Although there are a variety of public and private schools to choose from in The Woodlands area, there is another education niche that has been growing not only in The Woodlands but in Texas and the U.S. as well: homeschooling.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, in 2012 there were an estimated 1.8 million home-schooled students in the U.S., which is an increase from 850,000 in 1999, when estimates were first reported.
Raise Your Hand Texas, an education advocacy organization, reported 5 percent of school-aged Texans were homeschooled in the 2014-2015 school year, compared to 4 percent enrolled in private school.
Organizations in The Woodlands catering to home-schooled students expect the number to continue to grow as well, which has prompted the need for more programs and amenities to accommodate the rising trend.
Elise Eaton, director of Extraordinary Education in Magnolia, said the home-schooled population has been growing in Montgomery County, which has prompted the need for more amenities to accommodate the rising trend. The organization, which is located on the border of The Woodlands, offers parent-directed education programs with a university-style schedule.
“Home-schooling is very much growing in the area,” Eaton said. “People are seeing it’s a really viable option. Private schools are becoming very expensive, and some people are dissatisfied with public school. We have kids come from all over to take a class here—from The Woodlands, Conroe, Houston, Montgomery and Spring.”
Eaton said the best thing about organizations like Extraordinary Education is some parents who are home-schooling their children need help in certain subjects, so classes are available throughout the week, and children are still able to take work home.
“It’s like a college for kids,” Eaton said. “A lot of parents are looking for outside help. Parents need choices.”
Bethany Paterno, founder of CTR Christian Academy, another organization catering to home-schooled families in The Woodlands area, said she thinks more affordable home-school amenities need to be available to accommodate the growing home-school population.
“In The Woodlands, most things are expensive,” Paterno said. “We have enough programs in the area, but a lot of people can’t afford them. Home-school needs to be affordable.”
CTR Christian Academy teaches children in small classes for hands-on learning a couple days out of the week and then has children work at home with their parents for the rest of the week. Paterno said she believes the academy provides the best mesh of a public school and home-schooling experience.
“I feel like having a loving home environment for kids in a loving home is a factor that makes you unstoppable,” she said. “We provide home-school work based on the children’s learning style. A lot of parents may not feel capable of home-schooling, but I feel more confident that this way.”
Brianne Yancy, co-owner of Champs Educational Services on Egypt Lane, said she agrees with Paterno and that there is a need for additional amenities in the area.
“Five years ago, we had five or six students and now we have over 100 combined home-schooled and public school students,” Yancy said. “We’ve been growing as alternative education grows in the community.
For children who are home-schooled who would like to interact in other programs based on science and robotics, The Woodlands Children’s Museum also offers classes in the spring and fall for home-schooled children.
Ana Noe, education coordinator for the museum, said the early science and robotic programs offered for children ages 4-8 offer a positive learning experience.
“I think it’s an environment that fosters their creativity and the groups are fairly small, so it’s a good teacher-to-student ratio,” Noe said. “We have pretty regular students. There’s plenty of home-schooled students in the community, and they take care of each other.”