Home schooling on the rise

January 13, 2001

Home schooling on the rise

By JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer

It used to be a major chore for Debi Carbaugh Robinson to get her daughter to school in the morning.

Patricia, 9, didn't like going to school, where one student pulled her hair out, another made a disturbing comment to her and she was not challenged enough in class, said mother and daughter.

Now Patricia is eager for school to start - at home.

"I love it. I get to do school things and I get to create," said Patricia, who likes to draw and take photographs.

It was the hair-pulling incident that prompted Debi Carbaugh Robinson to remove her daughter from public school a year ago and begin teaching her at their Williamsport home.


"I just felt she was really being stifled," said Robinson, 44.

Robinson also thought Patricia wasn't getting enough help with math.

Since 1996-97, the earliest home schooling statistics were available in all nine Tri-State school districts the Herald-Mail surveyed, the number of children home schooled has climbed from 1,806 to 2,632 this school year.

The Herald-Mail surveyed Washington County, Frederick County, Md., the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, Chambersburg, Pa., Greencastle-Antrim, Pa., Waynesboro, Pa., and Central Fulton, Pa.

Frederick County has the most home-schooled children with 1,186. Central Fulton has the fewest, 11 this school year.

In Washington County the number has risen from 68 home-schooled students in 1989-90 to 496 this year. The county peaked last school year with 551 students.

Many parents decide to home school their children because of large class sizes in public schools and the desire for the children to have one-on-one attention, said Michael Smith, president of the Home School Legal Defense Association based in Purcellville, Va.

"There's a growing dissatisfaction with public education, so they're looking for alternatives," Smith said.

Positive alternative

The increased media attention home schooling has received - partly due to a home-schooled boy winning the national spelling bee and being runner-up in the national geography bee last year - has helped spur the movement, Smith said.

Home schooling often is portrayed in a positive light, especially with more research being published that shows home-schooled students tend to do better academically and socially, he said.

The national attention has changed many people's perceptions about home schooling, Smith said. Home schoolers aren't seen as a "weird small segment of people anymore, based on the success," he said.

Home-schooled students had a composite average ACT score of 22.8 in 2000, compared to a public and private school composite average of 21, according to the 2000 report provided at The ACT Assessment is a standardized test given to college-bound high school seniors and score results are given on a scale of 1 to 36.

A study conducted in 1998 also shows better scores by home-schooled students, but cautions against comparisons. The report was done by Larry Rudner, director of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation with the University of Maryland, College Park.

The report created a standardized score based on results from the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills or the Tests of Achievement and Proficiency. Participating in the national study were 20,760 home-schoolers in kindergarten through 12th grade.

According to the report, median composite scores for reading, language, math, social studies, and science showed home-schoolers consistently scored well above students attending public and private schools.

To read the report, visit the Internet at

Why home school?

Home-schooling is often associated with families who want to provide their children an education with a religious viewpoint. While religion is frequently a factor, it is often not the sole reason parents choose to teach at home.

Mary Hudzinski remembers 15 years ago when she sent her oldest daughter to morning kindergarten. When she picked her up that afternoon all her daughter would talk about was what happened on Saturday morning cartoons.

"All the kids were talking about it," said Hudzinski, 47, of Waynesboro, Pa.

Since the Hudzinskis don't watch much television, her daughter was feeling pressure to watch cartoons so she would fit in, Hudzinski said.

After that, Hudzinski decided to home school her daughter and her eight younger children.

Carrie Bishop, 39, of Clear Spring, decided to home school her two sons because she wanted to spend as much time with them as she could and ensure they were learning good values.

"I wanted to make sure the job was done and the way to do that was to take it upon myself," Bishop said.

Emily DeMartino decided to home school her children in the fall of 1999 because she wanted them to have more one-on-one attention. That was difficult with 30 children in her son's third-grade class.

The Herald-Mail Articles