Education is always a huge issue in the news, for the simple reason that most, if not all, of us start out as children. Many of us also have or have had school-age kids. Education has particularly been in the news recently in our region because of Gov. Cuomo’s school funding news last week in the budget, which has drawn less-than-enthusiastic reviews from New York State educators; and the Common Core rollout continues with state legislators looking to fix the problems with the implementation of the news standards that have emerged so far. Meanwhile, our local schools continue to face funding problems galore.
Some parents, though, don’t worry so much about public school funding (or private school funding, for that matter), because they don’t send their kids to school; they teach them at home.We hear a lot anecdotally about home schooling, and an article in today’s Watertown Daily Times provides some numbers:
Although the number of home-schooled students in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties has increased from 789 to 794 over the past decade, the percentage of the total student population has remained at about 2. In New York state, the figure is 3.9 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Nationwide, it’s 3.4 percent, representing approximately 1.8 million students, up from 1.1 million a decade ago.
So a lower percentage in those three counties than statewide, and a lower percentage in New York state than in the rest of the country. But still, a fair few kids in our area are home schooled — enough so that there’s an organization, North Country HomeSchooling, that serves those parents.
People have different reasons for home schooling their kids: For some, it’s religious; for others, it’s because they don’t think their kids are getting a good education at their local school; and some just want the freedom that comes with not being tied in to a particular school’s schedule or curriculum. The paper reports that on average home-schooled students do better on standardized tests; but many critics of the practice say students don’t get socialized as well or deal with as wide a variety of situations as do kids who attend school outside the home.
I (clearly) don’t have the resolution to that debate; and there’s not much that people feel more passionately about than their childrens’ education. But the fact that some homeschooling parents are homeschooling because they feel they need to opt out of an educational system that’s not working for their kids is troubling. Remember, this is something that we all pay for; it’s something in which we all have a stake. So although it might seem that homeschoolers aren’t part of the debate about education, it’s wrong to think that way. We all should be. The children are the future, right?