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It’s back to school for home-schoolers, too

POSTED: August 10, 2009 3:00 p.m.
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Last school year, the journalism class at North Georgia Homeschool Enrichment went on a field trip to the Forsyth County News.

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While the majority of Forsyth County’s students will head off to a public or private school environment this month, there are a number of students who will stay home to learn their ABCs and 123s.  

According to the Forsyth County school system, 1,495 students were home-schooled in the county last year. That accounts for more than 4 percent of the county’s school-aged children.

Across the country, those numbers continue to grow. The U.S. Department of Education reports that in 2007, more than 1.5 million children were home-schooled nationwide.

The majority of parents home-school so they can provide religious or moral instruction. A close second is growing concern over the school environment. While there is no perfect setting, some parents feel their children may do better with fewer distractions.

“We were concerned about our daughter’s loss of focus on schoolwork,” said Janine Solari, a mother of a rising ninth-grader. “She was so concerned about all her classmates’ problems that it was easy to lose sight of the educational process.”  

Parents home-school for other reasons as well, such as physical or mental challenges, family schedules, or the need to fine-tune a student’s curriculum.

Some students are home-schooled to accommodate auditions and film schedules as they pursue acting careers.

“Our family took a year to live in California and audition for as many things as we could,” said Corey Philbrook, a rising eighth-grade home-schooler. “Even now that we’re back in Cumming, I can leave for an audition without worrying about school.”

Whatever the reason, home-schoolers are thriving in Forsyth County and support groups for these families are on the rise.

Forsyth County Home Educators is the oldest home educator support group in the county, having formed in 1991.  

In 2008, 180 families representing 500 children were involved in the group. Many of the students complete rigorous programs of study and graduate with diplomas, technical certifications and other credentials.

“We have a variety of activity groups that provide connection points for students,” said Phyllis Singleton, the group’s president. “We even have a formal graduation every year, with ceremony, keynote speaker, cap and gown, the works.”

From support groups to extracurricular activities, home-schoolers have the opportunity to participate in activities that previously were reserved for public- or private-school children, including orchestra, football or the first home-school marching band in Georgia.

Opened in 2003, the North Georgia Home-school Enrichment group provides additional opportunities for home-schooled students.  

Parents can sign their children up for classes ranging from the arts to math and science. The group serve students from kindergarten through high school. They meet once a week, then finish their assignments at home.

This upcoming school year, the group also will offer a variety of musical instruction.

Programs such as Veritas Classical Schools and Fidelis Christian School combine the best features of a traditional classroom education a few days per week with parent-led home schooling for the duration of their weekly school day.

While parents find creative ways to provide a solid education for their children, the students also have views on being home-schooled.

“Home-schooling is great,” said Hannah Skalleberg. “I have a more relaxed day and spend a lot more time with my family and friends, while still learning a ton.”

Home-schooled students have many opportunities to explore their interests and take learning at their own pace. For many, it means surpassing their public school counterparts.

The national test results through the years have been in their favor.

According to Jim Sconing, director of the ACT Statistical Research Department, 11,195 graduating students who listed themselves as home-schooled took the test in 2008. Their average composite score was 22.4, compared with an average of 21.1 for all 1.4 million students who took the test.

In Georgia, home-schoolers have access to the Hope Scholarship and many are on the rolls of the state’s higher education system, as well as Ivy League schools and our nation’s military academies.

Caleb Norris, a home-schooled high school student, plans on entering the Marines after college graduation. As he works to become an Eagle Scout, he also plans on joining the JROTC.

The Kings Academy, a private school in nearby Woodstock, offers JROTC to home-schoolers. 

“I’ll have an opportunity to develop my leadership abilities while gaining a clearer understanding of what the military expects of me and can offer me,” Norris said. “I have never wanted to be anything else but a soldier serving my country.”
 

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