Changing Culture Choosing Homeschool
“There’s no place like home,” Dorothy said as she clicked her heels, eager to return to the comforts of her own little bedroom, surrounded by family. We all long for a place where we feel comfortable, safe, and loved. However, for many post-COVID-19 Americans, increasingly troubled by growing safety concerns in schools, there has been a definite cultural shift. Homes across America are now doubling as replacements for neighborhood public schools and offering parents a place where they can more individually target their children’s learning styles and individual needs. It has become a place where concerned moms and dads can play a bigger part in helping their children reach their full potential academically, spiritually, and socially, and they have the opportunity to take on topics like politics and sex in their own way.
Research suggests that homeschooling was growing in popularity before the pandemic and became officially recognized as an option in all 50 states in 1992. According to surveys done to examine the impact of COVID-19 on American life, the percentage of Texas families that homeschool their children tripled after the pandemic. Data collected by the Texas Homeschool Coalition, a nonprofit organization that promotes and advocates for homeschooling in the state, shows about 30,000 students across the state withdrew from a public or charter school and switched to homeschooling during the spring of 2021, a 40% increase compared with the previous year.
This trend was also seen locally, according to Legacy COOP founder, Whitney Jackson, MS. “We noticed a spiked interest in our program the next year because I believe mommas had more confidence in their ability to homeschool their children,” she shared. Whitney previously served as a public school teacher and counselor for seven years, and it was during the last three years of her public school career that she and her husband, Travis, began having children of their own. As their oldest neared school age, the Jacksons started considering homeschooling as the right option for their family. “I wanted my kids to experience the classroom setting as well as have a circle of friends to share life with,” she said. “My husband and I love to travel and do mission work, and we knew we wanted our children to touch everything we had been experiencing. It is important for us that they are challenged educationally and spiritually while having the flexibility to travel and be on our own schedule. I love that my children have Legacy and homeschool. I have the opportunity to disciple their hearts on a daily basis. Our family is stronger, closer, and we are able to be more intentional because we homeschool.”
So, it was with that inspiration and passion that Whitney founded the Legacy Homeschool Enrichment COOP in 2019 as part of the ministry of Church on the Rock-Texarkana. The COOP is a partnership of homeschool families sharing in the mission to equip and enrich homeschool studies while connecting them to God, friends, ministry, and the world. “It is our prayer to cultivate a learning environment for students to flourish. We want to challenge our students academically, socially, and spiritually,” said Whitney. The COOP meets two days a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. When the program got its start in 2019, it served students from kindergarten through fourth grades, but it has since grown to include fifth through eighth grades, as well.
With history and science at the core of their program, the COOP uses The Good and the Beautiful curriculum. It is a well laid out curriculum that comes with teacher guides and student journals. It works perfectly for the COOP. Teachers are also able to supplement with TeachersPayTeachers.com products and other resources that fit the COOP’s standards. Each family is responsible to teach their own children English, language arts, and math at home, but the COOP offers a well-rounded school experience beyond the core subjects. Legacy uses Foundation Worldview for their Bible curriculum, which is a great deep study on each student’s level. Fine arts and Spanish are also offered to students, and the curriculum is chosen according to the teachers’ abilities. Students do not have to give up the traditional aspects of public school either since activities, including plays, field trips, and field days, are all part of the Legacy program. Whitney went on to share, “Legacy is such a beautiful community of homeschool families who have the same core values and beliefs. We love the community this program has given to our homeschool families.”
Legacy staffs between six and eight teachers each year, with the number depending on enrollment. The Spanish teacher, Mrs. Paola, gives 30-minute lessons to second through eighth grade classes on Thursdays. In Mexico, she taught English, and here in the States, she teaches Spanish. The teaching staff are all qualified personnel who have many years of experience in either public or private schools. Although the COOP is an enrichment program, its goal is to be able to challenge students academically, and hiring experienced teachers is a priority.
Stephanie Cooley, Director of Legacy COOP, notes, “We want to continue to offer homeschool enrichment and support for many years to come. With many families switching to homeschooling, we want to provide the support needed academically, socially, and spiritually. We want to be able to offer special needs services in the future as well. Another goal is to partner with private schools and organizations to have sports added to our program.”
Academic flexibility and choice of pace and approach are just a few of the benefits of homeschooling. “I am so thankful for Legacy COOP for many reasons,” said Lacey Goff, a parent and member of the COOP. “Mostly because it has given my children a community of friends where they can have a peer learning experience even though we made the decision to homeschool. As a former public school educator, I know the value of being challenged academically and how valuable a social experience is among children, and this program has satisfied those needs for us.”
Hope Aubrey, another Legacy parent, eagerly shared, “Legacy COOP has given me the opportunity as a mom to attain the best of both worlds when it comes to homeschool education and public school education. By attending Legacy two days a week,” she said, “My kids are able to create deep and wholesome friendships with peers that are also being raised by kingdom-minded parents. I love that Legacy offers an atmosphere that not only enriches their education and complements our schoolwork at home, but also encourages the students to place utmost importance on growing in their faith and sharing the good news of the gospel with others.”
Though our culture seems to be more on board with the idea of homeschooling, it is not a new concept. Learning at home has been a tried-and-true method of education throughout history. But as they say, “The proof is in the pudding,” and Pam and Larry Jones can reflect on their choice to homeschool their children, who are all now adults, and feel confident it was the right option. “We knew it would produce strong family bonds and amazing memories. We wanted a Christian education that the government would not provide. We knew we only had our kids for 18 years,” Larry shared, “and did not want to abrogate the responsibility of training to public schools.” A bonus for the Jones family was the added academic advantage. “If you could pick the optimal teacher-student ratio, it would be 1:1, not 30:1,” Larry continued. “That focus on individuality makes all the difference. It involves mastery learning. In a group setting, if you do not understand the lesson, you get a “C,” and you move on. You can’t hold the whole class up. Conversely, if you are strong in a subject, you cannot move ahead because you wait on the rest of the class. In our house, if you did not get it, you didn’t move on until you did. That might mean later hours or summer work, even though it hardly ever did. Homeschooling allows for the targeting of weak areas and customizing curriculum and the learning process.” Today as they look back at their homeschooling experience, the evidence proves success! All three of their children are now successful adults who all received free academic rides through college, earning two 4.0’s and a 3.9 GPA. They are all involved in ministry, love the Lord, and plan to homeschool their own children.
A beautiful way to describe the current cultural shift and what it has meant to those families who have made the choice to homeschool was simply said by Hope Aubrey. “The year 2020 undoubtedly caused frustration and struggles in education all over the globe, but blooming in the cracks of the devastation are parents who became teachers. And blossoming right alongside is a generation of resilient, productive, and intelligent children who are ready to discover more about the world around them.”