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.”