For most families, a decision about their children’s education usually means attending a public or private school and participating in a classroom with dozens of other students.
However, many parents of young children have been finding themselves at an education crossroads lately. Their children may have unique needs that can’t be accommodated in a normal classroom setting.
“Some kids don’t fit into a regular program. That would include extremely bright kids, kids with special needs and some kids, such as athletes or actors, who need flexible schedules,” said Yvonne Russell, an instructor for the home independent study program of the .
For these children, the K-8 home school program sponsored by MUSD might offer them an alternative.
“We have everything,” said Russell. “But the most important part of our program is flexibility. We can help them use the regular program or we can supplement each individual student’s needs.”
The catch is this: for homeschooling to work, a child’s education falls directly on a parent’s shoulders. They become their own child’s instructor.
“You have to be a devoted parent,” Russell explained. “You have to have a minimum of 5 to 6 hours free time a day. The parent has to be motivated, organized and patient. And there has to be a strong relationship between the parent and child.”
That’s a tall order for most families, but for the children of Moorpark resident and businessman Brian Angel, the sacrifices are worth the payoff.
“What’s cool is that it’s become a really nurturing environment,” said Angel, “so the older kids will help the teachers and watch out for the younger kids.”
For Angel, whose children were previously enrolled at , the contrast between a homeschool program and a public education classroom led him to make the decision.
He noted how the pressure of homework and testing, especially for elementary age children in particular, has increased over the last several years.
“My kids sat in a classroom for 5 to 6 hours a day. On average, teachers were sending home 15 worksheets a week per student to be completed,” he said.
Angel was not pleased about the amount of time his children were spending on homework - an average of three to four hours a night.
“I’m saying this is not a corporate America type of thing. They’re kids. They need time to explore other interests, or just do nothing, because that’s what kids do," said the father of two.
For Marilyn Green, MUSD’s director of grants and special projects, the appeal and strength of the district’s homeschool program lies squarely with the teachers who have developed it.
“Yvonne does a great deal of the management of it,” said Green. “She’s a fabulous teacher and very dedicated to the program. But my other teachers are all top notch and the real leaders of the program.”
Angel agrees with her assessment. “I feel like when I leave my kids with these ladies, they don’t treat them like they’re someone else’s kids. They treat my kids like they’re teaching their own kids. That’s rare," he said.
Green emphasized that the district has worked hard to make the program adapt to the needs of both the parents and children.
“We offer a degree of support that some of the other districts don’t offer,” she said. “In addition to the weekly meetings, my teachers give parents a lot of hands-on support."
Said Green, "We do offer an enrichment day—science, art, Spanish, writing and journalism—and we offer a variety of very small group classes.”
The program maintains open enrollment throughout the school year. Children can enter and leave the program at any time. A child enrolled in the homeschool program receives the same textbooks and resources as any other child in the district.
They are also free to participate in any school activity or enrichment program offered by a district school, including clubs, sports and theater.
Green feels the success of the program is proof that homeschooling can be a viable and attractive option for a public education system.
“We’re advocates because we’ve seen students who have been very successful at it,” she said. “The main benefit to the district is that it’s now part of our identity; that we’re a district that offers different programs and wants to meet the needs of individual families.”
For Angel, the decision to homeschool comes down to a parent deciding which option best meets their child’s needs.
“If you’re a parent who wants to get more involved, who wants to have more active participation in your child’s learning and you really care about your child’s learning experience to the point where you’re compelled to take action," he said, "then homeschooling is for you.”
For more information about the district’s homeschool program contact: Donna Welch, director of elementary education and special programs, at 805.531.6420 or firstname.lastname@example.org.