By Philip Haldiman
David and Christina Garretson met in 2001 while working at an elementary school in the Washington School District.
Even then, they knew they wanted to become home-school parents — before they were married, before they had any children and before they moved into their current house.
Initially, Mr. Garretson was hesitant, but after witnessing Christina work as a one-on-one aid for a young girl with Down Syndrome, he was convinced.
“We had the pleasure of working with some amazing teachers, most of which are still good friends,” he said. “But when I saw the amazing amount of growth this little girl had in the few years my wife worked with her, I knew I wanted Christina teaching our future children.”
The number of Northwest Valley children being home-schooled as opposed to receiving an education from a traditional school has gone up in Maricopa County since at least 2013.
Arizona has many options for parents to educate their children: public school districts, private schools, charter schools, K-12 online and home-school.
Mr. Garretson, a Surprise resident who has five children, three of which are being home-schooled, said each of these options have their pros and cons.
“I think one of our biggest challenges in the home-school community is getting the word out to parents that homeschooling is a viable option with a lot of benefits,” he said.
That’s why Mr. Garrick was pleased with the passage of HB2536 this year, which gave homeschooling a stronger footing in equity with the other educational options.
Arizona students, including those home-schooled, may enroll in community colleges and schools such as West-MEC to participate in dual enrollment classes. However, before the new law, such schools were not allowed to give college credit to home-schooled students who successfully completed the courses, while public school students were granted credit.
Mr. Garrettson said it is surprising how often home-schoolers run into this kind of issue.
He said there seems to be a bias out there that basically assumes because home-schoolers are taught by their parents or guardian, they just give them A+ grades no matter what.
“In practice it’s the exact opposite. Home-school families have often times made the financial sacrifice of becoming a one-income family and we have a significant time investment in our children’s education,” Mr. Garrettson said. “Because of these two factors, I believe home-school parents grade harder than, say, a pubic school teacher would. We have higher expectations of our children because of the significant investment we are putting into their growth and education.”
More than 600 students in the Northwest Valley are being home-schooled, according to the Maricopa County school superintendent’s office.
Nancy Manos, executive director of Arizona Families for Home Education, said parents decide to home-school for a variety of reasons.
She said they can range from wanting to provide a faith-based education to wanting to direct their child’s education, tailoring the curriculum and topics of study to their children’s unique interests, strengths and weaknesses.
“Many parents know they can provide a quality education themselves,” Ms. Manos said.
Most of the students home-schooled in the Northwest Valley would have gone to Deer Valley, Dysart and Peoria unified school districts.
“A trend that has become quite common recently is that families are choosing to be home-schooled because they are unhappy with public schools, whether because their child isn’t getting the support they need, especially for children with special needs, or because of bullying or safety concerns and other reasons,” she said.
On the other hand, public school districts provide a variety of benefits.
Peoria Unified spokeswoman Danielle Airey said the strength of public schools is access to an experience that helps to build well-rounded students, who are prepared for college and careers.
She said PUSD offers open enrollment, encouraging parents to shop for the campus environment and experience where they think their child will be most successful. When someone doesn’t feel their neighborhood school is the best fit, the district has a team that specializes in pairing the unique gifts and talents of each child to help families make the best educational choice, she said.
“We recognize that families have options in where to send their child for school,” Ms. Airey said. “One of the unique aspects of being the fourth largest pre-K through 12 grade school district in the state is that we have the resources to meet the individual needs of each and every child. Larger districts, like ours, offer specialty programs, like arts, athletics, gifted education, a traditional school, language immersion, a continuum of special education and character-building programs.”
Challenges in homeschooling can range from lack of awareness to the stigma of getting colleges, the government and other organizations to treat homeschooling the same as other educational options.
Mr. Garretson said teaching at home often brings “the look” from others — the look of “how could you do this to these precious children?” or “how could you put your children at such a disadvantage?” or “your poor children must not be very socialized” or “how can you stand being around your children all day like that?”
It is not so much about why people choose to home-school, it is why people keep at it even when it gets tough, he said.
“The worst is when you get the look from family. Inevitably, after ‘testing’ our children, they find that they are not only well educated but they are also smart, articulate, well mannered and respectful. I think getting over these inaccurate stigmas is a big challenge that the home-school community faces,” Mr. Garretson said. “Ask people around you who has had the most impact on your life and why? Most of the people will say a family member, some may say a teacher and a few might say a former boss. When they get to the why part, the answer is usually the same — that person poured into me. They took the time to influence and grow me. I’ve heard a lot of different reasons why parents choose to home-school their children but ultimately what keeps them home-schooling is the amazing relationship they get with their children. The opportunity to pour into them, to influence and grow them on a daily basis.”
Philip Haldiman can be reached at 623-876-3697 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit yourvalley.net.
Home-schoolers by district
2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Deer Valley Unified 116 173 165 161 218 198
Dysart Unified 81 99 138 171 149 197
Peoria Unified 75 100 103 116 127 168
Glendale Elementary 15 13 17 24 32 30
Glendale Union 18 25 22 19 21 24
Benefits of home schooling
- One-on-one tutorial style of learning is highly effective.
- Parents are able to tailor a course of study to their child’s individual abilities, learning style, needs and future goals.
- Flexibility to customize the pace at which the child moves through the material is beneficial for concept mastery.
- Parents are able to choose the worldview through which their children are educated.
- Learning together builds strong family relationships.
- There is greater opportunity for character training. Parents have the ability to address character issues consistently as they arise.
- Students often have more time to pursue areas of interest.
- High school students can get a jumpstart on college education or career preparation.
To learn more about homeschooling in Arizona visit AFHE.org