, she is a teacher, which made the choice even easier.
The most common reasons parents homeschool are a concern about
the school environment and to provide religious or moral instruction,
according to Kunzman. But some have a unique reason, such as Julie
Petrovic of Austin, Texas. She's been homeschooling
her two girls, Bayleigh, 13, and
Mackenzie, 10, for eight years so they can follow her husband, professional
golfer Tim Petrovic, on the PGA Tour circuit in an RV. This way, says Petrovic, they can "stay
together as a family."
The Benefits of
say it has many advantages, including:
You can tailor your curriculum to your child. Each child
has individual learning strengths that you can cater to, says
Sherri Linsenbach, author of The
Everything Homeschooling Book who homeschooled her son through high school
graduation. Petrovic has found this to be especially true
of her younger daughter, who focuses best when she has a lot of breaks. So she lets her daughter work for 20 minutes
and then take 10 minutes off—something that wouldn't be allowed in a
You spend a lot of quality time with your kids. "The bonding has been the biggest benefit,"
says Green. "We have the time to process
life together." Petrovic agrees. "I taught my daughters to read, and I was
there the day math made sense to them. This is something a lot of parents aren't lucky enough to have
You have flexibility. You are in complete control of your children's
academic schedule. Petrovic has the freedom to let her girls
sleep in one day, then work ahead the next. "It's a gift," she says. Zuzow
also likes that her family can go away or on field trips whenever they want
and turn the experience into a "learning vacation."
there are some potential drawbacks:
You may fear you're not up to the task. Zuzow
says she sometimes struggles to find the right teaching technique. She asks herself, "Am I doing this
right? Or should I be doing this a
little different?" Even experienced
homeschoolers say they don't feel comfortable teaching all subjects. On the other hand, says Green, this isn't a
problem, because there are so many resources available to homeschooling
parents. For example, she didn't want to
teach high school algebra, so she enrolled her 14-year-old in an outside math
Your kids don't get as much socialization. The
fact that kids miss out on the social scene at school is a concern, some moms say. Yet, there are still plenty of chances for
children to interact with their peers, they add. Zuzow's daughter goes on frequent playdates, and Petrovic's girls have been involved with other kids in numerous community activities, including karate and gymnastics.
You can feel isolated. "It is
a lonely road sometimes," says Green. Recently
when she told a woman she homeschooled, "she looked at me as if I had three
heads," she recalls. In addition, even
though several of her friends also homeschool, the curricula they follow are
different, so she can feel "a bit of a lone ranger."
for Green and moms like her, they remain hugely enthusiastic about
homeschooling. It's not perfect, she
says, but she wouldn't parent any other way.