Homeschooling transformed over decades

Published 8:08 am Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Many people have stereotyped homeschoolers. I know I did.

Gone are the days that you could pick homeschoolers out in a crowd. The face of homeschooling has changed dramatically over the last couple of decades.

The families choosing to homeschool today are as varied as their reasons. They are from every socioeconomic, religious and ethnic background.

Reasons for homeschooling include, but are certainly not limited to religious beliefs, customized education for special needs children, a need to present more challenging curriculum to gifted children, dissatisfaction with other school systems and personal preference.

I would like to dispel the myth that homeschooled children are “unsocialized” right out of the gate. Most homeschoolers are involved in more extracurricular activities because of their flexible schedules.

Baseball, soccer, church activities, dance, gymnastics, bowling league, music, equestrian sports, and participation in library programs and the YMCA are only a few of the things in which my homeschooling friends are involved.

There may have been a time when homeschooling families were more reclusive, but that is certainly no longer the case.

Our family made the decision to homeschool (something I said I would never do) when our oldest child was going into first grade. She will soon complete sixth grade, and our second daughter will be completing first grade.

We have two toddlers and an infant who will be following in their sisters’ footsteps. We, like many of the homeschoolers in our area, are Christians. I know homeschooling, like motherhood, is a calling God placed on my life. I put a career I absolutely love on hold to be obedient to that call, as did many of my friends.

I am not certain I could have persevered through the first couple of years without an amazing support system. I attend a church with a very large homeschooling population, and we participate in a co-op that meets at a local church once a week during the school year for enrichment classes.

The co-op serves all of Western Tidewater and northeastern North Carolina. We recently had to limit the number of families who could participate on-site to 50 (with nearly 130 children), just to keep it manageable. The size of the group has more than doubled since we began our homeschooling journey six years ago.

An option to participate in field trips and other activities, not including the weekly classes, has been added. And there is a waiting list of families who desire full participation.

The growth of homeschooling is undeniable. More and more parents are opting to be primarily responsible for their children’s education. We are fortunate to live in a country where this is possible and to have an organization like Homeschool Legal Defense Association to protect our rights.

Most people are probably familiar with the

98 percent versus 2 percent rule. Homeschoolers simply fall into the 2 percent.

One of my favorite teachers says, “Find out what the rest of the world is doing and do the opposite!”

We do not mind being “countercultural” for the well-being of our children. For most of us, grooming our children for success and instilling godly character is reason enough to homeschool.

The fact is, it is a superior education. Home is the only classroom with a teacher-to-student ratio as low as one-to-one.

If you have ever considered homeschooling but did not feel you could do it, I assure you that you can. From traditional textbooks to interactive satellite broadcasts, the curriculum and resources available are endless. It is easy to tailor curriculum to fit every child’s needs, learning style and personality.

You might be amazed at the famous and influential people who were homeschooled — 14 presidents, including Abraham Lincoln; 28 heads of state, including Benjamin Franklin; military leaders like Douglas MacArthur; Supreme Court judges, including Sandra Day O’Connor; scientists such as Albert Einstein; artists like Da Vinci; religious leaders, including Jonathan Edwards; inventors, such as the Wright brothers; composers like Mozart; writers, including Mark Twain; educators, such as Booker T. Washington; performing artists like Whoopi Goldberg; and many business entrepreneurs, including Andrew Carnegie.

And these are only a few of hundreds of famous people known to have been educated at home. Let us remember that there was a time when all education was homeschooling.

There are a number of famous people who are currently educating their children at home as well, including Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, John Travolta and Kelly Preston, and Darrell and Stevie Waltrip, just to name a few.

For an impressive and more comprehensive list of famous homeschooled Americans and influential people in history, visit

While homeschoolers will likely remain a minority, we are a rapidly growing one! I would encourage readers to also visit to find out what is happening with homeschooling in Virginia.

CAROLYN WEST is a Southampton County native who has taken off time from her nursing career to homeschool her five children. She can be reached at