Although public schools still attract the vast majority of students in the Cy-Fair area, the number of families opting for home-school is on the rise.
According to officials with Cy-Fair ISD, 3.1 percent of students within the district’s boundaries are attending private or charter schools or are home-schooled. This number is up from 2.2 percent last year, an increase of roughly 1,000 students.
The reasons parents choose to home-school are varied, according to officials with Cypress Homeschool Association. Common reasons include wanting an alternative to test-driven education and catering to individualized needs.
“When I first started out at the beginning of the home-school trend, people home-schooled for religious reasons to shelter their kids,” said Stephanie Hill, a CHA member who has home-schooled her four children in Cypress for 11 years. “The main evolution I’ve seen is a broader spectrum of people and reasons. Now it has more to do with what’s best for their family.”
CHA started in 2006 with a small number of families, and the group now has nearly 300 families. Member Georgia Joice said the group has seen 12 percent growth in membership in the last three years.
Home schooling in Texas
Home schooling became a legal option for Texans in 1994, and because the Texas Supreme Court deemed it a form of private school, it is not regulated by the state. About 350,000 students statewide are home-schooled, said Stephen Howsley, public policy analyst with Texas Home School Coalition.
“People from every walk of life have taken advantage of home-schooling,” he said. “The main group we’ve seen is Christians, usually due to the fact that parents would rather have more oversight of what gets taught.”
While most parents pay for curriculum, others write their own. Howsley said depending on the level of investment families want to make, the cost of teaching materials varies greatly.
According to the National Home Education Research Institute, the average home schooling family spends $600-$900 per child each year. The 2016-17 budgeted operating cost at CFISD is $7,744 per student, according to Population and Survey Analysts.
CHA Vice President Jordy Ferrara said 90 percent of her expenditures go toward specialty classes, extracurricular programming and field trips. Textbooks are costly, but passing them down from child to child cuts costs, she said. Families also take advantage of free resources, such as public libraries and online programs.
Ferrara said the cost difference between educating at home versus the cost a school district incurs per child likely comes from paying the salaries and benefits of teachers, administrators, counselors, nurses, custodial staff and kitchen workers. In addition, district officials must budget for building and maintaining schools over the years.
Meeting student needs
Communities like CHA give students a consistent circle of friends who work as a team instead of competing with one another as public school students often do, she said.
Some students have needs that are not met in public school. Tammi Wright, founder of Learning Differences Homeschool Network of Southeast Texas, said her son has a normal IQ but struggles with dyslexia and social skills. He is too high-functioning to interact with other special-needs groups, yet too quirky for neurotypical groups.
When Wright took her son out of public school as a fourth-grader, he could not read on a kindergarten level. Now at age 16, he has shown interest in going to college to study engineering.
“Home schooling makes it possible to tailor a curriculum specifically to a child’s abilities, needs and learning style, whether delayed or advanced,” Wright said. “It’s nearly impossible for any school district to do this, even with the best staff, the best funding and the best facilities.”
CFISD Superintendent Mark Henry said the district celebrates American values, providing opportunities for all students, regardless of race, religion, economic status or abilities.
“We work with parents to develop well-rounded, productive, college and career ready citizens,” he said. “The career and technical education courses as well as the variety of extracurricular activities that CFISD provides makes us a solid choice for parents who want their children to be 21st century, global leaders.”