More Eastern Iowa Families Turning their Home into a Classroom

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — More and more Eastern Iowa families are choosing to homeschool their children.

A survey last spring found the number one reason families are leaving the Cedar Rapids Community School District is to teach their children at home.

The last time the U.S. Census looked at the number of home-schooled students was in 2007. At that time, there were an estimated 1.5 million children being homeschooled, up from 850,000 in 1999.

A study by the National Home Education Research Institute estimates that number is now over 2 million. One Cedar Rapids family started teaching their children long before it was considered cool to homeschool.

From a classroom in the kitchen, Trisha Maloney teaches the last of her four children. Trisha and her husband Mark made the decision to homeschool 20 years ago. None of their children ever spent a day inside a public school.

“We’ve been able to teach them things we wanted to teach them academically and spiritually,” said Mark Maloney.

Homeschooling allowed the Maloneys the flexibility to tailor the curriculum to their childrens’ interests.

“Our son struggled with reading,” Trisha Maloney said. “Once we found books on planes and flying, he took off.”

Teaching at home also gave the Maloneys more family time. From the Grand Canyon to Italy, the world has become a classroom for their children

” One thing we did early on is study a state,” Trisha said. “They’d do a state report, they’d all do research and we’d travel there.”

The Maloneys said more homeschooling resources became available as more people began homeschooling. Among those resources is the Marion Home School Assistance Program, which offers enrichment courses, field trips and support to 375 families.

“Our primary resource is a supervising teacher a state certified teacher that’s employed by our staff,” said Tom Ertz, Director of the Marion Home School Assistance Program. “They meet with families a certain number of times a year.”

That teacher helps guide families, but it’s still up to parents to decide what and how they teach their children.

“The state doesn’t prescribe any curriculum benchmarks,” said Ertz.

Students also aren’t required to do yearly standardized testing as long as they have a supervising teacher, bu Ertz said he believes students are still getting a quality education

“At the high school we offer a diploma that requires students be tested in their junior year,” Ertz said. “One hundred percent of our students take that, and they test very well.”

The Maloneys, who have two children in college and another doing mission work in China, believe homeschooling better prepared their kids for the real world.

“Homeschooling teaches self discipline,” Trisha Maloney said. “Some days I think this is more like college than high school, because you set your own schedule, you do school when you can. That’s the biggest benefit.”

While homeschooling may not be for every family, the Maloneys give it high marks.

Families who homeschool do have the option to dual-enroll in public schools, allowing kids to take any classes they want and participate in extracurricular activities.

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