LONGVIEW, Texas — Since 2011, every year during the last week of January, parents, students and educators participate in hundreds of events across the country to celebrate National School Choice Week.
On Wednesday, thousands of people gathered at the State Capitol in Austin to promote the importance of parents being able to choose where their kids go to school.
A group of families gathered in Longview on Thursday to celebrate the non-traditional yet growing option for schooling.
"I decided to home school because I decided that we could better meet their needs at home than in a school setting,” parent Hazel Livingston said.
Livingston has five children, four of school-age. Each of those children are home-schooled and have been since they were old enough to begin school.
"There is a pretty large homeschooling community here in Longview," Livingston said. “We have several different homeschooling support groups that people belong to, and then also, a lot of people don’t belong to any support group at all, so it’s kind of impossible to know how many homeschoolers there are but there is a pretty large group.”
Thursday, Livingston and her children joined dozens of other families at Lois Jackson Park in Longview for the "Celebrating Our Choice to Homeschool" event hosted by the Longview Area Relaxed Home Educators (LAHRE).
The event is just one of many local initiatives planned for National School Choice Week.
"One of the things about homeschooling is that if our children need assistance in a certain area it's simple for us to provide that,” Livingston said. “Also, if they're gifted in an area, we can work with that, as well. Instead of having to try to cater to an entire class, we can just cater to the individual students that we have."
No matter your age, those being home schooled and those doing the teaching say it's an option that every parent should consider.
"You always get to have an opportunity to do what you love to do and you're not always in a classroom for eight hours,” home school student Heaven Searcy said. “I like it because we have a lot of events like this.”
“I feel like I’ve been able to learn a lot more with homeschooling,” home school student Emma Livingston said. “It’s really helped me explore life and see all the amazing things about it in ways that I don’t think I could have if I went to public school.”
According to the Texas Home School Coalition, the state leads the nation in the number of families who home school, with more than 350,000 kids being taught at home.
"I think that homeschooling is a hard job, but a very rewarding one, and I would love to see more people look into it,” Livingston said.
Whether your child thrives in a home school or traditional school environment, remember parents, this week is all about your choice.
For more information about homeschooling in Texas, visit the Texas Home School Coalition website.