When you move to Frederick County's most exciting planned community, Brunswick Crossing, here are some?interesting facts on alternative education, Homeschooling.
Homeschooling is growing in Frederick County and the United States. According to Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) there are approximately 2170 registered homeschoolers in the county, up from 1655 last year. Nationwide, the relative increase in the percentage of students homeschooled has been dramatic, increasing by 74% from 1999 to 2007, the last date numbers were captured by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) (http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2009/2009.pdf).
As the numbers increase, so do the reasons that people choose to homeschool. Many people assume that most parents homeschool for religious reasons. But per the NCES, this is only cited as the most important reason for about one third of families: “The reason being most important was to provide religious or moral instruction (36 percent). For an additional 21 percent, the most important reason was concern about the school environment, and for 17 percent it was dissatisfaction with the academic instruction available at other schools.” Other “most important” reasons cited included interest in a non-traditional education, special needs, and family time, travel or distance.
How Is Homeschooling Regulated?
Homeschooling laws vary by state. In Maryland, homeschoolers have a few options for how they choose to be monitored. After registering with their local system, they must choose to be monitored by the local school system, or they may choose to be supervised by a private school or organization, often church-related, that is registered with Maryland’s Department of Education. Homeschoolers monitored by their local school system keep a portfolio of the student’s work to demonstrate compliance. Participation in the state’s standardized testing is optional and parents may choose the curriculum used.
Benefits of Homeschooling
Homeschooling can be a great way to provide individualized instruction based on the child’s needs and/or interests. For example, a teen interested in art could structure their homeschool day around project-based learning. Their course of study may include building a portfolio, interviewing working artist, studying geometry as it pertains to art and architecture, writing a business plan for selling their art work, and volunteering as a teen intern at the National Gallery of Art.
Students can move at their own pace and work at their own level without feeling rushed or held back. The ability to get things done in a focused manner often allows more time for outside activities such as sports, music lessons, volunteering, or internships.
Many homeschoolers also join local homeschool cooperatives which meet on a regular basis for socializing, field trips, and academic enrichment. Frederick County has many active homeschool cooperatives. You can find a list of these at www.homeschoolfrederick.com under the listing for support groups.
Many colleges, including some of the most selective, are now very accepting of homeschoolers and one Frederick County homeschooling family currently has two children enrolled at Harvard University.
Downsides to Homeschooling
Parents are fully responsible for the costs of school materials, textbooks, and supplies, and sometimes there is a loss of one income when a parent is homeschooling. Parents who choose to homeschool give up certain benefits available to children in the public school system. For example, homeschooled children in Maryland, unlike many other states, are not allowed to participate in school sponsored sports or other after-school activities. With regard to special education, FCPS will provide Child Find services which include location, identification, and evaluation of students who are homeschooled within Frederick County. But no special education services are provided by FCPS after the evaluation if the child remains homeschooled. This differs from children parentally-placed in private schools who may retain eligibility for some special education services.
Find Out More
Frederick County has a large and welcoming homeschool community. For more information on this growing educational alternative see: www.homeschoolfrederick.com and www.fcps.org.
By: Beth Redmond, Homeschool Frederick “Reprinted with permission of The Frederick County Guide”