A few weeks ago, the Amplify Choice conference took place in Washington, D.C. with the aim of looking at the topic of Charter schools. Participants at the conference took a look at two D.C. schools and I delved into Charter schools in my home state of North Carolina.
A pervasive theme of the conference was the idea that school choice can mean a great number of things. Charter schools, private schools, virtual schools and homeschooling all were mentioned as top choices for parents.
In a nutshell, School Choice is ‘Multiple Choice’.
To follow-up on the theme of ‘multiple choice’, I decided to interview a mom who chose to homeschool.
Homeschooling For The First Time
I sat down with Raleigh area mom, Kristen Stocking, to talk about her decision to homeschool. Mrs. Stocking has two children; grades 2 and 6. Mrs. Stocking uses a project based style of learning with her children.
I asked Mrs. Stocking four questions regarding her choice.
*The responses are condensed versions for the sake of brevity as our discussions lasted almost two hours.
1. You chose to homeschool your children for the 2014-2015 school year, can you tell me a little bit about what issues factored into that choice?
- There was a sense that decisions being made at higher levels were not in the best interests of the individual children’s needs.
- The amount of inflexibility of the system and embedded bureaucracy was an issue. Mrs. Stocking has found that in homeschooling, she is able to cover what the kids need at the time they need it.
- Common Core was a factor in the decision. The math in particular was problematic as it took basic concepts and muddled them. This was frustrating both for the children and for her as a parent.
- Having been inside the classrooms, Mrs. Stocking noted that there was little time for kids to focus on topics they truly liked; there was far too much ‘busy work’.
- Mrs. Stocking noted that autonomy is one of the great parts of homeschooling. There is the ability to incorporate unique elements into a lesson “on the fly” that you can’t do with a large group in a classroom setting. The result is a vastly increased level of customized attention.
2. What hurdles or roadblocks (if any) did you encounter in your choice to homeschool your kids? (ie, red tape, application process, pushback from relatives, teachers, friends)
- Mrs. Stocking said it was very easy for her to get started homeschooling; the state of North Carolina has an easy process for it with reasonable requirements such as attendance records and one end-of-year standardized test. She noted in the application process she had to provide proof of a degree of some kind.
- It wasn’t the decision to homeschool that came with ‘roadblocks’. Her husband, family and friends were quite supportive of the idea. At first, it was the actual homeschooling process in the home. Mrs. Stocking explained she had to ‘unschool’ her children in the beginning. It became clear to her that some behaviors with regard to school had become entrenched in her children. For example, her oldest child constantly wanted to be graded on all her work “group taught,” as she would be in a public school setting. In the case of her oldest, the idea of grades being most important and not proficiency in the skill. She says that teaching her children how to teach themselves is one of her ultimate homeschool goals.
- Mrs. Stocking said that, “Life is a learning experience.” Her children were beginning to reclaim their love of learning; inquisitiveness was returning.
3. Did you weigh other options before choosing homeschooling? If yes, what was it about homeschooling that won the day as your choice?
- Mrs. Stocking explained that her children had experiences with public school and with private schools. While private schools had high academics, they weren’t guaranteed to be ‘stable’; shifts in leadership, schedules and teachers. There are few choices within close proximity to her home, and having the children nearby and interacting with their community was a family priority.
- There were no charters close by to her, so the decision to homeschool was easy.
- When considering the other choices available to her that were out there, she said, “I can do better myself. There is nobody who can understand my children’s needs as well as I can.”
- The ability to learn while traveling and to pick the experiences they wanted was important. Mrs. Stocking added, “Everything is a learning experience if you make it that.”
4. What do you think the future holds? Will you continue homeschooling or return to the public school system?
- Mrs. Stocking indicated they are most definitely going to homeschool again next year and that the decision will be made one year at a time.
- She said they participate in a co-op and that she will be teaching pre-algebra to middle schoolers in the coming year. The goal is to have the kids ready to do algebra 1 before 8th grade.
- Mrs. Stocking noted that if a charter school possessing the quality, location and instructional style that she desires for her kids became available, that it would certainly be an option they’d consider.
Those wishing to contact Mrs. Stocking can do so via email: KPStocking@gmail.com.
I’d also like to thank her for taking the time to sit down with me for this discussion.