Home Schools Provide Flexibity, Control for Some Parents
MISSOURI - Public and private schools are the most common choices when it comes to education, but for some families in Missouri, education takes place inside the home.
The classroom inside Kimberly Henze's home closely mirrors the typical public or private school classroom - just with more personal effects. An electronic piano keyboard sits in one corner on a desk. A bookcase stuffed with textbooks, binders, and literature sits against a wall. A whiteboard with colorful magnetic letters, for spelling purposes, hangs on another wall. In the middle of the room sits a wooden table with a seat for Henze and each of her older daughters.
Maria, the oldest in sixth grade at age 11, quietly reads a book while Rose, in second grade at age 8, works on her Latin. Cecilia, in fourth grade at age 9, does her writing homework. All the while, Henze keeps a close eye on her daughters' progress, and after a while moves them to new subjects. Maria begins to practice her spelling on the whiteboard, while Cecilia finishes her homework and moves on to play with her baby sister Seraphina as Rose begins piano lessons on the keyboard.
Henze's two oldest daughters both said they would rather home school than go to public school, and they love the benefits it provides.
"It's just spending more time with family," said Maria, Henze's oldest. "It's kind of a flexible schedule."
And Cecilia said she loves how close her family has become since home schooling.
"I get to stay home, and we can have breaks more, and get to have snacks, and we get to be around our family more," Cecilia said.
Henze said she makes sure to supplement her daughters' learning experiences with outside opportunities that home schooling cannot provide.
In place of physical education, Henze said she takes her oldest daughter to classes with her at Wilson's Fitness, and plans to take Cecilia too, as soon as she turns 11.
Since her daughters are all inclined to the arts, she said she also plans to have her girls take classes at arts and craft stores like Michael's and Hobby Lobby, in subjects like cake decorating and jewelry making.
If the three girls enjoy the piano and want to continue learning, shesaid, she will get a piano teacher for the girls as well.
Henze is also a member of two home school groups that take field trips around the area, such as to the Runge Conservation Center in Jefferson City and a tour of a synagogue.
It's possible for home schooled students to take advantage of some public school classes and extracurriculars. However, home schoolers are split on whether or not this is a good idea.
Home school mother Kristi Haynes said she favors taking advantage of public school opportunities. "I can shelter my children only so much," she said, "they are going to have to live in the world. They're going to have to live with all of the people and all kinds of people and all the children, and that will teach them to be tolerant and it will also elp them to be social."
However, home school lobbyist Kerry Messer feels differently, and "strongly encourages" home schoolers to group together instead of going to public schools for help.
"If we had large numbers of home schoolers dual enrolling in public school that woud create a momentum for the public schools to go to the state legislature and put more restrictions to try to get home schoolers to fit into a universal mold," Messer said.
Home schooling in the state of Missouri is not heavily regulated compared to other states. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education gives out this information on the regulation of home schooling:
- Any parent may educate a child at home. The parent does not need a teaching certificate or need to meet any education requirements in order to provide home instruction.
- If a parent decides to home school, he or she must offer 1,000 hours of instruction during the school year, with at least 600 hours in the basics (reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, science). At least 400 of the 600 hours shall occur in the home location.
- A home school parent must keep the following records: A daily log indicating the subjects taught and the activities engaged in with the student, a portfolio with samples of the student's academic work, or a record of evaluation of the student's academic progress.
- A parent or guardian may tell the superintendent of schools or the recorder of county deeds, in the county where the child legally resides, of their intent to home school. This is to be done before September 1 annually. Home-schooled students do not register with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Henze said she likes it that Missouri is one of the easier states when it comes to home schooling. "I don't have to do any kind of testing, I don't have to report to a school district or the superintendent or any local school. They kind of let us do our own thing."
Jones said, while some kids could slip through the educational cracks, a parent who takes the time to home educate usually wants to provide the best for their children.
"I don't think a parent worth their salt wants their kids to be under the grade and not educated," said Jones. "If they're really into home educating for the right reasons, and most of them are, they will see to it that that child is getting at least the minimum, if not beyond the minimum."