As a new school year approaches for children, some 15,000-20,000 Mississippians won’t be settling into a traditional public or private school classroom.
Rather, they will be classified as homeschoolers, though that definition ranges from those who are part of co-ops to those who take classes online to those who follow standard curriculum at home to those who take a more unschooled approach. Or maybe it’s a little of all that and more.
While the numbers are just estimates without a formal registration process, we have seen homeschooling jump quite significantly – both in Mississippi and nationwide. According to federal data, the number of homeschoolers more than doubled over the first decade over the 21st century.
And there is no reason to believe those numbers are doing anything but growing.
After all, it’s easier than ever to homeschool, and to be as engaged (or not) as you would like. Thanks to the power of the Internet, and social media in general, a group of moms (or dads) can easily organize a trip, whether it’s to a museum, zoo, water park, etc., as a group without any formal organization. It’s easier than ever to meet with other homeschool families, to share ideas, or to exchange books and curriculum. Or to just get encouragement from local families.
Reasons families give for homeschooling
|Concern about the environment of other schools||91%|
|To provide moral instruction||77%|
|Dissatisfaction with other schools||74%|
|To provide religious instruction||64%|
|Nontraditional approach to child’s education||44%|
|Child has special needs||16%|
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
And Mississippi makes it easy to homeschool, as they should. Families just have to file an annual certificate of enrollment with your local attendance officer by September 15. Beyond that, there are no regulations concerning curriculum or testing, nor do you need to provide any additional information to the local school district.
Still, that hasn’t stopped school districts in Mississippi from trying.
Last year, Greenville Public School District Deputy Superintendent Glenn Dedeaux said the district is “legally responsible to ensure every child of educating age receives an adequate education” and he warned that not all homeschool curricula “are approved by the Mississippi Department of Education to meet the necessary standards.” Dedeaux also implied that homeschoolers must take subject matter tests to graduate. Not true.
We also have the story of a Mississippi mom who was arrested on truancy charges. Her child had previously been enrolled in public school, but she chose to homeschool him because of health reasons. She decided to begin homeschooling the following year, but was arrested before the September 15 deadline to file her notice to homeschool.
And school districts in general have taken it upon themselves to require more than a notice to homeschool at time. The Natchez-Adams School District tried to demand homeschoolers provide receipts for curriculum purchases. They likely aren’t the only district who has asked for information parents aren’t required to provide.
Our guess is as homeschooling continues to grow in popularity, we will continue to see school districts overstep their authority. And the state might be interested in enacting new regulations as well.
We can hope they won’t.