By Tova Fruchtman: CNJ staff writer
Before he started high school two years ago, 16-year-old Jeremiah Schultz wanted to explore what it would be like to go to a public school instead of being homeschooled.
“He interviewed teachers, students and peers,” said his mom, Margaret Schultz.
He also explored both of the high schools in the area of Nebraska where the family lived before moving to Portales last year.
About a month before school started, Jeremiah decided he wanted to continue being homeschooled, because of the flexibility.
“You can work your school around your schedule, rather than working your schedule around school,” he said.
In 2003, there was a 29-percent increase in the number of children in the nation being homeschooled to 1.1 million students since the last survey was taken in 1999, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics study.
The No. 1 reason the parents surveyed by the National Center for Education Statistics gave was concern about the environment of schools.
Jori Gramzow of Portales, who is raising three children and two foster children, started homeschooling this year. Gramzow said as a Christian, she did not like some of the ideas her children would be exposed in the classroom or from other kids.
“I think having a closer relationship with us, they’ll see in a different way what’s right and what’s wrong and they’ll be better equipped to make choices,” she said.
Critics say the social aspect of public schools plays an important role in the education process.
The Schultzes belong to a group called Homeschooling Parents and Children Together — a group of homeschooling families from Portales, Clovis and Cannon Air Force Base that come together for socializing, field trips, guest speakers and a favorite of many of the kids, “Show and Tell.”
When not on a field trip the group meets at a church in Portales — although they are not a religious group. At the meeting on Oct. 12, there are children of all ages: Diane Zablotsky held her son Nicholas, 1, in her arms and a bearded Jeremiah Schultz played a game with some younger children.
Allen Stata, a doctor of social work and professor at Eastern New Mexico University, said it’s important for kids to get socialization with people like and unlike themselves.
“If you don’t get it at the public school then you need to get it somewhere else,” Stata said.
A packet the HomeschoolingPACT distributes suggests other places for parents to socialize their children include 4-H, scouts, church and volunteer work.
Margaret Schultz said one reason she chose to homeschool was that she thought socialization and schooling should be separate, but she said her kids are quite social.
“I would say that they are more socialized than anybody I know. They’re just not socializing with just people their age. They learn to communicate with the postman and with the other parents,” she said.
Jeremiah Schultz said it is different not knowing as many kids his age, but he joins groups to meet people. And he has no problem with just introducing himself.
“Mostly if you see someone you just start talking to them,” he said.