Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see – Neil Postman

Why is homeschool good?

This post is in response to an article I read recently on e-how. The article was titled Why is Homeschool Bad? Well, I challenge that question. I think homeschool is good and I am going to respond to the challenges in that article one by one.

The article begins by claiming

The traditional choice for most parents is to send their kids off to school every day and greet them when they come home. Some parents, however, prefer to actually run the school in their own homes and act as their children’s teacher. They may decide this for religious reasons, emotional reasons, financial reasons or a variety of other considerations, but there are compromises involved. Homeschooling can have some negative aspects to it, so if this is something you are considering, be aware of the cons before you make your decision.

My first response is, well duh!, of course most people send their kids off to school, it’s mainstream. However, the sentence implies that mainstream school is cons free. For many parents, there are many cons to sending their children to a mainstream school. For example, a lot of research indicates that, for minorities, there are major problems with schools that necessitate these parents massively involving themselves in schools. However, the involvement can have challenges, for example, as Archer (2010) (paywall) states:

Whilst on the whole parents seemed to challenge schools with confidence on a range of issues, they also appeared to be sensitive to the danger of being negatively stereotyped by schools as ‘pushy’ (Phil) or ‘complaining’ (Ann) parents. This sometimes meant, as Phil put it, being strategic, to ‘choose your battles’.

(p. 462)

The quote from Archer (2010) suggests that there are risks to parents who choose the traditional school route, and that these may actually be far greater than those faced by home educators.

I’d also like to investigate the reasons parents decide this [is the educational choice for them] for religious reasons, emotional reasons, financial reasons or a variety of other considerations. There are a lot of reasons for parents to home educate. Moreton (2012) argued that many of the discourses constructed by the home education families she interviewed mirrored those of parents who chose a private school for their children. For example, she argued that the rationales used by parents to explain their choice to home educate mirrored rationales for educational choice used by middle class parents about their choice of private school, such as social milieu, acquisition of wider life skills and the transmission of values (Moreton, 2012, p. 47). Similarly, as I’ve said in previous posts, Van Galen (1988, 1991) argued that there are two groups of home educators, idealogues (religious) and pedagogues (unschoolers). I have to say, in my research, I’ve never seen anyone home educate for financial reasons. What on earth would they be?

The post then argues five points about why home education is bad. The first is social life. The article states (without reference to any research)

In a traditional school setting, children interact with peers their own age, which teaches them valuable life skills, such as sharing, making conversation, making friends and compromising. While you can try to teach this at home, it often is not as effective as in the classroom without your help and supervision

However, research indicates that there is no benefit to children playing with peers, especially in the early years. There may actually be some problems including increased social problems, and that it is actually quite stressful for young children to be in that kind of setting.

The second problem is time. While I acknowledge this can be a problem, it has been found in studies of schooled children that the time commitment, particularly on the part of the mother, is intense. The specific time problems listed in the article are that it is not easy to develop an entire curriculum on your own. However, why you would do that is beyond me. If you want to take a school-at-home home education path, then buy your curriculum, or download the curriculum from your local studies authority. Or unschool, which, incidentally, would overcome the hours that it should take you to prepare your lessons problem. And the statement that national requirements for homeschooling, so you may be expected to keep to normal school hours even within the privacy of your own home is completely asinine. Most school authorities accept unschooling as a choice, in Australia you can even buy unschooling curriculum so you don’t have to keep school hours at all.

The third problem is financial commitment. While I accept that, as a stay at home mother, it may be an expense to the family, but only if that woman’s work is considered in purely economic terms. In addition, as my research is indicating, there are home education families where both parents work.

The fourth problem is downtime. However, who considers the drive to the office to be downtime is beyond me. Similarly, as the numbers of children in before and after school care indicate, the statement you send your children off to school, even if you go to work afterward, you have some time to yourself, seems absurd. Mostly, I’d imagine, it’s a stress to get the children off to school/before school care and make it to work on time yourself.

The final problem is social stigma. The article states that anything that is done that is outside what society considers “normal” is sometimes attacked, questioned or made fun of, however, is that a reason not to do something? At the extreme end of the scale, it was unusual once to not hit your wife, even Sean Connery supposedly advocated it, but now that’s assault. It was also once wrong to marry outside your ethnic group. Just because it was made fun of and attacked in the past, we’ve moved on. The article also states that even if you think that you are strong enough to handle the negative feedback, you must take your children into consideration as well. However, as the parent, isn’t that your job no matter what choice you make for your child’s education? Also, as many home education families are child led and are following their child’s needs, maybe it was the child that requested that they stay home? And who, honestly, hasn’t at some stage felt attacked for choosing an educational path?

The article was ridiculous and I really wanted to make that point.

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16 Responses to “Why is homeschool good?”

  1. Simone

    Interesting. I am an early childhood teacher and I am slowly using my passion for teaching as much of my teaching day is spent doing menial administration tasks. I would much rather be planning wonderful experiences and learning environments, however I have little time for that. And educational decisions made by administration are not based on what is best for children. I am also a parent of 3 young children aged 4, 7 and 10. I have been thinking about homeschooling as I am fed up with the lack of learning that is taking place. My 10 year old daughter has difficulty with concentration and even though she is fairly smart, she does not do well on tests. I am angry that the private high school we have her name down at, require the results of her Year 3 NAPLAN tests at the interview next year. However, there are 2 reasons why I am hesitant about homeschooling. Firstly, my children love their friends and I am worried that they will miss them too much. Secondly, it is for financial reasons. We have cut back for me to be able to work part time but I cannot see how we could manage without my salary. At the same time, my life is very rushed and stressful. I do not feel that I am a very good teacher or parent at the moment but I feel quite trapped about what to do.

    Reply
  2. Simone

    Unless I win the lottery, I guess I will carry on, which is a pretty unhappy thought really. But then again, I should focus on the positive aspects of our lives. 3 healthy, happy kids, a roof above our heads and a happy childhood for them. What do you think I should do?

    Reply
  3. Simone

    The children want to stay at school because they love their friends there. I have looked at alternative schools like Montessori but they are very expensive.

    Reply
    • Rebecca English

      Can you ask if the school will allow you to send them part time? That way both you and your children have their needs met.

      Reply
      • Simone

        I did think of this but wasn’t sure if it would be allowed. I might look into it. Thanks very much. : )

  4. Haidee

    One financial reason to homeschool is when public schools are undesirable and private schools, if you can get in, are too expensive. Here in Boston, at least one private school starts at $27,000.00 for preschool. The high school years are $40,000.00. I get the sense that this is one reason there is a growing number of homeschoolers in urban areas in the US.

    Reply
    • Rebecca English

      Yes, I agree. In Australia, private schools ate given loads of government money, depending on how wealthy the parents are (so, more wealthy families at a school = lower government funds). But some of ours still run around the $30k mark. That figure is obviously out of touch for most families (given the average wage is around $60/$70k).

      I also think we can’t ignore the role of the media in painting schools as failing and teachers as stupid. In that climate, especially where there’s a highly educated populous, it makes sense people would think, “well, I can probably do a better job!”. In many cases, they can.

      Reply
  5. Fiona

    Hi, my children are now home educated and come under ‘refugees’ from the education system.

    I think that there is a perception that teachers and parents are somehow separate entities, locked in perennial combat over blame and worry about children’s education. I find it interesting that a high percentage of homeschooling families we meet have one or two of the parents either teachers or former teachers. I don’t blame the failings of the Educational System for my children on their teachers. I almost hesitate to call them ‘teacher’s’ as their ability to teach is constricted and I view them as more ‘deliverers’. I see how little support, resources and individual teaching time is available in the face of increasing tests and the implementation of the National Curriculum.

    NAPLAN testing, I feel, has intensified the blame game. Recently, there was a report on Australian National TV news about Australia’s falling international educational standings, which was immediately followed the next day with the Department of Education in NSW issuing a press release about how parents are failing their children and possibly ruining their future academic chances in life by allowing them to miss days at school due to the child’s birthday or other type of non- emergency reason. The figure of 33,000 per day was given as the average non-attendance figure for NSW public schools. This seemed to be a very extraordinary claim to me.

    I strongly feel that it is the System that is failing and instead of being open to change, the thumbscrews are being ever tightened on teachers through standardized testing and a National Curriculum.

    I am not a teacher, I have been an involved parent and volunteered for a day a week in my sons’ classes so I have seen what most parents don’t get a chance to experience.

    Home school is good, in fact, we truly believe that this has been the best decision we could have made for our family. Is it perfect, no. When I doubt myself, I have to remember how little my children were accomplishing in mainstream schooling. Even on what seems to be a day when little work gets done, the learning my children undertake is eyeopening.

    Reply

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