New pencils, new backpacks, new faces: May the school year begin.
As students across the East Valley took their places in desks and at tables in district, charter and private schools in the last few weeks, another group of students took a different seat, one likely in their homes at the dining room table.
Home-schooling is becoming an ever-growing option in Arizona.
Arizona Families for Home Education estimates that between 25,000 and 35,000 students in the state are being home-schooled. Maricopa County Education Services Agency reported in 2011 that 9,300 students were registered as being home-schooled.
A year ago, the National Center for Educational Statistics deemed home schooling as the “fastest growing segment” of education. A story in Education News early this summer stated that number should continue to rise “as the dissatisfaction with the U.S. education system among parents grows.”
While some states require the home-school teacher (aka “mom”) to demonstrate her competency, file the name of curriculum in use and test students to show mastery, Arizona does not. It is one of the most open states for home schooling.
Carol Shippy, an East Valley mom and president of Arizona Families for Home Education, is home schooling her son, now 16, and just completed home schooling her daughter, 19, who leaves for college this month.
Shippy entered the home-school arena more than a dozen years ago. She believes there are two paths that lead families to choose home schooling: one negatively motivated and one positively motivated.
The first happens from dissatisfaction with a student’s current educational experience.
“The negative path stems from things like a poor experience in a traditional school, bullying, a teacher that didn’t show sensitivity to a child’s problems, learning difficulties, a diagnosis such as ADHD where a large group setting was too distracting, fear about changes in the child’s attitude toward siblings and being overly influenced by peers, peer pressure in an area that is overwhelming to the child,” Shippy wrote in an e-mail.
Shippy said she is a “positive path home-schooler.”
“The positive path for parents would be first to think about a philosophy of education. This would include what the overall purpose of education is in their mind, such as fostering a love of learning, training a child to be a life-long learner, desiring time to work on character building, dedicating attention to that old-fashioned value known as a work ethic,” she wrote.
It’s also seen as a way to be “untethered” to a schedule, with ability to work around a child’s interest or a parent’s work schedule.
“I had a career I loved as a lawyer and a thriving practice. But I worked in Glendale and lived in the East Valley. I spent precious hours in the car in addition to being unable to control my schedule due to having to be in court at the whimsy of judges and other lawyers and clients’ schedules. So I saw home schooling as a way to keep my mind challenged for a season of my life while I had the blessing of raising my children,” she wrote.
Shippy was the product of an academic family herself: Mom was an elementary school teacher and dad was a university professor. And because of their schedules, the family spent a ton of time outdoors during school breaks, camping each summer.
Home-schooling allows the family to keep that as an option, no matter the time of year.
The Shippy family now adopts more of a “modified year-round” schedule with home-schooling. The Shippys — and other families, she said — tend to use their neighborhood school’s schedule for fall and spring breaks (“The kids want to play with their friends”), but continue learning in the summer when those same friends are away at camps or vacations.
But it wasn’t always the case.
“We marked the calendar. We sat at desks,” she said. “But what you find as people home-school longer and longer, they adopt a more flexible year-round schedule.”
To learn more about home-schooling, see afhe.org.
• School Notes are compiled by education reporter Michelle Reese. Read more school news at eastvalleytribune.com/local/education/, and follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/eastvalleyednews), Twitter (@EVEdnews), and on Pinterest (pinterest.com/evednews). Contact Reese at (480) 898-6549 or email@example.com.
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