Parents and students see benefits to home schooling
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Nicole Stevens opened her books Friday on the large wooden table in front of the dry erase board and began to organize her math binder, a large map of the world stretched out before her.
The 13-year-old ninth-grader diligently did her school work. However, her classroom was not at a Department of Defense school on base, it was the dining room of the family home at the Hario housing complex. Nicole is being home schooled.
“I like [it],” Nicole said. “I like being able to do my work longer as needed, or shorter as needed… I like being with my family.”
Nicole, her 4-year-old brother Will and 11-year-old sister Sarah, are a just a few of the growing number of homeschooled American children.
According to Department of Education statistics, from 2007, the last year data on homeschoolers was collected, there were 1.5 million American homeschooled children, an increase from 850,000 in 1999, or a 74-percent relative increase over the eight-year period.
As tens-of-thousands of military children prepare for the start of school Monday, some of those students are staying home as well.
“We’re not totally divorced from the school system,” Toni Langlitz, the mother and teacher of five homeschooled children, said Tuesday at the Back-2-School Resource Fair at Sasebo Naval Base. “It’s the best of both worlds, and has been good for us as a family… There are a number of benefits as it pertains to military life.”
The tightly-knit Sasebo homeschooling community attended the event to socialize and pass out information about homeschooling. The Department of Defense Education Activity neither encourages nor discourages homeschooling, according to its Pacific spokesman, Charly Hoff.
“We certainly support homeschoolers as an agency,” Hoff said. “They are able to participate in some of our classes.”
Children can participate in DODEA sports, dances, standardized testing, special education, and even certain classes that a parent might not feel comfortable teaching.
Defense schools in the Pacific do not track the number of students who are homeschooled, Hoff said. However, to participate in activities or programs at DODEA schools, one must register as a part-time student. As of this week, DODEA in the Pacific had 59 part-time students, 34 of whom are in Japan, across grades K-12. Hoff said those numbers are incomplete because they don’t include those not registered or those who will be arriving in the next couple of months.
Homeschoolers abroad don’t have to meet DODEA graduation requirements, but do have to meet the requirements of the host nation, Hoff said. Parents of homeschooled children choose their own curriculum and materials, Hoff said, adding that DODEA does make its curriculum and materials available.
Langlitz said she teaches her children year round, which allows for more flexibility when it comes to taking family vacations and breaks when her husband returns from deployments. Other benefits, she said, include a shorter school day and more one-on-one instruction.
Kathy Stevens said she can turn something as simple as a trip to a waterfall into both physical education and science instruction.
Parents cited two other key benefits of homeschooling: they can tailor lesson plans to an individual child’s learning style, and children have the stability and continuity of the same teacher year after year.
The parents in Sasebo dismissed the notion that homeschooled children don’t have enough social interaction. Stevens said her children play with other children after they finish school, and also participate in band, sports and other activities.
“I don’t feel in the least bit socially deprived,” Sarah Stevens said confidently in her classroom at home.
For more information about the Sasebo Area HomeSchoolers, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sasebo-Area-HomeSchoolers/240004349077.