Christy Raines, 15, has been educated at home since age 5.
In the midst of FCAT season in public school classrooms, angst against “the system” goes into high gear. Parents are looking for solutions – and more in Palm Beach County are opting out of schools altogether.
The number of local students who were home-schooled jumped 8 percent – to more than 4,800 students in Palm Beach County – for the 2010-11 school year, according to the Florida Department of Education.
“With home schooling, you don’t have to teach to any test,” said Sharon Raines of Boca Raton, who has home-schooled her 15-year-old daughter, Christy, for 10 years. “You can teach the things you believe are important.”
People who choose to home-school have many reasons for doing it, beyond avoiding Florida’s “teach-to-the-test” public school culture and finding pricey private schools out of reach.
Some are motivated by religion. Others worry about safety in schools.
Raines, who has led the Boca Home Schoolers support group for the past eight years, said she wanted the freedom to instill specific character qualities in her daughter and have the family’s Christian convictions be the foundation of her learning.
It’s also a lifestyle choice. Home-schoolers are not bound by specific attendance requirements. School can be conducted during the day, at night or on the weekends. Your vacations need not be ruled by the county school calendar.
But it is a big commitment, and a lot of work for parents
Raines, a stay-at-home mom, figures she spends more than 30 hours a week on her daughter’s education, including preparing lessons, grading papers, organizing field trips, projects, sports and other activities. She believes it is worth it.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity that we have as parents to teach our children,” Raines said. “It’s the single best thing our family has ever done. We love it.”
When Christy was 5, Raines started the “Five in A Row” curriculum, which offers rich lessons through an assortment of children’s books. She recommends this approach for younger children because it is fun, easy to implement, and affordable, since most of the books can be found at the library.
Over the past 10 years, the Raineses have experimented with several programs. Sharon Raines now selects course materials designed for her daughter’s kinesthetic, hands-on, learning style. Home educating allows her the flexibility to try different techniques to get her daughter to retain certain concepts.
“You can tailor the curriculum to your child’s learning style,” Sharon said. “Schools can’t do that.”
With a degree in finance, Raines said she is comfortable teaching her daughter math and English. For some of the other subjects, like science, Christy receives supplemental instruction weekly at Home Education Enrichment Day.
HEED is a Boca Raton-based home school co-op that hires teachers who are experts in their fields to tutor students in a variety of subjects, including chemistry, biology, algebra, literature, public speaking and critical thinking. The classes are offered weekly and cost up to $450 a class for the school year. Raines said it is worth the cost.
HEED serves about 150 families.
“We wouldn’t have the resources to do a science lab, but when you come together with a large group, you can get a teacher who can offer a lab,” Raines said.
Three virtual education programs are also available, for free, to Florida students:
Home-schooled children do not receive an official diploma from the Department of Education but they can still attend college. Some parents create transcripts and diplomas to submit directly to college admissions departments, while others choose to have their child get a GED. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, colleges are mainly concerned with SAT or ACT scores and having an accurate transcript that outlines all of the courses the student has completed.
Many people think home-schooled children don’t get to interact with other kids. But home-schoolers in Boca Raton have plenty of opportunities to participate in sports and other activities – even at public schools.
Christy spends her Friday afternoons with 72 other children preparing for an upcoming production of Tom Sawyer that is being produced by the home-school drama company Stars in the Universe. The production will include elementary, middle and high school-age students.
In addition to violin and vocal lessons, Christy also plays volleyball for the Christian Home School Athletic Association of Florida. The association, commonly referred to as SAINTS, offers physical education for kids age 5-17. Students are exposed to a variety of sports, including baseball, archery, volleyball, golf and track and field.
Raines recommends finding a local support group – for guidance and encouragement for you, and social activities for the kids. Besides her group, the Palm Beach County Homeschooling Cooperative supports home educators with kids age 3 to 12.
How to get started
Find all the requirements at the state Department of Education website.
- MERCEDES COPPIN