an average of
30 percentile points
studies have concluded
Gifts of the Spirit
Laying on of
The Will of
Words of our
of Bible study
Special to The Covington News 2/4/95
Five years ago, Joyce Thompson never thought
she would be teaching her children at home.
"I didn't think I could ever do that," she says.
Today, the 33-year-old Covington mother is in her second year
of home schooling Jason, 7; Heather, 8; and Jessica, 12.
"It's not really as hard as I thought it would be," she says.
"The hardest part is really learning to organize your time. Monday through
Friday, your life is committed to teaching -- preparing, studying the materials,
reading the books."
Thompson says that the small the student-teacher ratio of a
home school, however, enables her to focus on individual needs -- accomplishing
in half a day what takes the instructor of a 30-member class eight hours
Asked how she is able to juggle the responsibilities of home
and school, Thompson points to the cooperation of other family members.
"The kids are more responsible," she explains. "They feed the
animals, make their beds. The housework does suffer. But at some point the
kids are not going to be here -- and then the housework will get done."
While not directly involved in his children's instruction,
Thompson's husband, Dave, involves the family as a unit in various educational
outings. Last year, for example, the family visited Williamsburg, Va. This
year, they plan a trip to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
"And he helps with the cooking," Thompson says of her husband,
appreciative of the additional time it provides her to fulfill her other
A member of Excel Home Schoolers, one of four home school groups
in the Covington area, Thompson finds the support group very helpful.
"The other mothers are so creative, we never lack for things
to do," she says. Recently planned activities have included CPR instruction;
a trip to Callaway Gardens for a butterfly presentation; and a class on bats
featuring a speaker from Zoo Atlanta.
Field trips and organized events, planned twice monthly, help
meet home schoolers' socialization needs -- a primary concern of many who
are contemplating home instruction as an alternative to traditional education.
To avoid a sense of isolation, Anne Pedersen and Peggy O'Mara,
editors of "Schooling at Home: Parents, Kids and Learning," suggest enrolling
children in music, drama and art classes.
Finding opportunities for socialization has not been a problem
for her children, says Thompson, because so many other families in the area
are involved in the home school movement.
Thompson first considered home schooling when her oldest daughter
was entering middle school.
"Jessica was soon to be exposed to peer pressure, drugs and
sex," Thompson recalls. "The schools don't teach morals or values anymore.
And with all the other students coming from all types of homes -- this puts
a burden on the family.
"Eight hours a day, they're with someone else. I can have a
greater influence on their lives by teaching myself."
Home schooling seemed the only alternative.
"We couldn't afford to send three children to private school,"
A national trend
The Thompsons are only one of many families embracing home schooling
as an alternative to traditional education. It is a growing, nationwide trend.
Twenty years ago, 10,000 children nationwide received home
instruction. Today, that many children are being home-schooled in Georgia
alone. According to state home schooling enrollment statistics for 1993-94,
at least 10,521 Georgians receive home instruction --- 102 in Newton County.
State and national totals have been rising steadily for
years. Estimates currently place the number of children being home schooled
nationwide at nearly one million.
Home schooling, however, is not a modern phenomenon. Presidents
Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln,
among others, were taught at home. John Quincy Adams went from home instruction
straight to Harvard.
Other prominent individuals who were home-schooled include:
Thomas Edison, Pearl S. Buck, C.S. Lewis, Albert Schweitzer, Mark Twain,
Sandra Day O'Connor, Alexander Graham Bell, Pierre DuPont, George Washington
Carver, Cyrus McCormick and George Patton, among others.
Parents contemplating teaching their children at home should
not be intimidated by this list, however. According to the Hewitt Research
Foundation, home-schooled students perform an average of 30 percentile points
higher in standardized achievement tests. Eighty other studies have concluded
On the contrary, a test of public school teachers in Houston,
Texas showed that 62 percent failed a standard reading skills test.
Forty-six percent failed in math. In fact, the National Council of Supervisors
in Mathematics reported that 26 percent of all math positions are filled
by teachers not specifically certified to teach the subject.
The legal requirements involved in home schooling vary
from state to state. In Georgia, parents planning to teach their own
* File with the superintendent of schools in their
local district, within 30 days, a one-page form stating their intent to home
* Be a high school graduate or recipient of a General
Equivalency Diploma (GED) -- or hire a tutor with a bachelor's
* Arrange for students to undergo nationally standardized
tests every three years;
* Provide instruction, in five basic areas of study,
for the equivalent of 180 school days, during a 12-month period;
* Maintain attendance and progress reports
Thompson also recommends obtaining a copy of the core curriculum
for the grade level of each student to ensure that the material being covered
closely parallels that of the public schools.
Asked about her long-range plans, and whether she foresees
home schooling her children into the high school years, Thompson is unsure.
Five years ago she never thought she would be home schooling.
Five years from now?
"I'm not sure if we'll do it forever," she says. "But for now,
I know we're doing the best thing for our family."
Sandra Day O'Connor
& George Washington Carver
have in common?
All were taught
at their mother's knee.