CT: Home Schooling Numbers and Opportunities Grow

Home schooling numbers and opportunities grow
Eileen FitzGerald
Published 10:42 pm, Saturday, February 8, 2014

Like other 18-year-olds, Howard Ho of New Milford has sent out his college applications and is now eager to hear back and choose the next step on his academic journey.

It’s the first time in a long time that Ho has been part of a pack of students waiting for school results.

Since fourth grade, Ho’s education has been more individualized; he has been home-schooled by his parents, Sandy and Tat Ho.

“I think it’s been good. It fits my character better,” Ho said. “I can go through material as fast or as slow as I want to. In public school, if you know something you have to wait before you move on.”

The Ho family is part of a home-school movement that has grown exponentially nationwide in the past few decades. With every national education reform, it seems, more parents are opting out of one-size-fits-all education.

Connecticut, with an estimated 18,000 home-schooled students, is among the top five states in growth.

Advocates say that 3.4 percent of school-aged children nationwide, or 1.7 million students in 2011-12, are home-schooled. That’s up from the 0.5 percent of the student population in the early 1980s, said Diane Connors who founded the CT Homeschool Network, the state’s largest statewide organization dedicated to informing and building community among home educators.

“My understanding is the growth of public school enrollment is 1 percent a year, but the home-school growth is up to 7 percent a year,” Connors said.

It’s not just the numbers that are up. Though many in the home-school movement started teaching their own children for religious purposes, parents now cite a wide range of reasons for keeping students at home — from security concerns to trying to give children an academic edge.

Sandy Ho started home schooling Howard to be able to integrate the Bible in lessons, but her reasons grew from there.

“I can choose the curriculum that I want,” she said. “I wanted an emphasis on the basics and history.”

A variety of reasons

Parents who home-school say they want to customize their child’s education, allow them to pursue interests in depth and take on difficult topics.

They like that their children work with people of all ages, expand their skills, and can tap resources around the state and online to enrich their academic curriculum.

Bethel parent Diane Speed said teaching her children is her responsibility.

“When you put your child in school, you turn over that responsibility to the institution,” Speed said. “As home-schoolers, we say `No, thank you.’ We will hold that responsibility. I am not anti-schools. I don’t think home schooling is for every adult or for every kid. I tell parents to look at the student and family and ask, is this working and is this effective?”

Speed started The Classical Kids home-school group in 2002 with a handful of families. It now has about 250 families from around Fairfield County and provides links to resources and offers programs and activities.

Speed and her husband also have a business that provides home-school curriculums.

“Some states are waking up to the 21st century,” Speed said, “and saying that maybe kids don’t have to be in a brick building five days a week for seven hours a day.”

Now every state has a law allowing home schooling.

Connors, who has 10 children, sent her first two to public school and then home schooled all but one other, who is still in school.

“The majority of parents that start to home-school continue to home-school, but if the kids go back to school, it’s more likely when they get to high school,” Connors said.

The school environment, with drugs, safety issues and peer pressure, was the most important reason that 25 percent of parents home-schooled, according to the 2011-12 National Household Education Survey.

For 19 percent of the parents, the most important reason was a dissatisfaction with the academic instruction, while for 16 percent it was a desire to provide religious instruction. (Continues on 2nd page)

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