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July 25, 2014, 5:03 pm

Home-schooling grows more popular

According to the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), approximately 1.5 million students are home-schooled in America. To put that number in perspective, it’s the equivalent of the entire population of Philadelphia. Locally, home-schooling has become a preferred education alternative for many Christian families.

Decades ago, home-schooling was not a well known, well accepted or well pursued alternative to public and private education for American students. Today, home-schooling has grown exponentially, and it’s become a credible scholastic source for quality student recruitment — recognized, respected and accepted by many colleges and universities across America, including elite schools like Harvard University.

In an earlier report published in the Harvard Crimson newspaper in Cambridge, Mass., William J. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions, Harvard University said, “… homeschooling is an educational asset that Harvard considers favorably when making its admissions decisions ... (homeschooled students) do just as well as most all students who come here do.”

IES reports that, “More white students were home schooled than Black or Hispanic students or students from other racial/ethnic groups, and white students constituted the majority of home schooled students (77 percent).”

Regina Palmer, an African-American parent from Philadelphia, has home schooled her eldest son Joseph for four years, a 9-year-old third grader. Palmer recommends that novice home school parents should affiliate with a local home school association for support, guidance, and resources, “Especially for the ones just starting out, it’s probably helpful to (join an established home school group) that has knowledge of the laws or the resources where you can get various (supplies and teacher support).” Joseph’s home schooling experience is progressing well, according to his mother, he tested in the 89th percentile on a national academic assessment; state law requires home schooled students to be tested at certain grade levels (third, fifth and eighth) to evaluate their academic progress and level of learning.

Regina’s husband, Orville, supports homeschooling because it affords his sons personalized attention and freedom to provide a strong Biblical foundation that his sons would not receive within the Philadelphia School District. “It gives you the opportunity to really invest in your child,” shared Orville.

Jennifer Cedeno, 45, a professionally-trained and college-educated teacher, lacked confidence in the public school system and decided to pursue home schooling her children. “My oldest (child) is 20 years old, we’ve been home schooling for 15 years,” said Cedeno.

One of the greatest criticisms leveled about home schooled children is that they lack socialization skills to interact with other students. Cedeno countered, “We interact with all different kinds of people — at church, and my children participate in a (home school) co-op with (kids from) different age groups, sometimes we have to pull back from doing (social) activities to make sure that we’re getting our academic work done.” Cedeno said home schooling allows students to work at their own pace, without having to deal with the stress and stigma of feeling like they are lagging behind other students in their peer group. Cedeno has 10 children.

For parents contemplating homeschooling their children, Cedeno said, “I think it’s beneficial (for parents) to get to home school fairs…” to obtain resources, materials, curricula, supplies, etc. and to interact with experienced home school families. She highly recommends the annual CHAPS conference (Christian Homeschoolers Association of Pennsylvania) in Harrisburg, scheduled during the month of May. CHAP’s website is: www.chaponline.com.

Dr. Howard B. Richman, founder/executive director of Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Accreditation Agency (PHAA), hosts an annual conference in Carlisle that consistently draws several hundred home school parents seeking legal information, textbooks, curricula, supplies, workshops and student panel presentations to equip and edify novice and experienced homeschooling families. Certified home education evaluators also attend PHAA’s annual conference, “(The evaluators) serve as guidance counselors to the families that they (serve),” said Richman.

“(PHAA) is first of the home school organizations recognized by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to give diplomas to graduates of home education programs,” said Richman, who founded PHAA in 1991. Dr. Richman and his wife, Susan, have homeschooled all their children. One son, Jesse, is an associate professor at Old Dominion University while another son, Jacob, is a programmer for Google. A daughter, Molly, is a mother and teacher of advance placement English in Israel while another daughter, Hannah, is an artist and she works at a synagogue in Boston and she is a graduate of Brandeis University.

According to Dr. Richman, “The biggest advantage of home schooling is that you get a closer family out of (the experience).”

Information and resources on PHAA can be found on: www.phaa.org.

“Home schooling is an excellent vehicle and an option for parents who opt to take education beyond the four walls and brick and mortar schools, it gives parents an opportunity to explore different options,” shared Kari Hill, 39, Principal of Crooked Billet elementary school in the Hatboro-Horsham School District.

But there are those who differ.

Tamika Joy Rogers, a teacher in the Philadelphia School District, said, “The (education) standards of public schools are much more higher (than compared to home school education).”

However, Rogers does support homeschooling as a viable option for kids who are constantly victimized by public school bullying. 

“I was home schooled from third grade to sixth grade, and seventh and eighth grade,” said Gloria Branch, 25, a junior at West Chester University. Branch, a Philadelphia resident, is majoring in sociology. She has a 3.95 grade point average and is a member of the national Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society.

“Homeschooling helped me become more responsible for my own education,” said Branch, who said she was homeschooled because she was bullied in school. “Homeschooling isn’t for everybody.”

Two popular home school instructional methods are “A Beka” and “Classical Conversations”: A Beka provides high quality academic textbooks and teaching materials that are rooted in a Biblical worldview; Classical Conversations is home-centered education that equips parents to educate their children with classical tools of learning also rooted in a Biblical worldview. 

The Richmans opted to use an amalgamation of materials and textbooks; it’s this variety and freedom that they preferred to use in educating their children.

“Parents chose materials that fit the parents’ personalities and the children’s (personalities),” said Richman.

Tamika Graves, 34, hosts a Classical Conversations home school site at Antioch of Calvary Chapel Church in West Philadelphia.

“I felt that in the Philadelphia School system, kids were not getting (a quality education),” said Graves.

A product of the Philadelphia school system, Graves admitted that she felt under-prepared when she attended Hampton University. This was part of her motivation to pursue home schooling as a viable option.

For information about the Classical Conversations home school site at Antioch of Calvary Chapel Church, call: (215) 474-1050.