Many Mississippians view the freedom within homeschooling as a vital tool in the education of their children.
The climate of homeschool in Mississippi has shifted in recent years, even before COVID drove most students home. More and more, parents are wanting to shift to homeschool, but they feel they aren’t qualified to lead their children in their education.
This is simply not the case, said Tracey Manning, a homeschooling mom of three.
“First comment I usually hear is, ‘I could never do that!'” Manning said. “And the second is, ‘I couldn’t teach all they need to know.’”
Manning quoted Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule as a qualifier for taking your child’s education into your hands.
“Well, it takes around 10,000 hours for someone to be considered an expert on a subject and by the time your child turns five, you will have more hours than that! You are the expert (when it comes to your child), not some random teacher,” said Manning.
Manning, with an education background herself, said that in a traditional school setting, many aspects of a well-rounded education are often overlooked.
“When our children were in school 7 hours a day, then homework, then extracurricular activities,” said Manning. “(There was) not a lot of time just to spend time together or develop a (skill for) a musical instrument, drawing, or a creative outlet that requires a lot of free time.”
Affording a solid curriculum could also deter a family from homeschooling, but Manning added that the price is really completely in the family’s control.
“We spend, for three kids, around $1,000 a year but you can spend much less,” said Manning, “We spend money on books, we also set money aside for as many field trips as possible.”
The added savings of not having to pay for uniforms or expensive clothes, lunch costs, or school fees has made room in the budget for Manning’s three children to pursue their own interests, such as horseback riding or swimming.
Families like the Mannings view the freedom within homeschool as a vital tool in the education of their children.
Homeschool Culture Shift in Mississippi
Homeschooling in Mississippi is not a new concept, though it is one that exploded when the COVID pandemic closed schools.
“Homeschooling’s most recent growth occurred during the COVID pandemic in early 2020 as well as the year after in 2021,” said Mississippi Home Educators Association communications coordinator Lisa Barber. “MHEA’s phone line used to receive about 2 calls per week, but during 2020-2021, we received 60 calls per week from men and women asking us how to begin homeschooling in Mississippi.”
Barber noted that since Mississippi’s homeschooling laws came into fruition over 35 years ago, there have been few changes. Homeschooling in Mississippi is at the discretion of the parents. There is no statewide standard for homeschooling, and there’s no nationwide standard of homeschooling either.
“Mississippi’s homeschooling law has been a favorable one,” said Barber. “Homeschoolers are required to fill out a short Certificate of Enrollment for each of their homeschooled children each year. These forms are submitted to the local student attendance officers by September 15.”
While many think of homeschooling as isolating, there is a thriving culture of homeschoolers and programs for homeschoolers in the Magnolia State.
“As homeschooling has grown over time, more opportunities have opened up for home-educated students, and there are more curriculum choices and online classes available,” Barber stated. “Additionally, various organizations began to include homeschoolers in their contests, awards, and memberships.”
Barber said that these organizations, also known as homeschool co-ops, disprove the theory that homeschooled students overall are not socialized with other children.
Like the Mannings, what turns Mississippians to homeschooling is often freedom.
“There is truly not one right way to homeschool. Each family forms their own educational philosophy, creates their own schedule, and picks their own books and curricula,” said Barber. “We approach elementary, middle, and high school differently based on our children’s ages, learning styles, and giftings.”
For the Manning family, and many like them, religious freedom is also a driving force in choosing to educate their children from home.
“We say God chose it for us. My oldest was in public school and started experiencing severe anxiety and panic attacks,” Manning said. “We had homeschooled before while living in Africa and I have a master’s degree in Christian Education so we decided to give it a try again. We haven’t looked back. She has very little anxiety issues, she doesn’t take meds, and her academics have soared. We decided to homeschool all three kids after seeing my oldest improve and praying and knowing this was the direction God wanted us to move.”
Families interested in homeschooling can contact the Mississippi Home Educators Association at 662-494-1999, or online here or on Facebook.