WDAM Investigates: A lesson in home education

Updated: Apr. 16, 2019 at 9:26 PM CDT
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LAMAR COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - There’s no school bell inside Christy Criddle’s Lamar County home, but it doesn’t change the fact the school day is underway.

“It is a lot of work, patience is one of the biggest things,” said Criddle.

She and her husband are like many parents across the state, choosing to home school their kids. For them, that means typically four days a week, year round, with lessons tailored to meet the needs of their 4-year-old and 6-year-old sons.

“We can follow what the kids are interested in and go on those subjects and build off of it instead of having to just go by the curriculum that the public schools set,” said Criddle.

Choosing her curriculum also comes with the freedom of choosing when to start the school day and how long it will last.

“You don’t have to go to school for seven, eight hours a day," Criddle said. “We can do school and sometimes it’s an hour, sometimes it’s three hours, it just depends on what we’re doing that day. It also allows us to be outside, they’re very active kids, so it lets us go outside and apply what they’re learning.”

That type of freedom is because Mississippi law doesn't create any type of oversight when it comes to the education of kids who are home schooled. Looking at current law, Mississippi's only requirement is for parents or guardians to fill out a form, called a certificate of enrollment, once a year.

That means no required curriculum, testing, number of school hours or days, background checks, vaccinations or education minimums for the person who will be teaching a child at home.

Criddle, who has a degree in elementary education, said she decided to home school after realizing the time, money and resources weren’t available in a public school setting to deliver the level of education she envisioned.

“That’s all you have to do is file that one piece of paper,” said Criddle. “It’s beneficial for me. It lets me choose and pick what we need to do and not have to report to anybody."

“Our legislators realize that restriction of home education, legislation of home education, there’s no dragon to slay there. They’re doing a fine job on their own,” said Danny Kilpatrick with the Mississippi Home Educators Association.

MHEA is designed to help parents who home educate. Kilpatrick said not having restrictions in place helps with achievement inside makeshift classrooms, like the one at the Criddle’s household.

“People who generally spend the time, resources and energy to home educate won’t accept a failing product,” said Kilpatrick.

A records request from the Mississippi Department of Education shows as of January, just more than 17,000 students in Mississippi are reportedly being home schooled. That number is based off the amount of enrollment certificates filed in each district.

With a system unchecked by the state though, gauging achievement and whether every home educated student is successful can be difficult. Criddle said for her, that comes down to self-policing at home.

“They are going to, every day, be on task with what they need,” said Criddle.

Neither Criddle nor Kilpatrick are against public schools and both said it’s a personal decision which can result from different situations within a family.

“The underlying theme of it all is that people choose, parents choose, what they feel is best for their children,” said Kilpatrick.

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