We discuss the benefits of homeschooling and the difficulties parents may face. Is homeschooling better or worse for children than standard education?
Is homeschooling better than public school?
The critically acclaimed American film Captain Fantastic, directed by Matt Ross, has made many families think about the problems and benefits of homeschooling. In the film Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) and his wife Leslie live with his six children in the wilderness in the Northwest. These children don’t go to school but are educated directly by their parents into critical thinking, left-wing politics and living in harmony with nature. However, after the Leslie dies, they are forced to leave their small paradise and face the challenges of American society. As in Captain Fantastic, many parents today decide to opt out of the traditional public or private school and take full responsibility of the education of their kids. These families make some sacrifices and may encounter some problems, however, they are often very satisfied and proud of the results of homeschooling. We discuss here if homeschooling is better and worth the effort and potential risks.
What is homeschooling?
Homeschooling refers to the education of children at home rather than in a private or public school environment. An increasing number of parents have decided to educate their kids outside the formal education institutions. Often this is due to a lack of trust in the public education system or to strong beliefs concerning alternative methods of individualized learning which could hardly be offered in regular schools.
There are different approaches to homeschooling. The most common are:
- Classic or Socratic method: it focuses on the Trivium, this is teaching based on the three stages of the child’s cognitive development (concrete, analytical or abstract thinking).
- The Charlotte Mason method: it is based on the belief that children can better learn from real-life experiences and situations and absorb things from the environment.
- Unit studies: revolves around a specific area of interest or theme. Children get in-depth knowldege by analysing that topic from different disciplinary angles (maths, language, history, etc.)
- Unschooling or natural learning: founded by John Holt, it is based on the belief that children better learn subjects like language, math, arts, etc. naturally, without following any formal lesson schedule or homework.
- Relaxed or eclectic homeschooling: it is based on combining and alternating the different methods of homeschooling.
Watch these videos discussing the problems and benefits of homeschooling:
Homeschooling pros and cons:
Homeschooling is also a highly controversial issue and there are discrepancies on how different governments deal with this issue. Due to the different approaches to homeschooling some education authorities find it very difficult to monitor if children outside schools comply with the expected standards. Homeschooling is only legal in some countries such as the UK, Canada, South Africa, Australia and the US. In America, homeschooling requirements vary across states. For instance, in New York, Philadelphia and Rhode Island homeschooling is highly regulated, while in other states, such as Texas, Michigan and Alaska parents have extreme freedom with homeschool and do not even need to give notice to the authorities. Click here to see what are homeschooling requirements in your state.
These are the most important benefits of homeschooling:
- It is an expression of educational freedom. Children usually experience fewer constraints than in formal education. Parents can choose what to prioritize.
- Less pressure on children and capacity to adapt to the needs and abilities of children. They avoid competition and bullies and learn at their own rythm.
- Some parents think that religious education is important and insufficiently covered in schools. Homeschool allows parents to devote more time and effort to faith and religious studies.
- Flexibility: no need to go to school or follow school calendar and timetable. Families can also travel outside typical course breaks and holidays.
- Strengthen family relationships. As parents spend much more time with their children, they get to know each other much better.
- Some studies show that children educated at home score as well or better than those attending schools.
On the other hand the critics of home education point at the following disadvantages:
- Homeschooling can create problems of socialization because children do not interact very often with other children outside their family. In particular, interactions with children of different ethnic or socio-cultural backgrounds are minimal.
- Likelihood of inadequate standards of academic quality and comprehensiveness. Not all parents have a thorough understanding of the education system and therefore they may miss the mark when delivering content and helping their children develop useful skills.
- Formal pedagogical training. Not all parents can facilitate education as teachers do. Teachers undergo formal education on how to lead classes and deal with challenges.
- Children may develop extremist views (religious or political) or values that are inconsistent with the country’s standards of citizenship and community. As parents control homeschool and children interact less with other adults and kids, if parents hold radical beliefs and attitudes, they will be likely transmitted through homeschooling.
- Capacity of the homeschool children to adapt to secondary and higher education institutions may be undermined. Some children educated at home may experience a cultural shock when they enter a much more rigid and formalized education system.
Homeschool vs public school, do you think society and governments should play a role in children’s education? Is it better that children adapt to school or should school be adapted to individual children? Is homeschooling a sort of gamble or experiment for some children?
This article was originally published on Netivist.org