A New Appreciation for Home Schools
In July we mailed open ended surveys to the registered home schools in Haywood County. Through the years we have noticed that a number of families move their children between home school and public school. Some families have one child who is home schooled and one who attends public school. Other home school exclusively. Our primary purpose for sending the surveys was to gain insight that might help us serve these families better. We were primarily trying to gain a better understanding of “why” people choose to home school. The results were refreshing and insightful.
We mailed 453 open ended surveys. There was one “yes” or “no” question, “Is this Home School planning to serve students during the 2012-13 school year?” Then there was an open ended opportunity for people to describe the reason(s) they chose to home school. We received 15 responses, which is pretty good given this type of survey. The narrative responses ranged from ten words to four single-spaced typed pages. The overall findings were best described by one survey respondent who wrote, “Ask 15 families, you will probably get at least 12 different answers.”
The survey results were pretty amazing, at least to me. The lady quoted above, guessed the number of overall responses, 15. Since it was an open ended survey there 17 reasons given for home schooling. (1) Public School has too much emphasis on academic performance and testing. (2) Parents felt their child needed one-on-one instruction. (3) An ex-spouse made the decision to home school. (4) The parents wanted to increase family time. (5) The public school schedule did not work for a Junior Olympic Athlete. (6) Public school did not support the family’s desire to travel and do community service. (7) A parent had a bad school experience as a child. (8) There was a conflict between school staff and parents. (9) Public school was considered unstructured, unsafe or unsecure. (10) Public school was considered too intrusive or restrictive. (11) There was a religious or spiritual reason for home schooling. (12) The student was bored. (13) There was a medical issue or condition. (14) There was a conflict between school staff and the student. (15) There was a conflict between students that included bullying. (16) The public school curriculum was considered weak. (17) The student needed to work at home on the farm. Two people did not give a reason and several people gave multiple reasons.
Fourteen of the reasons were given only once or twice. That likely means these reasons are specific to a small percentage of families. However, there were four reasons that were given three to five times (from 20% to 33% of the respondents). That likely means there is broader agreement among home school parents on these issues. The “broader agreement” responses were (1) Public school has too much emphasis on academic performance and testing. (2) Parents felt their child needed one-on-one instruction. (3) Public school was considered too intrusive or restrictive. (4) There was a conflict between students that included bullying.
When I saw this data, I gain a new appreciation for home schooling. Many public school educators are concerned about the weight given to standardized tests. We also see students who need more personalized instruction that we don’t have the resources to provide. We are continually frustrated by regulations that have little to do with learning. And lastly, our hands are often tied when it comes to bullying. Prevention programs don’t often outweigh the culture surrounding the bully and discipline laws limit our ability to remove bullies from school. We appreciate everyone who responded to the survey. Please know that we share many of your concerns about public schools. We were encouraged to learn that nearly half of the respondents (7 of 15 or 47%) used home school and public school. Maybe we can make some headway on these shared concerns.