Last week was back-to-school time for New York City, but for some students, that meant pulling up a chair at the kitchen table, not returning to a classroom. For a couple of thousand city children, school happens right at home.
Once considered a fringe movement, homeschooling is becoming more mainstream in New York. About 2,550 kids were homeschooled in New York City last year, according to the city’s Department of Education.
Across the country, homeschooling is on the rise. The most recent federal survey reports that between 2003 and 2007, the number of homeschooled students rose 36 percent to 1.5 million. But some researchers say the number is likely closer to 2 million.
While the majority of those represented in the national survey chose to homeschool their kids in order to provide religious or moral instruction, here in New York, MetroFocus has heard from many parents who say homeschooling is the better way to go for other reasons.
These “home educators” are disappointed with the quality of both public and private schools. They reject the notion that a formal classroom setting is the only way to learn, and believe they can provide a tailored education in a more flexible and supportive environment.
“They’re my precious children and I want to have a say in how they’re developing,” said Manhattan mom Sandra Leong, who homeschools her two children.
And there’s no better place to homeschool, Leong says, than New York City. Homeschooling here doesn’t always mean staying at home. The families MetroFocus spoke to participate in a variety of classes, group activities, field trips and even travel overseas.
New York is also considered one of the more regulated states in the country when it comes to homeschooling. Parents who homeschool most notify the state, submit a lesson plan and provide regular reports on how required subjects are being covered. Homeschooled students also have to begin taking standardized state tests in the fourth grade.
While the home educators interviewed acknowledged that homeschooling is still considered an unconventional choice, they expressed no regrets.
“It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life,” Leong said of her families’ choice to homeschool.
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Sandra Leong, shown here, is one of two New York City moms MetroFocus interviewed about their unconventional choice to homeschool.