Homeschoolers are a diverse group of people. Many homeschooled students have unique educational needs that can only be met through home education. Some even have unique talents or abilities to contribute outside their classrooms. But what is it like?
Homeschooling is a form of education based on learning from home. Instead of attending a public or traditional school, homeschoolers can stay home and complete their studies using textbooks, online resources, or any other materials parents choose for a curriculum. Applying a one-on-one approach, more attention can be given to individual children.
In 2007, nearly 2 percent of all US children attended public school, while about 6 percent were enrolled in private schools or religious institutions. By contrast, only 0.6 percent took part in home education, meaning that most American kids receive their primary educational experience from other people rather than at home.
There has been an increase in homeschooling families in recent years, but about half of those who choose this route still question if they made the wrong decision.
Does that mean that families like yours have no hope? Not necessarily. You may be surprised by how effective homeschooling can be when done correctly. Several parents who’ve chosen the path of home education themselves after hearing firsthand accounts from friends and colleagues about what it was like have been pleasantly surprised. Read on to learn why so many Americans educate their children at home.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics “Digest of Educational Statistics,” 87 percent of students entering high school in 2009 planned on attending college after graduation, compared to 75 percent in 2000.
This indicates more young adults will enroll directly in post-secondary programs such as universities and colleges. The same holds for elementary through middle school, where 80 percent plan on continuing higher learning, up ten percentage points since 2000. These trends indicate that younger generations want to take responsibility for educating themselves before looking to others for assistance.
For starters, most public schools are funded and run by government entities. Because of this, the quality of education received varies greatly depending on location. Some states require stricter standards, so one state might provide better instruction than another. In addition, teachers tend to hold lower expectations regarding standardized tests for public school students.
For example, according to Carol Burris, former headmaster of Dalton School (a prestigious prep school), “Teachers don’t teach very hard because they’re afraid of failing.”
Private schools also vary widely in terms of quality due to funding issues. On top of these factors, students often struggle academically during adolescence, making them less prepared for college once they reach adulthood.
With homeschooling, however, parents typically use materials developed specifically for each age group, thus giving children a more significant opportunity to excel. Also, unlike traditional settings, homeschooled students usually get along well with one another, creating stronger bonds among peers.
Finally, homeschoolers enjoy more freedom over time management, scheduling, curriculum choices, and extracurricular activities.
Regarding socialization skills, research shows that teens who regularly participate in organized sports, clubs, and classes develop friendships much faster than nonparticipants. A study by Dr. Patricia Greenfield found that adolescents who participated in regular church services scored almost 20 percent higher on IQ testing than their counterparts who didn’t attend religious groups.
While experts aren’t sure exactly why the relationship exists between religion and intelligence, Greenfield believes it stems from having positive role models in place of negative ones. It should come as little surprise that homeschoolers benefit from similar mentoring relationships.
So far, we’ve looked primarily at the advantages associated with homeschooling. What about the disadvantages? Keep reading to hear some common concerns voiced by critics of homeschooling.
One potential disadvantage of homeschooling is its cost. Parents who decide to send their child(ren) off to public school must factor tuition costs into monthly budgets. Instead, those who elect to homeschool need to make up the difference between what public schools charge and what it would cost to hire someone else to teach or purchase adequate materials to be the teacher.
Although there are various ways around this problem, including finding local sources of free online curricula, the expense remains a significant issue for many families.
Another concern relates to the lack of diversity within public classrooms. According to Burris, “Public school tends to be overwhelmingly white, upper income, suburban… I’m concerned that too few black and Hispanic students are doing academic work that prepares them for life in America”. She adds that she sees this reflected in the number of African-American teachers disproportionately low.
Some critics argue that homeschoolers miss crucial experiences like interacting with classmates, participating in field trips, and developing close personal ties with teachers. They say that although teenagers who spend extra time together socially and emotionally sometimes become more intimate friends later in life, this doesn’t occur automatically because two individuals hang out outside school.
Other critics feel that homeschooled students learn best when given the ability to explore topics independently without guidance from anyone else. As a result, they worry that homeschooling encourages passivity and ignorance regarding controversial subjects.
Although criticisms exist both for and against homeschooling, it’s clear that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Families interested in pursuing this option need to determine whether they’ll be able to meet specific requirements set forth by individual states. If you’d like to delve deeper into the subject, read on to discover additional homeschool-related resources.
There are numerous organizations dedicated solely to helping parents who wish to homeschool. One of the largest is called HomeSchool USA. Based in Virginia Beach, Va., the organization offers support services, workshops, and seminars on everything from legalities to technology. To locate a chapter near you, visit https://www.homeschoolusa.org.
Resources Related to Homeschooling
If you’re convinced that homeschooling is right for your family, here are some websites that may be helpful.
First, check out the Department of Public Instruction’s website in your area to see if you qualify to become a licensed educator. Then look for other resources designed to assist newbies and experienced educators alike. State laws differ slightly, so you should contact your local department of education to verify guidelines specific to your region.
Next, search for books, websites, magazines, newspapers, and other publications for homeschoolers.
Finally, sign up for e-mail updates from HomeSchool USA. Their newsletter contains tips and advice for successful homeschooling.
Another helpful resource is the Council for Exceptional Children. Through information on its site, CEU maintains a list of professional development opportunities available to homeschool instructors. There are also plenty of forums where families of varying backgrounds can communicate. For instance, the Home Educators Association International provides networking events, training sessions, and conferences.
Lastly, the National Society for Improving Parent/Child Relationships promotes parenting techniques complementing homeschooling.
Finally, let’s talk about the most prominent fear people harbor about homeschooling: separation anxiety. Many argue that homeschooled children suffer from severe emotional disturbances that interfere with their growth and self-esteem.
An article published in 2001 by psychologist Mark Paine detailed his findings based on interviews he gave to 35 homeschooled students aged 12 to 18. He concluded that none of the respondents had displayed signs of depression or anxiety. Instead, the majority said that homeschooling helped them cope with stressors unique to their lives.
Others felt that the structure allowed them to focus exclusively on academics and avoid distractions caused by peer interaction and pressure. Of course, not every child responds positively to homeschooling, but if yours does, chances are good that you won’t regret taking the plunge.