Homeschooling: Weighing the Advantages and Disadvantages
An estimated 1.5 to 2 million children are now receiving their education at home in the United States. Decades ago, parents went to jail for teaching their own children. Thanks to more enlightened laws today, many families are able to choose among several educational options for their children without risking jail time. Public, charter, and private schools now compete with home schooling, each offering different features that may or may not be right for any particular student. To assist parents, here is a summary of homeschool pros and cons to compare with other options.
Advantages of Home Instruction
Homeschooling offers flexibility in pacing and grade placement by subject. Is your child a math whiz and a struggling speller? Not a problem! Parents have their choice of curriculum options, from complete grade level packages for all academic subjects from a single publisher to an eclectic mix of grade levels and subject curricula. A nervous parent may begin with a complete package from one provider, with or without online or video support. A parent with more confidence and experience can easily put together a custom curriculum, with individual subjects tailored to each student’s needs. Students can take extra time to catch up in one subject while zooming ahead several grades in another.
Homeschooling offers a supportive environment for students with special needs. Gifted children often come with emotional or sensory issues that can make a traditional classroom a poor fit for them. Children with profound medical needs can be home, near a caregiver equipped with necessary knowledge and medication. Children with learning differences can be accommodated without the pressures of high-stakes testing, bullying by peers, or embarrassment at being held back a grade.
Finally, homeschooling’s flexibility makes life easier for families who like to travel or keep a non-traditional schedule. If a parent works second or third shift, school time can be flexed so children still get to spend time with that parent. Children with intense sports schedules or great musical talent can more easily handle gymnastics competitions or study with a private music teacher. Family vacations can be scheduled during off seasons for cost savings. School fits into family life, not vice-versa.
Disadvantages of Home Instruction
One disadvantage of home instruction is the limited expertise of the parent. Many parents are a bit rusty when it comes to mathematics, especially. This is not a huge disadvantage, as good curricula come with detailed teacher’s editions. Online educational programs also overcome this disadvantage. Many homeschool support groups offer co-op classes taught by parents with special expertise.
Science classes present some challenges as well, especially in the high school years. A student looking forward to a STEM career needs laboratory science experiences in biology, chemistry, and physics. Most homes lack the proper equipment to do many lab exercises in a college-preparatory science curriculum. Often parents meet this need by enrolling high school juniors and seniors in dual-enrollment programs at a local community college. Some private schools may also allow a homeschooled student to take a single class.
Your Decision as a Parent
You are the expert when it comes to your children. Consider your resources: support from family and friends, available funds for books and other resources, time for structured teaching and enrichment experiences, and local support groups. If you decide homeschooling is a good fit for your child, proceed with confidence. If you conclude another option is better, support your child’s teachers and school. Whatever your decision, you made an informed choice.