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There’s no place like home

The Foster family of Haughton has transformed a room in their home into a classroom for their two youngest children. Emma, 11, (left) and Sarah, 10, (right) have been homeschooled for six years and both say they enjoy learning from their own home.

For some parents, homeschool is the best option

Some parents have discovered that when it comes to their child’s education, there’s simply no place like home.

For centuries, homeschooling was the only option. Parents today, however, lean toward homeschooling for many reasons, like having an individualized custom education plan, guided social interaction, safety and personal values and beliefs.

Homeschooling – or home-based education – numbers are on the rise locally, state-wide and nationally. According to the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), more than two million students—about 3.8 percent of the K-12 population—were being homeschooled in America in 2010. This figure represents a jump from 2007, when the Department of Education estimated that 2.9 percent of school-age children were being educated at home.

But what’s driving the homeschool movement? Why are so many families leaving public and private school systems?

Sharron Foster of Haughton made the decision to homeschool her daughters, Emma and Sarah, six years ago. Her oldest daughter, Emma, started out attending public school though.

“I packed her lunch, dropped her off in the morning and picked her up after three,” Foster said.

Just two days of that schedule, though, was enough. Foster got on the Internet, researched her homeschool options and made a decision she doesn’t regret.

“Emma was painfully shy when she was younger,” Foster explained. “It wasn’t that they didn’t teach her or interact with her. She did have fun, but this was the best decision for us as a family.”

Foster said her decision to homeschool was strictly personal and that she has nothing negative to say about the Bossier School System. In fact, her son is a product of Haughton public schools and currently attends Northwestern State University in Natchitoches.

“There are a lot of great teachers in the school system,” Foster added. “This is just the right method for us.”

Emma, 11, and Sarah, 10, say they really enjoy homeschooling. Their day begins around 9 a.m. with breakfast and Bible study before moving on to their favorite subjects – science, history, mathematics and literature.

Their day typically ends around 2 p.m., where they are given free time to read, go outside or watch television. Another thing Sarah and Emma enjoy is not having homework…because “all work is homework.”

Questions often arise as to how homeschooled children learn, what they’re learning and if they’re even learning at all. However, Foster said their homeschool curriculum is equivalent to that of the public school system.

“I’m their teacher. I come up with a lesson plan for the day and they work through it,” she explained. “Since they are older, I don’t have to stand over them all the time. We don’t have to follow the same schedule every day either. They aren’t rushed to finish subjects so we move on when they are ready.”

The similarities of homeschooling and public school out weigh the differences for the Foster family. There are rules and routines that Emma and Sarah follow as if they were attending a public school.

They don’t have school uniforms, but they must get dressed before the school day begins. Meaning, no pajamas allowed in the classroom.

Then there are field trips. The Fosters recently visited Moonbot Studios in Shreveport and wrote about their experience in journals, something they do after every trip.

About once or twice a week, the Fosters make a trip to the public library. They also plan to go see the Metropolitan Ballet while it’s in town and participate in the homeschool science fair and ArtBreak again this spring.

Homeschooling has developed several negative stereotypes due to misconceptions and misinformation. The most common misunderstanding, Foster said, is that her children aren’t social with other kids their age.

However, they attend church, participate in a homeschool coop group and are about as normal as 11 and 10 year olds can be. Things like church meetings, athletic teams, book clubs, volunteer activities and even trips to the grocery store can provide children with opportunities to interact with other kids and adults.

For anyone interested in homeschooling, Foster said the best thing to do is research your options and, ultimately, do what’s best for your family.

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Sean Green is managing editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune.