There’s a good chance that as a parent you’ve considered homeschooling your kids. How can you be sure that homeschooling is the right option for you?
It’s a debate that’s been raging for years, and both public and home education have their pros and cons. The truth is that homeschooling, perfect as it may be for some, won’t be suited to everybody.
It’s still a viable option, though, so I want to shed some light on it.
The Rise of Homeschooling
More children than you think are homeschooled. Reports show that 1.7 million children (3.3 percent of students) in the USA were homeschooled in 2016 (1).
Homeschooling might be accessible for some, but in other parts of the world, it’s illegal. This includes countries you’d never guess, like the Netherlands, Sweden, and Germany. They do make exceptions, however, it’s not common.
Despite this, it’s a growing trend globally (2). Parents are slowly, but surely, leaning towards homeschooling now more than ever before. One of the most significant reasons for this is that it offers an environment more suited to thriving education.
Homeschooled kids don’t have to deal with the onslaught of social problems that plague public schools. It’s safer than public school for example. Not only is bullying eradicated, but school shootings — something American parents have no choice but to fear — are no longer a threat.
Is homeschool effective though?
Homeschooling allows your child to learn at their own comfortable pace, without the pressures of public school. This holds up against public schools. Various studies have proven that homeschooled children are just as, if not more, likely to be accepted into universities (3).
They also achieve similar, if not better, results on standardized tests, including the SATs. This is not to discredit public schools or to imply that homeschooling is without a doubt the better option. In some cases, it won’t be, and both systems have their advantages and drawbacks (which I’ll cover shortly).
I only want you to know that homeschooling is worth your consideration. On that note, here’s an in-depth look at it.
After the pandemic year of 2020, people have a whole new respect for homeschool families. For most of us, homeschooling or distance learning was thrust upon us, and we learned firsthand how hard and rewarding homeschooling can be.
Editor's Note:Katelyn Holt RN, BSN, BC
There’s much to learn about homeschooling, so don’t feel bad if you’re confused as to what it is exactly. There’s a misconception that it’s unstructured and that kids are left to go at it alone and hope for the best. While there is an element of freedom to homeschooling, it’s so much more than that.
How Does Homeschooling Work?
Unlike public schools, homeschooling gives you control over what, where, when and how quickly your child learns. So long as you follow the homeschooling laws set by your state (and of course the syllabus), the rest is up to you. Your state will also determine whether or not you have to register your home as a private school (4).
There are a few common methods to homeschooling, and you should be at full liberty to pick the one that best suits you (5).
- School at home: This is the standard for homeschooling, and is what comes to mind first when homeschool is mentioned. Children who learn this way get a full curriculum and learn from the comfort of their own home. Lessons are scheduled according to what works for the parents or teacher.
- Online public school: Online public school isn’t homeschool in the true sense of the word. It means that children are enrolled at a state-run public school, and therefore learn according to the norms of one. The only difference is that they don’t physically attend lessons and rather take their classes online, from home.
- Unit studies: This method includes various subjects that center around one common topic, for example, a significant event or person from history, or one country. It’s also known as “interest-led” learning.
- Classical: This is by far the most analytical of all methods as it focuses on three areas only: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. It’s language based and places a lot of emphasis on literature and philosophy. It’s arguably the most prestigious method.
- Montessori: Montessori learning is meant for groups of learners, but you can use this style at home, too. Its focus is to teach children as individuals rather than as one of a herd. It uses hands-on, real-world experiences instead of purely theory.
- Charlotte Mason: This is a holistic approach to homeschooling that’s based on Christianity. Its defining traits are that lessons are short, and most classes are practical.
- Relaxed: As the name implies, this method is largely unstructured. The child will still follow a packaged curriculum, but won’t follow any schedule in doing so. It’s the most appealing form of homeschooling due to the sense of freedom.
- Unschooling: I think you’ll agree this is the most unconventional one. The idea behind it is that children teach themselves and parents are merely facilitators. Children learn their way, often without instruction or intervention from parents.
It’s worth noting that colleges and universities shouldn’t discriminate against accredited homeschooled children, regardless of the method. As I mentioned, homeschool could even increase your child’s chance of being accepted into a good school.
The Benefits of Homeschooling
Homeschooling might seem complicated or difficult at first glance, but it’s certainly worth the effort. There are so many rewarding aspects to it that it’s no surprise it’s on the rise. Here are the advantages you can expect if you choose to pursue it.
1. A Tailored Education
Your child will get an education that’s designed especially for them. They won’t be compared to other children, and therefore won’t have to compete with them. Learning takes place at their own pace.
You can also teach your child your way. Say, for example, your family is religious and your beliefs aren’t accommodated at public schools. Homeschooling allows you to teach your child as you see fit, and to control what they’re exposed to.
Most homeschooling parents feel that the standard of education is much higher than that of public schools, with noticeable differences in their child’s academics.
One reason is that children can learn for the sake of knowledge rather than grades.
2. It’s More Enjoyable for Kids
Each child is different and it could be that yours prefers public school. Academically speaking, though, homeschooling is far more pleasant for kids.
Often it’s interest based, so your child will want to learn or strive to do better. There are none of the pressures of public school (like fitting in or learning as well as other kids). Your child will also be the star of the show, and this could give their confidence a big boost.
They also get to pursue what genuinely interests them, rather than having subjects or activities forced onto them.
3. It’s Safe
Your child will also be shielded from the unpleasantness of public schools. I’ve already made mention of bullying and violent dangers in public schools but there’s so much more you can avoid.
Your child won’t be at risk of harassment or unwanted attention, nor could they fall in with the wrong crowd. There’s less exposure to naughty or inappropriate behavior, as well as drugs and alcohol.
This has the potential to make your child more discerning in the company they keep. Peer pressure is unlikely to be as much of a factor. It’s a concern to all of us that our children will do stupid things to impress others, and homeschooling decreases the chances of that.
It could even improve their behavior as a whole.
It’s also healthier. Illness can spread quickly through public schools and your child won’t be vulnerable to whatever viruses, colds, and infections make their rounds there.
4. It’s Quality Time
Time spent at public school is time spent away from you. I’m not saying that you should coddle your child until they’re an adult, but you won’t complain about the extra time you get with them.
Homeschooling can deepen and strengthen your relationship with your child. You’ll get to bond more because it’s something you’ll do together. You might even get to know each other better than you thought you did.
5. It’s Flexible
Sometimes public school and circumstance just don’t mix. If your family travels often, or school schedules just don’t work for you, homeschooling is the answer. It can be done anytime, anywhere.
As an example, one of my good friends had a semi-pro tennis career when he was young. The sport (and his potential in it) demanded a lot from him, and he couldn’t balance both his career and school. One of them had to fall back.
Unwilling to give up the amazing opportunities he had before him, his parents began to homeschool him. This way, he managed to pursue his tennis career and education without slacking in either.
6. It’s Accommodating
Some children just aren’t meant for public school and homeschool serves as an alternative.
It’s an excellent solution for children with special needs, disabilities, disorders or even gifts. It’s just as accommodating to a young genius well beyond their years, as it is to a child who uses a wheelchair or one with learning disabilities.
Forcing special needs children into public schools can cause more harm than good. It’s especially important to consider homeschooling if this applies to you.
7. It Teaches Life Skills
Homeschooling could teach your child valuable lessons in life, like responsibility and time management. These are often lost in public schools or are negatively reinforced. Punishment doesn’t always work, and sometimes kids disobey the rules just to be rebels.
Homeschooled children will take pride in what they do because those pressures are removed. They’ll be more inspired to take initiative in what they do. They’ll also be more organized.
Homeschooling teaches children to work hard so that they can play hard, and to take their work seriously. It could even improve their communication.
These are not the only benefits to homeschooling. It could be something as simple as “no more school lunches”, or something as vital as removing an unhappy child from the system. What matters is that your child could reap healthy rewards from homeschool.
A lot of children want to be homeschooled too. If yours is one of them, making them happy could be a benefit that you can add to this list.
Potential Challenges of Homeschooling
As with anything else, homeschooling isn’t perfect and may not be suitable for you or your child. There are a few drawbacks that could make or break your decision to pursue it.
- Socialization: This is a double-edged sword. Your child won’t be exposed to bullying or peer pressure, but there’s a chance that they won’t have any friends at all. If your child still has opportunities to befriend kids their age, you have nothing to worry about. If you live in an isolated spot, and your child can’t interact with others, homeschooling might not be the best option.
- Bias: If you’re not a qualified educator, you might not be capable of giving your child the education they deserve. Some homeschool situations are completely one-sided, and children are left with a biased education by the fault of their parents. This isn’t always the case, but public schools are often broader in the sense they offer realistic knowledge of the world.
- Inexperience: Likewise, you may be ill-equipped to teach certain subjects and muck it up for your child. Maybe you make an excellent geography teacher but aren’t so great at teaching chemistry. Public schools have the advantage in that teachers specialize in some subjects that you can’t teach nearly as well.
- Motivation: Homeschool is a commitment for you and your child. You might find that there are days when you just don’t feel like it. You should only sign up for homeschooling if both you and your child will be able to separate home life from school. There will be many distractions, and it could become too easy to slack or procrastinate.
- Patience: Just as you might not have the aptitude to teach certain subjects, you might not have the personality and understanding that teachers have. If your child doesn’t meet your academic expectations, will you be able to handle it and take responsibility for it? If they misbehave or act out, can you control the situation? Teaching takes an immense amount of patience and understanding.
- It won’t teach some skills that classrooms can: Another advantage for public schools is that they can teach your children social lessons homeschool can’t provide. Again, it’s not always the case, but public schools can teach things like routine, teamwork or respecting authority and following rules.
- Your child could miss out: Public schools aren’t all bad, and you never know what you’re depriving your child of. They could be passing up the opportunity to meet teachers or friends that add value to their lives. Likewise, they could miss out on playing on school teams or experiencing leadership roles like class president or prom queen. Public school is an experience. Remember you’ll be taking the good away with the bad.
- It can be stressful: Homeschooling might not be easy for you as a parent. It’s another job you’ll take on, and it will require a lot of your focus and energy. Only pursue it if you have room for it. Otherwise, you might bite off more than you can chew.
- It’s not free: Homeschooling is wonderful, but it’s not worth getting yourself into debt. This may not be a factor for you, but the costs involved are considered a con for many people. Public school is better for your budget.
- It’s misunderstood: This shouldn’t affect your decision too much, but you could be met with skepticism from relatives, friends or peers. Prepare to face potential judgment and a lot of questions. The people around you might doubt your competence, too, which won’t feel very good.
- It could make your child unhappy: Not every child wants to be home-schooled. If your child is one of them, forcing them to be homeschooled could kill their desire to learn, and their education could suffer. It could also make it more difficult for you. Teaching an unwilling child can be quite a challenge.
Tips for Homeschooling Kids
Homeschooling will most likely be an experience that involves a lot of trial and error. There’s no universal formula for ensuring a successful venture in it. You can take each of these into consideration, or filter out what doesn’t work for you.
Regardless, these tips are meant to make everyone’s homeschooling adventure easier to manage and stay on top of.
Additional Resources for Homeschooling
If you want to dig a little deeper into homeschooling, here are some useful resources that might help you on your journey.
- Homeschool Facts Interactive Map of State Laws
- Homeschool Legal Defence Association Planning Checklist
- The Unhurried Homeschooler: A Simple, Mercifully Short Book on Homeschooling
- A Survivor’s Guide to Homeschooling
- Homeschooling Methods: Seasoned Advice on Learning Styles
- 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum
Don’t rush into homeschooling. If you have reservations or doubts, look into it some more.
The truth is that although homeschooling is excellent, it’s just not for everyone.
And there you have it; everything I can share with you about homeschooling. There’s so much more information available that with some effort, you can know everything there is to know. If you’re keen to start homeschooling, I hope I’ve helped you get started.