A new appreciation for homeschooled students

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 18, 2003

Samantha's cat was once attacked by a chipmunk. After it attacked the family's feline, the crazed rodent darted into the house and took refuge under mom and dad's bed.

This was just one of many fascinating stories I heard Wednesday at the homeschool program at the Briggs Lawrence County Public Library Southern Branch. Susan Montgomery, director of the program, asked me to speak to the group about the newspaper business. Afterwards, though, I found I probably learned a lot more about homeschooling than the children did about newspapers.

I like to think of myself as an open-minded individual. I make it a point not to judge others just because their beliefs may be different from mine. In fact, I feel one of the greatest things about the democracy we live in is that we are all entitled to live our lives as we choose.

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The homeschooling thing, though, I never really understood. Why would parents want to alienate their children from others? What I found out Wednesday is homeschooling is not just for hermits anymore.

Homeschooling is no longer a fringe activity associated with religious groups and alternative lifestyles. Nationally, an estimated 2 million children are being homeschooled. Most families choose to homeschool their children because of concerns about violence, peer pressure and poor academic quality in schools, according to the national magazine Education Week.

One issue homeschooling families face is the question of whether or not their children are missing the socialization process between children that occurs in a typical school setting. Like many others, I believed homeschooled kids were shy, backwards and withdrawn from socialization. I came to find out I couldn't have been more wrong.

Each of the 15 or so children who attended the program had questions for me. Each of them interacted with me in one way or another. And, even though some of the questions and topics of discussion were kind of off-the-wall (but, hey, what do you expect when you have more than a dozen 6- to 10-year-olds in a room?), it was quite obvious that these were intelligent, friendly and well-behaved young people.

As homeschooling enters the mainstream, the adults who promote it have sought more ways of getting homeschoolers out of the house to broaden their social circles. Studies show that almost 90 percent of homeschool students are now involved in group activities.

The Briggs Library's homeschool program is a prime example of this.

Even though I do not think I will ever homeschool my children, I do have an appreciation for the folks who do. While it is not for everyone, homeschooling, when done correctly, is a viable means of education. I thank Ms. Montgomery for inviting me to speak to this group so that I could find this out firsthand.

And, now back to the crazy chipmunk. When I asked the children if any of them had a story the newspaper might be interested in publishing, this is what Samantha offered. Even though this would probably not be classified as a news story, it does make for a nice lead for a column.

Shawn Doyle is managing editor of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached by calling (740) 532-1445 ext. 19 or by e-mail (shawn.doyle@irontontribune.com)