PHOENIX – Nathan Tappendorf has been home-schooled for a decade, but the 17-year-old said he hasn’t missed out on any of the social benefits children get from traditional schools.
He ran cross-country with Paradise Valley High School and meets with other home-schooled children regularly.
“Some people when they think about home school think you don’t have any friends,” Tappendorf said. “That’s not true.”
Tappendorf, who plans to begin studying mechanical engineering at Arizona State University this fall, joined nearly 1,000 parents, students and home schooling graduates Monday at Homeschool Day at the Capitol. Gov. Jan Brewer was among the elected officials addressing the group.
Home schooling has grown as an alternative to public or private schools, said Jon Callahan, the president and legislative liaison of Arizona Families for Home Education, a nonprofit state organization run by a Christian board of directors.
Callahan said the approximately 30,000 Arizona children who are home-schooled are able to learn at an accelerated rate and focus more on specific interests or talents, such as music or science, than their counterparts in the public school system.
“It’s an educational freedom issue,” he said.
Rep. Doris Goodale, R-Kingman, chairwoman of the House Education Committee, said Arizona’s home-schooling laws serve as an example for other states.
These laws allow home-schoolers access to public school special education services, the ability to compete on athletic teams with public schools and freedom from having to take standardized state tests required for public school students. The same laws apply to students in private schools.
Additionally, Arizona allows parents who want to home-school their children to hold off on beginning instruction until a child is 8 years old. Parents need only send their county school superintendent an affidavit stating their intent to home-school before beginning.
“Arizona rocks when it comes to parent choice in education,” Goodale told the crowd.
She said the Legislature isn’t addressing home schooling this session, focusing instead on changes in public education and the transition to Common Core Standards.
Two bills touching on school choice both failed to make it out of committee in their respective chambers. SB 1285, authored by Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, would have required the Arizona Department of Education to produce and distribute a booklet describing school choice to all public school parents.
HB 2168, authored by Rep. Jeff Dial, R-Chandler, would have required students to remain in school until completing 12th grade rather than 10th and raised the dropout age from 16 to 18.
Callahan said the Arizona Families for Home Education was wary of Dial’s bill because home-schoolers often finish the equivalent of 12th grade before other students.
“With home schooling, it’s very common to graduate by 16,” he said.
Brewer, who came to the event to declare Home School Week, said home-schoolers provide an example for other students.
“We will fight for your freedom from government intrusion,” she said.
Heather Haupt, a board member of Arizona Families for Home Education, was home-schooled as a child and knew it was something she wanted to share with her four children, who range in age from 17 months to 8 years.
“We have really close family relationships,” she said. “My boys are best friends, and they love to interact with each other and play with each other. I don’t think that’s really something they would have if they were going off to different classrooms throughout the day.”