Should You Homeschool Your Children?
According to Dr. Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute, home education has grown approximately 7 to 15 percent each year; and data from the Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey shows an estimated 1.5 million children were homeschooled in 2007.
Homeschooling is as multi-faceted as the families that choose this type of education. Some parents organize the days down to the last minute, planning lessons in the different core areas – math, reading, and writing – to ensure they cover each on a daily basis. Others follow a less structured approach, choosing to work on a particular subject for several days at a time before moving on.
Jessica Nelson, 25, was homeschooled from grades 1st-12th along with her two sisters and brother. She went on to graduate from Hofstra University in New York with a 3.95 GPA. Jessica's education schedule changed as needed, and while she didn't have a typically structured school day, she did follow a certain schedule. She writes, “Since we all had sports and activities scheduled in the afternoon when public school's finished their day, we were often limited to roughly the same schedule, although our days definitely did vary.”
Due to the popularity of homeschooling, many communities offer one or more homeschool groups. These groups enable parents to connect with others who are homeschooling, and for children to enjoy social interactions with others their age. Community venues such as zoos, libraries, museums, and churches may offer programs and courses for homeschooled children; in some communities, the public school will allow home educated students to attend classes.
Jessica was a captain of her high school gymnastics team and her sister was female student athlete of the year at the high school, though they did not attend the school for academics. “We were fortunate that our school district was so willing to let us participate,” she says, though this isn't always the case.
While homeschooling has its advantages – time restraints are lifted, allowing parents to create a schedule that works for their families; the incidence of bullying and other negative peer interactions are drastically reduced; parents choose what is taught and how it is taught; parents track the child's progress daily; those with specific religious and/or spirtual beliefs can address these during the day as well – but negatives can exist.
One topic – socialization – is often discussed as a huge disadvantage to home educated children, and it can be a problem when not specifically addressed by the parent. Children who go to a typical school mingle with others on a regular basis. They learn to make friends with others who may be different. They learn to settle disputes with those who are not part of their families. And they have “down time” to simply hang out with peers their age and talk about what they want. Home educated children have these opportunities only if the parent makes this a priority.
But it can be done. Girl and Boy scouts, community programs, other homeschooled families and/or groups, the library, museums, zoos and even certain public schools offer excellent opportunities for socializing. Jessica took courses at the local high school, performed with a home school theater group, was captain of a gymnastics team, and worked on several political campaigns.
Another issue that can be tricky to address is that of the education itself. Organizing learning can be tricky when children are on the same level, but it can be particularly daunting when a variety of ages and learning levels exist. A homeschooling parent must be organized enough to ensure each child is working on an appropriate level and learning what is needed.
Also, everyone has strengths and weaknesses. To teach a subject -for instance, geometry – one must know the subject well enough to explain it, show examples of the concept, and identify when the student has grasped the material well enough to perform it on his own. If a parent is weak in the subject, what alternatives will be available to teach the child? Losing out on understanding one aspect of a subject can lead to problems as the work gets harder, and because all subjects have certain building blocks that must be mastered before moving forward, care must be taken to ascertain each child masters each skill. Fortunately, websites and groups do exist to help parents teach a variety of subjects.
Home educating is not for everyone, but as its popularity grows there are a variety of resources available to those who choose this path.