Many adults who have been through the traditional educational system recall school days as some of the happiest in their lives. It is at school than many of us make our best friends and memories, and who can forget that one teacher that inspired us to be better, sparked an interest in a particular subject or encouraged us to pursue a special talent or ability?
For many parents and children in the US, however, homeschooling is a perfect fit. Statistics certainly show that homeschooling is undergoing a big boom; the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) states that between 2007 and 2013, 300,000 more children were homeschooled. Homeschooling cuts public spending on education by $16 billion and it isn’t only the government that is saving: parents who homeschool too, it seems, are cutting back on the cost of standard curriculum books and supplies by availing of the wealth of available online resources, including highly praised interactive learning platforms like The Khan Academy.
Moreover, past worries, such as whether or not a homeschooled child can make enough friends, etc., are no longer relevant, since there are numerous homeschooling groups comprising parents and children, who socialize together and share vital information and tips. When asked why they opt to homeschool their kids, most parents site the following reasons:
- Safety: School can be a tough environment, particularly if children are exposed to bullying and/or cyberbullying. Statistics are rougher than we’d like to admit; one in three children, approximately, report being subjected to bullying and most cases occur at schools. It should be noted, of course, that most schools have anti-bullying programs and staff are much savvier in terms of spotting and stopping bullying, as well as in setting up a no-tolerance policy for bullying at schools. Interestingly, safety/providing a better environment than that afforded by schools, was cited as a reason for homeschooling by 91% of the parents surveyed by the NCES.
- Moral/religious instruction: Many parents (around 77% of parents approached by the NCES) stated that they cherished the chance to educate their child in morality; a smaller percentage also cited religious teaching as a motivating factor for their decision to homeschool their children.
- Quality academics: One of the things parents who homeschool most cherish is the ability to delve deeply into academic subjects, encouraging their children to engage in a deeper analysis of the subject at hand and to apply the things they learn to ‘real life’ scenarios. Learning can be a much more fun experience, they say, since it can take place anywhere: at a museum, in the midst of a forest or on the seashore. Parents also state that homeschooling allows them to proceed at the child’s required pace; this is especially important in the case of ‘gifted and talented’ children, who tend to advance at a much faster pace than children of a similar age, thereby growing bored in a typical classroom setting (unless they are taking part in a quality program for advanced learners).
- An education which is ‘out of the box’: Many parents don’t necessarily feel that their children can obtain a better academic education through homeschooling; they simply desire a different, more personalized experience. The advent of Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences shows that we process information in different ways, and we all have different preferences when it comes to learning – i.e. each of us has our own ‘learning style’. Some people are reflective learners – i.e. they enjoy taking time to read, absorb, reflect on and analyze information; others are more active – i.e., they like to learn ‘on the spot’ and have little patience for long, convoluted instructions and manuals. Traditional schooling generally favors verbal/linguistic learning styles, which can affect the self-confidence and motivation to learn of those who do not naturally take to this learning style. Some of the most groundbreaking schools in the world are trying to battle boredom and learning style discrimination by using new techniques which have proven highly successful; these include spaced learning (in which theoretical inputs are alternated with physical activity to enhance memory), ‘flipped learning’ (in which students encounter material online/at home for the first time online then use class time to clarify issues or put their knowledge to practical use), etc.
- Time and space: A small percentage of parents opt for homeschooling because of highly individual reasons such as distance, the financial situation at home, etc. Statistics show that the number of children attending private schools has dropped considerably since the financial crisis hit in 2008, with many parents opting to homeschool instead.
Helen Freeman is a writer who left the hurly-burly of working in finance when she became a mom to her two children. She and her husband, Phillip, decided to homeschool them as soon as they were the right age and feel it’s been the best decision all round.
- Quod.lib.UMich.edu, Home Schooling: A Brief Review, accessed November, 2014.
- WholeEducation.org, Monkseaton High School—Spaced Learning, accessed November, 2014.
- Businessballs.com, Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, accessed November, 2014.
- Sri.com Research on the Use of Khan Academy in Schools, accessed November, 2014.
- Otec.UOregon.edu, Theories of Intelligence, accessed November, 2014.
- Cse.Emory.edu, Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, accessed November, 2014.