I with my topic, and my inquiry question

I originally decided to
do my inquiry on early intervention affects autism in children. However, I
found that there was a consensus on how it affects diagnosed children with
autism: it helps significantly reduce some of the negative effects, as young
children’s brains learn extremely quickly, and the early intervention can help
mold the child’s brain (Early Intervention for Toddlers with Autism Highly
Effective).

            I decided to change my inquiry to homeschooling, as that
has always been an interest of mine. I work in a daycare, and I’ve seen children
(around ages 5-6, since that’s when they go to kindergarten) who have gone to
either traditional kindergarten or who are homeschooled. I couldn’t narrow down
exactly what I wanted to inquire about for quite some time, as I felt many
things were black and white, and there was no room to inquire. After much
research, I came up with my topic, and my inquiry question is “Is homeschooling
really an effective way for students to get an education?”  Rather than focus on just early development, I
also wanted to explore the future of children who are homeschooled, while
placing emphasis on the early years of homeschooling.

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            I know I personally was not a fan of homeschooling before
this inquiry. I thought it was mostly parents sheltering their children from
reality, whether they be trying to give an orthodox religious education or
keeping their children home to assist with work at home. I’ve known people,
adults and children, who were homeschooled, and seemed to have some sort of
social issue. I believed that homeschooling was bad for children’s social
development, and that it affects them into their adulthood. After doing the
inquiry, I believe that homeschooling is an effective way for SOME students, but
not all. Certain kids will thrive in traditional schools, while others will
not. I know I will still send my future children to public school, but it’s
reassuring knowing that there is another option if necessary.

            There are different kinds of homeschooling, including school-at-home,
unschooling, and relaxed. School-at-home is the typical thought when someone
thinks of homeschooling, of children sitting around the kitchen table
completing worksheets. Unschooling is more flexible way of learning, with no formal
curriculum. Children learn based on their interests and use their natural
curiosity to learn. A relaxed style of homeschooling is a mix between
school-at-home and unschooling, with emphasis on children meeting educational
milestones in a similar matter to public school children (The Different Ways to
Homeschool).

            There are also different ways that children are taught.
Charles Mason allows children to learn from play and life experiences. Instead
of filling up their minds with information, children are taught to apply what
they’ve learned. Waldorf is another method, used to educate the whole
child-body, mind, and spirit. Montessori learning encourages children to learn
at their own pace, and this method is used by most homeschoolers with younger
children. Lastly, there is the Multiple Intelligences way of teaching,
pioneered by Howard Gardner. The teachers/parents tailor the activities toward
the child’s strengths and not weaknesses, which makes learning easier for them
(The Different Ways to Homeschool).

            Parents are able to buy different materials to help make
their home into a more educational place. Wooden puzzles and toys, musical
instruments, and plastic kitchen sets are great for preschool aged children. As
children get older and begin kindergarten at home, there are boxes, filled with
curriculum ideas, flashcards, textbooks, hands-on activities, and more.
However, many parents opt to not use these school-in-a-boxes, such as those in
unschooling or relaxed homeschools.

            Parents choose to homeschool their children for different
reasons. An overwhelming majority of parents are upset with the school
environment, while some were dissatisfied with the academic instruction.
Religious and moral concerns were also factors why some parents choose to
homeschool their children (Gordon, A.).

            One family, the Cook family, are homeschooling their two
boys, and they have since their parents opted to not put the oldest in a public-school
kindergarten setting. The Cook parents are independent, free thinkers – the
mother, Samantha, is a blogger and the father, Chris, quit college to pursue a
career in computer. They are a part of a homeschooling community, which is
common for many homeschooling families. Samantha has her boys finish their
workbooks by noon, and comes up with creative activities for her boys to
complete in the afternoon, and those activities are ones that would not be
possible and effective in a traditional classroom. Although her boys have grown
a couple of years since she began homeschooling, her philosophy hasn’t changed.
Samantha has said “If you want something right, do it yourself,” and that
applies to why she homeschools her children. It is the best option for her
family (Tanz, J.).

            A former teacher, Kate, decided to homeschool her son for
his Kindergarten year. She has experience making lesson plans and writing
learning programs, so she didn’t purchase a pre-packaged homeschooling
curriculum. She uses many different tools to help her child learn, such as
learning blocks and magnetic letters. They went on walks in the park and got
creative with different things around the house. Depending on the lesson, Kate
allows the younger sister to join in as well. She teaches him through the
Reggio Emilia method, and when the younger sister is old enough, she will learn
that way as well. Kate blogs her adventures about homeschooling, and quite
frequently mentions how she uses the Reggio Emilia method with her children
(Gribble, K).

            However, parents who homeschool do have to give up
responsibilities, but some families decide that the results are worth what they
have to give up. Kathleen Berchelmann, and her husband Greg, decided to
homeschool their children. They were both full-time workers and while doing
that, they would not have had time to homeschool their children effectively.
They decided that the father would stay home and work part-time from his
computer. Kathleen works as a hospital pediatrician, and she has flexibility
with her hours, so she can be home and teach her children with her husband.
They say that homeschooling was the best decision for their family. Her
children move as quickly or as slowly as they need to, with the material
they’re learning from their supplemental homeschool box. Kathleen has been able
to help mold her children to be the best that they can be. They can lose recess
time if their room isn’t clean, or if the youngest isn’t getting dressed fast
enough, she loses out on free time. She was also able to help out her son’s
poor work ethic, as there was more one-on-one attention. Besides that, it makes
her life easier in general. She no longer spends hours driving around, and it’s
much easier to schedule doctor’s appointments, since she doesn’t need to work
around the kids’ class schedule. There’s more flexibility with vacations, so
they can leave whenever, and weekdays are so much cheaper for plane tickets
than weekend flights. If Kathleen takes her kids to the zoo to learn, it’s less
crowded, and so the kids get more out of the experience (Berchelmann, K.).

            I’ve worked with a lady, Heather, in the childcare I work
at, and I’ve coached her daughter on my swim team. I know she’s homeschooled
her kids for over 10 years, and I chose to ask her about it. She has children
in 12th, 10th, 8th, 5th, and 1st
grade, as well as a 3-year-old. In our interview, she states that her and her
husband had decided that they would homeschool their children, but originally
thought only through 2nd or 3rd grade. Their oldest,
Zeke, is now graduating in the spring, and he was homeschooled all the way
through. Once he became a high school student, they joined a CO-OP, where
different parents teach the classes, based on their experiences. He is
currently in a program called Compass Prep, which is a high school for
homeschooled children. Her other four attend class once a week at the local
YMCA, and then are assigned homework, similar to a college class (H. Hobbs,
personal communication, December 6th, 2017).

            So that her older children are still active and social,
they are a part of something called the Palmetto Teen Group. It is a social
club, where the teenaged children can participate in a prom and other dances.
They have fun get-togethers like bonfires and intramural games like bubble
soccer, as well as service projects to help the community. The younger children
participate in sports at the Y, like soccer, swimming, dance, and more (H.
Hobbs, personal communication, December 6th, 2017).  

Many
of the big attractions in the Charlotte area have a thing called homeschool
discount day, where homeschooling groups can get in for a cheaper price. For
nature/outdoors learning, the Latta Plantation as well as the Daniel Stowe
Botanical Gardens have days like that. A broader science lesson can include
visits to the Asheboro Zoo and Discovery Place. As I am a swim lesson
instructor, I firmly believe that learning to swim is an essential life skill,
and I am pleased that Ray’s Splash Planet offers those days as well. Many
homeschooling parents choose to let their children learn life skills as well as
academic topics, and I believe that this opportunity is a great one (H. Hobbs,
personal communication, December 6th, 2017).

            I also talked to Heather about how she teaches her
younger children like the 1st grader. I also asked for her to
include how she taught the other children when they were younger. Since the
material is easier, I thought she would teach it all to them somehow. She takes
them to the discount homeschool days so that they get hands-on learning.
Besides taking them to the YMCA for their class once a week, she has them
participate in elective CO-OPs, for classes like music and art. She has never
bought a pre-packaged curriculum, as she says it is boring to her. Because she
enjoys tailoring the learning to the children’s individual needs and interests.
However, she wants to make sure that her children are at or above grade level.
When she started homeschooling Zeke, she looked at the NC Department of
Education website and found a bulleted list of what public schools teach, and
skills that students are expected to master. From there, she had ideas of how
she could teach those skills best to her children, and was able to come up with
different activities for them. She also allows her older children to help out
with her younger ones, with help for reading and math (H. Hobbs, personal
communication, December 6th, 2017).

            Despite all of the great success stories of
homeschooling, there are families who have started homeschooling and stopped. Not
every family who has homeschooled thinks that it is the best option for them. Erika
was homeschooled her whole school career until graduation, and it worked for
her. She believed that she had to homeschool her children to prevent them from
a bad education. She couldn’t focus on educating her children the best, as she
was worn out and having health issues. She decided to put her oldest son in
public school for his 4th grade year. However, that didn’t work
because of his behavioral issues, and she so pulled him out to finish his 4th
grade and 5th grade years at home. He was diagnosed with
high-functioning autism, which was the underlying cause of his behavioral
issues, and when he went back to public school, he received an IEP which works
well for him. Erika and her youngest daughter had very similar personalities,
and it did not make for a good student-teacher complex, and it made learning
for her daughter difficult. Her youngest son was in speech therapy before
kindergarten, and she chose to put him in public school with her other two
children, once they moved to a better school district. There, all of her three
children thrive in public school, and they are receiving a much better
education than what Erika believes she could provide at home. (E.)

            Shanti had decided to homeschool her kids because she
felt as though God was calling her to do that. She said that she was ignoring
the nudges that her time for homeschooling was over, citing reasons like that
she felt like she was failing them by sending them away, as well as fear for
her children’s future success. After four months of that, she said that God
told her to enroll her children in public school, and so she did. She felt a
rush of relief when she did that, and now her kids are doing well at a private Christian
school. She believed her children needed space apart from each other as well as
from her, and that her role and teacher and mother was ready to transition into
just being a mother to her kids (Landon, S.).

            Kristen Layne’s son Mahlon was born with moderate
hypotonia, or low muscle tone. Once he was getting close to entering
kindergarten, she decided to homeschool him. Because of his physical
disability, she was afraid he would attempt things on the playground his body
couldn’t handle, or that other kids would tease him. She stumbled around,
trying to make it work, even though she didn’t enjoy it. Soon after, her son
Peanut was supposed to enter kindergarten. Peanut and Mahlon were best friends
and attached at the hip, so it was easy for Kristen to decide to homeschool
Peanut. Peanut was stubborn and wouldn’t cooperate if he didn’t want to do something
asked of him. Him and Mahlon would team up against Kristen, and make it
difficult for her to teach them anything. Once they moved to a new school system,
she signed both boys up for public school. They loved being in public school.
Mahlon had mentioned previously that he didn’t have friends to invite to his
birthday party, and now he does. The brothers enjoy all the crafts and hands-on
experiences they get in public school that Kristen felt like she wasn’t able to
give them. She is much happier with her decision now, and has decided that her
one-year-old will not be homeschooled, and will go straight into kindergarten
at a public school (Layne, K.)

To
help me understand more about the process of homeschooling, I’ve looked at what
is inside school-in-a-box boxes, and they can be quite inclusive. Things from
picture flashcards to math puzzles to origami can be included. I also looked
into online programs such as abcmouse.com, and I believe that those can be
supplemental to the child’s learning, depending on what topics they are
learning and what kind of a learner they are. No matter how many materials are
available to a child, they will not be successful without guidance. To aid a
child in learning, a parent must be dedicated to helping their child succeed,
and to do that, I think that they should take professional development classes.
A parent knows their child best, but often times is not a certified teacher,
and even one class could make a difference, whether it be in the child’s
understanding or the parent/teacher-student complex.

            The process of this inquiry was definitely difficult, as
I had to take a lot of time in the beginning to decide what to actually inquire
upon. After doing the inquiry, my opinion on homeschooling has definitely
changed. I no longer think that homeschooling is just for those who are trying
to shelter their kids, although I’m sure many people still do. I am not a
religious person, and so it took me quite some time to understand why some
people homeschooled based on their faith, like Shanti. I had to talk to some of
my friends who were quite religious, so that the emotions behind it were more
personal to me, before I was able to comprehend it. That was one of the biggest
struggles for me with this inquiry. Another was actually deciding on this
topic, and trying to make sure that I focused on early childhood. As I
mentioned before, my original topic had a pretty clear-cut scientific answer,
and so digging through different homeschooling topics and resources that
applied to early childhood that also appealed to me was difficult.

Homeschooling
can provide a wonderful way for children to learn in an environment that best
suits them, but all of the factors must work well together. Kristen was not
passionate about homeschooling, and part of the reason it did not work for her
family was because of that, even though she tried. However, without
homeschooling, certain children would not excel in the ways that they did. I’ve
personally met all of Heather’s children, and they would not be the people they
are today without their homeschooling experience. Heather is such a dedicated
homeschool teacher, and that contributes as to how her children are excelling
in what they do.

I
now believe that a student can receive an effective education from
homeschooling, and to learn more about why that is, I think there are many
different routes I could take. I could look into more of the psychological
aspects, like Gardner’s multiple intelligences, or Bandura’s social learning
theory. Because I really enjoy the sciences, I could look into the parts of the
brain that control learning, like the cerebrum. I could look into the nature
vs. nurture theory, and see if that plays an impact on how a child learns. On
the contrary, I could look into if children receive an effective education in
public school, or in a private school or charter. There are many ways I could
continue this inquiry, and even though it has not changed my mind on
homeschooling my children, I have learned a lot more about homeschooling and
that it is the best option for some families.