Homeschooling – educating your kids yourself at home, rather than sending them to either public or private school – is more widespread than you might think. According to Ray (2011), the number of children being educated in this way in the U.S. has increased in the last three decades; and by 2010 had reached over two million.
But is homeschooling a good thing, especially for the children, who have just the “one shot” at getting an education? Are their parents really helping them by teaching the kids themselves, or would the children obtain greater benefits from being part of the schools population? This essay discusses the advantages and disadvantages of homeschooling, which on balance suggest that for most kids, attending a conventional school is in their best interest.
There are numerous demonstrable advantages to children being educated in the home, not least the very high “teacher to student” ratio, which can actually be one-to-one if teaching just the one child. Of course taking on that task as a parent requires considerable commitment and self-discipline; you must be in it for the long term, and you have to be prepared to work at it, As a parent you will want to give the child/children the best education you can, which probably means working to a planned curriculum, even if that curriculum is not the same as those designed by the local Board of Education, for example. Also, before taking on that responsibility, you have to be honest with yourself; are you a good teacher? And that doesn’t necessarily mean you must have a university degree or a teaching qualification. There are many non-qualified people who are good teachers, just as there are qualified teachers who are not good at their job. Deciding to become a homeschool teacher should never be for any reason about your own benefit; it must always be about what’s best for the child/children. Unless you are absolutely confident that your teaching skills are up to the required level, think of your child’s future before you decide to teach him/her at home.
Once you have decided to go ahead with homeschooling, what are the advantages, and do they outweigh the disadvantages? Arnall (Sep 2010) – co-founder of Attachment Parenting Canada – published “Advantages and Disadvantages of Home Schooling.” Amongst the advantages she cited were the high teacher-child ratio as mentioned above, being able to put family and child needs first, tailoring the curriculum to suit the child, adjusting the timing of topics to suit the child’s individual needs/abilities, and more. She also mentioned that some authorities will help with financial support for educational materials and equipment, and the advantage that with homeschooling the daily hours need not be fixed, and that children do not experience the peer pressure of competing with classmates in a schoolroom. However, this writer takes issue with the last two points. Schoolchildren who have to attend school at the same times Monday to Friday are learning about the real life routine that most adults have to learn to live with, also learning about timekeeping and punctuality that will serve them well in later life. As for competing with classmates, competition is an integral part of real life, and should be learned at an early age. For some years in the UK, schools adopted a “modern” non-competitive approach to school sports. During that era all sports were team sports, so that no individual winners would highlight that there were also “losers” who would allegedly suffer a loss of self-esteem. The proponents of that system seemed to have overlooked that in the “real” world sport is ALL about competition. For example, there’d be no Olympic Games Gold Medal winners without it.
Disadvantages include having to find out and comply with the government and local rules and regulations regarding homeschooling, including any specified curriculum you must follow – particularly so that your child/children can take and pass recognized exams to obtain the qualifications they need for college, etc. Also, as Arnall mentioned in her article, you will have to make room in your daily schedules to take the youngster to activities, incurring additional fuel costs. Speaking of costs, there is of course the major consideration that a family will be reduced to just the one income if one parent becomes a full time home teacher.
However, the real downside of keeping a child at home for his/her education is that a home-taught child misses out on the social interaction (including the rough-and-tumble) that all schoolkids experience. As mentioned by Biu (2009) in her article “Homeschooling is a bad idea”, the social interaction at school “is a training of sorts.” She sees homeschooling as “tantamount to retarding a child by isolating him from the outside world.” Biu also makes the point that the daily timetable involved in attending school (“sleep early and rise early for a worthy purpose”) is a valuable lesson for the future about timekeeping and punctuality, one that kids allowed to study afternoons in their pyjamas will not have learned. She summarizes by stating that the shortcomings of homeschooling “far outweigh its advantages.”
An article published in Nov 2003 by the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education (NCSPE) mentioned four principal disadvantages of teaching a child at home:
- Increased Costs: In most cases, families must meet the entire costs of educating a child at home, including all teaching materials, etc, unless there are local/state provisions for financial support;
- Limited Civic Involvement: By learning as part of a group (i.e. in a school), social skills and citizenship values are acquired. A child taught in isolation at his/her home is not exposed to that diversity of perspectives necessary to develop those civic values shared with their peers;
- Social Services Resources: As well as educating their students, the country’s public schools provide additional social services utilizing trained people. The home-teaching environment does not have that expertise or resource base;
- Quality Control: Assessing the quality of the home tuition is difficult, unless you happen to live in a state that requires testing of home-taught students.
Kartha (2012) added to the list of disadvantages of homeschooling. Points she cited in her article “Reasons Why Homeschooling is Bad” were divided into those from the perspective of the parent(s) and from the child’s perspective. The parent points included:
- Potential lack of expert guidance for teaching special needs children;
- Parents not used to teaching may experience stress and fatigue causing “teaching burnout” or even affect their health;
- Some unexpected costs of home teaching may include “field and educational trips, audio-visual aids, hobby classes, sports classes, library, legal fees, memberships and newsletters of support groups.”
And from the child’s perspective:
- Retarded interpersonal skills and impaired emotional and/or psychological development due to not participating in group sports, debates, etc.
Whilst there are advantages to homeschooling, principally the one-to-one “teacher” to student ratio and the ability to customize the pace of progressing through a tailored curriculum, there are disadvantages that on balance make homeschooling a clear loser compared with educating a child through the normal public or private school systems. The loss of social interaction with peers is perhaps the major drawback, but there are other considerations too, as discussed earlier in this essay. Though there are exceptions, children are more likely to develop into more “rounded” adults through the normal school system.
Arnall, J. “Advantages and Disadvantages of Home Schooling.” (Sep 2010). Attachment Parenting Canada. Web. 10 April 2013.
Biu, S. “Homeschooling is a bad idea.” (Jul 2009). Examiner.com: Home & Living. Web. 10 April 2013.
“Home-Schooling: What is home-schooling?” (Nov 2003). The National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education (NCSPE). Web. 10 April 2013.
Kartha, D. “Reasons Why Homeschooling is Bad.” (2012). Buzzle. Web. 10 April 2013.
Ray, B., D. “2.04 Million Homeschool Students in the United States in2010.” (Jan 2011). National Home Education Research Institute. Web. 10 April 2013.