No Place Like Home
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There are any number of reasons why homeschooling works for certain children—and for certain parents.
“There is the tutorial advantage,” says Donna Person of Stafford Springs a member of the Connecticut arm of the national Association of Christian Homeschoolers. “You are working one-on-one, so you can quickly see where they need help. Since there are no specific grade levels, you can go back and forth, according to what suits a given child. Over and over again, I see kids who were struggling in school and who just blossomed when they came home.”
Children with special needs might also find a better place at home. Terri Lynch, of Prospect, had been a schoolteacher for 15 years and was committed to public education. “I loved every part of teaching and learning, and was deeply enmeshed in it all,” she says. “I never even gave home education a thought until my second son, Matthew, was born, and then everything changed.” Matthew was born with spina bifida occulta, an abnormality of the spinal cord, and was later diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia. After much research, Terri and her husband, George, felt that homeschooling was the best place for both their sons to get the attention they needed.
“We’re able to provide strategies and programs that fit them, and those strategies can be ‘out of the box’ when appropriate, but at the same time follow best educational practices,” says Lynch.
And then there are the large swaths of families who feel public education is abandoning them. African-American families, for example, make up one of the fastest growing segments in the homeschooling arena—right now, there are an estimated 175,00 to 200,000 children of color being taught at home in America. Joyce Burges, who with her husband Eric, founded National Black Home Educators, explains that black families are opting for homeschooling for the usual reasons—to enhance strong family relationships, lessen pressure for premarital sex and alcohol abuse, promote individualization—but also because parents see their children falling through the cracks academically in public schools. Some are being bullied and teased, others have special needs that aren’t being addressed. Parents figure they can do a better job. “Also, our traditional values, the things that made us as a people, have been eliminated from study in schools,” says Burges. “The courses that make our children feel like ‘I can be somebody’ have been taken out of the public school arena.”
Case in point, Missy and Christopher Cipriani, of Southington, embraced homeschooling from the start because they felt their children, Naomi, 10, and Jacob, 9, would not learn about themselves in school. “It’s an injustice that our public schools do not teach history and literature in their complete form,” says Missy. “I’m not talking about just African-Americans, but also Native Americans, Latinos and everyone. It’s a travesty. Our children don’t see role models that let them aspire.” She adds that racism and low expectations also play a part. “We’ve come so far, but in other ways, we haven’t come far enough. In a classroom, it’s not overt, but there are subtleties of racial profiling.”
Finally, in recent years, the increase in state-mandated testing to stay in compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act has turned off many families to public schools. They point to the lack of creativity, the stifling of academic inquiry and all the time wasted just learning how to take the tests. It was the deadening quality of her school that led Emily Falkowski, the Connecticut Young Writers prose champion, to ask her parents to allow her to homeschool after eighth grade. She says, “I didn’t feel challenged in school, and I thought I could do a better job. After I started homeschooling, I realized what I was passionate about and was able to go after that in more in depth.” After her first year as a homeschooler, Emily became a state debate champion.