September 21st, 2010
11:05 AM ET

Less families homeschooling primarily for religious reasons

Editor's Note: CNN Correspondent Carol Costello and Producer Bob Ruff bring us this report about home schooling from Oklahoma.

“Isabelle, you're next. What card do you need to add to 10 to get what?"

Grade schooler Isabelle Hannon is learning how to add and subtract, but not in a classroom. She’s outdoors at a beautiful Stillwater, Oklahoma park. She and her sister, Alyssa, are being taught not by a professional teacher but by their mom. And they’re not alone. The Franklin kids are there, too, along with their mom and dad who are also teaching math and science.

Welcome to homeschooling 2010. It’s no longer a solitary exercise for many parents– it’s communal. Many families are now sharing ideas about teaching and taking turns as teachers. In effect, they’re creating their own “shadow schools.”

Pascha Franklin says her kids are thriving and so is she. “When your kids are saying, “I want to do this,” and it's some kind of lesson, you smile because you're like, yes! They like learning!”

Franklin isn’t the only parent jazzed about homeschooling. According to the US Department of Education , 1.5 million children are taught by Mom and Dad. That’s up 74% since 1999.

Studies used to show that most parents decided to homeschool for religious reasons, but that’s not the case anymore. In a 2008 study, 36% of families listed religious and moral values as the main reason for homeschooling. But, another 38% said the primary reason they homeschool is because they don’t like the school environment or the way teachers teach—those numbers are also way up from a few years ago.

Just ask the Sobrals, who are homeschooling their five children. For them, “one size fits all” education just doesn’t cut it anymore. “What we've learned now is that it's unnatural fitting 20 children in a room and learning from one teacher, on the same schedule, on the exact same material in the same way,” says Courtney Sobral.

The Sobral kids each have their own interests and learn in different ways. Sobral says since she’s the teacher, she can experiment with teaching techniques to see what works best.

Her husband, Alex, says that’s not always possible in public schools. “You’re taught that you have to go to A, B, and C…and if you’re not excelling here and there, there must be something wrong with you.”

Parents also say it’s easier now to homeschool because there are so many resources available on the internet. For the Sobrals, it’s a for-profit Christian-based company called “Classical Conversations” , a curriculum that “combines classical learning—grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric” with a “biblical worldview.”

The Stillwater parents get guidance from the Home Educators Resource Organization of Oklahoma a non-profit network of support groups and families.

Other parents go with companies like K12 , another for-profit group that says it has contracts with 25 states to provide 70,000 students with a full curriculum, along with “a state-certified teacher” assigned to each student.

Still, taking over your child’s education isn’t easy.

Laura Brodie wrote “Love in the Time of Homeschooling” after homeschooling her daughter for one year. "I had a lot of success, but also a lot of fights and power struggles (with her daughter),” she says. “I didn’t find homeschooling books anywhere that were talking about that. They talked about the advantages of homeschooling, but not so much about the bad days.”

Brodie adds that homeschooling can be exhausting. It’s a 24/7 job. “You have to care deeply about your child’s education and well-being to want to spend all of that time with them, and want to find the best avenues for them. And you have to know your child deeply for you to understand what sort of education they need.”

So, is homeschooling for everyone? “No,” says Brodie. “It can be a wonderful option for some families,” but not for those “where the parents have to work full time and can’t fit homeschooling into that schedule...Parents have to make sure it’s something they want to do and get excited about, and I think a child should be willing.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Education • United States

soundoff (84 Responses)
  1. Bethel Yoshioka

    There certainly is an abundance of homeschooling information available and this is a good thing… for the most part… as long as you don’t get bogged down in overload and suffer paralysis by analysis. There are a lot of wonderful articles and tips to help you insure your homeschool success.`'....

    http://www.caramoan.phHottest piece of content on our web-site

    May 19, 2013 at 1:21 am |
  2. smartguy

    The headline is grammatically incorrect. It should be "Fewer" families....

    Were the editors home-schooled? 😉

    October 29, 2010 at 9:45 am |
  3. Leslie

    We are now in our fifth year homeschooling our fourteen year old. I can say without any hesistation that homeschooling is EASIER than sending our daughter to school. She endured an abusive teacher, complete incometence, teachers who had advanced degrees, yet knew nothing about visual-spatial learners, and bullying that ended in a murder attempt.

    Harder than school? No way.

    October 18, 2010 at 12:55 am |
  4. Charlene

    I work full-time and make homeschooling work. It requires thinking outside of the box, but working full-time is not necessarily a deal breaker.

    October 14, 2010 at 9:22 pm |
  5. single and homeschooling

    Let's talk about the word no one ever wants to talk about - jealousy. It is obvious to me that many of those that oppose home schooling have no comprehension of a personal sacrifice and choice it takes to home school. In many cases do not WANT to know.

    Our nation is bent on materialism and entertainment. They worship their OWN careers, money and time. This catagory of people will always be against anything that they themselves would never Choice to do because of their own personal selfishness. They secretely are jealous of and angry at those that don't care about material things or a career.

    They hate the fact that most home schooled kids test at very high levels, are advanced in their social skills and abilities, have very high adult sucess rates in all they do and are HAPPY with their lives. Happy home school families without all the worldly junk and maze of public school. Amazing isn't it!!!!!!! Not really. It makes perfect sense to me. True happiness is not found in things or luxuries.

    We happliy pay our taxes for others to go to public shool and choose to do without all the extras (my car is almost 11 years only – I paid $4800 for it) No cable. One 3 day vacation this year. One 3 day vacation last year – a educational trip to the Creation Museum in Ohio.

    Anit-home schoolers are jealous.

    When wondering how so many can make such a selfless choice – it might help to look at the main reasons we CAN and DO and WANT TO make such a choice. It is because of our religion – or better explained our relationship with Jesus Christ.

    Because many home school families have hearts that don't need the extras of the world. They already have what is priceless - Jesus.

    October 7, 2010 at 9:53 am |
  6. Mary Ann Johnson

    Adults both in home school and public school think that they are in charge of the learning. As a coach and mentor to parents who teach their own children and as a mom of seven I know from experience that the person really in charge is the child. Love of learning, real education, is a matter of the heart. You can force memorization and test taking and paper writing but you cannot force learning. Education becomes wonderful when we let children lead out and do our job, which is to inspire them to want to keep learning. http://home-school-coach.com

    October 1, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
  7. Donna

    I am a degreed professional educator. I am also a homeschooler.

    My daughter has special needs that cannot easily be met in a school setting. A couple of hours a week of small group pull-out, with the rest of the time in a regular classroom that is not at her level does not do what a couple of hours a day of 1-1 on her level, combined with various small group activities and classes for social and group learning reasons can do. I have seen amazing growth in her, not only academically, but socially and emotionally since we started homeschooling. She's not at home all day. In fact, we're out of the house daily for something-whether it be science class, dance class, soccer practice, music class, co-op classes, park days, or just playing with friends. Last year, when we made her birthday party list, she could name two children she wanted to invite by name-and the rest were simply "kids in my class". Four kids showed up. This year, she has over a dozen from different groups and activities who she can name and who have been excited about coming to her party. She has friends to call on the phone and to ask to come to playdates. She's got a name. It's been beautiful to see-and something that I wasn't sure I'd EVER see.

    Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes!

    September 28, 2010 at 5:10 pm |
  8. Mom

    I literally laughed out loud at the "well-to-do" comment! I am one of the moms featured in the article and we are FAR from wealthy. Homeschooling is important to us so we gave up a lot of material things and even moved so we could provide a home schooling education for our children. My husband works full time & I own a business & work opposite shifts so we can do this. So please don't think it's easy – it's a sacrifice but well worth it for us...

    September 25, 2010 at 4:25 am |
  9. Pastor Mike

    Let Tammy Faye Christ teach the children science!

    September 24, 2010 at 8:36 pm |
  10. Cyndie King

    Professional writers should know the difference. Its not LESS Families..., its FEWER Families.... I see that and cannot be bothered to read the rest of the article. If this simple headline is wrong how much of the story can I believe?

    September 24, 2010 at 10:08 am |
  11. Roxie Dufault

    what a great article ! The only idiotic remark I found was that the kids are not being taught by a professional teacher !
    It is just like the old line asking a woman what she does for a living and the responce being " oh your just a mum "
    My family has several so called professional teachers some working in upscale private schools .I can personally say homeschool mothers have & aquire knowldge far surpassing that of any school teacher.
    The books & subjects these people read and learn and teach no school teacher does that .Most teachers specilaize in one grade level be it primary , junior or senior level.
    In the higher grades teachers often only teach 1-2 subjects . No teacher in the public system has to aquire the same knowledge homeschooling teachers do . Our children are also not bound by restrictions of limiting knowledge accesible to them. homeschooled children are able to access and learn on any subject they choose to where schooled children do not have this luxury .
    yes my spelling sucks , even homeschool teachers have thier weaknesses 😉

    September 24, 2010 at 1:55 am |
  12. Joe

    "Fewer" Families, not "Less"!!!!!

    September 23, 2010 at 10:32 am |
  13. Reality

    Homeschoolers Shine at National Competi-tions

    Once again, homeschoolers have shown the world how dedicated parents can achieve academic success with their children.

    On May 22, eighth-grader James Williams of Vancouver, Washington, became the second homeschooler in a row to place first in the National Geography Bee. James answered the question, "Goa, a state in southwestern India, was a possession of what country until 1961?" James' correct answer, "Portugal," netted him a $25,000 scholarship and a lifetime subscription to National Geographic magazine.

    On May 29, homeschooled eighth-grader Evelyn Blacklock from Tuxedo Park, New York, placed second in the National Spelling Bee. The word that finally tripped her up? "Gnathonic," which means sy-ohantic or fa-wning. In spite of missing out on first place, Evelyn still took home a $6,000 cash prize.

    "Success in these kinds of competi-tions is a logical extension of good academics," says Michael Smith, President of Home School Legal Defense Association. "The achievement of these homeschoolers shows that their parents have provided excellent academic instruction."

    The impact of homeschooling in these academic competi-tions goes beyond students who win. Although homeschoolers make up approximately 2 percent of the U.S. school-age population, they made up 12 percent of the 251 spelling bee finalists and 5 percent of the 55 geography bee finalists. Three of the past seven spelling bee winners have been homeschooled. Last year's homeschooled winner of the geography bee was 10 years old, the youngest in that event's history.

    The high percentage of homeschoolers in national competi-tions has garnered complaints from homeschool critics. Some feel homeschoolers have an unfair advantage over traditionally schooled students since they do not have to follow a public school schedule. One recent article even suggested that these winners come from families who homeschool for the sole purpose of winning contests.

    "No parent I'm aware of homeschools just to win academic competions," says Mr. Smith.

    Parnell McCarter, father of last year's geography bee winner Calvin McCarter, agrees. "I think people feel that homeschoolers can sit at home 10 hours a day studying one subject to prepare for these kinds of compet-itions," Mr. McCarter told WORLD magazine. "Nothing could be further from the truth."

    Homeschooling is not a magic ticket to academic contest victory according to Mike Smith. Yet homeschooling does allow for extra flexibility for children to pursue what interests them.

    "Parents create their homeschool program to adapt to their child's strengths, weaknesses and interests. To compete on the national level, the child must have an intense amount of personal motivation, whatever kind of school that child attends," says Mr. Smith.

    (And with the Internet and/or closed circuit TV, might it be a good idea to do a lot more teaching and learning via these at home services considering the money saved on teachers salaries, energy and busing?)

    September 22, 2010 at 12:12 am |
  14. Summer M

    We homeschool, live in Oklahoma, and religion is the furthest from our household. Or reasons are educational, to escape the "one size fits all" ideal. We're certainly not well-to-do (ha, that was hilarious!) and my kids have a wealth of interaction with a variety of other families in my community.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:10 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.