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Home Schooling

September 21, 1995
By: L. MEGHAN HUMPHREYS
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY _ Like other parents, Ann Klein wants her children to have the best education possible. That's why she and her husband, Cerry, are keeping their kids out of school.

The Kleins are just one family out of thousands nationwide who see home schooling as a better alternative to public and private education.

The Kleins have five school-age children, plus one on the way. Their classroom is at home, in southwestern Columbia, and their mother is the teacher.

Throughout Missouri, many parents are doing the same thing. Some teach their children at home to shelter them from peer pressure, to give them more one-on-one teaching or to intensively educate them in the family's religion.

Klein said she and her husband decided to "home school" their children for a number of reasons, but religion was the main factor.

"We wanted to raise our children for the Lord and we felt convicted to do that by teaching our children at home," Klein said.

But even Klein says there is a downside to keeping the children at home nearly 24 hours a day.

"The only disadvantage is that it is a sacrifice, mainly for the mother. I had to stop being involved in many outside things to teach the children," Klein said. "It's not for everybody."

The number of families teaching at home in Missouri is unknown; families are not required to register with the state or with their local school districts.

In fact, Missouri is virtually powerless when it comes to overseeing home-schooled children's educations.

While the state does set rules for how children are to be educated, it does not check to see if these requirements are being met.

Children taught at home must receive at least 1000 hours of instruction per year, with 600 of those hours spent on reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies.

Parent teachers are not required to have an education degree or teacher certification. They are required, however, to keep a plan book that shows what the child is learning, samples of each child's work and progress reports.

But the only time parents are asked to show these records is if they are suspected of not teaching their children. Then, the parents would have to turn their records over to the courts to prove their child is being educated according to the law.

Some say the state's requirements aren't enough to ensure the best education for the child. Some organizations, such as the National Education Association, are pressing for more governmental control over home schooling.

Carol Schmoock, assistant executive director of the Missouri NEA, says not all Missouri children are getting a satisfactory education at home. Because parents don't have to show their records to anyone on a regular basis, there are few ways to enforce home-school guidelines.

"The NEA believes that the government ought to provide some kind of oversight to be sure kids are receiving the education they should be," Schmoock said.

Although the NEA argues against home schooling because of lack of state enforcement, it also questions whether home-taught children develop adequate social skills.