Since the 1970s, homeschooling has been viewed as an alternative education option. However, its popularity has increased in recent years. Currently U. S. homeschooling serves about one and a half million school aged children. It is difficult to know the exact number as some states do not require parents to register the homeschool with a state agency. Statistics do show homeschooling is increasing by 7 to 15 percent each year. States with school districts providing quality education do not have as many homeschoolers as those who do not.
Parents choose home schooling for a variety of reasons, some of which include:
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A safe learning environment
The ability to meet their child’s/children’s individual needs
A desire to instill religious, cultural, or educational philosophies
A dissatisfaction with the education their child/children are receiving in public schools
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However, as with any educational environment, there are both pros and cons to consider when deciding if homeschooling is the best educational option for your child. In this article, we will consider four areas and look at the pros and cons in each. First, we will address the benefits of homeschooling. Next, we will look at some cautions and considerations you should know if you plan to homeschool. We will also discuss how homeschooling works. And finally, we will discuss the steps you should take if you decide to homeschool. So, let’s begin.
Benefits of Homeschooling
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Proponents of homeschooling cite statistics, such as the results of a study done by the National Home Education Research Institute which compared average standardized test scores of home and publicly educated children. Homeschoolers had an average test score in the 87th percentile, while public educated students scores were in the 50th percentile.
They also talk about the following benefits:
Learning can continue when a parent or child is sick – with a modified schedule if necessary.
Parents can turn daily experiences, such as grocery shopping and food preparation into educational pursuits.
Families can schedule special occasions, breaks, and vacations anytime, avoiding peak times and seasons, and creating more family time.
Parents can, if desired, combine subjects that are not age-specific, such as history with art and literature of the historical period being studied.
Learning can be tailored to interests, ability, and the learning style of a child with a child progressing quickly or more slowly as needed.
Homeschooling provides the ability to tutor a child on areas in which they need specific help.
If a parent has religious or moral principles they wish to instill, the curriculum chosen can do so.
Parents can avoid subjects they feel their child is not mature enough to handle.
Availability of Materials and Support
As homeschooling has gained popularity, the amount of resources and materials has skyrocketed.
Many areas have social networks; co-ops providing classes, activities, and field trips; and homeschooling support groups.
The expense of homeschool can be minimal with curriculum for an entire year usually costing less than one month of private school tuition. If free online materials are used, one can homeschool for very little money.
With one-on-one instruction, progress through a curriculum moves relatively quickly and there is no need for “homework.”
Homeschooled children can spend time in a real-world environment.
Even though homeschooling has become more widespread, a parent who chooses to homeschool may receive criticism from family and/or friends. You may find yourself educating others about the benefits of homeschooling and why you have chosen this education option.
Homeschooling Cautions and Considerations
There are some considerations one must take seriously before committing to homeschooling. Not every child will benefit from this educational option. And not every parent can or wants to spend the time required.
It can be difficult to stay on task and accomplish educational goals in a timely manner. The teaching parent will do well to set goals and/or a schedule to make sure tasks are completed.
It is important to designate an area for homeschooling. You will need a place for books and materials, a quiet place for reading, and a designated computer if you choose on-line learning.
Avoiding “rabbit trails” can be difficult. We are not talking about educational exploration, but watching your child to make sure designated computer math exercises are actually being done instead of watching YouTube videos.
Parents must remember to not just cater to their child’s preferences and strengths, but to address their weaknesses as well. Your child may resist learning some subjects, but you must remember that even though math facts are initially difficult, they must be learned, even if tears and tantrums result.
Homeschooling is a big responsibility as parents are accountable for their children’s education. One of the struggles many home schooling parents face is constantly questioning are they doing enough for their child’s education. One can avoid this by concentrating on successes and not comparing oneself to others.
Parents must be prepared to spend a great amount of time with their child, which can be difficult and strain relationships, especially during the teen years.
Homeschooling is often time consuming with necessary planning, participation in outside activities, and monitoring daily work. It is a commitment that must be taken seriously for success to result.
Financial constraints come into play when one parent must serve as the full-time teacher. However, there are savings when one chooses to homeschool.
Your child may require fewer clothes as they are at home most of the day.
The at home parent is able to complete daily tasks while a child does schoolwork, saving on food costs, and the need to have laundry sent out, yard care paid for, etc.
The lack of peer pressure can reduce a child’s wants, thus reducing expenditures on the latest gadgets and styles.
Note: There is the option of a part-time home-based job for the teaching parent.
Homeschool parents must find activities usually offered by public education, such as sports and fine arts. Most communities have recreation centers offering seasonal sports. Community theaters and art museums offer fine arts programs.
How Homeschooling Works
You may be wondering how does homeschooling work. The answer varies widely depending on where one is homeschooling and how a family chooses to do so.
Our suggestion is to do research before starting any homeschool program. Talk to local people who have homeschooled as they can help you avoid some problems and share what they know about your state’s requirements. Some states are very lax on expectations and some require registering your school and providing periodic reports on progress. You can also find out about the various approaches to at-home education.
Some parents utilize on-line programs exclusively. Additionally, there is a plethora of material available and talking to other homeschoolers about what works and what doesn’t can help you avoid buying unnecessary or unusable materials.
Some Case Studies
Case Study 1:
Joy was far above her peers intellectually, but a bit emotionally immature. Reading at a 6th grade level in 1st grade, it was not long until Joy was bored in school and misbehavior followed. The teacher had twenty-five students of varying ability in her room and could not spend time making sure Joy was challenged. Joy read all the time, but she fell behind in math. When her parents took her out of public school, they started her with basic math skills, and used her love of reading to expose her to history and science. After two years, she tested well above grade level in all subjects and loved learning.
Case Study 2:
Sebrina was in a wheel chair as a result of a childhood accident. Of normal intelligence, she was very shy and reticent, leading her teachers to believe she was emotionally or intellectually challenged. Her parents did not agree, in her 7th grade year, and decided to homeschool her. After three years, Sebrina had self-confidence, an infectious sense of humor, and had discovered a love of photography which she hoped would lead to a career.
Case Study 3:
Kevin was a cute baby, but as he grew older, a crooked smile, large ears, and a propensity to eat too much, led to bullying by his peers. He frequently cried in the morning and begged not to go to school. He was frequently “sick,” missing so much school a social worker questioned his absence. His parents chose homeschooling when he failed half his fifth-grade academic classes. Kevin responded to the set traditional schedule and his mother’s teaching and chose to attend a local charter school during his high school years, where he served as student body president and played basketball.
Case Study 4:
Michael was not doing well in high school and his parents decided to homeschool him. Academic classes did not appeal to Michael, so his father had Michael work part time in his fencing business, teaching him how to keep the books for the business, how to plan a job – the measurements, materials necessary, etc. – while his mom taught him self-care tasks such as cooking, and taking care of a house and yard. Michael fell in love with a married a high-school senior who worked part-time in the office and the business name added “and Son” to its title.
How to Start Homeschooling
If you choose to homeschool, we suggest the following steps as you begin:
Contact a local homeschool co-op or support group and ask questions.
Research your state’s requirements to know what is required.
Send a letter to your local school district advising them of your intent to homeschool.
Use an online testing service to find out what learning style best suits your child and what grade level they are on for various subject.
Choose a homeschool program and purchase necessary teaching materials.
Designate an area of your home for teaching and purchase school supplies.
Create a calendar with breaks and vacations.
Set up files for keeping grades and completed work.
Types of Homeschool Programs
Programs can range from traditional to “unschooling” – allowing a child to learn through daily experiences focusing on their interests and preferences. Although there are many different homeschooling programs, they all fall into one of the following categories.
A traditional program for homeschooling follows the structure of a school setting. Classes have a set schedule, grades are kept, and curriculum includes textbooks with quizzes, tests, and daily assignments. Such a program is a good choice for children who have spent part of their educational time in a public or private school setting, or if you and your child benefit from structure.
With the growth of homeschooling, online programs have proliferated. Programs vary widely in content, materials, and expense, so do your research. If you think online learning will work for you, look for a program that provides a method for evaluating your child’s progress.
If you have a high school aged student, a program with an academic advisor can assure required credits are earned. You may wish to utilize one with pre-recorded videos or live classes. There are also online tutoring programs available for help in specific academic areas.
As the name implies, blended learning combines traditional curriculum with online learning. Many children learn well from learning customized for their learning style and ability. Combining one or more methods of learning individualizes instruction. Additionally, many parents choose to teach only those subjects they know well.
Advanced math and science for high school students can be daunting, especially those classes with labs. Parents may also add the services of private tutors or coop teaching for the more challenging subjects.
This unique approach to homeschooling doesn’t work for everyone, but proponents cite the advantage of learning by concentrating on a child’s areas of interest. Also known as “natural learning”, “experience-based learning”, or “independent learning,” the goal is for learning to be enjoyable and life-long with real-world experiences. Every experience, from daily hygiene, to the need for a good night’s sleep, becomes a springboard for knowledge.
Now that we have taken a comprehensive look at homeschooling, it is time to make a decision if homeschooling is right for you and you child. One aspect of doing so is to look at how homeschooling will affect your child’s educational and professional future. Since homeschooled kids usually excel in standardized testing, gaining admittance to colleges and universities is not a problem.
Frequently, a homeschool child can begin in a local community college prior to actually “graduating” from high school. Homeschool children are often mature, independent learners who have benefitted from life experiences. Even parents who have questioned their children’s progress while homeschooling often see the benefit when their children must compete with their peers academically and professionally as adults.
The best way to decide if homeschooling is a viable option for you and your child/children is to consider the pros and cons objectively as they apply to your family. You must also consider the benefit for your child. If your child experiences bullying, is a follower who gives into peer pressure, or has learning disabilities you feel are not being adequately addressed in the public-school environment, your child will probably benefit from homeschooling.
There is no right or wrong decision.
If you feel your child receives a quality public or private school education there is no reason to make a change. However, if you are not emotionally or psychologically prepared to assume the responsibility for your child’s education, it is best to choose an option other than homeschooling. No matter which option you choose, we know your goal is to provide the best education possible for your child, and we hope this article will help you do so.
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