Parents who choose to homeschool their kids do so for a lot of reasons, but increasingly the chief motivation seems to be providing a learning experience uniquely tailored to the individual needs of their children. But before choosing this option, also weigh the potential disadvantages of homeschooling. As Benjamin Murphy, whose parents taught him at home, explained on the day of his high school graduation, for him learning was about acquiring critical thinking skills and knowing how to ask questions rather then being just one of many having "knowledge tossed at [him.]"
Lisa Ferguson of the Las Vegas Review-Journal writes that Benjamin, who was homeschooled chiefly by his mother JenÃ©, isn't alone in expressing appreciation about the uniqueness of his experience. Elissa Wahl, who began homeschooling her kids in 2000 en route to becoming one of the state's leading homeschooling advocates, also views the ability to tailor lesson plans to each child's needs and interests to be the chief upside of teaching children at home.
"I truly believe every child has their own special needs so the ability to be able to individualize what they're learning, how they're learning it, when they're learning it and even if they need to learn it" is crucial, she said.
In 2002 Wahl helped found the Nevada Homeschool Network, a nonprofit group that advocates for home-school freedom and families' rights to direct their children's education. The group reports on legislative, legal and other matters relevant to home schooling on its website, nevadahomeschoolnetwork.com.
She and the leaders of several home-school "support groups" from throughout the state — whose parent and student members often network, share resources, socialize and participate in lessons and other activities together — initially joined forces to create a grass-roots organization, Wahl said. But it quickly developed into something larger.
Under Wahl, NHN has become more than just a resource for other parents who are teaching their children or want to. It has become a lobbying organization pressuring lawmakers to adjust laws to make taking children out of school easier.
NHN's efforts culminated in the passage of Senate Bill 404 in 2007. Also known as Homeschool Freedom Bill, the measure finally freed children from compulsory enrollment in school after age 7. It also allowed families to take control over how and what their children are taught without interference either from local education authorities or the Nevada Board of Education.
The organization also brought forth Senate Bill 314, which was passed in this year's legislative session. According to Nevada Homeschool Network's website, it defines the fundamental right of parents to raise their child and requires all governmental agencies to honor that right unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise.
Wahl called the law "imperative in a home-school setting as we, the parents, are the ones charged with directing our child's education. This law is actually a tool to empower parents. They need to know and understand they are charged with making decisions for their child — decisions about health care, decisions about religion, decisions about education."
NHN's example could lay down the groundwork for homeschooling organizations outside Nevada, especially now that the number of children being taught by their parents is growing nationwide. The year Senate Bill 404 became law, 1.5 million children around the country were homeschooled.