By Jennifer Harrison
Long before COVID-19 made it necessary for students to learn at home this past spring, homeschooling was already a growing movement. The Mountain Grove area has seen a significant increase in homeschool families. A decade ago, there were around twenty families attending the local homeschool group. Now, there are many groups in the surrounding area, with hundreds of members.
The motivations for homeschooling vary widely, as do the methods used, but studies have shown the results to be consistent. It is well known that homeschooling is beneficial for children, and these benefits aren’t only academic. Studies also show them outperforming in social, emotional, and psychological development.
One reason the varied homeschool motivations and methods produce similar results is that homeschooling allows families to customize their approach to fit the needs of the student. Students can move at their own pace, slowing down when they encounter challenging material, or progressing quickly through material they are able to master with ease.
Missouri has homeschool-friendly education laws, making it relatively easy for families to begin. The first recommended step is to become thoroughly acquainted with Missouri Homeschool Laws, which are easily found online. One good source is fhe-mo.org/missourilaw. For help in better understanding the law and your rights, there are several wonderful groups available to help, such as Families for Home Education (FHE) and Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). fhe-mo.org and hslda.org
Some basic legalities to consider include:
Parents are required to provide 1,000 hours of instruction each year. At least 600 of those hours must be in the core subjects of math, language arts, reading, social studies, and science. 167.031.2(2)(b)
Parents must maintain “a plan book, diary, or other written record indicating subjects taught and activities engaged in; and a portfolio of samples and evaluations of the child’s academic progress.” 167.031.2(2)(a)
These instructions are for students “between the ages of seven years and the compulsory attendance age for the district”. 167.031.
When switching from public school to homeschooling, the law does not require parents to sign anything. It is a common courtesy to provide a simple withdrawal letter politely informing the school of the plan to homeschool the student, so that the school can remove the child from their roster, rather than having them think a child is truant. We are thankful to have a friendly relationship with our local schools, who have had a history of being supportive of homeschool families, and who have the joint goal of student education and community growth. Clear communication is a basic way for us to maintain a positive relationship with each other.
If an investigation into educational neglect occurred, the report would be sent “to the school district in which the child resides” and the school district would refer all homeschool matters to the prosecuting attorney.” 210.167 If a family faces prosecution, “the production by a parent of a daily log showing that a home school has a course of instruction which satisfies the requirements of this section…shall be a defense to any prosecution under this section and to any charge or action for educational neglect.” 167.031.5
Once you are familiar with the legal requirements, the most overwhelming part of homeschooling is narrowing down what materials to use. There are so many great options available that it can be a bit intimidating. A great way to work through the immense number of choices/ is to first learn which approach to education fits your family best. Will your student be working independently? Will they need a lot of interaction or direction? Do they learn well with the computer or would you prefer hands-on? Do you enjoy sitting and reading good books together? Are your children curious and able to learn by pursuing unit studies?
Some families prefer to use primarily digital resources, and there are some excellent (and free!) options out there. Khan Academy and Easy Peasy are two very popular programs. Some families are more comfortable with a traditional school approach, which includes textbooks through companies like Abeka and Bob Jones. There has been a resurgence of the Classical and Charlotte Mason approach to learning, with many publishers rushing to help fill the need for these methods, which include an emphasis in good literature.
For families looking for an open-and-go program, some publishers offer what is commonly called a “boxed kit”, which includes everything you need to teach each grade. Sonlight and My Father’s World are two very popular boxed options. Many publishers are also happy to help you customize your kit to allow your family to learn together with multiple grades sharing some subjects.
A great place to start is to visit Pilgrim’s Way in Springfield. This is a used bookstore with very helpful and knowledgeable staff members. You can browse through many of the available options to get a better idea about what fits your family. Mardel and Redeemed are two other educational supply stores in the Springfield area.
Homeschooling families will be quick to tell you that ‘learning at home’ is a misnomer, since families have access to a number of outside enrichment activities and many of them take advantage of these opportunities.
For sports, there are several available options, including sports teams through private schools, sports through the YMCA, homeschool teams in Springfield, Team Respect in Mtn. Grove which offers Jiu Jitzu and other activities, and STARS in Cabool, which offers Tae Kwon Do, several dance classes, and exercise classes. Students are also allowed to participate in sports through the local public school system if they also enroll and participate in two seated classes through the school.
Families interested in studying fine arts have a lot of opportunities available to them. The Ozark String Project in Ava offers violin, viola, and cello lessons and an orchestra. SOCO in Willow Springs offers music lessons for a wide array of instruments, and has an orchestra. STARS in Cabool offers theater, foreign languages, art lessons, and more.
There are many support groups in the area, providing everything from casual park days to formal classes. Mountain Grove has two homeschool groups; one is for the general homeschooling group which meets casually for roller skating days and occasional field trips, parties, or guest speakers. The other group meets for structured co-op classes and support. Ava has a group that offers similar options, as well as Classical Conversations groups. Classical Conversations supports homeschooling parents by cultivating the love of learning through a Christian worldview in fellowship with other families, with the belief that there are three keys to a great education: Classical, Christian, and Community.
Contact Information for some of our local groups, which are open to anyone in the surrounding areas:
Cottage Co-op and Mountain Grove Homeschool Group
Ava Homeschool Co-op
Classical Conversations of Ava
K-6: Meleah Johnson
7th grade: Carene Sicilia
Classical Conversations in Willow
Beyond Books Christian Homeschool Co-Op in West Plains
Jennifer Harrison has been homeschooling her children for 18 years in the Mountain Grove area. She is also the founder of a homeschool group in that area. Contact her via email: [email protected]