By The Coeur d'Alene Press

There are about 2.3 million home-educated students in the U.S. (as of spring 2016). This movement appears to be growing at 2 percent to 8 percent a year. There are no clear records showing the number of home-schoolers in Idaho since there are no reporting requirements for parents of home-schoolers. Idaho ranks as a very homeschool “friendly” state with few restrictions.

A demographically wide variety of people home-school: These are atheists and faith-based; conservatives, libertarians, and liberals; low-, middle-, and high-income families; black, Hispanic, and white; parents with Ph.D.s, GEDs, and no high school diplomas. One study shows that 32 percent of home-school students are black, Asian, Hispanic, and others (i.e., not white/ non-Hispanic) (Noel, Stark, & Redford, 2013). Many parents choose home-schooling to impart their values, which they believe are counter to what is going on in public education.

The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public school students on standardized academic achievement tests. A 2015 study found black homeschool students scoring 23 to 42 percentile points above black public school students (Ray, 2015). Home-school students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income. Home-educated students typically score above average on the SAT and ACT tests that colleges consider for admissions.

To follow through on this trend, I interviewed a mother of three daughters, Tracey Johnson, who is active in home schooling and been very active in their education. Tracy has a degree in nursing and her husband, Duke, is a physician. Their eldest daughter is also a physician and in her second year of residency; the middle daughter has just finished her master’s degree and applied for medical school; and the youngest is 14. Education is a priority for the family!

Tracey is involved with a homeschool group called “Classical Conversations,” which meets weekly. I asked her about her experiences as a homeschooling mom.

Tracey, explain the purpose of Classical Conversations and why you are involved.

There are over 100,000 students in more than 22 countries using this model of education. The purpose is to support the home-centered education movement by teaching both parents and students utilizing the classical education model of learning based upon the Trivium so they are taught how to think logically and discover for themselves truths not found in secular, public education. The results of the national surveys done on home-schoolers prove that an excellent education is certainly possible. I wanted our daughters not only to be well-educated but to have a love of learning and to see the world through a Christ-centered worldview.

How often do you meet and where?

We meet weekly for 24 weeks for the younger students and 30 weeks for the older students. Our group in Post Falls meets at North Country Chapel. Since we limit the size of the classes, we have 16 communities in northern Idaho alone, including Coeur d’Alene, Athol, Sandpoint,

Bonners Ferry, Lewiston and there are many more throughout the state.

You mentioned an older group. How are students divided by age?

Ages 4 to 12 meet in classes of eight, learning grammar level material in six subjects, in addition to a history timeline. These students also learn music, art, and participate in hands-on science experiments and give weekly presentations.

The older students, 12 and up, learn in small groups as well, but are divided by each grade/ level. When we meet, we will cover six or more subjects taught by one tutor for the day. We limit the size of the group to have more interaction among the students. Students will learn history, science, math, Latin, English, geography, music, art, economics, logic, debate, Shakespeare, and more.

You have tutors but are they the parents? How are parents involved?

The tutors are parents that have been trained to lead their program level in all of the subjects. We require parents to attend with their students for the younger age group and strongly encourage attendance at the older levels. The parents have the privilege and the responsibility of being the teacher and assigning grades.

A criticism leveled at home schooling is the lack of social interaction and extracurricular activities. What opportunities are there for those experiences?

A good question but there is no lack of activity since we have field trips, debate, mock trials, and social get-togethers. Also, Idaho mandates by law that home-schoolers can attend classes or participate in activities such as music or athletics through the school district; and many do.

As students get ready for college, where do they get their academic records and diplomas?

Classical Conversations offers a transcript service for its members and can provide these records to any institution. We have found that almost all colleges are very welcoming to all home-schoolers and their performance and maturity is a benefit. The national average of ACT composite scores is 20.8 and for CC it is 30.2. We also perform over 20 percent above the average on SAT.

Yours is not the only home-school community in the area and there are others I have noticed.

Yes, this is a great community that offers so much support to homeschool families. There is CHOIS, NIHEA and others that meet and encourage each other and offer help in getting started. All of these and ours are available by searching the internet.

Tracey, thank you for your time. Is there anything you would like to add about your experiences homeschooling?

I would encourage parents not to be intimidated. It is easier than you think with all of the resources, and one of the biggest benefits is how the time involved brings about a much stronger relationship with your children.

This article provided by NewsEdge.