Eye on Education

Some Parents Figure They Can Educate Better At Home

Parents have more choices than ever about how to educate their kids. Yet despite the growth in options ranging from vouchers to charter schools, more parents are opting to do it themselves.  Here’s a look at the expansion in numbers – and philosophy – of homeschooling.

Thea Shoemake finds it kind of amusing when people ask her why she decided to homeschool her kids.

“My joke, the first thing I like to say when people are a bit skeptical is, ‘socialization,’ Shoemake said. “Because that’s usually the argument against it. ‘Oh well, you know what about socialization?’ You know I’d be lying to you if I said that wasn’t one of the main reasons they’re home schooled because I have no problem picking their peer group when they’re 5, 6, 7.”

Shoemake directs the Cincinnati campus of Classical Conversations, a Christian homeschooling group.

Ida Lieszkovszky / StateImpact Ohio

Classical Conversations' members can choose classes and guidance from the group's catalog.

They meet once a week with both students and parents for a full day of classes. Shoemake says their goal is to teach parents how to educate their children, not what to teach them.

“It does provide a lot of structure, we call it the skeleton, but then it also opens up to a lot of creativity dependent on for instance the type of learner you have,” Shoemake said.

Still, fundamentalist Christianity is an integral part of the curriculum at Classical Conversations.

Shoemake explained that “just as some secular approaches come to the material with a mind set, so do we. We have a biblical world view, we have a statement of faith and every family signs it whether they practice that particular faith or not.”

For the Shoemakes, that world view includes teaching creationism and other Christian values, and exposing kids to things like evolutionary theory later on. They are part of the biggest group of homeschoolers in Ohio and nationally. As of 2007, 83 percent of homeschooling parents said they do it to provide religious or moral instruction.

But increasingly, that’s not the only reason people are opting to educate their kids at home. And in that, homeschooling may be coming full circle. Stanford University professor Rob Reich said that in the 60’s and 70’s, homeschooling was biggest among the leftist Berkeley unschoolers, “where the point was the let the blossoming child unfold itself without any adult institutional corruptions.”

Then, in the 80’s and 90’s, it gained popularity among the Christian right “where the purpose of homeschooling was to shield the child from exposure to anything toxic in the secular environment.”

But these days, he said computers have made curricula and school materials so easy to get that homeschooling has really taken off. Between 1999 and 2007, the National Center for Education Statistics estimates that homeschooling increased 74 percent.

According to Reich, all that access to information makes it harder to stereotype the “typical” homeschooler these days.

“The kinds of homeschoolers that get up and running are unschoolers, the Christian right, folks that think they have a genius on their hand and want to stimulate the kid at home as much as possible, people with odd tastes in the curricular packages they want to deliver their kids,” he said. “Homeschooling is a pretty diverse enterprise at this point.”

Concerns about school environments, things like bullying or gang problems, and a general dissatisfaction with other school choices are now common motivations for homeschooling.

Ida Lieszkovszky / StateImpact Ohio

Bailey DuBois enjoyed her time as a homeschooled student, despite the stereotypes she had to deal with.

Take for example Bailey DuBois. Her mom figured she could do a better job of teaching her kids than the public schools in Virginia Beach where they used to live, because “she liked the idea of personalizing the curriculum so the curriculum fit one child rather than fitting the child to the curriculum.”

All three kids in the DuBois family are homeschooled, and religion is most definitely not part of the curriculum. DuBois will be a freshman at Wittenberg University this fall. She hopes to double major in Chinese and geography to become an urban planner in China.

She loved home schooling, partly because “the days varied so much. It would usually begin with classes in the morning that are self-taught or just out of books, and then we’d have classes with other kids and then we’d go off and do our own programs.”

One of her favorite places to study is the small tree house in the backyard of her home in Northwest Canton.

What she didn’t love was the college application process, and the stereotypes she often faces. She says admissions representatives didn’t know much about homeschooling. Most asked her if she had any friends.

“It was like they had this really quaint idea of homeschooling like I was out on the prairie and spent my time at the wooden table and was milking cows the rest of the day. Like, of course I have friends,” DuBois said.

Stanford University professor Rob Reich said he’s not concerned with the socialization of home-schooled kids since “the purpose of providing school isn’t to make someone maximally social as if, you know, unless you can succeed in the fraternity or sorority down stream, schooling has failed you.”

But he is worried about the idea of students as citizens.

“Ensuring that students get to know people from differing background who will have very different views than the students have, but who are equals from the standpoint of citizenship.”

His other problem with homeschooling is that there is very little oversight. Virtually none nationwide, and it varies from little to none among states and even among school districts.

Ohio homeschooling parents are supposed to register with their local public school district. Then the parents and the local superintendent work together to figure out a way  - if any – to keep in touch. The Ohio Department of Education estimates the state has 24,000 students. But beyond that guesswork, the department doesn’t do much to keep tabs on its homeschoolers.

Rob Reich said that’s a problem.

“Total parental authority without any potential check on parental authority is potential tyranny just like total state authority over children is potential tyranny.”

-Stanford University Professor Rob Reich

“That’s the state abdicating its responsibility to defend the independent interests of the child and establishes something close to complete parental authority over children. Which in itself isn’t a bad thing – parental authority is a good thing. But total parental authority without any potential check on parental authority is potential tyranny just like total state authority over children is potential tyranny.”

He points to cases where parents have beaten or starved their children, and where homeschooling was done to escape the scrutiny that could have exposed the abuse.

Of course he is quick to point out there are also good examples: the spelling bee winners and Harvard graduates. Oh, and the future Chinese urban planners.

This story is part two of our two-part look at how Ohio families are deciding to educate their children. For part two, on vouchers, click here.


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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y7LR2IN7NEDUICESTULUKYO6WY Jennifer Walker

    Thank you for highlighting homeschooling as an option for parents on your programm this morning…I thought it was unfortunate however that the broadcast basically said that there is practically no oversight of parents ab how they educate their children. This is untrue, at least in Ohio. In some states there is very little or even no oversight, and in some there is so much as to discourage homeschooling, but Ohio is a happy medium, I feel. Homeschoolers have to present scores for standardized testing each school year or the other choice they have is to have a state certified teacher look over their yearly accomplishments and present a report to the school board locally. This is not only a way to provide CHOICE for parents and students ( something kids in school don’t get), but also for school board’s to be able to keep a check that parents are not totally slacking off. The show seemed to suggest that homeschool parents are given a free pass to do whatever they want, which is not true.

    • KS

      Thank you for responding, Jennifer. I’m not sure where the information about Ohio not having oversight came from. There is definite supervision in homeschooling – while giving parents freedom to choose their method of accountability. It is sad to see how misunderstand the system really is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Rev.Mark.Stevenson Mark Stevenson

    The appropriate word for contact between Ohio home educating families and the school district is notification. Parents “notify” school districts, not “register.” The code for home education, a.k.a. home schooling, is OAC 3301-34, found here: http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/3301-34. Therefore, home schoolers do not register, but notify their district.

    • Ida Lieszkovszky

      Hi Mark – Ida here. I hear what you’re saying about the oversight issue, and you are correct in that there are certain benchmarks homeschooling parents need to meet, but those aren’t enforced by the ODE, they’re agreed upon between the parent and the local public school district. From the ODE’s website: “Annual assessment required, using a standardized test, a review by a certified teacher, or another assessment per agreement between the parent and the public school district superintendent.” The point merely being that on the state level, there is little oversight of homeschooling parents and what / how they teach. You can check out an entire list of all the ODE requirements for various educational options in Ohio in this table: http://www.ode.state.oh.us/GD/DocumentManagement/DocumentDownload.aspx?DocumentID=77435.
      Thanks for your thoughts, and for tuning in!

      • De

        I’m sorry, that is incorrect. These are not “benchmarks”, but state-mandated, legal regulations. It is *not* agreed upon by the homeschooling parent and the superintendent – it is written out in our ODE home educating regulations. They *are* enforced, in that, if you do not turn in one of those forms of “assessment”, you cannot legally homeschool.

        I know hundreds (literally, and personally) of homeschoolers and *none* of them have ever used the third option “agreed upon between the superintendent and parents”. Everyone I know tests or turns in an assessment. There are other states, such as Texas, where even notification isn’t required; they have no data on how many people choose to homeschool in their state.

        I haven’t yet seen a reason for homeschoolers to have oversight over “what/how they teach.” I have yet to see an illiterate homeschooler or one unable to function in society because of homeschooling, and I know plenty of adults who were homeschooled.

      • http://www.facebook.com/rumpleteasermom Bridget Coffman

        LOL – I really enjoy your attempt to ‘school’ Mark, of all people about schooling options. This is Mark whom (I am reasonably certain) can probably recite from memory the relevant section of the Ohio Administrative Code that deals with homeschooling, which you quite obviously didn’t bother to read and comprehend before writing your article.

        FWIW, my three homeschooled children are all adults now. Their friends range in age from 14 to 72 and span all economic classes, include every racial class I can think of, include Christians, Muslims, Atheists and Agnostics and live in several states. I have no worries about their exposure to people outside of their own socio-economic circle. They are all happy well-rounded people. Oh, and the one who wanted to go to college, had no trouble doing so. The youngest is an aspie and is not ready for college yet and the third is a self-taught costume designer/textile artist.

  • Debbie Schinker

    My parents and mother-in-law were all public school teachers and my husband still works in public education. Yet we have pulled both our gifted children out of our local public school district this year. One will attend an inner-city magnet public school for the arts (Miller South in Akon) and the other will be e-schooled at home (NOT home-schooled) through the public Ohio Virtual Academy (OHVA) where certified state teachers will oversee her instruction. Both kids will take the state-mandated tests and both will receive more individualized & personalized instruction than was being provided by our local district.

    Decades of federal focus on low achievers has forced all but the most creative and dedicated teachers to teach to the tests and essentially ignore the needs of above average students. Despite the ubiquity of technology and decades of research on learning theory, we are still largely teaching students the same way we were 200 years ago: in rows of desks, lecture style, with emphasis on the right answer & interacting only with students in the same room or school. And we expect to produce creative, forward thinking adults with this conformist, factory formula? No way!

    If Rob Reich is worried about students getting to know people from different background with different views, he should be MOST worried about our public schools! Both of our kids will be getting far MORE exposure to diversity this fall than they’ve ever had in our local suburban district.

  • Human Ape

    “For the Shoemake’s, that world view includes teaching creationism and other Christian values, and exposing kids to things like evolutionary theory later on.”

    As if a parent who believes in a god’s magic wand is qualified to teach evolutionary biology (later on). And this is after the victim is brainwashed to invoke magic to solve scientific problems.

    This is child abuse. The government shouldn’t allow it.


    • Laughter

      Yes, because we need thought police, right? I teach evolution, but freedom is the cornerstone of true education, and thus a fruitful society. Where would the world be without Thomas Edison, a human who was homeschooled without any government oversight whatsoever? His ability to study and perform his own scientific experiments, without submitting to government standards and testing, allowed his mind to flourish!

  • Anonymous

    Do you want to brainwash your child at home, fundamentalists? If yes, it should be considered a case of child abuse.

    • Anonymous

      We should instead, turn them over to the state, and let the liberal left indoctrinate them in the church of Obama worship, global warming, gender identity confusion, and political correctness…so much better for their little minds…

  • Anonymous

    Should Muslims do the same to their children? Should other pagan religions do the same to their children? If yes, this approach will be the cause of the future religious war.

    Are you still living in the medieval period? Are you still fighting the almost 1000 year old crusade, fundamentalists? Wake up!

  • Jlanspery

    Maybe would have served better to have more opinions in article then just Robert Reichs.. He is not just college professor at Stanford, he is the former labor secretary under Clinton.. He comes from what I would say is a pro union ,pro left thought process,even though I have no issue with that per say, it goes long way into who he feels is best suited at educating..PS in typical Reich ,he cites examples of things yet there is nothing to verify the truth of it, though his examples dwell in the realm of possibility he nor anyone else can ever point to a specific, if it was an issue or there had been cases of this he would have been able to cite..

    • Tjschnaubelt

      The Stanford professor Rob Reich and former Labor secretary Rob Reich are different people.

    • Hopie

      “PS in typical Reich, he cites examples of things yet there is nothing to verify the truth of it,…” tsk tsk It would seem you have to swallow your own words, jlanspery. Robert Reich and Rob Reich are two different people. These are the problems some have with home schooling… Lots of variability in quality and quantity of learning experiences, and no oversight into misinformation.

    • Drdonnewton

      Robert Reich, the former Labor Secretary under Clinton, teaches at University of California (Berkeley). Rob Reich, who was not the former Labor Secretary, teaches in the Department of Education at Stanford.

    • Ida Lieszkovszky

      Hi Jlanspery, and thanks for your thoughts. However; some of the comments below are correct in that the Rob Reich featured in the story (Stanford University professor) and the Robert Reich you are referring to (former Labor Secretary) are two different people. This is the bio of Stanford University Professor Rob Reich, the one featured in the story: http://www.stanford.edu/group/reichresearch/cgi-bin/site/. This is the website of political economist and former Labor Secretary, Robert Reich: http://robertreich.org/.
      Thanks for tuning in,
      Ida L.

  • homeschooling mom

    People think schools are so wonderful because they have “trained teachers.” What does that mean? My son, who wears hearing aids, has had lots of “profesional teachers” and yet NONE of them could figure out that if he couldn’t HEAR THEM, he couldn’t learn. When he started to have fits in class I pulled him out and did an assessment on him. . . and figured out that he didn’t know what a noun or verb was. A 4th grader, who missed larged chunks of info, and no one figured it out; including the reading specialist, writing specialist, and special ed teacher.

    And what kind of over sight should be required for parents? In Seattle public schools, I know of a teacher who regularly hits and slaps kids, but because he doesn’t leave bruises, then it doesn’t count. Or how about the disabled kids who are locked in “quiet rooms” all day? Or the one that won’t let kids use the bathroom and if they wet their pants, berates them and laughs at them until they cry? How about requiring kids to stand in line for 20 minutes before class starts, then make them sit in a classroom for 3 hours before they get a break! Even adults get coffee and smoking breaks more often.

    I could go on for days listing issues that I and people I know have had with public schools.

    • Jantosh40

      yes my child was also hit in slo by her teacher and when i went to complain found out her husband was the super .. so my poor child was hit and nothing could be done. i told my child god would get her and him. we have pretty much home schooled since then. i dont beat my child when she doesnt hear something or doesnt get it right…. these so called teachers that think they are so good or know it all…. whatever…they are ruining our kids and teaching them mean things and their ways. i dont want my child to do anything their way

  • Amommymoose

    Reich states: “That’s the state abdicating its responsibility to defend the independent interests of the child and establishes something close to complete parental authority over children. Which in itself isn’t a bad thing – parental authority is a good thing. But total parental authority without any potential check on parental authority is potential tyranny just like total state authority over children is potential tyranny.”

    The state has absolutely no authority to defend the independent interests of the child. Period. This is, thankfully because we are in America, (and unfortunately for Mr. Reich) the complete and total authority of the parent. I do not co-parent with the state. I’m sure they would not have loved me homeschooling my autism spectrum child or allowing a child to self-wean at 5yo or the restrictive diet my son is on (despite the fact that he has an immune deficiency that should’ve landed him in the hospital 4x/year and he’s had one hospitalization in his whole life–primarily due to diet). Even when we were foster parents, we did not co-parent with the state (the state was unquestionably the parent).

    And while I do not teach creationism, I AM a homeschooling parent and I have met people who are perfectly capable of setting their beliefs aside to expose children to things that they do not believe in. Because they are at home, they are free to talk to their children about the fact that other people DO believe it, and this is the information as they believe it (which, btw, is no different than a public school teacher learning unfamiliar content–I know because I was one).

    Frankly, depending on your district, you could be in a relatively large public school district and have absolutely no diversity. I taught in one of those.

    P.S: Let’s see some stats on how many kids die from parental abuse that are attending public school and NOT called in and/or not followed up on by CPS. Point for point, I’m going to guess that the homeschooling crowds percentages are significantly smaller. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but regulating homeschooling on that argument alone is grasping at straws.

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  • Jessica

    “For the Shoemake’s…”

    Love the unnecessary apostrophe.

  • Jessica

    “For the Shoemake’s…”

    Love the unnecessary apostrophe.

  • kittyben10

    I am also a homeschool parent in Ohio whos only choice was to pull my children from public school. When your child struggles to READ, is in special education for 2 yrs for reading and after private testing shows a complete lack of progress( tests reveiled he was only reading at a K-1 grade level) and a HUGE decline in IQ ( 22 points ) you start asking key questions of the educators. Reading is a complete fake in Ohio and all across our country.

    Balanced Literacy isnt balanced at all. The very first thing schools do is CONFUSE young minds..Forcing hundreds of SIGHT WORDS on children is not teaching them to read,,its hiding the fact that they have not been TAUGHT to read, just memorize words on sight.. Who can memorize our entire language???? Reading is a PROCESS, a systematic phonics process and anything else is why our schools are FULL of so called special ed students who are being robbed of a future. Those children have a TEACHING DISABILITY. Teachers who teach a core program like READING should first be TAUGHT themselves the reading process,,,stats show that teachers lack the fundamentals in reading so how in the world can they teach it.

    My child was damaged by his school and would have been left in special ed to rot..

    I will NEVER put my children back in PUBLIC SCHOOL!!! He deserves a life beyond being a FUNCTIONAL ILLITERATE!!!!!!!!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6TR4SE7TVDTTOQJK3QK65YACKE Toni

    The assumption here is that the public schools do NOT “brainwash” or indoctrinate. I will credit you with being wise enough to realize they in fact DO indoctrinate children with their social agenda. If you’re okay with that, you should likewise be okay with parents who prefer a different “indoctrination.” This IS a land of freedoms, after all. It is very narrow-minded, btw, to assume that a conservative homeschool family does NOT expose their children to other religous beliefs and cultures. We are a Christian homschooling family. Our children have been instructed in the practices and beliefs of many other cultures around the world (and we’ve done homeschool cooking, sewing, role playing, etc., to broaden their exposure to the differences in other religions and cultures. We live on a cul-de-sac where our neighbors are Jamaican, Asian, Chinese, and Mexican. Our children play together (imagine that; neither cultural differences NOR schooling differences have stopped our children from bonding.) It really is a narrow-minded point of view to accuse Christian families of “forcing” their religious beliefs on their children. I’m fairly certain that ALL parents, considering what they feel is best for the children they are blessed with, will “indoctrinate” those children toward a particular belief system (even if it’s a very liberal, relative truth point of view). Please don’t begrudge those who choose differently than you do, and don’t presume to know what it means to raise one’s children in a conservative Christian home. There are some families who are radically conservative, sure. But that remains their right in this diverse country we call America.

  • Greenbean950

    The US government school system was copied from the Prussian system in the mid-1800s. The Prussian government school system was designed to produce factory workers and soldiers for the regular wars Prussia engaged in. Our governments school system costs more each year and produces more illiterate graduates (with diplomas) each year because it is succeeding in what it was designed to produce. Turn education back to parents and let them decide what is best for their children. If we are the land of the free, we cannot stick a gun in people’s ribs and make them pay for something. We would return to a much more educated (& less violent) society without the government’s post office incompetence in our education.

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