Homeschooling: An “Insider’s” Perspective
on a Highly Misunderstood Choice
By Debbie “Takara” Shelor
It is always amusing to watch someone’s expression change
when I mention that I homeschool my 12-year old son.
The reaction is always a strong one regardless of who I am speaking
Some break into a broad smile – awestruck at the realization
that I am one of the few willing to take on such a huge and important
responsibility. Others literally shrink back in horror –
wondering how I could be such an irresponsible parent.
Obviously those in the first group know someone who homeschools
or knows something about it. And, just as obviously, the people
in the second group know very little or have only heard about
a bad example.
When I shared the information about being a homeschool parent
with the Headmaster of a highly regarded private school in Santa
Fe, his response was, “Never stop. It is the best possible
education a child can have.” A public school teacher shared
with me her philosophy: “The early grades are O. K. in our
public schools, but by 4th grade you need to pull them out.”
These are professional educators and they believe that homeschooling
is not only a wise choice, but often the best one.
Individuals who judge it as a bad choice without knowing the
facts sometimes make it difficult for those of us who have made
this monumental life decision.
Why Families Choose to Homeschool
There are as many reasons why families choose to homeschool as
there are homeschool families. Numerous studies have tried to
figure it out. “Why did you start homeschooling?”
is a common question we ask one other.
Some discussed it, studied it in depth, and made the decision
long before the child was born. A fair percentage make the choice
for religious reasons. Sometimes the homeschooling decision is
made because the child is having a difficult time socially or
academically in public school. Many choose to homeschool because
they can’t afford a good private school and, in their opinion,
public school is simply out of the question.
It is not an easy decision to make and definitely not one that
is taken lightly. It requires constant time, energy, money, commitment,
adaptability, change, and rarely any time off on the part of the
parent. For many, it means that one parent dedicates themselves
to being a full time educator while the other brings in all the
income for the family. In today’s economy, that can be quite
I personally made the decision to become a homeschool parent because
I wanted to ensure that my child received a good education without
compromising his happiness, self esteem, sense of individuality,
natural creative talent, or curiosity. Those are the primary concerns
of most of the homeschool parents I know.
Homeschool families don’t fit into some easy to define
demographic. We come in all shapes, sizes, religions or lack of
religions, income ranges, and ethic backgrounds. The methods we
choose to educate our children are as diverse as we are.
Those who don’t have the facts often believe that we are
uneducated people irresponsibly raising more uneducated people.
And that is simply not the case.
Although parents are not required to have specific teaching credentials
in New Mexico where I used to live, many of the homeschool families
I know have at least one parent that attended college. Most have
a Bachelor’s degree and some have even more advanced degrees.
I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering
from Virginia Tech. I run a home-based internet business and my
personal growth newsletter has subscribers in over 100 countries.
I am the primary academic teacher at our “school.”
What Education Looks Like in a Home School
The classroom doesn’t have 4 walls and a door. There is
no teacher standing at a chalk board discussing some topic with
30 or more students in tiny chairs and desks facing him or her.
There are no bells that ring signaling time to change topics,
classrooms, or to enjoy a meal or a brief recess.
Our classroom is a ride in the car, a computer, the library,
a class with other students, a book, a museum, a desk, the living
room couch, the kitchen table, a movie, Google, or the garden.
For my family, education is sometimes an airplane ride to Washington
D.C., or somewhere else, to experience first hand the locations
where major events happened that we study in history. During one
particular Geography lesson, I showed my son the map and explained
how the Rio Grande River heads south and becomes the border between
Texas and Mexico. We then got in the car and went to see the Rio
Even when our official “class time” is over, whenever
a question is asked, we often break into a new lesson about life,
communication, psychology, how things work, science, math, biology,
how to treat others well, or any other topic we can.
From very disciplined and time consuming accredited courses that
cost a great deal of money to the opposite extreme known as Unschooling,
families use numerous methods to ensure that their children are
being properly educated and well prepared for adult life.
In some homeschool households there are no televisions or computers.
At other homes, like mine, there are multiples of each.
My child doesn’t get the opportunity to goof off by sitting
in the back of the room with his friends, making spit balls, passing
notes, and ignoring what the teacher is saying.
He and I are both fully present and focused every moment of our
I am well aware of what he comprehends and what we need to discuss
further. When he isn’t “getting” something,
I try a different approach, go on-line, take him to the library
or a museum, or outside to see something. I show him real world
examples of the topics we are covering. He is taught “why”
he needs to know something and how knowing it will be of benefit
to him when he grows up.
Families aren’t necessarily on their own when it comes
to homeschooling. There are numerous excellent curriculum choices.
The internet offers many forms of support from chat rooms to interactive
online education. In many communities, homeschool families come
together for classes, social activities, and parental support.
Some of the reasons why homeschool parents are so “against”
There are three primary learning styles and seven types of competency
or intelligence. The learning styles are visual, auditory, and
kinesthetic. The intelligences are:
• interpersonal, and
Most schools, public and private, are only set up to address
linguistic and logical-mathematical forms of intelligence. And
it is a great deal easier for them to “teach” using
auditory or visual methods. If a child’s primary intelligence
(how they learn best) isn’t one of those being used by the
school, then the child is likely to have a difficult time comprehending
and retaining the necessary information to grow up to be healthy,
happy, productive, and successful in today’s society.
Enrolling a child in the public education system in the United
States is no guarantee that he or she will receive a good education.
In fact, a recent study compared 15-year olds across 31 industrialized
nations and found that U.S. students rank 15th in reading, 19th
in math, and 14th in science.
Many homeschool parents are concerned with much more than pure
Most parents don’t want their children experiencing continuous
exposure to the poor social behavior running rampant in public
schools and even some private schools today. Sadly teen pregnancy,
alcohol and drug use, gangs, bullying, and violence are happening
all too often. Drop out rates are staggering. “Did you know
that 23% of 9th graders have carried a weapon to school recently?
According to the US Justice Department, one out of three kids
will be offered or sold drugs at school and one out of four kids
is bullied either mentally or physically every day.” –
Kathy Noll, author of Taking the Bully by the Horns - Children's
Version of the Best Selling Book, "Nasty People".
Studies prove that publicly educated children have significantly
lower self esteem by the time they graduate from high school than
they did when they entered grade school. Rebuilding a damaged
view of self can take a lifetime. Low self esteem greatly impacts
how successful one is in college, career, and marriage. It also
directly affects the health and happiness of the individual.
Another noteworthy observation is that although public school
children share classes with people of other nationalities and
religions, studies indicate that they rarely befriend and “hang
out” with anyone unlike themselves. Children tend to have
friends that are the same age, race, religion, and household income
level. It becomes particularly obvious in high schools where friends
dress alike, have the same hair style, enjoy the same activities,
and use the same slang and figures of speech.
The Social Stigma
Many people falsely believe that homeschool children are not
well adapted socially. In many cases, the opposite is true.
Homeschool children are often taught good manners, how to listen
when someone else is speaking, and ways to work out their differences
with others. After spending time with my son, many adults share
with me how impressed they are with his communication skills.
He communicates with intelligence, maturity, and uses grammatically
Several of the kids from our homeschool co-op group enjoyed a
workshop with The Mountain Center in Santa Fe. This organization
does ropes courses, climbing, team building, and other activities
with groups of all ages. Several of the instructors commented
that our kids were “the best group of kids they had ever
worked with.” And they talked about how well they cooperated,
listened, and participated.
My son enjoys great diversity in the people he chooses to call
“friend.” Although many are homeschooled, his good
friends include children from numerous ethnic backgrounds and
religions, one child has only a single parent, another child has
parents that are a gay couple, and his good friends range widely
Many homeschooled children enjoy a great deal of social interaction.
They are often enrolled in classes with others their age and participate
in activities with children of all ages.
They attend classes in numerous topics including hands-on science,
drama, math, music, history, art, and more. They enjoy sports,
dance, martial arts, fencing, swimming, skating . . . the list
seems endless. One New Mexico homeschool band boasts over 80 members.
In some school districts, if homeschooled athletes meet certain
requirements, they are allowed to participate in varsity sports
as a member of the local high school team. Some homeschool students
begin taking college courses even before they have finished their
high school academics.
Disneyland recently began offering a special week of courses
for home school students. Families are now traveling from across
the nation in order to attend.
How Good is the Education?
If the curriculum their parents used is not accredited, often
homeschool students take the GED exam to prove what they have
learned. Most community colleges offer classes, sometimes free,
to prepare for the GED.
Many go on to graduate from college. This includes attendance
at prominent schools such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford,
and Carnegie Mellon Institute. Some Universities actively recruit
homeschoolers because those students tend to be mature, responsible,
and highly self motivated. That often translates into doing well
in a college environment.
“Home-schoolers bring certain skills – motivation,
curiosity, the capacity to be responsible for their education
– that high schools don’t induce very well, says Jon
Reider, Stanford’s Senior Associate Director of Admissions.
You may have heard of the very successful writer Christopher
Paolini. What you may not know is that he was homeschooled and
wrote the book, Eragon
at the age of 15. The popular actors / musicians, the Jonas Brothers,
are another example of homeschooled kids.
One of my son’s homeschool friends already has his own
business and is learning all the skills necessary to do it successfully.
He started his business when he was 8 years old.
I became a home school parent because I am dedicated to doing
whatever it takes to make sure my son has the greatest opportunity
to be happy and successful in life.
Being a homeschool parent isn’t always an easy choice.
But for many parents and children, it is often the best one.
Copyright (c) Debbie Shelor. All rights reserved.
Debbie "Takara" Shelor is an author, speaker, Industrial
Engineer and homeschool parent. She is the creator of a line of
alternative health products beneficial for people of all ages.
Visit her website http://www.HomeschoolSantaFe.com for more information
about home schooling. She can be reached at (540) 639-1633 or
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Also on this Site:
- A great source of homeschool resources, recommendations, organizations,
links, and more.
Homeschool Books - A nice
selection of books about homeschool and home learning.
- A helpful list of homeschool audiobooks to add to your collection.
- Find out about the numerous types of curriculum available for
homeschool and home learning.
Homeschool Events - Our
Homeschool Calendar of Events offers the opportunity to get together
for educational and social activities.
Homeschool Laws - A great
source of homeschool laws.
Resources Educational Links - A great source of links to resources,
recommendations, homeschool links, and more.