I wish I could sit down with each of you and hear the story behind why you have decided to homeschool or not. Based on the many homeschooling friends and families I know, these are some common reasons for homeschooling:
- Religion ( i.e. the desire to provide the children with a strong religious component in their regular education)
- Lack of other good schooling options (e.g. either very low standards at local schools, or moral issues)
- Other personal or family reasons
- Educational value
Unfortunately, while many homeschooling families innately understand the educational value in homeschooling, this topic often gets overlooked, and homeschooling often gets a “bad rap” because its heavily associated with socio-political-religious motives. While those reasons are very valid, they aren’t the full picture of homeschooling; helping non-homeschoolers recognize the validity and value of homeschooling in terms of education can sometimes open a door of understanding and dialogue.
My parents choose to homeschool my brother and I for several years (we both then went to high school), even though we had other good, affordable schooling options, based on the educational merits of homeschooling. Here are a few of the benefits we experienced that homeschooling, by nature, has an edge in:
1. Differentiation. There’s a big push in modern education for differentiation – i.e. a learning process that meets the needs of the individual, not just the group. Each student has different talents, challenges and interests, and these affect the way they learn. Differentiation happens naturally in homeschooling. Both the schedule and content of learning can be designed to meet the needs of the individual student. Instead of using a cookie-cutter approach, each student is able to become their own masterpiece.
2. Student-centered, student-developed learning. Homeschooling gives the student the optimum opportunity to participate in their own learning process. Each child, with the parent or other mentor’s guidance and approval, can participate in designing their own assessments, projects and experiments. This allows the students to engage more actively in directing their own learning, while the parent-teacher makes sure they stay within the parameters of the educational objective.
3. Access to resources. It’s impossible for homeschoolers to have the same range of resources as a school community, in terms of books, gym and art supplies, science equipment, etc. That being said, homeschoolers actually benefit from a much broader range of resources overall. For starters:
- The homeschooler has direct access to the outdoors. Whether you live in the country of the city, this opens up a whole realm of possible projects and experiments on a daily basis.
- Don’t underrate the science supplies you do have access to: you probably have access to a lot more household supplies and cleaners than the school science labs, and these can be used for a whole host of experiments and activities.
- Mobility. Homeschoolers can go on many more field trips. They don’t take weeks to organize, and you can arrange your schedule around the hours of the museum, factory, library or natural phenomenon you want to visit. Homeschoolers can learn a lot more first hand.
4. Peer teaching opportunities and interaction with different ages. Homeschoolers are often stereotyped as having limited social opportunities. In reality, homeschoolers, especially in families homeschooling multiple children, can have MANY opportunities for social interactions naturally built into their day. They are constantly developing healthy relationships with people of all ages because they remain within a natural community, which includes a range of ages, rather than a constructed community in which they largely socialize only with their own age. Homeschooling families often have older students studying right alongside younger ones (different content or levels, of course), and this gives rise to natural teaching and learning experiences between the siblings. Nothing could be healthier!
5. Life-long learning, real life application. Homeschooling puts education in its proper context: real life. Homeschoolers have the unique opportunity to really learn by living, and to engage all five senses, as well as action, in their areas of study. Some families even have opportunities to travel that they wouldn’t be able to take if the kids were in a private or public school. Homeschooling allows the family to avail of all the real life opportunities they have, and design or adjust their curriculum as needed to make the most of what they’re doing.
6. One-on-one mentoring. Just one more plus to add to the list – homeschoolers receive a better teacher-student ratio than almost any school, and the parent-teacher knows the students VERY well! This can lead to an optimum environment for the personal growth of the child.
I’m sure all of you can add to the list! These are just a few of the educational benefits I’ve experienced consistently, both as a child when I was homeschooled, and now, working in the private school system.
I would love to hear more about what all of you appreciate in homeschooling, especially in terms of its educational value!