This article comes from Holly Scheer, the wife of Pastor Scheer, who has the task of teaching their children at home.
It’s hard to completely pin down the numbers because some states don’t track homeschoolers at all, but estimates are that in 2007 (the most recent year data is available from ) there were roughly 1.5 million homeschoolers. http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/
Why do people homeschool? It’s really individual by family, but some of the most common reasons are academics, religion, addressing special needs or giftedness, bullying, family schedules, and safety.
What does this mean for us, as Lutherans? It means the face of education, something our Synod has traditionally been really focused on, is rapidly and radically shifting. Our Synod grew on schools, really, really good schools. Why are Lutherans choosing homeschooling, sometimes in communities with schools? What’s the deal?
Let’s look at the common reasons for homeschooling and how that touches our schools.
Academics. This is a touchy subject in our country. We, as a nation, keep lagging in test scores compared to the rest of the world and it doesn’t seem to be getting better. It’s a difficult and complicated issue and ideas on why and solutions really vary.
Homeschoolers currently on tests massively outperform their publically, and privately, schooled peers. http://www.hslda.org/
This is true across financial and racial lines. Some of our parochial schools have amazing test scores, too. Some don’t. Shrinking schools with budget problems and high turnover can have a difficult time with addressing the academic needs of their student body. More and more parochial schools linger on the edge of closing. We have far fewer LCMS day schools than we did forty years ago.
Religion. Homeschooling allows parents to have total control over the religious life of their kids. In a time when there is such polarization of science and history homeschooling allows parents to teach their kids their values. This is also a strength found in most of our parochial schools.
Special needs and gifted kids. You don’t get much more specialized education than a child having school specifically tailored to them at home. It’s hard with budget issues and shrinking services to meet the specific and often very individual needs of the kids at the very top of the class as well as those needing extra support. Kids with behavior problems are another common group that leave schools.
Bullying. This is a terrible problem that has long lasting repercussions for kids. It’s not rare to see news stories of kids, some of them tragically young, who commit suicide or acts of violence at school as a result of bullying. This is a problem that I don’t have the answer for.
Schedules. Some of us have goofy schedules. With my husband being a pastor he doesn’t keep a standard 9 to 5 work day. He sees the kids at lunch, but not always for supper. He can go to the plethora of night time meetings our congregation needs without feeling like he hasn’t seen our kids.
Safety. It’s an unfortunate reality that in some places schools aren’t safe. Drugs and violence are around. That’s scary to think of when it’s your kids.
Am I saying that homeschooling is some magical panacea that solves all? For all people?
Homeschooling is a choice that works for some families and I totally support families in the choices that are best for them. I’m glad to see MORE choices opening up for people, not fewer.
Is there a way that homeschoolers and our LCMS schools can work together? Some schools have had good success with opening classes to homeschoolers and letting them in on a part time basis. There are some things that are better in a group.
You’ll notice about this article that I didn’t address socialization. It’s a common complaint and worry about homeschoolers from people that do not do it. Here’s why – as a homeschooler I have more than enough activities for my kids through church and community, as well as our local homeschool group. People often are quick to point out the weird, unsocialized homeschooler they met somewhere. I’ll take this moment to remind you that some people have a hard time fitting in public or private school as well.
Homeschooling is going to continue to grow from all available signs. Will we embrace it as a Synod, all work together, and come out with something better, for everyone?