Considered extinct in the 1970s, homeschooling as a medium of education is making a comeback in the United States in a big way. Many research firms have taken up active studies related to homeschooling and it has become a hotbed of debate and deliberation among parents, students, public officials and educators.
What is a Homeschool Education?
A well-rounded education helps children become responsible citizens of society, fulfill their duties towards their families and live happy and productive lives. A relatively less common method of education in the US, besides public and private schools, is homeschooling. A traditional definition would simply be – education imparted in the home environment by a guardian or parent. However there are certain guidelines to be followed for homeschoolers and they vary from state to state. Many states specify which subjects and material needs to be covered, while others require a yearly evaluation to be done to gauge progress. Implementing such regulations is a different matter altogether, as it is difficult for the state to know if parents are being fair in imparting knowledge on complex subjects. Issues such as these have made homeschooling a controversial aspect of the educational system.
Homeschooling Facts and Statistics
- According to a research by National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) in 2010, homeschooling is growing at a rate of 2-8% every year making it the fastest among different forms of education.
- 2010 data from the NHERI indicates that there are about 2.04 million homeschooled students in the United States.
- An approximate 1.75 to 2.35 million students were homeschooled during the early months of 2010.
- $16 billion of the taxpayer money was saved due to homeschooling programs in the country. Homeschooled children do not have to depend on government funds for their education.
- Nearly 15% of the Hispanic community home-schools their children.
- Homeschooling is a diverse demographic, drawing families from minority communities as well as the mainstream population.
- College students who were homeschooled as children, graduated at a higher rate of 67%, than students from the institutional mode of education. They were behind at 55%.
- Income demographics for homeschooled students are also widely distributed, from $34000 to $70000.
- Almost 74% of homeschooled children have gone to colleges as compared to 44% of the general population.
- 71% of homeschooled children have been found to be involved in at least one community service as compared to 37% of the general population.
- Homeschooled children score 15 to 30 percentile points more than their public or private school counterparts.
- Recent research has shown homeschooled students socialize well in college and in fact take part in a greater number
of sports and social activities than students already in the system.
*2010 data from the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI).
Benefits of Homeschooling
Customizing education: Parents can plan education for their children according to the child’s abilities. A homeschooled child has an advantage of having his best evaluators with him. Moreover, the flexibility that homeschooling allows in the matter of choosing subjects and the way in which a parent or guardian can go about teaching it, makes homeschooling a better option for many parents who want the best for their children.
Better academics: Even the data speaks for this aspect of homeschooling. Homeschooled kids do better at studies than children in the traditional education system mainly because they have the advantage of asking questions and exploring their interests from a much younger age. They develop skills in things they like and pursue them later, picking up the same subjects in college and doing well in them.
A safer environment: This is possibly the greatest cause of the yearly increase in parents and guardians deciding to home-school their kids and not put them through the system. Public schools in many states have become havens of violence and drug abuse, not counting the lack of discipline and moral safeguards which should be ingrained in any educational institution. Many parents opt to keep their kids at home and preserve their childhood while also imparting worldly education.
Imparting values and world views: A homeschooled child is not exposed to commercialism and consumerism in the same way a child going to a public school is. The values and rationale in him can be cultivated in a positive manner under the guidance of his parents or guardians. Homeschooled children have a greater sense of responsibility towards family and society and take active part in social programs in college and work life.
Focus on the child: The purpose of education is to impart knowledge and values to children, the focal point of the learning process. In the confused and often cluttered syllabus and extra-curricular activities made compulsory in public schools, somewhere the focus on the primary subject – the child, is lost. Homeschooling makes children the center of the process. The teacher can devote his entire time and attention to one or two children and make strategies to improve their reading, writing and numerical abilities. It has been seen that public schools are neglecting the fundamentals such as reading and writing in favor of fancy subjects and unnecessary social activities. This can be avoided in a homeschool environment.
Travel and education: Many parents in the US have to travel extensively due to work or business commitments. Children are often left alone or with guardians who sometimes neglect studies and regular schooling. The child begins to lose interest in academics and is plagued by distractions. A homeschooled child can travel with his parents when they move or go to different cities for work. The parent being the teacher can manage the children’s educational schedules along with his own and doesn’t have to worry about leaving them with guardians or in boarding schools.
Homeschooling vs. Public schooling
There is no hard data which conclusively proves that homeschooling is better than public or private forms of education, but research is on. It will include new types of controls and variables and make definite measurements regarding this type of education. Brian D. Ray, Ph. D published a paper on the NHERI website commenting on the research done by Martin-Chang, Gould, and Meuse which supports the theory that in some specific forms of homeschooling, the benefits do outweigh those from public institutions. However, the debate between this so-called ‘radical’ and ‘back to nature’ form of education and the more formal, regularized approach towards learning rages on. Critics argue that homeschooling results in neglect of the child and apathy towards learning. They say that the parents’ sense of responsibility cannot be counted upon as every shift in their circumstance has a direct impact on the education of the child. If the parent or guardian cannot hold a job or is frequently in and out of relationships, it will cause a retrograde movement in the learning curve of the children dependent on him or her.
Whatever the case may be, homeschooling is fast becoming an acceptable and a better approach towards learning, and will continue to attract parents who want to give their children a holistic education to help them realize their potential.