More, Diverse Families Opt for Homeschooling in New Jersey

New Jersey is seeing a rise of inclusive homeschooling groups that aim to provide opportunities for parents to network and for children to socialize, conduct science experiments, and play sports and games, says Homeschool World of the Practical Homeschooling Magazine.

Before New Jersey parent Heather Kirchner decided to homeschool her daughter, she believed that mothers who homeschooled their children were only the types “who wore long skirts and praised Jesus and all that,” writes Alesha Williams Boyd and Sergio Bichao at USA Today.

Kirchner is one of number of parents joining secular organizations across the country that offer homeschooling. And while most records indicate that the homeschooling industry is dominated by religious organizations, an increasing number of parents who are not religiously-inclined are looking towards homeschooling not because of faith, but because of the perceived shortcomings in public and private schools.

More and more parents have practical — rather than religious — reasons for taking charge of their childrens’ education, says Joyce Burges, who co-founded National Black Home Educators (NBHE).

Her organization has seen a jump from about 500 homeschoolers a decade ago to about 2,500 today, she says. And she believes it’s because of poor public school records.

“A lot of the children are just falling through the cracks.

“Parents are struggling, trying to see what they can do.”

Cincinnati Area Teaching Children at Home also recorded a spike in enrollment, with an increase from 500 families five years ago to 1,000 today.

Norma Curry, 67, who homeschooled her daughter, said:

“This is southwestern Ohio, home of (Republican House Speaker) John Boehner — it is an extremely conservative place, which is why we started this organization.”

Studies that indicate homeschooled students perform better academically also are growing homeschoolers’ numbers, Curry says.

But Christopher Lubienski, professor of education policy at the University of Illinois, doesn’t believe the received wisdom that students perform better being home-schooled rather than in a traditional school.

“There’s really not good evidence that it’s a better model for children.”

He says some parents “just aren’t qualified to provide the education for their children.”

However, a Home School Legal Defense Association study in 2009 by the National Home Education Research Institute showed homeschoolers, on average, scored 37 percentile points above public school students on standardized achievement tests.