Popularity of home schooling grows in Fayetteville
Source: Fay Observer
By: Steve DeVane
May 21, 2012
Kelly Rogers says Cumberland County is one of the fastest-growing home-school areas in the state.
Her store shows it.
Less than three years after opening in a small office at Gillis Hill Farm, The Pilgrim's Journey Home School Bookstore is now a 3,700-square-foot unofficial headquarters for hundreds of local families who teach their children themselves.
Rogers and her husband, Alex, have about 450 consignors of books and other supplies and an email list of 600 people. The Pilgrim's Journey, in Eutaw Shopping Center, also hosts how-to seminars for parents, extracurricular classes for students and even a movie night for families.
The store's customer base is booming. More than 1,300 families in Cumberland County were home-schooling their children in 2010-11, the most recent figures available from the state Division of Non-Public Education. That's up from 768 families a decade ago and fewer than 200 families in the early 1990s.
The support group North Carolinians for Home Education works with more than 5,000 families statewide, said its president, Spencer Mason of Charlotte. The number of home schools statewide doubled in the 2000s, he said.
"I think the biggest reason is people see the product of home-schooling and say, 'I want that for my family, as well,' " he said.
Mason said his family began home-schooling in 1981, when the movement was in its early stages.
"When we started, my wife went out and bought every book available on home-schooling," he said. "There were two."
Mason said he thinks the findings of a survey his group did about eight years ago still hold true: The top reasons families start home-schooling are they think they can do a better job than public schools and they want to teach their children their religious beliefs. He estimates that about 80 percent of home-school families are Christians who want to pass on their values to their children.
"Many of them don't think their values are taught in public schools," he said.
Home-schooling also appeals to military families, Kelly and Alex Rogers say, which is perhaps why Cumberland County's numbers are growing so fast.
Alex Rogers is in the Army and says home-schooling provides flexibility that military families like because of frequent moves and unusually timed vacations.
"With home-schooling, you don't have to follow the public school calendar," his wife said. "You just have to hold class 180 days in the year."
Though the bookstore opened in July 2009, its roots go back to 2002 when the family was stationed in Germany. Kelly Rogers heard that the Department of Defense school was discarding old books that were still usable. She and a friend went "Dumpster diving" and kept the books in their basement, unsure of what to do with them.
Kelly Rogers heard that a home-school group was having a picnic across the street, so she went over and asked the leader to announce that she had books for free. Before long, her basement was full of happy home-school parents.
"They went nuts," she said. "They were so excited. I just remember that feeling."
When the family returned to Fort Bragg, she got a job teaching at Village Christian Academy. She liked the school but not how working full time kept her away from her family.
"There is a calling for home-schooling," she said.
Rogers quit her job and started teaching her children. She and other parents would carpool to a home-school store in Raleigh.
"I would spend hours there," she said.
She realized Fayetteville needed a store like that.
"I said, 'We've got to open a home-school bookstore here," she said. "I know we can support it."
Better test scores
Mason, of the statewide support group, says a study published last year showed North Carolina home-schooled students scored on average better than 84 percent of all students in math, language arts and spelling. Parental involvement is a factor in student success, Mason said.
"Obviously, if you're home-schooling, there's a lot of parental involvement," he said.
David and Sally Farrington have home-schooled their daughters for 18 years. He is athletic director for the Fayetteville Homeschool Crusaders, an athletic league for area home-schoolers. She coaches the varsity volleyball team.
Home-schooling takes a major commitment, Sally Farrington said.
"You make personal sacrifices," she said.
The flexibility in scheduling and ability to tailor teaching to each child are advantages, she said, but not the biggest benefit.
"I think the time with my kids and husband has been the biggest thing," she said. "You just can't replace that. It goes by so fast."