Home Schooling in Eldersburg
By Laurel Robinson

You may see them in a small group at the library, playing outside, or running errands with their parents. They are children of all ages and personalities, just like any other Eldersburg children -- except that they are not in a school building during school hours.

Homeschooling is a relatively popular option in the Eldersburg area, and it has become progressively more “mainstream” throughout the nation over the past couple of decades.

According to the Board of Education, this year there are 244 students in the 21784 ZIP code who are homeschooled.  Many families homeschool multiple children, so this number represents fewer than 244 households.   Each student’s parents must sign and submit a Home Schooling Notification Form when they decide to home school, and bring a portfolio the child’s materials to the Education offices in Westminster for review twice per school year.  The Code of Regulations for Maryland states that if a family is home schooling, then parents (not tutors) must do the primary home instruction, and that they must provide sufficient evidence that each school-aged child is receiving “consistent, thorough instruction” at an appropriate grade level.

Some homeschooling families opt to work under an “umbrella group,” which provides structure and guidance and reviews the materials for the parents.  Families who are in an umbrella group (usually at a cost for membership) do not submit their materials to be reviewed directly by the county; rather, the umbrella group reviews their materials and vouches for them that they are meeting the criteria of the law.

Many families include, as part of their weekly routine, time at a “co-op,” where they gather for group learning, taught cooperatively by various parents.  One parent may teach a math class, while another will teach a language course.   Typically these groups meet only once per week, with homework and follow-up instruction provided for each child by his or her parents.

The reasons for home schooling vary.  Some parents have homeschooled their children from the start, while some have tried public school and decided to try an alternative.  Some homeschooled children have special needs or are gifted, and their parents enjoy tailoring the curriculum to the individual child.

Eldersburg resident Mary Prunty has three children and has home schooled for 10 years.  She sums it up thus: “Home schooling gives my kids the gift of time.  Time to learn at their own speed, time to explore nature, time to relax, imagine and create.”

The homeschooling community is diverse, but also well-connected. There are several online groups that exist for local homeschoolers to support one another, organize field trips and gatherings, and trade resources.

The Eldersburg branch of Carroll County library has monthly programs specifically for homeschoolers ages 7 – 10.  Recent topics have been “Math Matters: The Luck of the Irish” and “Celebrate Earth Day: Learning About America.”  On May 19, the topic will be “Science Investigations: The World Beneath Your Feet.”

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