While it’s never been solely a Christian-oriented movement, homeschooling is also rising with folks of a more liberal persuasion. Some of the reasons are different, but a surprising number are similar as well.

Before getting to the specific homeschooling instance, in New Jersey, I wanted to point out this wonderful irony.

According to federal Department of Education statistics nearly 2 million children in the U.S. are home-schooled. The number in New Jersey is estimated to be about 40,000.

While supporters cite the studies suggesting home-schooled students do better on standardized tests, critics counter that these students are not held to the same standards as their peers in traditional schools.

Um, guys, that’s the very reason many people homeschool, so they won’t be held to the same standards as public schools. We prefer higher ones. Hence the better test scores.

On, then, to the main thrust of the story. Read the whole thing.

There was a time when Heather Kirchner thought mothers who home-schooled their children were the types “who wore long skirts and praised Jesus, and all that.”

But that was before the Sayreville resident decided to home-school her own daughter, Anya.

Kirchner actually wears jeans, and like the two dozen other families that are part of the year-old Homeschool Village Co-op in Central Jersey, she doesn’t consider herself to be particularly religious.

The co-op is one of dozens in the state formed by home-schooling parents looking to network and provide their children with opportunities to conduct science experiments, play sports and games, and socialize.

What’s different about Homeschool Village is that its mission is secular.

According to a 2007 survey conducted by the federal Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, 83.3 percent of home-schooling parents named “a desire to provide religious or moral instruction” as an important reason to home-school, and it was the most important for 35.8 percent of the parents.

“We are the opposite of that,” said Vanessa Bowden, a former South Brunswick public school teacher who already is home-schooling her 2 year-old daughter and 4-year-old twins.

In Bowden’s view, there are “two sects of home-schooling people” — the religious kind “and then the hippies,” like her.

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