What Single Decision Changed Your Life?

There was an essay contest, and I wrote a piece for it.  And then, I wrote another piece.  And what I couldn’t rectify is that my life isn’t really made up of single decisions.  It is a world of decisions each and every day that could have gone differently.  Little moments defining and shaping character in the mundane.  And in my quandary and my inability to edit my writing, I missed the deadline to win my $3000 and a trip to New York.  Alas, all is well.  Because now I still own my writing and can share it here, with you. Here is one of several answers I could have written.

What Single Decision Changed Your Life?

“Are you Christian or hippie?”

I stared, a little confused, not understanding the question.  She went on to explain that the only other person she’d met that homeschooled children had told her that all homeschoolers were either Christian or hippie.  (That other person turned out to be my future homeschooling momma friend who falls squarely into the hippie category.  I mean, she’s certified La Leche and she makes her own sunscreen.)

Meanwhile, I was standing in this woman’s Annie Sloan paint shop, holding a quilted cloth bag I had sewn myself, wearing a tank and shorts and a bandana doorag for hair decor, when she asked me that question. And I believed in Jesus. Oh, the indecision was excruciating!

The main problem with my internal struggle was not exactly how I might answer the question, but that I would have been mistaken for any kind of homeschooling momma in the first place.  I hadn’t actually started homeschooling anybody just yet.  It was summer.  All I had done to that point was pay sixty five dollars so that I could legally pull my kids out of the public school system and join a private accountability group.  So maybe, technically, I was a homeschooler. But seriously, I was clueless.

It all started when my husband, Michael, took a job that moved us from our big capital city with a NASA public school and a park in our front yard to a small farming community with an overtaxed school district and overcrowded classrooms.  One small, southern Baptist, private school offered our only nearby alternative.  While touring the public elementary school, I just kept asking over and over again how they met the needs of their students.  The principal, my tour guide, continued to point out the new iPads and bulletin boards in order to reassure me they had it all under control.  In the first grade, the student ratio could be as high as 28:1 before the district would send in help.  No assistants.  One literacy coach or reading recovery employee per school.  In order to qualify for thirty minutes a week with said employee, a student must be two grade levels behind in reading.  Coming from my sweet suburbia with a 12:1 ratio in first grade and assistants provided and support staff available, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Our little one struggled with reading, but at this rate, he wouldn’t qualify for help. The principal offered the PE coach as a tutor, if we got to school before 7am.  All I could think was that I had quit my sweet part time job to do this whole move for the husband’s career, and now that the little one was going off to school, I had plans.  Career re-entry was on my horizon.  It was time to go back to work.  And that school tour was messing with me.

At the end of the tour, I shook that principal’s hand, told him thank you, and that I’d see him in the fall.  He answered back with doubt about our reunion and went back to his office, leaving me wondering what in the world he could mean.  There were only two choices – his school or the southern Baptists – and I really wasn’t aiming for devotionals in math class.

Back in the city, several friends had gone the whole homeschool route, and I had laughed, saying they were C.R.A.Z.Y.  Yet somehow they must have planted that seed, because some nights later, I told Michael I wanted to consider homeschooling. His main concern was that I would become overly stressed and take it out on him when he got home from work.  Or worse yet, make him teach the kiddos something.  I promised that just. would. not. happen.  (Wives and husbands everywhere know I was totally lying through my teeth at this point.)  We agreed to let the idea sit with us for a week before making any rash decisions.

The next morning, the kiddos had soccer, and when I walked up to the field, an old friend was standing there. First thing out of Dee’s mouth, she blurted, “Don’t think we’re crazy, but we’ve made a big decision.  We’re homeschooling next year!”  And with Michael standing right there, I ran up, hugged her, and exclaimed, “We are too!  How wild is that?!”  Poor, poor, Michael.  He never stood a chance.  

In that brief moment, a random encounter with a rare friend in a parking lot out of town, I impulsively declared a path that changed my whole family.

Four years later, we have started another year of homeschooling.  We’ve all grown up quite a bit in these past seasons. I work harder than I have ever worked before. Life is very, very different than any of us imagined. Our educational lessons now extend far beyond classroom walls and seven hours for 180 days. We can also more easily handle the questions thrown at us, such as Christian or hippie?  Inclusive is the correct answer, by the way.

We are inclusive.  We soon discovered that homeschoolers are what I affectionately call fringe people.  People that dance on the fringe of society.  Fringe People.  There are a lot of reasons to choose to educate children at home, and no one family holds the same reason.  Therefore, it is easy to band together as a minority, but it is also easy to segregate because of the plethora of differences.  We have attempted fitting in the various boxes to no avail.  Years one and two hosted many trials with other people’s boxes.  Year three held the dream for something more.  And this year, we embark on a new journey, an educational cooperative that two friends and I designed ourselves.  It is aptly named Learn Bravely.  

Sometimes we play the What IF game at our house.  And then we thank our Jesus we chose the winding, hippie, occasionally rocky, path we did.  Me with a spontaneous declaration to a trusted friend, Michael with his support for his slightly off kilter wife, and the kids with their enthusiasm for adventure – I wouldn’t change any of it.  And none of it would have been possible if we hadn’t made the leap, however C.R.A.Z.Y. it may sound.


The Zoning Board

I took the kids to another public meeting last night.  This time we went to hear the zoning board.  Lucky for all involved, first we went to the library, so the boys had something to do.

Just to give a little bit of back-story, I was recently asked to join the board for Friends of Historic Brattonsville after volunteering for two years and getting to know several of the long time board members.  Now, Brattonsville is owned by the county as part of their museum system, but Hightower Hall, which sits on a part of the Historic Brattonsville site, is owned by the Friends of Historic Brattonsville.  Since I joined the board, that makes me a Friend, and a representative for the group that owns Hightower Hall.  Hightower Hall is a huge plantation style 150+ year old home on beautiful grounds, and is used for weddings, events, and yearly Civil War reenactments.  The entire operation for all of the combined property brings in quite a bit of revenue and, in 2014 alone, hosted over 26,000 visitors.

Well, right down the road is a landfill/ mining business of sorts.

The current dig and dump site is about five acres and has caused significant trouble for the neighbors.  Back in the day (you know – the 18th/ 19th century and such) Brattonsville Road started out as a trade route, then became a main thoroughfare, and is now a paved country road that was never made to handle dump trucks carrying gravel or logging trucks carrying full loads of timber.  But with the mining operation, that is exactly the kind of traffic travelling up and down the road, which runs right through the middle of the historic site.  The trucks have caused huge pavement issues, and the digging has caused soil degradation and water runoff onto the Friends property already.  This is all not to even mention those 26,000 visitors that cross the road twice on their tour of the grounds.  Needless to say, there is significant foot traffic on a regular basis.  Did I also mention that every publicly schooled third grader in York County is part of the pedestrian visitors crossing that road that the gravel trucks travel?

I am thinking plain sense tells people that these are not ideal neighbors.

Friends of Historic Brattonsville isn’t feeling neighborly love, that’s for sure.

And yet, Mr. Dig and Dump wants to expand his operation.  Double it?  Nope.  Quadruple it?  Nada.  He wants to expand it to around thirty acres.  Six times its current size.  And.  He wants to dig down seventy feet.  And.  He wants to only provide the minimum easements required by the county.

This gets us back to the zoning board.

Apparently only immediate neighbors have to be told about zoning issues and said neighbors are given a week’s notice.  The neighbors including Friends of Historic Brattonsville.  Plus, it is spring break, we just finished a major event, and guess who is the only board member available for Thursday night?  The homeschooling mom.  The one member that has been to one whole board meeting.  The one that has never in her life been to a zoning meeting.  The one that embarrassed herself in a TV interview nine years ago and has not been on camera since.  Me.  (I feel like this would be a good time to mention Jesus using the weak and such.  Just saying.  But I did volunteer to go, so I could also mention the whole have faith and be available part as well.)

So…here we are, sitting in the meeting, and there is of course a TV camera to follow up on the newspaper article covering the dispute, and I am quickly trying to figure out what to say when it is my time to speak, and all I can think of is what I tell my kids when we go to the grocery store.

If your fun infringes on others’ shopping pleasure, you aren’t having fun.  You’re being obnoxious and rude.

The meeting starts, business happens, and then the first item of new business comes up.  It is another company that wants to expand their mine on their land, which is in the middle of nowhere on well paved roads with their only known neighbor being an actual member of the zoning board.  They want to dig twenty feet deeper than they currently have permission to dig.  They want to provide double the minimum easement around their entire three hundred acre farm, and only thirty acres will actually be the mine.  The rest is to remain farmland.  They want to keep the mine as a dig only site.  They want it written in that they will not be a landfill.  No dumping.  Their mining is going to be used in part for state and county road projects.  (Our roads are terrible, so improving them would be appreciative.)

Item one gets approved.

We’re item two.

Representative for Mr. Dig and Dump stands up.

And he asks for his request to be deferred indefinitely.  Item one was beautiful.  And in it’s beauty, his ugly stood out.  Not to mention the entire section of dissenters and landowners and museum employees ready to speak on behalf of Hightower Hall might have been a signal that he didn’t have community support.

In the end, we all stood up and left.  Never did understand what item three was about because the boys and I went for pizza.  We didn’t win last night, but we didn’t lose.  The boys are getting a wonderful education in current local politics, and I am experiencing small town government at work.  It really is quite fascinating when you know some of the players involved.  And the next time, I will feel much more prepared.  (But I may still say what I wanted to say – If your business interferes with our business, you aren’t conducting business.  It’s called being a bully, and even two boys in a grocery store know to be better than that.)

Why the Learn Bravely Inclusive Cooperative?

There are some revelations I have had in homeschooling my children.  Concepts, that as a public school parent following public school philosophies, I was unaware existed.  And today is the day I would like to share them with the world.  (They directly relate to the title.)

  1. I am more than capable of teaching my own children.  Because I am the expert on my child, and I am a capable and resourceful adult, I do not need to be the expert on specific subjects.
  2. Other families are not homeschooling for the same reason I am.
  3.  Homeschoolers are what I affectionately call “Fringe People” because they are on the fringes of society for WAY more reasons than homeschooling. (Relates back to #2)
  4. There are subjects I love facilitating.  Writing and math and art and history are some that come to mind.  And I hated history in high school.  
  5. There are subjects I’d rather pay someone else to teach.  For me this includes science and banjo.  I have no clue how to teach banjo.  
  6. The evolution and creation debate is a real thing.  
  7. I am in the minority as a homeschooler living here in the deep south by taking the Bible symbolically.
  8. Right before I started homeschooling someone asked me if I was on the “hippie” or “Christian” side of homeschooling. I didn’t understand the question.  Now I do.
  9. I have rediscovered who I am by giving up my daily ME time and instead keeping my kids with ME.  This is not to say that I don’t still need ME time….
  10. The relationships within our family unit have grown stronger, and I know my kids in a way I never knew I was even missing.
  11. 4-H is for all types of kids.  Not just the farm kids.
  12. Technology is creative.
  13. Screen time is important.
  14. My kids are motivated.  To learn.  Without my interference.  Saturday afternoons while I nap provide weekly proof.

Which brings me to: Why the Learn Bravely Inclusive Cooperative?

Our family has embraced homeschooling and looks forward to continuing.  Yet as my children get older, there are certain subjects I do not feel confident in teaching to a degree that would truly challenge my boys’ potential.  Knowing that AP Chemistry wouldn’t be my strong suit from the onset of this adventure, I have been researching options that homeschoolers use to teach higher level courses.

What I have found is lots of co-ops.  Co-ops are groups that meet weekly or more to study and socialize.  Most written work is still done at home, but students can work in groups and/ or receive the benefits of having various parents that ARE experts in some particular subject.

Unfortunately, the co-ops I have found do not fully align with my personal beliefs or are too far from where we live or are specifically secular or only meet one child’s needs.  Now, we have friends that participate in these co-ops and are thriving.  The ones I have considered are well run and offer some intriguing options.  These could be viable choices.


In my heart there is not a creation debate.  My God’s creativity never ceases to amaze me, and it also does not cause conflict with evolutionary theory for me.  So when we talk about high school science courses, this becomes a conflict with some of my best co-op choices.

We really don’t want to drive an hour and a half.  My favorite co-op would require travelling to our state capital weekly.  This is just too much.  I also cannot handle two different co-ops in order to cover both children.  I need one, cohesive environment.

We are not secular people.  Religion and spirituality and faith and an idea of a being larger than ourselves fascinates more than just Christians.  Some of my most enriching experiences in life come from stepping out of my familiar and into another person’s reality.  Eating dinner with our Hindu friends and my father’s description of an African wedding ceremony and a Seder meal led by a Rabbi and the funeral spoken completely in Spanish for a sweet friend (complete with a Mariachi band) are cherished memories.  I want more than “secular” for my children.  If they mention faith or discuss spirituality in co-op, I consider that a rich blessing.

Because of these challenges, one day I started discussing with friends what I would love to see for my children in my “dream co-op”.  This included collaborative learning techniques and collaboration in the planning of courses among teachers and students, friendships, SCIENCE! classes, flexible structure, academic rigor, help in incorporating technology, stability, and accountability.  That day was the start of Learn Bravely Inclusive Cooperative.

Learn Bravely encompasses what I want for my children.  (See my list of revelations.)

It’s mission statement is as follows:

Learn Bravely seeks to encourage interests and develop friendships through a collaborative and structured learning environment for our children. We offer interactive classes using inquiry-based, student-focused techniques. Our online component allows students to continue exploring and collaborating between class sessions. We ultimately want our children to have the courage to pursue learning passionately and to think critically along the way.

By starting Learn Bravely Inclusive Cooperative, we embrace a new path for educating our children. Hopefully we can also help bridge gaps others may have also experienced through homeschooling their children.   For me personally, the title Learn Bravely embraces what it feels like to start such a venture, and we are very excited to see Learn Bravely grow through both the students and the families it serves.

Homeschooling 101: My Dining Room Table Isn’t a Schoolroom and Other Ways to Teach the Kiddos

Quick!  Let’s play a game.  I will write a simple statement and you, the reader, think of the first thing that comes to mind.  Here we go….


Now, if I had to guess, the picture in your head is a dining room or kitchen table with me sitting on one side and the children sitting on the other.  We have textbooks.  We have workbooks.  We have a Bible.

Did I nail it or what?

When I started homeschooling, this would have been accurate.  It is certainly how I imagined homeschool.  Breaking it down, home-school is a compound word containing home and school.  So….it should mean school at home.  Except that the corporate form of school is rigid for reasons that are nonexistent in my house.  I am not containing twenty little people, we don’t walk together in a line down the hall every time one of us needs to pee, an intercom is not necessary (though a panic button might be useful at times), there is not an administration giving tours to prospective students, and I am not confined to a nine week syllabus.  Besides, my dining room looks out into the rest of the house.  To pretend the couch doesn’t exist and that wooden chairs is the way to go is silly.  There are three people with a whole house at their disposal to utilize for school.  Not to mention a car, some sidewalks, a park, a backyard, lots of farms, and a giant city with more cool stuff than I can list here, all at our fingertips.

And so we use the tools we find accessible.  We do not sit at the dining room table.  (I will admit, I have turned the space into a study of sorts, and if you can imagine a professor’s office, you have a good idea.  The actual table is covered with projects and paper and all sorts of schooly things.  But it is way too cluttered to get any work done there.)

Now, with this little myth out of the way, let’s talk about the way people really DO educate their kids.

This part was shocking to me as we came out of the public schools and into our home.  I figured most people did things generally the same way.  What I found is that homeschoolers are fringe people.  People already living on the fringe of society by not putting their kids in a corporate environment.  Homeschoolers are terrible rule followers by nature.  Therefore, the only rules in how to school your kid(s) are set by the state.  And believe me when I tell you that mommas and daddos take these guidelines as a challenge for creativity.  That said, all of my close friends, while drastically different from each other, do an amazing job.  Really.

And so, without further ado….

Here is a list of the common homeschooling methods used, along with a brief definition made up by me:

School at Home – Traditional method that typically keeps to a schedule and covers all basic subject areas using textbooks, workbooks, etc.  May or may not be religious, but usually does have an element of faith, and might even start each day with devotionals.

Classical – Featuring traditional elements, with subjects such as Latin, Greek, Biblical history thrown in.  A popular form of this method is the co-op, Classical Conversations.  These students meet weekly for group lessons, then do the rest of the work on their own.

Charlotte Mason – A variation of the classical method, but typically considered less rigid and more activity based, with shorter lessons and lots of nature study incorporated.  Co-ops are also often formed for groups of families, and this group loves notebooks and sketching.

Eclectic – Exactly as it sounds, with the parent picking and choosing the best of various methods.  May use some curriculum, but is not committed to any one publisher or series.  Often less structured.

Relaxed/ Relaxed Eclectic – Same as eclectic, but much less structure.  Probably field trip/ life experience component fairly important here.

Child Led – Taking the child’s interest and learning style as a guide and planning around these components.  Montessori for homeschool would be a good description, though not all child led homeschoolers are educated on the Montessori methods.

Unit studies – Taking a subject, such as trees, and incorporating it into a unit that encompasses writing, literature, science, math, etc into the study.  This group loves lap books and notebooks.

Unschool – The idea that life is a stage for learning and that given time and space, each person’s natural curiosity will lead him/ her to learn all things necessary for life success.  It was started in the 1970’s by John Holt as the idea that learning should be natural and has evolved into the previous description.

Radical Unschool – This is unschooling to the extreme.  Equality and individual desire reigns.  In households, an instinct of respect for others as necessary for cohabitation is the main structure.

Again, these definitions are my opinion, and while I tried to be honest, I do have a natural bias towards certain methods.

Our first semester, we used school at home, burned out, went to relaxed/ unschool for the second half of that year, and now have found a balance. We use curriculum, but not for everything.  We like field trips, but too many can make life hectic.  The kids learn better when their needs are considered, so child led just makes sense.  I need flexible structure or I can be prone to anxiety attacks.  So, in the end, if I had to label us, it would be life learners using the electic/ child led methods of homeschooling.

If any of these methods are of particular interest and you’d like to know more, please feel free to use the contact tab in the top right of this website or simply leave a comment/ question below.  I’d love to hear from you!

Homeschooling 101: What is UN School-ing??

There is a term used among homeschoolers.  It is Unschooling.  AKA Unschooler.  Unschooled.  To Unschool.  Depending on who uses it, the word can have many different reactions.  For example:

I once told somebody I unschooled my children and the response I received was, “Well, that’s fine.  But I want my children to be able to survive in the real world if I die.”


“Well, I unschool reading or history, etc., but we have to do math!”


“We are sooo unmotivated to start back.  Maybe we’ll become unschoolers, ha ha ha!”

Or my favorite….

“We unschool….after we get our main work done.” (Just FYI people, that would be unschooling recess.  That’s it.  Recess.  And since you are already at home, we call that playing outside.  You are unschooling playing.  Outside.) 


By definition at its origination and by way of the Oxford English Dictionary, the term Unschooled means:


1  Not educated at or made to attend school: unschooled children

1.1  Lacking knowledge or training in a particular field: She was unschooled in the niceties of royal behavior.

1.2  Not affected or artificial; natural and spontaneous.


Although the term has been around since the 1500’s, it became popular in the late 1970’s when John Holt used the word in his magazine, Growing Without Schooling.  He meant the term to speak about the first and third definitions.  Combining those two ideas, unschooling means not educated at school, but rather educated naturally and spontaneously, and in an organic or authentic setting.  

And yet, as is made obvious from the above reactions, unschooling has, unfortunately, developed a reputation for the second definition, meaning  lacking knowledge or training.

Within the homeschool community, there are many types of people, many styles of teaching, and various styles of learning.  It is the natural habit to identify oneself by the style of teaching in order to find like minded friends within the community.  This isn’t unique to homeschoolers.  Humans love to put themselves in boxes in order to figure out who else is in the box with them.  And so, after getting my bearing within the homeschool community, I started labelling myself as a relaxed homeschooler to some or as an unschooler at times as well.  What I meant by these labels is child led learning.  Approaching learning through the interests of the child.  Figuring out the motivation for learning and using it as a tool to move forward. Learning as a natural integration of our day instead of organizing each day by hour and subject.  Recognizing learning moments outside of the traditionally accepted lessons provided.  In other words, learning naturally with my children’s interests as a vessel to accomplish our studies.  What I did NOT mean is learning in a chaotic environment.  No curriculum.  Living without rules.  Having my children explore all of life with only  natural consequence as the teacher.  No expectations.

However, in my personal opinion, the term unschooling has been absorbed by a group of homeschoolers that do exactly what I did not mean.  Their households operate with few to no rules.  None.  At.  All. There are no expectations, especially regarding education.  Manners, safety, hygiene practices, etc. are learned through observation and natural consequence.  In other words, when people at the library start avoiding your stench, that is the natural consequence of not bathing.  In order to avoid this, it is time to learn to bathe properly.  It is commonly assumed children will pick up what they need for success in adulthood through natural curiosity.  When a skill is needed, a person will be curious and motivated to learn it.  One or two, I repeat – one or two, of these ideas connected (to a degree) with my philosophy on education and so I have tried in some ways to give their version of unschooling a try.  Many would say if it isn’t a complete immersion, it isn’t a proper try.  Whatever. What I found is I did not like it.  But more importantly, my children did not thrive.  We were stressed and unsure of ourselves and of what we were accomplishing.  Both children became increasingly anxious.  And so, alas,  I cannot relate to this particular group in a way that would put us in the same box.

Now, back to John Holt.  Even he saw the writing on the wall (of that box) with using the term unschooling.  In fact, by the early 1980’s he stopped using it.  I like him.  I like some of his writings.  I agree with him on various aspects of educating a child.  I think John and Maria Montessori would have been good friends.  I would have loved to go to that dinner party.

As for my family, we are moderately relaxed.  Not radical.  We begin our days later than some, but our days go later as well.  Learning is a way of life more than a to do list.  Yet as a person that loves lists, having set requirements each day and commonly accepted household expectations are a part of our organizational practices and our learning methods.  We use curriculum.  We may collaborate on schedules, but I lead.  We study specific academic subjects.  There are boundaries relating to electronics and personal space and bed time and privacy.  My husband and I are heads of the household.  Basic skills such as prayer, safety, manners, chores, hygiene, etc. are taught before a natural consequence requires the skill.  I  personally believe in first impressions.  I care about socially acceptable behavior when we are around others.  I want my children to feel confident and independent and equipped to handle the world outside our home, according to what is appropriate for their age.  Being shunned or considered rude simply because my children were not taught how to handle public situations is not comfortable for me or for them.

So there it is.  We are not unschoolers.  Probably won’t ever be.  I don’t even know quite how to label us.  But If I have to label our family, I say we are life learners.  Because, in the end, no matter how we learn, we keep learning.  Always.


***Please note – This is my personal experience with Unschooling.  For more information on the subject and for people out there in the homeschooling world that do it well, please use Google.  Those people are out there.  And they are successful.  It just wasn’t our thing.***



Homeschooling 101: Socialization

What about socialization?

“Homeschoolers are just a bit weird.  The one that lives next door to me is odd.  I worry he’s not going to be able to make it in the real world.”

Please stick with me for a minute….thinking back to the good old days when you, the reader, went to high school – was everybody normal?  Can’t think of one single different kid?  Nobody struggled to make friends, relate to other peers, or fit in?  High school was great and fantastic and socially healthy for all involved?  Hmm?

Maybe, the weird homeschooler that lives next door would be that weird public school kid that gets taunted by bullies and whispered about by girls passing by.  Maybe he or she would be the kid eating lunch in the bathroom stall to avoid sitting alone in the corner of the lunchroom.  Maybe, just maybe, he or she is weird no matter where he or she learns.  But either way, I am guessing lunch is a lot more pleasant at his or her own kitchen table, and he or she is probably able to better concentrate on his or her studies since the bullies aren’t in his or her math class.

Now think about our real world.  Is it made up of groups of people all the same age?  At work, do you the reader raise your hand or ask permission to use the restroom?  Do you all go together at certain intervals throughout the day, while one of you monitors the stalls for misbehavior?  Do you eat your lunch in silence at a table full of coworkers, afraid that talking out loud may land you in trouble?  Do you work on your assignments based on a bell?  Do you switch to a new file every fifty five minutes regardless of the progress on the previous file?  Do all of you out there in this real world sit for seven to nine hours in a frenzied schedule of concentration?  See, I am not buying this idea that a public school is true preparation for the real world.  The real world actually looks nothing like public school at all.

But homeschooling, well…..

These students interact with the world around them every day while other students are sitting in classrooms.  Homeschoolers get together for activities and studies and projects all the time.  With over two million students roaming the US during normal school hours, there are no shortage of social opportunities from which to choose.  For example, in my county alone, I can name four different support groups, a teen group, a 4-H chapter with multiple homeschool club offerings, two football teams, a cheerleading squad, a choir, an orchestra, six co-ops, and even a few legal associations, all off the top of my head.  If I were to start a Google search, the opportunities would likely multiply, and this does not even begin to name the activities students seek out on their own, such as club sports, music lessons, and community groups.

More likely than not, homeschoolers have to prioritize their social schedule rather than seek it out.

Homeschooling 101: The Truth in Numbers

Based on information from the U.S. Department of Education, about 2 million students are homeschooled.  If you ask the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), they will tell you the numbers are possibly even higher.  But regardless, homeschooled students make up almost four percent of the current school age population , K – 12th grade.

***Also, let me define “homeschool”.  This is a student that does not attend a brick and mortar school setting and does not depend on any public funds, be it federal, state, or local education funds or any tax payer provided resources.  “Homeschool” does not include online charter students that are still funded by any public money.***

Therefore, there are even more than two million students outside of a traditional school setting that are not attending a private school once online and charter schools become factored.

Now, let’s talk money.  The families that choose to homeschool their children do so out of their own finances, saving the U.S. approximately $16 billion each year.  In fact, in my home state there were 15,826 homeschool students this past school year (2013-14). Let’s assume the state government alone puts in $10,000 per student (it is really a little more, but I rounded down to the nearest thousand); that means that if all the homeschooled students in my state suddenly showed up at the doors of the local public school, it could cost the state tax payers $158,260,000.  That is not figuring in county money, district money, or extra federal funding provided.  Let me be the first to break the news to those not in the know….in my little rural, poor town, even a fraction of that number up there would break the bank.  The schools are poor with what they’ve got, and if we showed up they’d end up destitute.

And yet, despite the state spending thousands and thousands of dollars per student, most homeschooling families do not spend anywhere close to that on educating their children.  Often the families are living on single incomes, expenses are tight, and budgets are a necessity.  The myth that homeschoolers are wealthy and very religious is just that – a myth.  The National Center for Education Statistics, as published at this site, found that while homeschool families are slighty less likely than the average population to be poor, they are more likely to be near poor or middle class.  Homeschool families are no wealthier than the average public school population.   And as for religious, well, while religion is one of the reasons people choose to homeschool, it is not the only one.  If we look at the numbers and see where homeschoolers are located, we notice a higher average of rural students in homeschooling than in public school, as well as more larger families of three or more children in a household.  But even at that, students are coming from all types of environments – city, suburban, rural, single parents, two working parents, large families, small families, etc.  So while religion does play a part in their decision to homeschool in many instances, convenience, flexibility, or poor public educational options are also common reasons as well.

So finally, this begs the question – But can homeschoolers graduate from high school?  Does Mom write up a transcript?  Is their education as thorough as a public education?  In other words, are they getting at a minimum what their public school peers are getting?  And the answer is yes.  Homeschoolers are getting what they need to succeed.  In fact, on average, homeschoolers score higher on standardized tests and go on to be successful college students and/ or involved members of our communities.

While this post highlighted a few basic questions, more information is available for those readers interested in comparison by numbers.  There is a fun chart here.  Also, for even more statistics on homeschooling, please click on the highlighted links in this post above.

Homeschooling 101 will continue in the next post with the question of socialization.