The Patels chose the homeschool route for their son Samir because of his exceptional abilities. His mother Jyoti said at the age of five or six he started trying to spell words and has always been driven to learn.
“I’m not as qualified as a teacher who has done it, but elementary is basic reading, math and all that stuff,” she said. “The advantage I’ve seen is that in the elementary grades, I have been able to push him to his capabilities. At the elementary level the most you might be able to do is go one grade ahead, because putting him several grades ahead might be detrimental to his psychology.”
Fellow Texan and seventh-grader, 11-year-old Anjay Ajodha who tied for 22nd in the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, is also an accelerated child. However, Ajodha has spent most of his educational career in public school.
“We had him in a private situation until he was in the third grade,” his mother, Meera Ajodha said. “At third grade we brought him into public school and he was doing well. He’s also advanced a few years which took care of some of the issues we had, being bored, for example, in the classroom.”
While the Adjodhas are satisfied with Anjay’s current situation, they may look into other educational venues as he gets older and his current schooling no longer challenges him. The Patels, however, are starting to run into limitations with Samir’s homeschooling.
“I’m at a crossroads,” Jyoti said. “Right now he’s in middle school and I’m really seriously thinking what I need to do for high school. So I’m exploring certain possibilities, but I still want him to stay challenged to his ability level.”
With Samir already taking a number of high-school-level courses, early college is one of the probable avenues for his education. Jyoti also cites a problem with the facilities she has at her home and her personal capabilities to teach Samir further.
Pamela Thomas also recognizes her limitations as a homeschool teacher as her daughter Tia ages.
“I actually met with the school principal and told him when she was five, what she could do and what she was capable of doing. He basically encouraged me to homeschool her,” Pamela said. “When she gets into high school, when there is more advanced learning, I think she’ll be better suited in a regular school.”
14th place National Spelling Bee finisher and winner of the 2006 National Geography Bee, Bonny Jain is public-schooled. Jain’s mother, Beena Jain said her son has always wanted to learn and so she began schooling him before he started public school.
“I felt he needed the interaction with other kids,” she said. “He was put in the accelerated program. Though he was in fifth grade, he could do seventh, eighth grade math. They keep him occupied and challenged.”
The Ajodhas agreed about their son’s need for interaction with other students. While Anjay interacted with the children at his private school, his family felt he needed more.
“We also put him into public school because of the socialization he needed.” Meera said. “In the private setting, it was very protective and it was good for him, but it wasn’t quite the real world.”
With lingering questions about the statistical comparison between the Scripps field and the NHES survey, Egan notes homeschools main downfall. The lack of interaction which spurred Anjay and Bonny’s families to put them in public school is missing from homeschool.
Egan said he realizes there are groups and things of that nature to provide that interaction for the children being homeschooled, but it cannot compare to the experience provided in a public-school setting.
“There has to be recognition at some point, the child is going to leave the nest and they need to have interaction with others,” Egan said. “Education is not just about imparting knowledge to students. It’s about preparing them to use that knowledge in the real world.”
Trevor Hayes is an intern with Accuracy in Media, Accuracy in Academia’s parent organization.