Homeschooling is often a contentious subject among parents and educators. And for good reason; the ways we educate the next generation are important. Today’s kids are tomorrow’s world leaders. Whether homeschool or public schooling is the right path remains a consistent debate.
So what is the right answer?
Nope, I’m not falling for that. I’ll be honest here and say that there is no one right answer and I will not pretend I have one.
Know Your Options
As with any choice that has such a far-reaching impact, deciding whether to homeschool your kids should be done with a great deal of care. There are so many factors to consider that I couldn’t list and discuss all of them even if I was writing an entire book.
That means, as a parent with a child (or multiple children) who needs an education, you have a responsibility to make an educated choice.
Your first step in that process is to educate yourself. Which can be tough. There is a lot (a LOT) of information out there about homeschooling. To complicate your own learning, much of the information out there is non-analytical. Anecdotes and emotional opinions are as prevalent as studies and scholarly research.
The bottom line here is that knowing your options demands an academics approach—from research to parsing opinion and fact.
Dueling Perspectives on Homeschool
Luckily for you, deciding about how to educate your kids need not be done in the dark. Many scholars have weighed in on the issue over the years and some commonalities continue to appear in their work.
Notably, many scholars view homeschooling as two disparate ideas serving a similar purpose. For example, we have the ‘Ideologues and Pedagogues’ idea presented by Jane Van Galen in 1991. Her divide in homeschool mentalities separates the parents who homeschool to instill values (the ideologues) that may not be present in public school (such as strong religious beliefs) and those who believe students learn better outside the confines of a classroom (the pedagogues).
Van Galen’s distinctions are very similar to Mitchell Stevens, whose 2001 book cast the homeschooler as either a ‘Believer or Inclusive.’ The believer homeschools to nurture and protect the child while instilling a set of beliefs, while the inclusive who seeks to set the child free to explore and create.
If the scholarly perspectives on homeschool interest you, I recommend this great article delving into Van Galen, Stevens, and more.
Our takeaway for today is that homeschool, as a discipline, aligns with one of two perspectives. The parent who finds public school restrictive and wants to provide their child an open and explorative environment. And the parent who feels public schools lack structure, so they create their own.
Neither perspective is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ because both rely on the attitude, experiences, and goals of the parent and child.
It’s All About the Kids
After reading a dozen or more accounts of academic and personal experiences with homeschooling, the one thing I learned is: know your kids.
Scouring the internet for honest opinions and useful conclusions to help you decide is no easy task. However, I’ve got two ways I think I can help.
First, everything I’ve read and observed leads me to believe that your child (or children) MUST be at the center of your decision making. As you decide whether to homeschool, your child is probably only 4 or 5 years old. So there’s only so much you can know about them.
But there are factors to think about. Is your kid inclined to exploring or are they content with what we give them? Some kids crave freedom, others thrive when presented with a firm structure. Look for the hints that show how your kid learns and keep this in mind.
So Much To Consider
My second offering is a list (a rather long one) of considerations. I’ve found these points reviewed over and over online. So I’ll list them again and do my best to elaborate a little on why each one is important.
Remember, these points while considering my first suggestion—what works best for your child’s education and development.
Both good and bad. Pressure to ‘break rules’ can be disruptive, but pressure to excel can be positive.
The opportunities for socialization are greater in a school. However, many homeschoolers have busy social calendars and access to a large network of peers.
The public school curriculum is on strict schedules. Homeschool doesn’t have to be.
Some public schools have the flexibility and appropriate class size to personalize a student’s education, but a parent will have much more room to do so.
Public schools focus on the test, leading to a perception that traditional education provides better test preparation. This is not always proven by data. Homeschooled students have the opportunity for a continuous one-on-one mentoring.
Extra Curricular (Sports, Music, Theater)
Access to extracurricular activities may be more limited to homeschoolers.
Being a parent-teacher is a HUGE role to take on and can be difficult. Any parent considering homeschooling needs to think about their own ability to teach and willingness to continually learn and try new teaching approaches.
If a parent stays home to focus on their child’s education, they most likely will not be earning income.
Public schools have bullies. Some schools may be proactive about solving issues and some may not. In cases where schools cannot stop bullying, short-term homeschooling is an option that can provide kids a much-needed break. Homeschooling removes the fear of a negative school environment for both parents and kids alike.
Very subjective, but there is an argument that a teacher (who spends years training and learning about their subject) is better suited to teaching than a parent. There is also an argument that parents are natural teachers and understand their children's needs better than anyone.
Doing Your Homeschool Homework
It all comes down to doing a thorough assessment of yourself, your child (or children), the school system, and the tools you’ll use. If you are considering home school, think about all the factors listed above and expand the list as much as you can! The more homework you do in the lead up to any decision, the better you’ll be able to make the right decision for you young learners!