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Several homeschooling moms have spoken out about misunderstandings about their jobs, deflecting criticism that they are ill-equipped to teach their children the basics and that their children are growing up with social skills.
Yvonne Bunn, director of homeschooling and government affairs for the Home Educators Association of Virginia, often works with the General Assembly to protect homeschooling rights and “initiate good homeschooling laws.” After homeschooling her three children in the late 1980s and 1990s, Bunn now advises others on home education.
All three of her children, two boys and a girl, went to college, she told Fox News Digital.
“They’ve done well, they have their own careers and families now,” she said.
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“I felt that as parents, we were responsible for their education,” Bunn said. “So we took it very seriously when we made the choice to homeschool. And we — my husband and I — chose homeschooling because we felt that one-on-one tuition would be the greatest benefit for all of our children.”
Bunn found that her homeschooling allowed her children to “walk at a pace” that worked for them. This led her to what she called the biggest misconception about homeschooling.
“I think the biggest misconception about homeschooling is the idea that parents think they can’t do it because they haven’t been trained to be teachers,” she said. “But that’s not the case at all. We’ve found through studies that homeschool students who are tutored by parents who don’t have a college degree perform as well on standardized achievement tests as those who have a bachelor’s degree or higher. ”
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Bethany Mandel, a homeschooling mother of five, said she feels equipped for homeschooling because she’s letting the legends do the teaching.
“I’m reading Anne of Green Gables right now,” she told Fox News Digital. “And Montgomery teaches it. LM Montgomery teaches literature. And I don’t teach art. We look at Monet and talk about it. And so you let the greats do the teaching instead of teaching you directly, and there is no better art teacher than Monet and no better teacher of literature than Mark Twain.”
“Anyone can provide education in this way, within reason of course,” she concluded.
But she, like some of her home-schooled parents, is still the object of scorn from critics. Mandel was targeted by former MSNBC host Keith Olbermannn on Mother’s Day for her decision to homeschool.
“Imagine writing ‘Homeschool Mom’ in your bio and not understanding you just ruined the lives of five innocent children,” Olbermann tweeted. Mandel shot back at Olbermann that her children were “extraordinarily lucky to be homeschooled.”
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Another misconception about homeschooling, Bunn said, is that parents must teach every major. Often, she said, parents choose to join a cooperative where experts can step in to help.
“They don’t,” she said. “There is so much help out there for homeschoolers. There are so many resources that homeschool parents can use. They can join a co-op with other parents and in the co-op they can have a teacher who may have a degree in some aspect – an advanced course in mathematics, calculus or a science lab, chemistry or biology. And in this co-op she’ll be teaching a small group of students working on those specific subjects… It’s working beautifully.”
“I went to school to be an educator, but I don’t think you need a degree to raise your own kids,” Stephanie McAndrew, director of JBAB Home Educators, a support group for military families living in the Washington area, DC, live , area said. “I don’t think anyone knows your children better than you. I know what motivates and drives my children and where their strengths and weaknesses lie.”
Allison DeMarco, board member of the Florida Parent Educators Association Scholarship Foundation, also emphasized the benefits of one-to-one tutoring.
“I will say, as a parent, no one loves your child and will encourage your child like you do,” she said. “No one is going to spend the time with them and encourage them in areas of learning where they may need extra help or where they can excel, just like a parent would. In a group of 30 children, it is difficult to isolate one child’s need for help in a specific area.”
DeMarco added that they are in a “unique position” in being able to study alongside their children. Her daughter was able to understand her advanced math course “to a greater extent” because the two had to “fight through together”.
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As for critics who say homeschooling can hold kids back on social skills, Bunn said it’s “not a problem.”
“They don’t understand that there are so many ways for your kids to be socialized that you actually have to limit the things that they are involved in,” she said of Skeptics. “There are many clubs, there are many excursions, there are groups that meet, there are field days.”
“It’s part of the out-of-the-box learning that homeschooling is,” she added.
Mandel shared an anecdote about recently taking her kids on a fossil field trip with fellow homeschoolers, and the man who hosted her asked her, “But are you leaving your house?”
“People think we’re locked in and my kids are protected,” Mandel said. “My children socialize with everyone under the sun – young and old – and also form bonds with their siblings that are closer than anyone else.”
McAndrew said she has so many activities on her kids’ list that she feels like a “planned crazy person.”
“It’s definitely not a problem with this group,” she told Fox News Digital of social opportunities. “Sometimes we do so many social activities that I feel like an over-planned madman. We do sports, and the Lego club, the baking club, and the craft club, and there’s an athletics club that the girls start, choir. There are taekwondo lessons and guitar lessons. So they’re definitely busy and always with other kids.”
Bunn said that in her experience, she’s found that homeschooling parents need to “limit” the activities their children are involved in.
Both Mandel and McAndrew found that children in public schools typically only interact with their peers.
“The socialization is very artificial and weird,” Mandel said. “Because it’s not actually socialization. You sit next to someone who is the same age as you most of the day. And that is not to be taken for granted. This is not something you have on an everyday basis after school. You have friends who are all different ages and all different geographies, but in school you’re only exposed to kids who are exactly the same age in a 12-month period. And only in this box. It’s not natural socialization and I would argue that it’s not exactly health socialization either.”
“I think homeschoolers are even better equipped to interact with kids of all ages,” McAndrew agreed.
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Parents agreed that COVID-19 was prompting some families to start homeschooling, especially after seeing what their children were being taught at school.
“I think the parents were very surprised,” Bunn said. “I also think a lot of parents were like, ‘I can do this,’ and maybe ‘I can do better than that.'”
In the past two years, she noted, homeschooling in Virginia has increased 40 percent, with nearly 61,000 homeschoolers now, according to the Virginia Department of Education.
The increase was also noticeable nationwide. In 18 states that shared data this school year, the number of homeschooled students increased 63% in the 2020-2021 school year and then decreased just 17% in the 2021-2022 school year.