Homeschooling – Pros, Cons and Useful Resources

Homeschooling is a controversial topic which occasionally causes heated arguments. Irrespective of whether you are for or against this type of education, homeschooling is increasing across all states. In 2003, 2.2% of children were taught at home. Over the next four years the numbers grew steadily until by 2007 there were 1.5 million kids (2.9%) being homeschooled.

There are a number of reasons why parents consider homeschooling to be the best option for their children. The type of environment in which a child is taught is the most important factor for the majority of parents. A survey conducted in 2007 about parent and family involvement in education, (part of the National Household Survey), established that 88% of respondents whose kids were taught at home had concerns about the way education is provided in public schools. An equally high percentage (83%) preferred homeschooling because it meant they could provide religious or moral instruction in such a way that their own beliefs were addressed and satisfied.

Many kids with physical or learning disabilities are being taught at home as well. Indeed, the number has increased by 36% since 2003. The reasons for this increase are not clear. Could it be that some parents feel their kids are able to learn at their own pace without undue pressure when taught at home? Many feel it’s easier to make mistakes, and learn from them without embarrassment, in one’s own surroundings.

Others who advocate homeschooling point out that because there is no contact with potential bullying, kids develop greater confidence when they are working within their home environment. This may be one reason why more girls than boys receive homeschooling. Homeschooling is also used by parents of very bright kids who suspect that their offspring would be held back if they were taught in a mixed ability class. It is interesting to note that parents involved in homeschooling are more likely to be college educated.

Those who oppose homeschooling frequently comment on the fact that kids do not have as many opportunities to socialize with their peers, which could impact their long-term development. There is also a risk surrounding a lack of recognized safeguards that protect against potential abuse. The cost of providing sufficient teaching equipment is also very expensive and therefore some think that homeschooled children are having to make-do with fewer resources, or work with material of a lower quality than those found in public schools. In addition, in some states, there isn’t any oversight of student progression due to lack of compulsory or regular testing.

Legislation concerning homeschooling overcomes the latter argument to some extent, although the level at which there is oversight varies from state to state. Some states, such as Pennsylvania, expect parents to obtain achievement tests so their child’s progress may be regularly monitored. In this case, someone other than the parent must administer the test in grades 3, 5 and 8. Other states, such as Alabama, insist that each child be linked with an ‘umbrella’ school. The umbrella school oversees the homeschooling programs and answers to the state. A third type of involvement includes the state making specifications regarding part of the curriculum. For example, Nebraska expects all homeschooled students from K-5 to devote at least one hour per week to stories and/or music about American history and heroes. Nebraska also insists on implementing a monthly fire drill.

Parents who have opted for homeschooling will explain they did not make their decision lightly. After all, they are investing their own time and resources to teach their kids over a number of years. If you’re interested in homeschooling, there is a wealth of information available that includes advice and support from a growing number of organizations. The Internet has made a tremendous difference. Parents new to homeschooling are now able to join online self-help groups and benefit from others’ experiences. There is also a considerable amount of downloadable free material in addition to commercial websites which offer an ever-changing program of tasks and progression tests across all subjects.

Homeschooling requires superb time management, sensible routines and time set aside for non-educational activities. Most parents will plan a year’s tuition with appropriate goals. A typical week could be four days of academics with one day set aside for field trips. Many parents join forces with other homeschooling families for field trips, thus enabling their kids to meet and interact with their peers, and overcome the criticisms that homeschooled kids do not have opportunities to socialize.

Here is an example of one day’s work for a ten-year old, taken from a self-help website:

Before 11.30am routine household chores and family meal
11.30am Religion, vocabulary
12pm Reading
12.30pm Math
1.30pm Language
2pm History
2.30pm Spelling
3pm Science or Health
3.30pm Social studies and Civics
4pm Writing
4.30pm Homework

Homeschooling is here to stay and the steady growth of online advice and resources will assist in this development.