Home-schooling used to be primarily associated with white fundamentalist Christian groups that had problems with evolution and racial integration.
Although 38% of parents in 2001 cited "religious reasons" for home schooling, in recent years the motivations have been changing.
Now about 49% of these parents say their primary motivation was "giving their child a better education."
Among the other reasons were to escape poor quality teaching and a sometimes violent environment, and to escape negative peer pressures.
After several students with a home-schooled background won top spots in U.S. academic competition, educators started looking more closely at this growing phenomena.
In fact, recent home-schooled students have been winners of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee and the National Geography Bee, which attract some of the smartest students in the nation.
The parents of these students aren't typical, however.
These parents typically provide their children with an intellectually stimulating home environment, where the focus is on discovering knowledge through books, newspapers, and the Internet—not to mention regular home discussions surrounding these things.
As we know, children from this type of home tend do well, however they are schooled.
The "new breed" of home-schooler is primarily white (see graph at left) and represents an average income well above the home-school families of previous decades.
While the "home-schoolers" may lose out on some social interaction—class discussions, sports, clubs, dating, etc.—they can receive far more personal attention than is typically possible in the average classroom.
They can also progress at an optimum rate—unhampered by the normal classroom need to aim assignments, homework and discussions toward the "average student"; an average that may leave some students floundering with misunderstanding, and others bored and unchallenged because of slow academic progress.
Although it has been pointed out that typical parents can't spend several hours a day schooling their children, we have to keep in mind that a tremendous amount of time is wasted in the typical classroom, primarily due to various types of procedural, "housekeeping," and even disciplinary matters.
When you add to this the to-and-from school transportation time, and the distractions and various negative influences present in many classrooms, the actual learning time is reduced far below the number of hours devoted to the school experience.
Clearly, all parents are not the type that produce academically gifted students, so the question arises: how do you insure that home-schooling is truly beneficial to the young people involved?
Although regular testing is typically required to insure progress, we know that some parents simply let their children watch TV all day or wander the streets to fall prey to gang activity.
Many parents are ill-equipped to lead their children through such things as math, geography, history, etc.; and, an unfortunate number put very little value in education—even to the point of discouraging it.
Clearly, successful home-schooling involves the proper child-parent relationship; so there is the delicate issue (especially in this day) of students following the wishes of parents in doing assignments.
The good news is that parents who start early in cultivating the proper relationship with their children not only end up with more successful students (wherever they are educated) but are far less likely to have them turn to drugs or gangs.
This type of parent has been labeled a "hands on" parent; one that sets guidelines and limits in their child's daily life. These include:
Given the fact that, in general, the birthrate seems to be highest among parents who fall short of these goals, and the parents who are best able to educate and guide their children tend to have fewer children, we seem to be facing a less-than-ideal future in this regard.
At the same time, many states require that home schooled children regularly take tests to measure academic progress.
It is only by closely monitoring progress that the motivation for home learning will be maintained on a day-by-day and week-by-week basis, and home schooling will represent a viable alternative to public education -- an alternative that can have long-term advantages for both the children and their parents.
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