Home Schooling Revealed
- Categorized in: Features – Past Issues
Mia and Chris Faber, of Manchester took the plunge into home schooling when they were told their son had been born too late in the year to begin kindergarten and would need to wait another year to enter public school. Private school, meanwhile, was too expensive for them.
Six years later, Mia, whose undergraduate degree was in education, has taught their son through the elementary school levels and also home-schooled their daughter through the second grade. And while she is constantly with her kids and she says her home is always a mess, it is a lifestyle she has stuck with for reasons beyond why she first began.
“Home schooling,” said Faber. “is the parent taking responsibility for the children’s education instead of letting the village raise them. I know every bit of what my son is learning. I know when he has trouble with an issue. I know the day that he stopped flipping letters around. I know the day that he mastered his times tables.
“I’m part of it,” she said. “It’s not just, ‘Look, here’s a piece of paper,’ four times a year.”
Home schooling often emphasizes the parents’ priorities, contrasted with public schools, which serve to provide students with the skills and knowledge to make productive citizens, and private schools that fashion an education based on their mission, according to Margaret Trader, an associate professor of education at McDaniel College in Westminster and the department’s chairwoman.
Michelle Field of Sykesville had studied to be a public school teacher, but nearly two decades ago she had “concerns for what kind of holes” there would be in her older daughter’s education, she said. “One of my church friends suggested that I consider home schooling. The more I thought and prayed about it, the more I felt God wanted me to do it.” She went on to teach her two daughters all the way from kindergarten through high school; her youngest is entering her senior year.
“I was able not just to teach what was considered the ideal education,” said Field, “but to take a step further and see what suits my daughters’ personality, interests and intrigues, and see how I can create in her a love for learning that goes beyond what’s on the curriculum and goes into what God has planned and purposed for her.”
But it is not just religion that can lead a parent to home schooling. Mia Faber, for example, is the new member coordinator for Educating Our Own, a secular support group and co-op for about 30 home-schooling families in Carroll and Baltimore counties and Pennsylvania.
There are other similar organizations in the area that help parents teach certain subjects and provide students with more opportunities to study and socialize outside of their homes.
“There are so many resources available,” said Karen Poirier, a Mount Airy resident and a member of Homeschoolers in Service, a support group in which parents talk about curricula and issues they are having, among other topics. “There are so many people doing it. I have a lot of support.”
Poirier has been almost completely responsible for teaching her son and daughter, who will be entering eighth and sixth grade, respectively, this fall. She said her husband, Keith Poirier, pitches in “because I’m not good with math.”
They had both been educated in public schools, but Keith encouraged Karen to teach their kids at home. Their children benefit from socializing with adults and other home-school students of various ages, Karen Poirier said, and they also are able to incorporate religious teachings.
“We are Christian, so there is some aspect of wanting our kids to understand some Biblical perspectives about creation, because they don’t teach creation [in public school],” she said. “We’re not opposed to them knowing about evolution, but we also want them to know about creation.”
Maryland law requires home-school students to study several subjects: art, English, health, mathematics, music, physical education, reading, science, and social studies.
The Carroll County public school system recommends five hours of instruction a day, five days a week, 36 weeks a year, for a total of 180 days. Students’ work is verified through portfolio reviews, which usually take place twice a year and can be conducted up to three times per school year. Those reviews can also be conducted by state-approved oversight groups, which are sometimes called umbrella groups.
“I have to provide the director of the umbrella group with a list of the books and publishers that I’m going to be using for the year for each child,” said Poirier, who said her kids have reviews at the beginning and end of the school year and provide examples of their work throughout the year, including those for arts, music and gym.
With Poirier’s children, studying can mean trips away from home for karate classes and music lessons. The rest of the instruction comes from her, with help from other resources, including online courses and DVD tutorials in which a teacher walks through math book lessons with the student.
“When you start from kindergarten, you’re kind of learning along with them, too,” Poirier said. “A lot of this comes back to you.”
And the one-on-one instruction can allow for more effective, more expedient education, Faber said.
“The amount of work that a single student or even four kids can get done in four hours would take a public school kid the entire day,” she said. “My son will be doing algebra next year at 10. And yes, he’s good at math, but he’s not a genius. It’s just that we were able to keep going. If there was a problem, we’d sit on it until he got it.”
Nevertheless, there are disadvantages: “Sometimes you honestly do need a break from each other,” Field said. “As a home-school mom, you do need to get outside and not just be with the kids.”
But some of the perceived problems with home schooling — a lack of socializing outside of the home, an inability to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities — no longer exist, said parents, who point to recreational councils and numerous activities, as well as groups and organizations that can bring kids together.
Although some parents prefer private or home schooling, there is value to public education, according to Trader, who said she was speaking both as a professor and as a parent. Public school “was exactly what my children needed,” she said.
The quality and content of public school education are better than they are sometimes portrayed, Trader said.
“Carroll County public schools is a wonderful school system,” she said. “At McDaniel, we place our student teachers at CCPS. They don’t always look for other jobs in other counties; they wait for jobs in Carroll County.”