May 25, 2023
Increases in home schooling since the pandemic have impacted traditional district school enrollment. According to some research, public schools have lost 1.2 million children (about the population of New Hampshire), due in part to parents choosing new options like home schooling.
This year Utah passed the Utah Fits All Scholarship, which will allow parents to use public funds to create a home-schooling environment for their children. For some interested parents, this means home schooling could become a reality for the first time.
What home schooling looks like varies widely depending on several factors like student needs, family values and parent philosophy of education. What’s important to know is that home schooling can be successful in many different iterations, from the less structured “unschooling” method – where learning follows student interest rather than the outline of a typical school day – to an approach that functions like a normal school day with curriculum chosen and delivered by the parents in a home setting.
Below is a pre-pandemic story about a family (with names changed) who found great success in home-schooling a high school student using a school-like structured schedule and a religious-based curriculum.
An Arizona family’s experience
After their son Jeffrey struggled in school for years due to dyslexia and then lost confidence in his ability to learn, Jared and Diane learned that Jeffrey’s public school showed a video during class that violated their moral values. It was the culmination of years of frustration with public school – first in not teaching what they wanted and then in teaching what they did not want – leading Jared and Dianne to first try to resolve the issue (unsuccessfully) with school leaders before ultimately choosing to home-school their son.
Finding help with dyslexia
Starting that summer, they began an intensive reading program through Davis Dyslexia Association International to help Jeffrey navigate dyslexia. For years, he had been assigned to remedial reading classes that often took kids outside of class to work on reading, while the root cause of his struggle – dyslexia – was never addressed. With the Davis Dyslexia materials, however, they finally saw a breakthrough.
This was important because it helped their son understand his potential to learn after being taught in a way that didn’t meet his learning style. Jared said, “A dyslexic person doesn’t learn that way. So naturally, they get pigeonholed as being not as smart as everyone else, which is totally not right. You don’t understand dyslexia, if that’s what you believe. It’s that the school system is not set up to teach someone who has dyslexia.”
Creating a home-schooling schedule
Once the normal school year started, they began schooling at home with a schedule that largely mimicked the school day, a format with which Jeffrey was familiar because he had been in public school through his sophomore year in high school
In practical terms, this meant that they had 53-minute classes with 7 minutes between courses. Another reason for setting up home school this way was so their son could attend an hour of in-person religious instruction with his friends in what would be the final class period. This schedule also allowed him to participate in extracurricular activities like wrestling. In these ways, Jeffrey was able to maintain some of the continuity and sociality he enjoyed.
Jared, a commercial pilot, and Dianne, a stay-at-home mom, also had a daughter who still attended traditional school and did not want to be home-schooled, a wish that they honored. Because Jared often flew for days at a time, the schedule they created allowed him to more easily hop back into his son’s daily education to assist his wife with instruction when he was home.
Choosing a curriculum
For nearly all subjects, Jared and Dianne used Abeka, a Christian-based K-12 curriculum for home-schoolers created by veteran teachers. Part of the reason they chose this curriculum was because of the religious values it instilled while also teaching the academic content areas.
Jared and Dianne did not seek, nor did they receive, any resources from the public school or any state program. They paid for all curriculum out of pocket. Abeka courses range in price, but for an individual course in a particular grade, the curriculum is about $70 each. A full parent kit for an entire grade – for example, first grade – would include math, language arts, reading, history, science, etc., and can cost roughly $350 to $600.
For American history, they supplemented coursework with narrative style books of real events. Family trips were oriented toward his learning, visiting historical sites to complement his instruction, which had spillover benefits for their daughter since she often went on the trips too. They continued with the Davis Dyslexia program throughout home schooling as well.
Doing home schooling this way required considerable amounts of the parents’ time and personal resources; however, the school-like structure offered them predictability and the price of the curriculum was manageable for them. The benefit of having one-on-one schooling was that there were far fewer distractions for Jeffrey. He flew through information at a much faster pace and with greater understanding than in traditional school.
The student outcomes
Jared and Dianne saw the outcomes they had hoped for: significant improvements in Jeffrey’s reading ability, better competency in math, and the earning of a GED. Furthermore, they said he seemed to enjoy school when at home and felt better about himself. Perhaps most important was how their family relationships got stronger. Jared and Dianne developed a stronger connection and relationship with their son through the opportunity to spend so much time with him one-on-one.
Further advice on home schooling
When asked what allowed them to be successful home-school parents, Jared said, “First of all, you need to research it and say, what program am I going to use or what combination of programs to use?” He also acknowledged that Abeka is not for every family or child. They said having a clean place for their son to work and a clear schedule was also helpful to their success. They had confidence that they could teach their son and prepared beforehand in areas where they didn’t know the content.
Home schooling has a lot of connotations, good and bad. Some people attach home schooling to images of Montessori learning or unschooling or meandering on a nature walk with a pad of paper observing. Others may see home schooling as teaching kids at home, with a preferred curriculum, giving personalized attention for a struggling child within a set structure.
Home schooling can work in many ways. It can be successful if the approach meets the needs of the child and allows parents the right to instill education in a way that meets their values as well.
Helpful resources related to this article:
Davis Dyslexia Association International
Insights: analysis, research, and informed commentary from Sutherland experts. For elected officials and public policy professionals.
- There is no one right way to home-school. It can vary widely depending on several factors.
- Home schooling can be successful if the approach meets the needs of the child and the values of the parents.
- The Utah Fits All applications open on March 1, 2024.
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