ELIZABETHTOWN — According to the state of North Carolina, nearly 300 home schools exist in Bladen County, but few options exist for them all to get together.
“There’s such a stereotype of homeschooling as an isolated, even reclusive, endeavor,” said Chrysta Carroll, former home school operator in Bladen County. “But that’s just not true. Homeschooling can be just as, or even more so, socially rewarding as any other educational option, if — and that’s a big ‘if’ — someone’s willing to organize the opportunities.”
Having participated in expansive homeschool groups in other parts of the state — some with upwards of 250 families — Carroll has seen the benefit of large-scale coordination.
“One group I was in had a yearbook, sports teams, art, music, P.E., and foreign language classes — you name it, there was an opportunity for it, and the group was so large that many of the activities were conducted solely for specific age groups,” Carroll commented. “It was everything that’s good about getting together with others, with the freedom to do as you please with your children’s education at home.”
Envisioning the same for Bladen County, she recently launched the Bladen Educational Association of Christian Homeschools, an organization dedicated to supporting homeschool families and promoting home education. Plans for the group include a swap shop for curriculum, a mentoring program for new homeschool parents, outreach events, age-specific field trips, academic co-ops, social activities and parties, health-related activities, and more, all drawing on the greatest resource homeschoolers have — one another.
“If we have a parent who knows Spanish, he might offer to teach a class in it,” Carroll said. “Another who loves science might conduct chemistry experiments and invite others. What we offer as far as academic co-ops will be very fluid, very dependent on the interests and skills of our members.”
The group is intended to be not just support for current homeschooling families, but to prospective families as well.
“If past trends continue, the coming year will see approximately 40 new home schools open in the county,” Carroll remarked. “Mentoring these new parents, as well as getting good information out to prospective families, is key to dispelling the stereotypes and getting people to see that it really is a wonderfully rewarding endeavor, and a viable one.”
According to the N.C. Division of Non-Public Education, the 2016-17 academic year saw 266 home schools in Bladen County, which means roughly 700 students were being educated at home. The number is probably low, however, because of the guidelines the state uses to classify a home school.
Over the last five years, the number of home schools in Bladen County has increased an average of 14.9 percent each year, a number advocacy groups attribute to increasing confidence.
“Homeschooling is up across the state,” said Spensor Mason, executive officer manager and policy director for North Carolinians for Home Education, the state’s largest homeschooling advocacy group. “We think more and more people are realizing they can do a better job educating their own children than anyone else can.”
To get involved in the Bladen Educational Association of Christian Homeschools or to find out more information about homeschooling, visit www.ministry418.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.