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Home Schooling Presents Many Challenges to Parents - 2003-03-29


Home schooling is a growing trend in America. But, families that choose the flexibility and freedom of this education option also find many challenges.

Many American families have found home schooling valuable for their children, but education authority, Mitchell Stevens, says they find there are costs as well. "One is how costly home schooling is in terms of parental time. Home schooling virtually requires the presence of a full-time parent at home, and that can be very costly both financially in terms of the lost income the parents might be earning if he or she were at work," he says. "But, also in terms of the kind of career choices and sacrifices home school parents need to make to be home with their children."

Students must also make sacrifices, such as keeping up with their peers. Graham Coursey, who's now a college sophomore, was home-schooled from 8th grade through high school. His parents wanted to give him more opportunities to concentrate on music, his first love. But, he says that emphasis came at a cost - he fell behind in his other subjects. "I guess that can be part of the problem. I got involved in so many of the musical activities up in Newark and Wilmington, and I think having to do that you run up there and it would take a day here and there and so that would be a day I didn't really work on school activities. I think after awhile I got a little lazy about it, and it took longer to finish high school than it might have had I been at public school," he says.

And even when home-schooled students do finish high school, they often face questions about the quality of their education. Twenty-year-old Raina Miller says many people have a negative view of home schooling. "Every time I tell someone that I'm home schooled, they get this look on their face, like all of a sudden I have this big growth coming out of the side of my head. And it's almost as if they're about to say 'Oh, I'm so sorry' and I guess I partly resent it for the fact that for me, my experience was so wonderful," she says.

Many parents say one of the most difficult times in the home schooling experience occurs when their children apply to college. Raina's mother, Dawn Miller, says they needed to prove she could do college work without the evidence of grades. "We really sweated about college," she says. "When we got the opportunity to have the kids in the community college, to get a college credit to prove that they could do it as dual enrollment, that was a blessing. That's when we knew, 'ah ha, we have a handle on it. We can look good to colleges now.' And then the SAT's happened. Then I felt 'yes, we're going to go to college. Until then, I was breaking out in a rash."

Although the concerns about grades are real, home schooling authority Mitchell Stevens says, in fact, more and more colleges are working to attract home- schooled students. "They are an interesting constituency of students. They also bring a good measure of academic independence to an entering freshman class, so they can be very appealing candidates for colleges and universities," Mr. Stevens says.

With encouragement like that, Professor Stevens says more families may be inclined to try home schooling. He predicts that many youngsters might leave public school for a year or two to study at home, then return to the system to complete their education.

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