By Jeannine Wills-Kofford, M.D.
Homeschooling is an increasingly popular educational opportunity for our children. In California, 2.8 percent of students are now homeschooled, and that number is increasing every year. Interestingly, it was the choice of many of our forefathers before the 1850s, when homeschooling and apprenticeships were more the norm. Many founding fathers and great Americans were home-educated, including Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln and the Wright brothers. George Washington preferred to spend his time dancing and horseback riding than in a schoolhouse. Famously, Thomas Edison’s public school expelled him at age 7 for being “feeble-minded.”
In our day, parents are recognizing the academic and social freedom afforded to our children with home education. There are many reasons to homeschool: academic excellence, academic challenges, religious freedom, vaccination laws, health issues and bullying. Whatever the reason, there has never been more options.
There are three main ways to homeschool: with California state curriculum under the supervision of your local school district, private hybrid homeschooling through a private or charter school where the student attends class a few days a week and the curriculum is supervised, or independently with a curriculum of the parent’s choosing. The third option offers the most freedom for your child, but involves more work for the parent. In California, you must file a private school affidavit annually between Oct. 1-15 should you choose the independent option. A fourth option is private tutoring by a credentialed California teacher.
A great resource to visit is (Homeschool Legal Defense Association) at www.hslda.org to get started with the legalities and local resources. Also visit the Christian Home Educators Association of California website for an extensive list of private school satellite programs: www.cheaofca.org.
The most often asked question is, “What about socialization?” Think of what parents do before their child enters school: play dates, moms’ groups, sports and church groups. Those things all may continue, offering a rich social experience for your child. Home education offers many more opportunities for “socialization outside the box.” There are more, not fewer, opportunities for community involvement and participation such as volunteering and interacting with positive role model adults and older or younger children.
Another often asked question is, “What about college?” Today, homeschooling is a well-recognized and legitimate educational option. Even Ivy League universities accept home-educated students, provided their college entrance exam scores are strong. Many colleges recognize homeschool students are unique and creative thinkers. Over two-thirds of homeschoolers eventually graduate from college. Homeschoolers also consistently outperform traditional-schooled students on standardized testing.
Still not sure? To summarize, below is a list of pros and cons associated with homeschooling:
Pros: Family bonding time; academic advancement; time to address academic challenges; unique and custom coursework not offered in public or private schools; cost effectiveness; travel; field trips; free days; exploring the outdoors; low stress levels; no bullying; no drugs; opportunities for specialization in art, theater, music and sports; community participation.
Homeschooled students learn to manage their time, and by their junior or senior year of high school, they assume more responsibility for their own education.
Cons: Requires high level of parental participation and organization; time management; potential educational gaps (which also could occur in traditional school settings).
For whatever your reasons, dive in and enjoy the rich diversity of educational experiences available to your child as a home educator. Education in our modern tech savvy world can be as diverse and unique as your own children.
Jeannine Wills-Kofford, M.D., is a single mom as well as an aesthetic physician and physician trainer at Riviera Laser Studios in Dana Point. She has homeschooled her two sons Marcus,13, and Joshua,10, for years. Their many homeschool adventures include medical missions to India, Kenya and Nicaragua, and field trips to the Smithsonian Museum and New Orleans World War II Memorial.
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