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PRO AND CON ON HOME SCHOOLING

Q. My grandson is 8 and my granddaughter is 10. My daughter-in-law is going to teach them in her home. Is this a wise thing, for children to be isolated from their peers? I just feel like it's not going to be good for them.

-- A Grandmother in Hoffman, Ill.

A. As a Norfolk, Va., mom and her three home-schooled daughters read the newspaper together one morning, they came upon this grandmother's question. A few responses from the girls, ages 6, 7 and 9:

"I think it is good to home school because you really get to know your family. Plus other kids won't get to pick on you. Your mother chooses what you learn, but also you get to study what interests you. . . . At home we are not influenced by 30 children our age. We are influenced by adults with good values."

And their mother's philosophy: "It's much easier to learn something the first time, the right way, than it is to change a behavior, habits or a belief later."

This week's column focuses on how parents turn to home-school support groups, Scouts, sports, the community and religious activities to round out their kids' lives. Next week: opinions from experts, and home-schooling resources for parents.

"My mother had the same questions and anxiety when I started teaching my children at home 11 years ago," says Carol McLeod of Molena, Ga. "Kids don't worry about their social life -- they just live it."

Ms. McLeod began home schooling when one daughter was in fifth grade and another was in ninth. "Our girls enjoyed just as many friends as the girls they knew that went to public school," says Ms. McLeod, who is sticking with home schooling for her two younger daughters, 11 and 13. They've also made many friends -- in a community music setting, in the neighborhood, and in church youth groups.

Pat Bryson, a grandmother from Richmond, Va., also worried whether it was a good idea for her daughter to home school.

"My fears were totally groundless," she says. "I support my daughter and her family 1,000 percent."

Ann Schepps of Chandler, Ariz., agrees. "I taught in the public schools here in Arizona and I can honestly say that the home schoolers I come into contact with are some of the most well-adjusted young people I've ever seen," she says.

Ms. Schepps is one of several readers who say home-schooling support groups help draw kids out of their homes -- and into music, foreign language, science fairs and spelling bees. "They won't be isolated if she joins a support group or finds other people in her community who home school," she says. "I'm in a support group where we get together once a month for field trips and other activities."

Groups can seek out discounts for gym classes, art classes and swimming lessons by using facilities while everyone else is in school, one parent suggests.

"Many home schoolers gather with other home schoolers. What's going to be missing is the negative peer pressure," says Joyce Madden of Raleigh, N.C. "With home schooling, children are going to be free from the worry about what they wear, whether their hair is right. They can concentrate on their education."

Karen Anthony of Clovis, N.M., agrees. "My children get socializing through church and through friends," she says. "They don't need to socialize in school; they need to learn in school."

Sylvia Guberman, a grandmother from Stratford, Ct., has a different view. "School brings children together, and this is where long friendships start," she says. Send your grandchildren to school, she suggests, and work with them at home in some subjects as needed.

"It's not like you go into a black hole and disappear," says Jeanne Faulconer of Mooresville, N.C., who home schools her two sons. "Because we're not dealing with a lot of busy-work homework, we're actually able to do more of the positive social things."

Can you help?

A father from Buffalo asks: "For the past two years, within an hour or so after my 5-year-old daughter falls asleep, she wakes up in a dream state. Sometimes she's crying. Sometimes she's babbling and runs around the room and kicks things or pretends to pick things up. It may be a few nights in a row, or a week in between. I was wondering if you had any advice."

If you have tips or a question, call toll-free (800) 827-1092, send e-mail to bflagler@att.net; or write to Parent to Parent, P.O. Box 4270, Davidson, N.C. 28036.

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