Sunday, September 14, 2008

Homeschooling on the Rise

Sara Garman doesn't have to worry about a school dress code or the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

As one of the 2,000-plus students on Florida's Treasure Coast who is homeschooled, the 14-year-old feels she has more of a say about what she studies.

"I do think we learn more because we can do more things," Sara said. "It's not just about learning what's on a test."

When the upcoming school year begins Aug. 18 for Treasure Coast public schools, there likely will be more home schooled students than ever before, and the number of homeschooled students is expected to continue to rise.

For the 2007-08 school year, the Florida Department of Education estimated 56,650 students were home schooled, compared with 31,440 students in 1997-98 -- an 80 percent increase.

About 1.1 million students were being home schooled in the United States in the spring of 2003, a 29 percent increase from the 850,000 four years earlier, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Education.

"We look at home schooling as a way of life as opposed to the way we educate our children," said Sara's mother, Susan Garman, of St. Lucie County.

Beth Gunsalus of Vero Beach is beginning her 13th year of home schooling. The mother of two said there are many different reasons families choose to home school.

She and her husband made the decision at the urging of their son, Neil, who was 7 at the time. They thought it would be a one-year experiment.

"I think it has been one of the wisest choices our family has made," said Gunsalus, a director of the Florida Parent Educators Association who represents Indian River, St. Lucie, Brevard and Okeechobee counties.

Neil, now 20, graduated from home school in May and also earned an associate's degree from Indian River State College, where he was dual-enrolled.

Gunsalus said her daughter Catherine, 16, should also receive an associate's degree from Indian River State College by the time she finishes high school.

"Home schooling has created a greater family unity, but it has allowed us to sculpt an education program that's met our children's learning styles and met the desires of their hearts," Gunsalus said.

Read it all here.

For information on homeschooling in the UK and homeschooling resources, go here.

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