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September 21st, 2010
07:00 AM ET

Communal homeschooling on the rise

By Carol Costello and Bob Ruff, CNN

“Isabelle, you're next. What card do you need to add to 10 to get what?"
Grade schooler Isabelle Hannon is learning how to add and subtract, but not in a classroom. She’s outdoors, at a beautiful Stillwater, Oklahoma park. She and her sister, Alyssa, are being taught not by a professional teacher but by their mom. And they’re not alone. The Franklin kids are there, too, along with their mom and dad who are also acting as teachers. 
Welcome to homeschooling 2010. It’s no longer a solitary exercise for many parents: it’s communal. Many families are now sharing ideas about teaching and taking turns as teachers. In effect, they’re creating their own “shadow schools.” 
Pascha Franklin says her kids are thriving and so is she. “When your kids are saying, “I want to do this,” and it's some kind of lesson, you smile because you're like, yes! They like learning!” 
Franklin isn’t the only parent jazzed about homeschooling. According to the US Department of Education, 1.5 million children are taught by Mom and Dad. That’s up 74% since 1999.
Studies used to show that most parents decided to homeschool for religious reasons, but that’s not the case anymore. In a 2008 study, 36% of families listed religious and moral values as the main reason for homeschooling. But, another 38% said the primary reason they homeschool is because they don’t like the school environment or the way teachers teach—those numbers are also way up from a few years ago. 
Just ask the Sobrals, who are homeschooling their five children. For them, “one size fits all” education just doesn’t cut it anymore. “What we've learned now is that it's unnatural fitting 20 children in a room and learning from one teacher, on the same schedule, on the exact same material in the same way,” says Courtney Sobral. 
The Sobral kids each have their own interests and learn in different ways. Sobral says since she’s the teacher, she can experiment with teaching techniques to see what works best. 
Her husband, Alex, says that’s not always possible in public schools. “You’re taught that you have to go to A, B, and C…and if you’re not excelling here and there, there must be something wrong with you.” 
Parents also say it’s easier now to homeschool because there are so many resources available on the internet. For the Sobrals, it’s a for-profit Christian-based company called “Classical Conversations”, a curriculum that “combines classical learning—grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric” with a “biblical worldview.” 
The Stillwater parents get guidance from the Home Educators Resource Organization of Oklahoma a non-profit network of support groups and families. 
Other parents go with companies like K12, another for-profit group that says it has contracts with 25 states to provide 70,000 students with a full curriculum, along with “a state-certified teacher” assigned to each student. 
Still, taking over your child’s education isn’t easy. 
Laura Brodie wrote “Love in the Time of Homeschooling” after homeschooling her daughter for one year. "I had a lot of success, but also a lot of fights and power struggles (with her daughter),” she says.  “I didn’t find homeschooling books anywhere that were talking about that. They talked about the advantages of homeschooling, but not so much about the bad days.” 
Brodie adds that homeschooling can be exhausting. It’s a 24/7 job. “You have to care deeply about your child’s education and well-being to want to spend all of that time with them, and want to find the best avenues for them. And you have to know your child deeply for you to understand what sort of education they need.” 
So, is homeschooling for everyone? “No,” says Brodie. “It can be a wonderful option for some families,” but not for those “where the parents have to work full time and can’t fit homeschooling into that schedule...Parents have to make sure it’s something they want to do and get excited about, and I think a child should be willing.”

soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Mom of 4

    To me this is simply a parent issue. Everyone that parents a child is then responsible for that child's education and behavior. PERIOD. I am not saying you have to choose to home school, I am saying that if you choose not to home school– it is still YOUR responsibility to TEACH your child. You must be involved and help your school. Support the teachers and administration in their education and discipline tactics, don't belittle them, don't fight with them, work with them– their job is hard and I believe that if they had more support and help they could do a better job. What ever happened to the attitude of Parents wanting their children to be held accountable? I was told by my parents, when I was in school that if I ever got in trouble at school– I would be in worse trouble at home.

    I understand the bad attitudes on both sides of this argument. Because the majority of home schoolers that the public school community deals with are the ones that are putting their children in public school... which obviously means they were failing at home schooling. And it's evident that home educators don't have a high opinion of the public education in general, or they wouldn't be home schooling. But I just feel that we all have a GIANT common ground here and could even be a help to one another. That common ground is that we are parents raising the next ADULTS. We make decisions for our kids that make them who they are. That is our responsibility as parents. If they aren't's our fault; if they can't get along with others, our fault.

    My sister and I both have 4 children. One of us educates them at home and the other is a public school teacher, married to a public school teacher, and all 4 are enrolled in the public school system. And, we are best friends who support and respect each other's parenting styles. We vent to one another about hard days, and brag to one another about our children's accomplishments. We are proud of each other and our nieces and nephews.

    This doesn't have to be a "one is right and one is wrong" debate- there are examples of doing it wrong and right on both sides– we get it! Let's move on. Everyone needs to be encouraged to be the best parents to their children, to spend everyday working at providing for them in every way. It is 2010 and there are so many resources for everyone in every walk of life to make an educated choice on the best way for your family.

    PLEASE Parents: do a good job with your kids!! It goes by so fast, and it is the most IMPORTANT and rewarding role you will ever have. And btw, THANK YOU to those who ARE doing this, you make the world better.

    September 23, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
  2. Jen

    KM – When the person said that it was a 24/7 job, she was talking about school hours – she wasn't putting down parents who don't homeschool. She was correcting a common misconception that homeschool kids are "chained to the table working through workbooks" from 8-3. It's just not like that...there are times when my son can't sleep and is up doing his next day's work at 1 am, by choice. Just like you, we have teaching moments all over the place, we just often count them as school (since that's when some of the best learning takes place). That's all she was trying to say.

    Lynn – wow, generalize much? Your nieces and nephews did some things you don't approve of, not on your time schedule, so homeschooling is bad? Ouch. (Because no one who goes to public or private school does that....) And by the way, not every child in school can read fluently by second grade – many can't. They may be able to sound out words in a graded reader, but there's a lot more to reading than that. My son didn't read with comprehension until he was 9 1/2...he's now 12 and is writing his own novel, and lit analysis is one of his favorite classes. I allowed him to wait till he was ready, filled his days with read-alouds and books on tape, and now it's something he loves.

    Don't be so quick to judge. That was the point of this news piece – not every child is a cookie-cutter pop-out model. They need to learn in their own way, and that can't always be accomplished at school. (I'm a teacher's kid, grew up volunteering in my parents' classrooms, and now teach in our co op. I know what it takes, and I know what the pros and cons are.) There are kids who thrive in a structured classroom, and there are kids who need to learn in a different way. My son fits in the latter group – and because he has the opportunity to learn in the way that makes the most sense to him, he's thriving. Because I can write my own curriculum and don't have to pass my lesson plans through administrative red tape, I can teach my students how they need to be taught – and at the pace they need to be taught. I can make sure they're actually learning,

    We're not affluent...I gave up my career in order to teach my son, and there have been times we've really struggled financially. But you know what? He's my son. I think I can manage to put myself on the back burner for a few years to allow him to get an education that he (personally) can't get anywhere else. He just plain learns best in an individual or small group setting, and he can't do that at any of our local schools. I don't look down on parents that send their kids to school – it might be the best choice for their kids, and who am I to judge? However, I also hold absolutely no respect for those who will judge complete strangers based on "this one family I knew who...". Grow up.

    I thought this piece was well done – it presented both the honest pros and the honest cons of homeschooling. Is it for everyone? Of course not, nothing is. But it is a viable option for many, and needs to be understood as such.

    September 23, 2010 at 9:45 am |
  3. Cat

    I homeschool my children now after trying public school and charter schools. What amazed me is how there were hundreds of kids and only 10-12 parents that volunteered at the school. I was there 2 times a week for a few hours and was shocked at what I saw. I would say that 90% of the kids in my children's classroom were total brats who showed no respect for the teacher or their peers. The children in the class that were obviously brighter than the others were ignored. They were told to put their head down while the other kids finished, sometimes 20-30 minutes would go by! My children are very smart and I felt they were not being challenged at all. We tried a local charter school, but the only thing they learned there was about recycling and gardening. When I volunteered there I left everyday crying. The teacher had no control of her classroom, she couldn't complete a sentence without sending someone out to the hall. I pulled them out after a few months and since we can't afford private school I had no choice but to homeschool them.

    Public schools are failing our children. Parents who don't teach their kids how to respect others are failing our children. I used to wonder why we get so many compliments from people about how well behaved and friendly our kids are, until they went to public kindergarten and I saw how awful the other children were.
    I can tell a home-schooled kids from a public school kid easily now. Just like a kid that spend all day at daycare compared with one that has a SAHM.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:20 pm |
  4. Renee Mollineda

    My daughter is 15 and she absolutely loves being homeschooled. she does her work online at any given time. she can work ahead or catch up. i do it primarily to keep her from being desensitized to the things of the world. she was not liking all the things going on at school, drugs, sex, vulgarness, and homosexuality. this was her decision and i backed her up on it.

    September 21, 2010 at 7:39 pm |
  5. Jessica

    to "KM"... I believe it was the reporter that said it was a 24/7 job, not the mom.

    September 21, 2010 at 1:19 pm |
  6. Lynn

    How WONDERFUL to have your school day tailored to your needs and learning styles! How FABULOUS to have all that spare time that would otherwise have been spent going to and from the gym that can now be used for play groups and private viola lessons! How AMAZING that these kids can graduate years ahead of their friends should they so choose and thereby start a career early.

    But there are several flaws:

    For starters, your observations about the homeschool kids are not without bias. These parents have the financial resources and spare time to NOT have to work for a living in order to dedicate their lives to their children. When you compare the financially stable with the unstable, the children's behavior often reflects that level of instability. My observation of homeschool children varies from those very controlled children to those without rules, so don't generalize.

    Secondly, these children grow used to being able to adjust the world to them. When that doesn't work out, often the consequences are disastrous. My brother homeschooled his three children who ALL got full four-year everything covered scholarships. However, two of them blew it to have babies and "find themselves". Once they realized the world doesn't always cater to them, they had a hard landing spot before having to adjust to be in the real world. They're starting college, paying it themselves, supporting families alone, at the age of 26.

    Finally, and this is most scary, these parents are NOT always qualified to teach ANYONE. I know for a fact that one of the children in this interview group was not able to read by second grade when asked to in his "extra curricular" activity. The reason the parents homeschool: they don't like to get up out of bed before 10 or 11 in the morning. That is hardly qualification to teach. We'll be supporting that child when he grows up on his own.

    September 21, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
  7. wendy

    It is nice to see an article with good information and not bashing homeschoolers. One thing I have learned is that homeschooling is a "lifestyle" choice. Also, in the article I read that there is nothing to tell you about how to handle the struggles of homeschooling. I highly recommend "Homeschooling Our Children, Unschooling Ourselves". I read this after 4.5 years of homeschooling and there were parts that hit home so hard that I cried. I cried because I did not have this information from the beginning. One of the reasons there are so many struggles is that parents try to recreate the classroom at home when it is really not necessary. Studying one subject can include all core subjects. For example my 11.5 year old wanted to study Africa. We are doing many things with Africa that include history, geography, topography, reading, writing, cooking, literature and we have a group we meet every other week for a group project, games, or field trip. My 3 year old has joined in and loves it. She also loved when we studied India and we are still very into Indian culture – including learning to do henna body art which she is fascinated with. It is all a wonderful journey.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:51 am |
  8. Athelda Ensley

    I am officially a Home School veteran. I stopped at the end of last year when my (then) 12 & 14 year old entered college. They took entrance tests at our local college and scored high enough to be admitted.

    They are an example of a successful Home School story. We started when both our girls were 1 1/2 years old, and could sing commercial jingles. By the age of 3 both could read and were starting to write.

    I support any family that can afford to forfeit an income and dedicate that time to educating at home.

    It definitely worked for our family.


    September 21, 2010 at 10:20 am |
  9. Ex-school teacher and now a Homeschool parent

    The anecdotal evidence of homeschooling’s success has been backed by multiple research studies.
    The biggest news? Homeschoolers are still achieving well beyond their public school counterparts—no matter what their family background, socioeconomic level, or style of homeschooling.
    In the study, homeschoolers scored 34–39 percentile points higher than the norm on standardized achievement tests. The homeschool national average ranged from the 84th percentile for Language, Math, and Social Studies to the 89th percentile for Reading.
    The study also found that whether or not parents were teacher-certified had no impact on these high scores. Critics of home-schooling have long insisted that parents who want to teach their own children should become certified teachers first. But in this study, students received slightly higher scores if neither parent had ever held a state-issued teaching certificate than if one or both parents had
    Homeschool students are also highly social with a wide variety of age groups. They tend to interact with those outside of their peer group better than those in schools that are limited to only peer exposure during the majority of the day.
    I was a teacher before I had my children and teachers are not the problem, the system that treats all kids as assembly parts to be run through the factory system of education is the problem, the system that has taught generations of parents that it can just leave the raising of kids to the system instead of the parents is the problem, and there are many more problems with the system. There is no one problem that can be instantly fixed with more regulation from the government.
    If you think that is the case you are sadly mistaken. Parents who homeschool recognize that fact and want a better option for their children.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:19 am |
  10. Laura Bahder

    I was so very pleased to hear your report on Homeschooling. I also Homeschooled my children, Sara and Jonathan through their High School years and although it was VERY challenging, I never regretted it. I was self-employed at the time (1999) and very displeased with their level of education. Before making the decision I conducted extensive research, drew up a rather grueling 365 day syllabus, soup to nuts and set course (no pun intended).
    I would first read the material and then assign chapters with regular testing. I recall, it was early summer and my son was outside tanning while reading science, he asked if I would put tanning lotion on his back and as I did this, we discussed the subject. I laugh when I recall his commented, "Now this is the way to learn!" Their friends would beg me to homeschool them.
    One of the most important by-product of the experience was that I was able to "bring it home", make it personal. As an example, we were studying economics and specially Unions. While out that day we drove by a company that was on strike and employees were picketing. This led us into an in-depth discussion which lasted hours, none of which was preplanned. I feel it brought us closer and we intently conducted many conversations, on so many topics, which otherwise we would not have.
    Today, my son, age 24, lives in New Jersey and is in upper management in the Vonage Corporation. My daughter, age 26, lives in California, has 2 young girls (ages 3 & 5) with one on the way and is enrolled in a nursing program.
    Very upstanding and I am very proud.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:18 am |
  11. Robert Bortins

    Anyone you talk to in the government will tell you children learn best when there parents are involved. It public and private school do they involve the parents? No they do not educate them on what is going on. Instead the government wants to throw more money at the problem and parents aren't taking responsibility for there child's education. In fact I have a number of friends who are teachers. They say the new trend is for 14 year old girls to get pregnant so there mom can get another check. Government policy continues to be misguided and causing opposite results than they expect. Parents educate yourself on what is going on in your child's school – even if they are getting good grades.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:58 am |
  12. Kay Webster

    My four completely homeschooled kids have graduated. One is a college professor, one is researching Alzheimer's, one teaches English in Japan, and one is an artist who is putting her husband through college.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:51 am |
  13. Becky

    I own a specialty toy store in Az and can tell the difference between home schooled kids and public schooled kids. the home schooled are better behaved and are smarter educationally. I say to parents you home school and they are pleasantly surpised that someone can see the difference.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:50 am |
  14. KM

    My oldest child attends 1st grade at a local public school and my middle child attends half-day preschool at our church. I get frustrated when I hear some homeschool moms (such as one featured in the above story) talk about homeschooling as a 24 hr – 7 day a week job or task. I find that frustrating because it seems as if they are saying that parents who send their children to school do not teach their children outside of school hours. I am proactive in using teachable moments and my children's interests to add to the education they are receiving at school. Whether we are cooking at home, noticing science/biology where we live or hear a newspiece (just a few examples), we then use that information as a springboard for further discussion or activities. As a parent who sends her children to school, I would like homeschooling parents to know that most parents also teach their children at home outside of school hours.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:48 am |
  15. Luann

    Homeschooling is wonderful for the family. We were always active with other groups: scouting, karate, church, ymca, and started clubs in what the kids were interested in. Children have a natural curious mind and in this enviorment it takes off and becomes a passion to learn. The oldest one is getting ready for college and made the National Merit program. If you give children a chance they will soar.

    Children in school so often have down time or are discouraged about working ahead of the group. I volunteer at an elementary school once a week. Those children don't believe in themselves. They are discouraged.

    The best benefit is our children are closer than regular schooled children and they get along with people of all ages. I am so glad we were able to do this for them. It is the best gift we could give them to prepare for life.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:44 am |
  16. Brianne Adams

    Thank you so much for this article! As a former teacher with a Master's Degree, the concerns of these parents are real and legitimate. I left my job teaching to homeschool my own children and they can run circles around most of their public schooled peers. I think that the attitude toward homeschooling expressed by many of the anti-homeschooling people is based on prevailing prejudice as well as their inadequate knowledge of what is really being covered in public school, how fast it is being taught and how many children are really left behind. Many parents do not realize that the passing rate on most state standardized exams is a mere 53%!! Is that truly preparing our children to be future leaders? While I think there are many positive attributes to the public education system, I think it is uneducated, blind and close-minded to think that while many other things in life have many different options that public school is the end all be all of education.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:41 am |
  17. Lou Quaresimo

    Yes, my children are out of school now but I thought about this issue. Sometimes I think my kids would have been better off being homeschooled. Not because the teachers at school weren't good teachers because most of them were very good teachers. I am concerned more about the school yard bullying, the peer pressure, the clothes, etc. With my kids especially my daughter, the peer pressure and/or getting in with the wrong crowd was my concern. The only thing I am concerned about with homeschooling is if they get enough social activity. The good kind. Knowing how to play with others, making friends, etc.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:37 am |
  18. art

    I have friends who have home-schooled their children. They did a great job fulfilling the potential for genius within their kids.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:27 am |
  19. Gerben Verstraete

    Reading this: "learning from one teacher, on the same schedule, on the exact same material in the same way"
    I believe these parents are way out of touch on how both public and private school teach these days. How does a parent that doesn't educate themselves on current schoolsystems and new trends\developments think they are quallified for homeschooling.
    I think believe this is a sad trend that is happening, based on lack of information and education where people judge to quickly without having done their homework.
    I would be interrested in the success rate of homeschool kids vs classroom taught kids, looking at it from a 360 degrees inclusive of common knowledge, social behavior, group behaviour, applied knowledge etc etc

    September 21, 2010 at 8:19 am |
  20. Lisa

    I have home schooled my child for the past 3 years. He has learned more in those years than when he went to public school in 6 years. He was learining nothing in public school. The resources that were available when I went to public school are no longer there for kids today (smaller learning resource groups for kids having a difficulty time learning). In public school they group kids that are having a hard time learing together instead of mixing up the classes where kids can learn from each other. When my child was in public school he was going to after school help in which there was anywhere from 30-40 kids per teacher and he was not getting home until 730pm. What child that is having a difficult time already can learn with those many children per teacher as well as being at school trying to learn for those many hours! My public school learning hours were from 8am to 2pm, which included going to the learing center for more help. I wish I had done home schooling sooner. At first it was a big adjustment for both of us due to I feel to him not learning in public school and he felt the teachers did not care while he was going to public school. He now understands how important learning is and he now knows people care about his learning.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:03 am |
  21. homeschool mom of 3

    Thank you for posting this article. I certainly appreciate your objective approach to the topic. It is certainly a more viable option for many families than it has been in the past. So much is changing in the world of homeschooling which helps families provide the kind of education they believe their children need and deserve. It allows parents to exercise their parental rights, ultimately draws families closer together despite the legitimately rough days and fosters an environment where the child can succeed at their own pace. I hope this story will encourage others to investigate whether homeschooling might be right for their family.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:01 am |