Two of my sons caught the bus at 6:45 a.m. to public high school. Another son slept until 8 when the dog woke him. While his brothers followed the bell schedule, my middle schooler moved from math for breakfast, reading in the family room with the dog at his feet, then science at the kitchen table. He practiced piano, read the novel Eragon in the car, and enjoyed a Robotics club meeting.
I have homeschooled five kids for various lengths of time, all at least through the fifth grade, but several up to and into high school.
It might come as a surprise that New Jersey can claim first place as the “least regulated” state for homeschooling. However, according to a recent study commissioned by Age of Learning, an education technology provider, New Jersey is the most homeschool-friendly state in laws and regulations. Parents can homeschool their children without assessments, record-keeping, or curriculum requirements.
However, the study ranks New Jersey among the lowest in terms of homeschool support from school districts; the state does not offer homeschool vouchers, and participation in sports can be decided by the local school districts.
Angelina Hill is a mom of five and has been homeschooling for 12 years.
“I am in Classical Conversations (known as CC) in Vineland,” Hill says. “I started in the Sewell community, but when one started in my hometown about six years ago, I moved to that.” With more than 60 students, the group ranges from four years old through high school.
“That co-op follows a classical model of education,” she notes. “I was doing that with my kids and found it helpful to come together as a group with those who have a similar philosophy of education.”
She explains that classical models follow a rigorous academic program with memory work in the early years and moving to Socratic discussion as students get older. It typically includes subjects such as Latin and Logic.
Hill’s high schoolers have also taken part in the National Christian Forensics and Communication Association (NCFCA) for speech and debate, and they compete in the New England region. “There are two styles of debate, 10 types of speaking, and moot court,” she adds. “They compete in the region and can go to nationals.”
Hill says she has seen growth in homeschooling particularly post-COVID: “It takes a little bit of work for the parents to figure out where they can plug in. Homeschool parents tend to be a bit entrepreneurial. You have to step out and try things. That is what happened to us with speech and debate; another family was doing it and our daughter was interested. What I will say is that it is all very high quality, like DoItBig.” (DoItBig Productions is a community theater company that produces shows and educates students in the theater.)
For the past 10 years the Hills have also attended LEARN, a weekly co-op of more than 400 people. LEARN is a ministry of Faith Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Elmer. LEARN Chair Rich Sezov, also a homeschooling parent, says, “The core mission of LEARN was to provide enrichment such as gym class, Lego Robotics, crafting/sewing, but it expanded to biology, chemistry, and physics. It has been able to pick up tasks and jobs that are harder for a parent to replicate at home. These are taught by teachers with subject matter expertise.”
Sezoy taught a computer class, buying old computers off eBay so the students could see why a computer works the way it works. The students also learned how to program. “My wife teaches apologetics and logic; she is really passionate about it,” Sezov adds.
“Since it is a co-op in the truest sense (you can’t drop your kid off), there is lots of opportunity for community,” he says. “We come from different church communities, different walks of life, but we find these areas of commonality in homeschooling, parenting.”
“It’s a good balance for me,” Hill says of LEARN. “My kids get to choose something they are interested in—cooking, art, literature. They can connect with kids their age. We’ve gotten plugged into other things. It’s a wider net of knowledge.”
Through LEARN, Hill heard about Strings for the King, a homeschool stringed instrument group and got her kids involved. “It’s super affordable and Tim Carroll is extremely knowledgeable. The world of music has opened up,” she says.
Sezov’s daughter, now in her first year of college, also played in the strings group. In addition, she enjoyed playing basketball and soccer through Gloucester County Christian Home Schoolers Association (GCCHSA). Sezov’s son now enjoys soccer with that group.
The results on New Jersey homeschooling are from Age of Learning, the creators of ABCmouse and Adventure Academy, which recently launched Homeschool Plus. “It’s a product I’ve been waiting to use,” says Cailin Sandvig, vice president of marketing for the Homeschool Division. “Our tagline is ‘Your Homeschool, Your Way.’ It can be used as a core or supplemental curriculum.” The current product is for four- to eight-year-olds with plans in the works to expand. Sandvig says it’s been a joy to use the product with her four-year-old twins. The 19 courses include full math and literacy, Spanish, Art, piano and more.
“It removes the administrative tasks of homeschooling. It is a balance of online and offline learning,” says Sandvig. “I really believe in homeschooling and supporting the community in the right way. I see homeschool parents create communities in which they build support for their kids.”
The abundance of those communities, along with our state’s legal freedom, make South Jersey particularly homeschool friendly.
Author’s Take on Homeschooling:
I have been a part of two co-ops; I would not want to do it on my own. I enjoy delving into math, history, geography, literature, and art—but save the fetal pig dissection for the co-op’s science teacher!