The growth of homeschooling support groups has greatly increased in the past fifteen years. Today, it’s possible to support homeschooling families in local areas through networking that includes pooling resources for curriculum, supplies, books, DVDs, and classroom equipment.
For example, Enrich, a local homeschool support group in Cabarrus County North Carolina will host a curriculum sharing event. Some families will come from as far away as South Carolina to pick up educational materials that are no longer needed by families whose children have moved to the next grade level.
It’s a far cry from the struggle homeschooling families dealt with 15 years ago when seeking educational resources like textbooks, which were practically kept under lock and key by publishers back then.
“You kind of had to network, and know somebody who knew somebody,” said Doreen Browning, Enrich’s president, of the early years trying to secure material.
“Now you can just go on Amazon and purchase a used high school textbook.”
Browning, who lives in Harrisburg, began homeschooling her children, now a senior and a sophomore in high school, in 2001, when the movement to home-school was still a quiet undercurrent in the state.
According to the N.C. Division of Non-Public Education, back then 366 of the 20,113 home-schools in the state were in Cabarrus County.
Those numbers have more than tripled. In 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 1,276 of the 53,347 home-schools in the state were housed in this county.
The growing popularity of homeschooling has caught the attention of businesses looking to fill the home schooling niche for educational materials.
On a sunny afternoon at Concord Mills, the quiet calm that’s typical during off-peak hours at the mall was interrupted by the giggles of two dozen home-schooled children as they wrapped yellow cardboard underwater goggles around their heads and stole peeks into the dark caverns of the Sea Life Aquarium.
Businesses like Discovery Place and Sea Life Aquarium offer educational lectures and programs for home-schooled children, who get a discounted group rate.
“We get probably three to four homeschool groups a day,” said Milton Ware, who works in the education department of the aquarium. Ware just recently returned from a home schooling convention to better learn the needs of the nontraditional students and parents. It’s a niche, he said, they’re hoping to tap into more at Sea Life Aquarium.
“We’re being seen as a group that you can market to – that we have needs,” said Browning.
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