By TYLER REYNARD, For The Times Leader
WHEELING — Judi Meyer said she wishes she began homeschooling her children years before she did, as she values the time and educational opportunities she is able to share with her children. Homeschooling continues to be a growing trend, both locally and across the country. What are the pros and cons of homeschooling? Meyer’s two eldest — now college-age children — were in first and second grades when she made the decision to move them from the traditional classroom to a home learning environment. The three main reasons behind her choice: an opportunity to strengthen family bonds, learning in a faith-based environment, and the luxury to learn at their own pace. Meyer said the close ties her family has would have been hard to attain had they been separated during the school day. She had given birth to twins just before she started homeschooling her two oldest children and said the connection between the siblings would have been hindered had the two oldest not been homeschooled. The most important part of every instruction day is the “character training” her children receive in a Christian environment, Meyer said. Also, if a child is advanced, Meyer believes they can quickly become bored in school; if they learn at a slower pace, they are left behind their peers and lack a strong educational foundation. She said she wanted her children to work toward mastery in their education, whether quickly or slowly. Those unfamiliar with homeschooling say pulling a child from the classroom can have negative effects on his or her socialization skills, a critique that Meyer said she and other homeschoolers find “comical.” Meyer and fellow homeschool mother Sharon Paul created the Ohio Valley Christian Home Educators more than 20 years ago. The group connects home educating families in the Ohio Valley and has grown to include more than 90 families. The group gathers for educational instruction outside of their home such as science labs, as well as gym classes and recreational events including field trips. Because of such gatherings and social outings, Meyer believes her children receive a great deal of socialization with students of many different age groups. When Meyer read that homeschooled children tend to struggle the most with note taking, she instructed her children to take notes from sermons and CDs. She then had them draft papers using those notes for reference. Meyer’s oldest son is preparing to graduate from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, while her second oldest will soon enter art school. She said both completed their high school education early, and her oldest son has excelled socially and academically in the college environment. She continues to educate her two 14-year-olds, as well as her 12- and 8-year-old. Paul’s children are 24- and 23-years-old and have both graduated college, the youngest earning magna cum laude honors.
Pros • Educational Freedom. Most homeschooled students have the choice to study and learn what they want, when they want, for as long as they want. • Physical Freedom. After the initial shock of leaving the school system has passed, parents who homeschool say they experience a real sense of freedom. • Emotional Freedom. Sadly, peer pressure, competition, boredom, and bullies are part of a typical school day. This can be a particular problem for girls. Homeschooled kids can dress and act and think the way they want, without fear of ridicule or a need to “fit in.” • Religious Freedom. Many families feel their religious and spiritual beliefs are an important part of who they are. Homeschooling provides the opportunity for parents to incorporate their beliefs into their daily lives. • Closer Family Relationships. Just about every family stressed the important role that homeschooling played in helping them find time to foster loving ties between all family members. • Stability During Difficult Times. Whether there’s a new baby, an illness, a death in the family, or another obstacle or transition, homeschooling helps families cope during challenging periods. • Well-Rested Kids. As more and more studies are illustrating, sleep is vital to the emotional and physical well-being of kids, especially teens and preteens. The effects of early morning classes can be devastating to many children, especially those who are not morning people. • No Busywork. Homeschooled children can accomplish in a few hours what takes a typical classroom a week or more to cover.
Cons • Time Restraints. There’s no way around it: learning outside of a school environment can consume a lot of mom or dad’s time. • Financial Restraints. For married parents, one partner often foregoes full-time employment out of the home in order to homeschool. • Being with Your Kids 24/7. • Living Outside the Norm. Like any activity that challenges mainstream thinking, homeschooling may be seen as an oddity at best, or even as a threat to those who are unable to accept ordinary parents succeeding where trained professionals often fail.
Judi Meyer said she has only seen positive effects from homeschooling her children. Pictured with Meyer, from left, are her children Elijah, Chaz, Zane and Faith.