MOUNT VERNON — Parents who choose to home educate their children at an early age do not have to continue that option as the child gets older; they can collaborate with their local school district to decide what is the best option to meet the individual needs of each child.
For example, most of the 150 children currently being home schooled in county school districts, and the 177 in the Mount Vernon city school district, are in kindergarten through grade eight, said Dave Southward, superintendent of the Knox County Educational Service Center.
“After grade eight,” he said, “some students want to attend high school to obtain a diploma from a Knox County school, to participate in high school extracurricular activities, to attend the career center or to take more difficult college preparatory courses parents may feel they personally cannot teach their child.”
If the parent who has been home-educating a child decides to enroll the child into public school, the local superintendent will determine the grade level placement, and evaluate which credits may be applied toward the district’s requirements for graduation.
That could be somewhat problematic for the student and the school district, according to East Knox superintendent John Marschhausen.
“While some students are at, or above, grade level,” he explained, “others are significantly below grade level and parents may not agree with placement. If a student can’t perform at a fifth-grade level, we can’t put the student in fifth grade. Also, we can’t give credits at the high school level for classes without evidence of performance and we will only accept limited home-school courses as credit for graduation. So, if home-schooled students decide at age 16 they want to return to the public school, they are going to be enrolled as freshmen with a lot of classes to take prior to graduation.”
The transition from home school to public school can be easy or difficult, Marschhausen said, depending on the social interactions the student has had while being educated at home.
“Some [home schooled] students are ‘out and about’ at different activities,” he said. “These students are fine. If a student is home schooled and isolated from age-appropriate peers, and never forced to confront tough decisions without parental guidance, these students struggle a great deal.
“In schools we teach more than simply academics — we teach students to survive in the real world. We teach this in an age-appropriate and hopefully safe manner,” said Marschhausen. “The lessons learned in school, especially regarding social issues and decision making, allow graduates to have the skills and knowledge to function in a social, and sometimes cruel, world. Students who are isolated and sheltered during their formative years, and then are thrust into a school environment, often lack the skills to make appropriate social decisions. These kids really struggle.”
Sometimes parents and school districts share the responsibility of directly providing a comprehensive education. State law allows home-educating parents to enroll their children in a public school on a part-time basis, at the discretion of the local public school district.
East Knox is one of the local districts which allows part-time home schooling.
“When parents home school for religious reasons,” Marschhausen said, “we may get students for art, music, physical education and/or math classes. We also have students who are considered part-time, but take digital classes in their homes for some classes. We try to be flexible and meet the needs of all parents and students.”
Clear Fork also accepts part-time students.
“It’s good for our kids and for the home school kids just to interact,” superintendent Dan Freund said. “We have a lot of very good home-schooled kids here. The home school parents are very responsible.”
Some of the part-timers take just one class at Clear Fork like band, music or art. Clear Fork allows those students to participate on district athletic teams, according to Ohio High School Athletic Association rules.
“We’ve had [home educated] kids on swimming, football and a variety of sports,” said Freund. “It works out well. Sometimes they decide they like school and come full time.”