It takes up hours of an adult’s time every week day. It’s often a grueling, thankless task. In spite of the drawbacks, over 11,000 applicants filed homeschooling paperwork in San Diego last year. Why are so many San Diegans homeschooling their children? Surprisingly, the answers are as varied as the families who home school.
Homeschooling is not a new idea
Homeschooling has always been an integral part of the American experience. Education in this country, beginning around the late 1700s, and consisted primarily of the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic, for boys, and home skills for girls.
Before public education became mandatory, parents taught their children at home; others hired a tutor or joined with another family in the teaching of their children.
It was not until the turn of the century that states began passing legislation compelling parents to send their children to public schools and, up until this time, all children were homeschooled.
Soon, one-room schoolhouses dotted the landscape across the nation. The children came on foot, by wagon, and by horseback, and they studied by lamplight at home, in the evenings. Although technically not “homeschools,” one-room schools had a home-spun atmosphere.
If you close your eyes and use your imagination, you can almost see them bent over their desks engrossed in their readers. The only sounds are the low murmurs of the older children as they help the younger ones. The girls are in gingham dresses with long braids; the boys in overall or trousers with cotton shirts.
Except for the few families in the community that can afford a barber, most put a bowl over their boy’s head and cut around it, so the boys usually have round haircuts that are sort of scraggly.
The school is red or white, and built in the shape of rectangle, with big windows on one side and a wall on the opposite side big enough for a blackboard that is divided into four sections.
A lean-to shed is attached to one end of the building to hold fuel for a coal burning iron stove that gives out some heat on the coldest winter days. The other end has a cloakroom and a stand that holds a red-rimmed water bucket with a dipper. There are two outhouses in back of the school.
There are four rows of long, large desks held together along the bottom part with a board on each side. Each desk has a storage area under its top for school supplies. The top of the desk bas a pencil groove in the center and a hole in the upper right hand corner to hold an inkwell. Two shelves of books along the back wall hold the “library.”
There are eight grades with 12-18 children in the one-room facility. Much of the curriculum consists of memorization and recitation. Older students read stories to the younger ones listen as they recite the multiplication tables and spell the words in their weekly spelling lesson.
The schoolroom is dark in the winter afternoons, so the teacher lights an oil lamp on her desk. She is very young, just out of high school. She is paid about $80 a month and rents a room from the family of one of the students.
The bell rings-it’s time for morning recess! There is no gym equipment, but no one seems to mind. The little kids run around playing tag and the older ones play Dodge Ball or “Red Rover, Come Over.” It’s a cold day, but as the children run around and play, they warm up and their cheeks get rosy.
By the middle of the 19th century there was a growing dissatisfaction among many parents regarding public education. Around 1970 a strong homeschool movement began to appear, and by 1980 strong support groups, along with parental influence, had caused homeschooling to become legal in about half the states.
Families homeschool for many reasons. Some admittedly, have a “beef” with the public school system, but this does not appear to be an over-riding reason for homeschooling.
Some parents homeschool because of their religious beliefs; others because their philosophy of education differs from that espoused in the public school system.
Special needs children
A child with a “learning disability” is not really unable to learn, he or she may simply learn more slowly than the mainstream. Teachers must keep up a certain pace in order to fulfill the state’s curriculum requirements.
Children are sometimes gifted in one area or another, and parents may feel they can accommodate their child’s educational needs more intensively at home.
There are many benefits to homeschooling. For example, most homeschooled youngsters get considerably more time and experience with technology during school hours than students in the classroom.
Socialization concerns about homeschooled children
There has long been a hue and cry about the lack of “socialization” of homeschooled children. The truth is-most children do their socializing after school hours. Homeschooled children don’t go to school all day; their day usually ends about the time their age peers arrive home from school. This leaves plenty of socialization time.
Homeschooling has “come into its own.” It is a personal choice. Today, homeschools can be legally established and maintained in every state, and are upheld and promoted by many organizations and support groups.