Kristina Madrid’s kids on their first day of homeschooling, 2021-22. (Courtesy photo)
“Homeschooling is becoming more popular every day, with a growth rate of 7 to 15 percent per year. There are about two million children currently learning at home. Homeschooled kids do well on standardized tests, are welcome at colleges and universities, and as adults, have a reputation for being self-directed learners and reliable employees.” — familyeducation.com
Homeschooling, especially during the pandemic when schools were shut down and learning went remote, is gaining in popularity.
Typically, the advantages for those homeschooling their children include: educational freedom, physical freedom, emotional freedom, religious freedom, closer family relationships, stability during difficult times (the pandemic is a great example of this), well-rested kids, no busywork – and when you need a hug, there’s always one nearby.
Disadvantages are time restraints, financial restraints, being with those kids 24/7, limited team sports and living outside the so-called norm.
The Observer wanted to know why so many parents opt to teach their own kids — many of them doing so for the first time when the pandemic hit and online learning became a chore for many children — forsaking education systems already in place,
“I feel strongly that our educators try their best, and are doing amazing job in classrooss, but feel caught between a rock and hard place because of class size and (required tasks),” said Sarah Candelaria, a former educator and one-time kindergarten teacher at Enchanted Hills Elementary in Rio Rancho,
Candelaria is a homeschooling advocate and great source for others considering that alternative to private/public schooling their kids. She was a pre-kindergarten consultant at UNM, where she trained new teachers on best practices in the classroom. Candelaria is the youth program director for Nature Niños, which provides summer programming and is a great place for field trips.
Her eldest child, homeschooled the past 15 years, is now 17 and enrolled at CNM. She has two other children being schooled at home.
“Tweaking” the curriculum has been valuable, Candelaria said, “(and it’s) the beauty of homeschooling.”
Eight local homeschooling moms, each educating her own kids from 3-18 years, were sent seven questions about homeschooling.
Here are some of their answers.
Observer: What made you decide homeschooling was preferred or a better method for your child(ren) than public or private schooling?
Mikayla Weston: “I think the biggest advantage was seeing my children grow in a peaceful environment. To be able to give them time with friends that’s not just a 30-minute lunch break. To know when we need to slow down the pace of our curriculum or push on because we have mastered something faster than planned. When a question pops up, I can pause everything and we can dive deep into conversation. My daughter is in kindergarten now and it’s a beautiful gift to be asked a question and be able to grab a book and research it together. It’s amazing to see that there’s a cultural festival happening and make our studies about that before we go. Not only is my child learning, but I’m learning right along with them sometimes.”
Observer: What are the advantages, as you’ve seen them?
Mona Koerner: “A flexible schedule, so we can travel and do schoolwork on the road, thrives in this environment. The No. 1 advantage was being able to customize the learning to our student. We chose a university model school to start with, because they advertised the ability for a student to access different levels of learning (i.e., different grades) in each subject. So, presumably one that was good at math could be in a higher grade than their age or other subjects. My daughter started her kindergarten year going to first grade math. However, by first grade the second-grade math was too slow and there was not the option to jump to third grade. Other issues arose causing us to question some of the content that was being taught. Being both life-long learners we found it unacceptable that they taught incorrect facts and that the worldview/beliefs didn’t line up with ours. … charter schools and the local public school all schools are targeted to the masses and not to individuals.”
Observer: What are the drawbacks?
Debbie Bonzon: “It doesn’t last forever. The comments we’d get from people, at times, were a reminder we were doing something ‘different’ and we’ve had some unkind things said and attitudes toward us from ‘suspicious’ and ‘well meaning’ people. But that is no different than public school or life in general. People can say mean things, but I had the opportunity to talk with my children in how to respond with grace and to not hold a grudge. So, even drawbacks became an opportunity for teaching.”
Observer: Have you had any problems obtaining a curriculum or materials while homeschooling?
Kristina Madrid: “Not at all! There are so many veterans of homeschooling and resources that can be found through CAPE-NM (Christian Association of Parent Educators, New Mexico); HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association); and even Facebook groups for homeschooling that can help point you in the right direction. A lot of seasoned homeschool parents can share which curriculum worked best in their opinion for the different kinds of learners in their home. … There are homeschooling curricula available for checkout at Rio Rancho libraries and the Home-Education Resource Center in Albuquerque. Frequently, you can even get hand-me-down items from the homeschool groups for free. There are also co-ops available, so that other parents who have experience in or experience teaching a certain subject can help. The homeschool community is extremely helpful and will do what they can to help homeschooling go well for you if that is what you choose to do. There are a lot of readily available options to suit the needs of a family.”
Observer: How do you measure your child(ren)’s success?
Mikayla Weston: “I measure their success by growth. It can be difficult to learn a new skill, but to watch your children press on to gain this skill is success. We see it in a variety of ways, but my favorite is application. We learn things in school that we can apply to the real world. It’s small, but it’s amazing to see my daughter remember phonics through her reading journey. It’s amazing to see my son be able to talk to other kids about the things he learned on a trip to another state because we had the time. Learning comes from everywhere and having children who see that is success.”
Observer: What do you believe you can do better than a licensed educator?
Amy Fletcher: “I am able to spend the one-on-one time my child was needing at first. In a public school, he didn’t get that too often because there are a lot of kids in one classroom. He needed (to be) redirected often since he is a special needs kid. I was able to keep him on track.”
Dr. Shelly Gruenig: What else would you like to add to this story?
Dr. Shelly Gruenig: “Homeschooling is a lifestyle, not simply an educational choice for families. You see this represented as homeschool parents not only educate their children, but also serve our community through service organizations, churches and more. One example is in 2005, I founded a robotics program, R4Creating, to serve my children and their friends. Seventeen years later, R4Creating is a nonprofit that continues to serve the community and thousands of kids have participated in the program over the years. … The students involved in the program learned about the many facets of entrepreneurship and leadership by starting a STEM education business alongside me that continues to serve tens of thousands of students and educators in our state while shaping their careers and life launch plans. These experiences facilitate better decision-making and problem-solving skills, while giving an awareness of the world that ultimately builds a student’s competitive advantage.”
Just as public or private schools aren’t for everyone — and homeschooling has become a popular alternative lately — not every parent has the time and ability to educate their child(ren) at home.
“Parents should make decisions based on what is best for their children and families,” said RRPS Superintendent Sue Cleveland.
“Rio Rancho Public Schools offers a quality choice for parents looking for an environment that provides multiple opportunities for all students including rigorous academics, award-winning fine arts programs and state championship sports programs.” she said. “In fact, a number of homeschool students in Rio Rancho participate in extra or co-curricular programs and even some classes offered by RRPS. If homeschool families are interested in learning more about how they can participate in our programs, we encourage them to give us a call.”