Homeschooling that’s out of the box

by Regina Mobley

13NEWS /

Updated Friday, Dec 3 at 6:36 PM

Posted on December 3, 2010 at 5:30 PM



While the nation is dealing with an education crisis, many parents across the nation and here in Hampton Roads have abandoned public schools and are homeschooling their children.

The homeschooling trend started in the 1980’s and was primarily fueled by religious concerns. But today, safety and curriculum concerns have some 1.5 million children students studying at home.

A four year old homeschooling program in Norfolk is truly “Out of the Box”. It is based in a church, but it is not church based.

Once a week at the Unitarian Church in Norfolk’s Ghent, homeschooling families tap into an education co-op of sorts.

In one small room, young children are learning to speak French. Down the hall there’s a government class titled “My Town” and in a creative use of space, the church foyer is the home of a class in digital photography.

Out of the Box parent and volunteer Rosemary Ayres says the curriculum- free program is far from the homeschooling of the 80’s where religion was the fourth “R”.

“We are liberal, we are Christian, and we are Jewish. We are of many faiths, many traditions, we are white, black and Asian. We have all types of cultures and religions; we have come a long way.”

Religious or secular, homeschooling is once again soaring in America.

A recent survey conducted by the Department of Education shows the homeschooling rate in America has increased from 1.7 percent in 1999 to 2.2 percent in 2003 and 2.9 percent in 2007. This represents a relative 74 percent increase over eight years.

19 year old Rebekah Goldberg of Suffolk is a product of homeschooling. Now a freshman at Tidewater Community College in Virginia Beach, Rebekah says the only thing she missed by not attending public schools was bad behavior by peers.

When asked if she would she send her future children to public schools, Rebekah offered a conditional yes.

“I think that I would send my child to public school to see how it went. If I didn’t like what was going on and how they are being taught, I would take them out and try to teach them myself.”

Out of the Box parent Rosemary Ayers says teaching from home has become a lot easier thanks to the internet.

“There are online courses kids can take; an expert is just a phone call or click away.”

But Norfolk State University political science professor Dr. Elsie Barnes says even with help from cyberspace, parents should do their homework before abandoning the structure of traditional schools.

“I would ask the parent to say, do I really want to do this? And if I do, do I have the discipline number one? Do I have the time number two, and then three can I afford to do this?”

There are also legal concerns. Under Virginia law, parents have to notify their school district every August if the family plans to homeschool. In addition, the curriculum must be described and the teaching parent has to prove that he or she is a high school graduate.

As far as academic results are concerned, a recent study conducted by the Homeschooling Legal Defense Association showed home schooled college freshmen scored an average of 26.5 on the ACT, while freshmen from traditional schools scored a 25.