Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Officials Concerned About Homeschooling Popularity

Posted on Mon, Oct. 11, 2004
Education official concerned about homeschooling popularity
Associated Press

MERIDIAN, Miss. - A state education official says she's concerned about the growing popularity of homeschooling in Mississippi.
Peggy Peterson, director of compulsory school attendance enforcement with the Mississippi Department of Education, said she fears that some children may not be receiving top quality education instruction from their parents.
Mississippi Department of Education statistics show that the number of families homeschooling in the state has increased since 1999, when officials began monitoring enrollment.
A total of 11,063 Mississippi children were homeschooled last year, up from 8,768 in May 1999. Lauderdale County alone had 281 families homeschooling their children in May of this year.
Peterson said some parents have done a good job of educating their children, "but I am concerned about the ones who are not qualified to teach their children."
Peterson's office is the only one with the state Department of Education that has anything to do with homeschooling. Families that homeschool their children must register with their county's school attendance officer; the officer, in turn, reports to Peterson's office.
Peterson, a former president of the Mississippi Association of Educators, said some states require parents who teach their children to have a certain level of education. She said there was no such requirement in Mississippi.
"Mississippi has the most lenient homeschool laws in the nation," Peterson said.
Joseph and Mary Beth Hallman of Lauderdale County homeschool their son and daughter. They said they wanted to make sure their children receive the best education possible.
"No one cares more about our children than we do," said Mary Beth Hallman, whose two children have never attended a public or private school. "And it is a privilege to teach them at home."
Hannah, 14, is a ninth-grader; Benjamin, 12, is a seventh-grader. Their classroom is the family living room, where their parents teach reading, math, religion and other subjects.
The Hallmans are on the advisory board for the Meridian Christian Home Educators, one of two homeschool groups in Lauderdale County. Members include about 125 families and about 400 students.
Sarah Nicholas, a spokeswoman for the state College Board, said homeschool students often score higher than public school students on the American College Test and the Scholastic Aptitude Test - two national, standardized tests used for college admissions.
"I don't know why they score so high," Nicholas said. "But historically, students who are homeschooled usually have exceptionally high scores on those tests."