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In Kids & Family

The Flood family is a homeschooling success story.

Local families choose homeschooling


The object of admiration, suspicion or even derision, homeschoolers -- like all families -- are not easily categorized. There are nearly 20,000 home-schooled kids in the state, and each family has its own unique set of circumstances as to why they opt out of the system.

On a recent morning, Margie Flood and her three children -- two grown college students and one teen -- sat around the fireplace of the Flood's Cedarburg home to lend some insight into homeschooling.

"Homeschooling is difficult to explain, because every family does it differently, and there are so many prejudices against it," says Sam Flood, 21, who was homeschooled for elementary and high school. Sam is currently an English and theater major at Lawrence University in Appleton. His sister, 19-year-old Ariana, also attends Lawrence. Their youngest sibling, Clara Margaret, 14, is currently learning at home.

"A lot of my friends at college don't believe me that I was homeschooled," says Sam. "They say 'but you're not weird!'"

Homeschooling stereotypes are plentiful, including that home-schooled children don't receive enough socialization.

"People have the notion that we don't see people our own age," says Ariana. "But there are group learning experiences and support networks, and extra curricular activities where we have plenty of opportunities to socialize."

All of the Flood children were permitted to try public school at any time. Ariana, for example, chose to attend public school in third grade.

"I wanted to see what it was like. I enjoyed it a lot, but I liked homeschooling better. I missed my homeschooling friends, and I didn't feel like I was missing anything by being at home," says Ariana.

Homeschooling is a lifestyle choice that works for some families, but is not ideal for all families.

Margie says she and her husband Rick decided to home-school when Sam was about to enter kindergarten. At the time, the family lived in Ohio, and they were unhappy with the number of students in the public kindergarten classrooms and were concerned about bullying. While researching alternatives, Margie heard about a homeschooling group.

"Up until that point, I thought home-schooling was just for creationists / fundamentalist Christians, but then I realized homeschooling doesn't have to have anything to do with religion," she says. "It's about learning together, growing together and schooling at home and in the community."

In Wisconsin, all children between the ages of 6 and 18 must receive at least 875 hours a year of instruction, including reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, science and health. Parents who decide to homeschool must submit a form of enrollment in their private school to the Department of Public Instruction. (Homeschools in Wisconsin need to meet the same requirements as any other private school.)

About 1.5 million kids are homeschooled in the United States. According to the Department of Public Instruction, 19,358 students were homeschooled in Wisconsin, which is 1.92 percent of the state's total student population.

According to Margie, the homeschooling community in Milwaukee is strong and it continues to give her the support she needs as a homeschooler.

"Milwaukee has a very vibrant homeschooling community," she says. "The parents have very diverse skill sets."

Since the height of homeschooling's popularity in 2000, the number of homeschooled children continues to slightly decrease. Some of the reasons for this might be the appeal of charter and Waldorf schools and / or the fact that both parents need to work outside the home as the economy struggles.

"I would like to say homeschooling is not hinged on finances, but both parents can't work full time and homeschool successfully," says Margie, who is a freelance violinist.

Larry Kaseman is the founder and executive director of the Wisconsin Parents Association (WPA) in Madison. He homeschooled his four children, all of whom are now grown.

"The WPA ensures that parents are aware of choices in education, particularly in the area of homeschooling," says Kaseman.

Kaseman believes homeschooling is a solid choice because it accommodates kids' individual learning styles, exposes children to social situations with people of many different ages, establishes strong relationships with parents and siblings and instills problem-solving skills.

Some homeschooling families use an online or book-based curricula. Margie Flood, however, taught her kids based on what they were interested in at the time and infused their learning with necessities like math and grammar. When the kids were young, the family spent hours every week at the library, researching various subjects.

"If I become intrigued by something, like a point in history, homeschooling gives me the freedom to learn about it all day," says Clara Margaret.

Cardinal Lemoine, with the support of her husband, Jeff, plans to home-school her children, Griffin, age 5, and Iris, 2.

"Homeschooling is about learning things when it makes sense to the learner, rather than because that person has reached a certain age or is compelled to do so by some arbitrary authority," says Lemoine.
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Talkbacks

HSCollegeGuide | Dec. 23, 2009 at 2:26 p.m. (report)

Great article on homeschooling, keep it up! http://HomeSchoolCollegeCounselor.com

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CoolerKing | Dec. 23, 2009 at 7:30 a.m. (report)

A friend from high school homeschooled his kids because he felt the rural area he lived in didn't offer much for education. The kids still had a good social life with their public-schooled neighbor kids and went on to really kick ass in college. One's an engineer, the other is studying law. Both applied for and received scholarships.

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rob | Dec. 22, 2009 at 11:04 a.m. (report)

Great article Molly. Well written and thanks for sharing this info wit us.

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