In tight times some choose home schooling.
by D. Aileen Dodd
Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
August 4, 2009
In this economic test, some private school parents eyeing their investment in education are considering new sacrifices and a surprising alternative: home school.
Instead of just sending their children to public school for free, some moms and dads are making deeper budget cuts at home, and others are ditching the plaid uniforms altogether and teaching their kids at home — the ultimate “private school,” some say.
For Tyeisha Humphrey of Lithonia, it came down to dollars. Tuition at the Drake School set her back $1,300 a month including after-school care for two kids. A hot lunch every day was another $200 for the year.
“I am looking to save money,” said the single mom. “It costs more than my mortgage to put both of my children in private school.”
This month, the entrepreneur will begin teaching her 7-year-old daughter, Marisa, and her 8-year-old son, Anthony, in the family den. She will continue to work part time selling children’s books to supplement her income.
Humphrey has already purchased a curriculum with a world perspective and stocked her bookshelves with reference materials at a fraction of the cost of private school.
That economic reality is contributing to an uptick in interest in home school, according to Randi St. Denis, director of the Home Educators Encouragement Alliance and organizer of the Southeast Homeschool Expo, which attracted more than 6,100 to the Cobb Galleria Centre over the weekend.
“When they didn’t get their $25,000 bonuses at their companies, they began to feel the pinch,” St. Denis said. “They are considering home school because they want to continue the high level of education they were getting at private school.”
Nationwide, there were as many as 2.6 million home schooled students last school year, according to the National Home Education Research Institute. Numbers for this year are not yet available, but they are expected to climb as more private school parents join the unconventional fray.
“Parents home school on an average of $600 per year per child,” said Brian Ray, NHERI founder. “In home-based education, there is more opportunity for customized education and one-on-one time. I suppose that is very attractive to some people.”
Officials with the National Association of Independent Schools say that private school enrollment is expected to decline this year nationwide. They attribute at least part of that decline to parents who, working in industries hit by the recession, are experiencing hard times and re-evaluating their financial commitments.
In Georgia, private school enrollment is expected to teeter slightly with some schools losing students to other educational options, some campuses with generous financial aid programs gaining a few kids and some enrollments holding steady as families cut the fat from their budgets.
“In many cases, people still value the education very highly, but they are slightly nervous about their financial situations,” said Myra McGovern, spokeswoman for NAIS. “They want to make sure everything is all right before they sign on the dotted line.”
Still, some of metro Atlanta’s most stately campuses known for sending 100 percent of their kids to college are expecting losses. Woodward Academy is bracing for a 5 percent decrease. Officials say enrollment will drop to 2,780 students from 2,924 last school year.
At Greater Atlanta Christian School in Norcross, enrollment is expected to fall slightly from 1,950 to 1,900 students. But requests for financial aid have doubled.
“In these struggling financial times, people are making evaluations of what is of value, what matters,” said Jill Morris, spokeswoman for Greater Atlanta Christian School, among the state’s largest.
“A family sold their house and moved in someone else’s basement in order to keep their children in school here. Another family just sold their new car to make their tuition payment,” Morris said. “We just feel amazingly blessed that people making evaluations of what is of value, what matters, are keeping their children in school here.’’
While the bottom line has been the deciding factor for parents like Humphrey, home schooling is gaining ground even among the privileged. Whether parents teach or hire tutors, they find the option agreeably less expensive or, sometimes, just better suited to their child’s individual needs.
“We are trying to give our children the best education we can provide them,” said John Copeland of Marietta, a commercial real estate broker. “Our oldest will finish up in private school. My youngest, it looks like it would be a better fit for her to try home school.”
Instead of substitute teaching, former math instructor Terri Copeland will put together lesson plans to use at home and will address her 14-year-old daughter’s social needs with field trips and other activities.
At home, Mandy will be able to work through the curriculum faster and graduate earlier, possibly even getting a leg up on scholarships, her mother said.
“I am kind of excited about it,” said Mandy, a rising eighth-grader in accelerated classes.
Mandy says she is looking forward to having more time for creative writing, volleyball and bonding with her mom.
“I really, really like the school we are no longer attending — there are some awesome things about that school,” Copeland said. “[But] every student is different and unique and every family is different and unique. At the end of the educational journey, we all just pray we made the right decision.’’