Approximately 1.77 million children in the United States were educated at home during the 2011-2012 school year. In 2007, the number was 1.5 million. Home school education is on the rise. (U.S. Dept of Education)
In the State of Florida the homeschool movement is growing.
During the 2012-2013 school year, the State of Florida had 75,801 children registered in home education programs. (Kids Count Date Center)
On Florida’s Treasure Coast, 495 children were registered in Martin County and 1,369 in St. Lucie County. Since 2013, the number in Martin County has risen to 646 and 1,430 in St. Lucie County (August, 2015).
Why is this?
Stacy Efinger, a trained teacher and veteran homeschool mother has spent 15 years overseeing and teaching her children’s education. She is a modern pioneer in the Florida home school movement.
It wasn’t until Stacy began attending church at Stuart Nazarene (now New Hope Fellowship ) 20 years ago, that she even heard about homeschooling as an option. Approximately 30 percent of the church’s families were educating their children themselves.
Stacy was intrigued. During her college internship teaching kindergarten, first and second grades, she began to think to herself, “I could do this with my own children.”
The next year, Stacy attended an annual home school convention in Orlando and then shortly afterward, her first child, Jonas, was born.
In the 1960s, ‘70s and early ‘80s, homeschool education was considered radical and illegal; homeschool parents, considered by almost every state as criminals, had to go to court to fight for their civil rights. (Home School Legal Defense Association)
Dr. Jolene Oswald, former Spring Arbor University professor of elementary education was part of the home school education defense. She regularly attended court hearings, speaking on the need for and value of children being educated at home.
In 1985, the homeschool movement began to boom around the country.
Originally, homeschool education was a pioneer effort during the development of the United States, beginning at Plymouth Colony with the Pilgrims.
Parents schooled their children in sod homes, log cabins and beside campfires as the Federal government encouraged families to move west and settle the lands. Often, the only books used were a beginning reader and a family Bible. Made famous in her Little House books, was Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose younger years were under her mother, Caroline’s tutelage. Other famous home-educated individuals include 10 former Presidents (John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt) writers (Pearl Buck, Louisa May Alcott, J.R.R. Tolkien) and most recently football’s Tim Tebow.
The history of homeschool education has shown that it has benefited not just individuals, but also the building of the United States of America. It is no wonder that homeschool education is no longer considered illegal, but a fundamental right of the country’s citizens.
Homeschool education has many benefits:
· No wasted time disciplining unruly children
· Students may work at their own pace—often moving ahead of their peer group.
· No teaching to the test—home school students study a broader range of subjects and are required to remember all that they study because their testing (Terranova) is a more rigorous general knowledge test.
· Religious or moral instruction can be included in the curriculum.
· Children with special needs
· Parents are not comfortable with some school subjects being taught, ie. sex education.
· Phonics, spelling and handwriting or cursive are still taught in homeschool education, whereas they are not taught in public schools any longer
Stacy Efinger’s son, Jonas, now 18 years old, works two jobs and has been dual-enrolled with homeschool education and at Indian River State College. He states that home-education gives parents flexibility with curriculum and he may go as fast or as slowly as he wishes. For example, Jonas finished one year of algebra in less than two months.
Jonas is a typical young man; he enjoys hunting and robotics, and went to an international championship competition in St. Louis, Missouri with a local SPAM Robotics club. He also volunteers, and has given seven years to the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary. Jonas plans to attend the University of Western Florida and pursue a degree in artifact preservation. He is a fan of history, much like his father, Kurt Efinger, who is a professor of history at Indian River State College.
To the children, Jonas adds this: “Homeschooling was worth it. I had more opportunities to try things; I got to go out and see different people every day. My range of experiences has been much broader.” Jonas has even traveled to Israel in the Middle East, seeing the ancient sites firsthand.
Though homeschooling is no longer illegal and the State of Florida has become friendly toward the movement, it is still a challenge and a commitment. Stacy considers the opportunity to teach her own three children a privilege. She loves being with them and they enjoy being with each other. The Efinger home is a family-oriented home that has produced a lifetime love of learning.
At a time when American schools are reacting with society’s change, their daily events filling evening newscasts with violence, homeschool parents are continuing to help build and rebuild our country, producing highly educated and happy young adults who seek to add positively to the Treasure Coast, Florida and even the United States.
It is important that the rights of Americans to educate their children continue within their counties and states. This is historically, a fundamental and necessary right that has been time-tested more than 400 years.
In eight more years, Stacy Efinger’s youngest child will graduate high school; Stacy though, expects to remain in the movement as a teacher who trains other parents to do what she has done.
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