Homeschooling: An Appealing Educational Alternative
by Carren W. Joye
Home education has become an appealing alternative to classroom instruction in recent years. Estimates put the number of homeschooled American children at close to two million, with that number rising by 15 percent each year. What began as almost an underground movement a couple of decades ago, homeschooling is now legal in all 50 states. Also, what began largely with evangelical Christians who wanted to safeguard their children from worldly influences, now finds mainstream families who choose homeschooling as the best and safest educational option for their children. Now, nearly everyone knows someone who homeschools.
What makes it so attractive for families? Letís take a look at some of the benefits of homeschooling and the reasons why so many families choose homeschooling.
Safe and Nurturing Environment
No school is as safe as the home. No one cares as much for the well being of your child as you do. In the nurturing environment of home, a child will blossom. Not to mention, there are far fewer distractions at home than at school. Homeschooled students do not have to worry about bullies, fighting, harassment or violence. They also donít have to worry about being popular, wearing the latest styles, or getting on the teacherís good side. In the safe, nurturing environment of their own home, all they have to worry about is learning.
Schooling at home allows for regular reinforcement of academic lessons and integration of the curriculum into other aspects of everyday life. For example, homeschooling parents often add impromptu math lessons while grocery shopping, science while walking in the backyard, or history while visiting a grandparent. Not to mention, with the intimate knowledge they have of their children, parents can personalize the curriculum to suit each individual child and use an academic program that focuses on her interests or talents. Homeschooling parents have the ability to meet the special needs or learning styles of their children. This would apply to the academically advanced as well as to the physically challenged.
At the same time, parents are aware in what areas the child needs improvement with the instant child-to-parent feedback of the homeschool situation. Such a low teacher to student ratio allows this. How many private schools have a 1:1 teacher to student ratio? Or even a 1:4 ratio? Even large families of about 10 children have two parents, giving their school a teacher-student ratio of 2:10. Think of the individualized attention those students get! Even if your children have to wait a while for your help, they will still end up with more one-on-one attention than they would get in a typical classroom.
Flexibility and Economy of Time
Homeschooling allows a flexibility that canít be beat! You donít have to school from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, August through May. Indeed, very few homeschoolers follow such a rigid time schedule. Some families prefer morning hours, while others devote the afternoons or evenings to study. Some families homeschool year-round, so they can enjoy long vacations throughout the year or so they can benefit from four-day school weeks. Others alternate two weeks of school and one week off.
Whatever the schedule, schooling at home provides free time for extracurricular activities, such as gymnastics, dance, sports, clubs and community service. It allows homeschoolers to work around illnesses and family emergencies without missing any schoolwork. In addition, homeschooling continues without disruption even when moving across the country or around the world, which makes it ideal for military families and other careers that require frequent moving.
On average, homeschooled students spend about three hours on schoolwork in a typical school day, less for the early years, compared to students who are in school for about six hours a day and then do homework for another two hours. In a classroom, the entire class can proceed only as fast as the slowest learner. Even then, if the slow learner doesnít get the concept, the class will eventually move on without him. A homeschooler, on the other hand, can spend more time Ė as much time as he needs Ė to learn a difficult concept before moving on. And he can move at an accelerated pace if he understands the work.
Home education encourages better character development because it imparts parental values, reduces risk of peer dependency and encourages independent problem-solving. Many parents choose homeschooling for religious reasons. Indeed, parents are the best persons to explain and pass on their morals and beliefs to their children. At the same time, children learn how to be dependable, mature adults by having dependable, mature adult role models. In a school, the adult role models are the teachers, most of whom teenagers distrust, dislike and scorn. The atmosphere is often one of ďus (students) against them (teachers).Ē As a result, the only role models left to emulate are their peers who, like them, are struggling with emotions and issues they do not fully understand and often cannot control.
Homeschooled children, on the other hand, have their parents, family friends and adults in their support groups to serve as role models. Although friends play a large role in any kidís life, particularly in the lives of teenagers, peer pressure is significantly less in a homeschooled environment than in a classroom situation.
As a result, homeschooled children learn to rely on themselves in ways that fellow students in a classroom cannot. Homeschooling encourages independent problem-solving and improves self-esteem because there is no classroom of other students to fall back on or to deflect attention. Plus, without other students in direct competition for grades or for the teacherís attention, homeschoolers avoid that destructive competition that damages self-esteem.
Although the prevalent belief used to be that homeschoolers are isolated in their homes all day with only siblings to relate to, the contrary is actually true and is finally being realized by the general public. The increasing popularity of homeschooling in the last ten years has made the socialization issue much easier to address and eliminate. With so many homeschoolers around, homeschool support groups are cropping up everywhere! As a result, homeschoolers have opportunities and activities available now that were virtually impossible to organize several years ago.
Indeed, homeschoolers participate in various extracurricular activities, such as clubs and sports, where they spend quality time with their peers. They also organize numerous field trips with other families and get involved in their local support groups and churches.
As a result, the socialization experienced by homeschoolers encourages relationships between all age groups. Rather than being confined to a classroom with 10 to 20 other children their own age, homeschooled children spend time with other kids of all ages. They are comfortable with and learn to get along with toddlers, adolescents, teens and even other adults and the elderly, all from varying levels on the socio-economic ladder. After all, as an adult, when was the last time you were the member of a group where everyone was exclusively your own age?
Strengthens the Family
The final benefit to homeschooling is the cohesiveness it brings to the family unit. Your children will benefit from each otherís company. Indeed, my younger children learn a lot from their older siblings, and my oldest learns a lot from teaching them. And all of them are learning to take turns, wait patiently, share, cooperate to accomplish their goals, and just plain get along well together.
Plus, how can you get to know your children if you spend only a few hours in the evening and on weekends together? I want to get to know my children as individuals and enjoy being with them at every stage of their lives. I also want them to see me and get to know me as an individual, not just as a parent handling discipline matters. Homeschooling gives us precious time together as we learn, read, solve problems, work on projects and just hang out together.
Now that you know the benefits for your child and your family, you need to consider homeschooling as a viable option. You may actually have other reasons for homeschooling or find other benefits that are unique to your family. In any case, chances are that you and your children will be glad you decided to homeschool!
Copyright 2004 by Carren W. Joye