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Homeschooling, The Good, The Bad, and The Student Who Goes To College Early
The Homeschooling Question
During my research on homeschooling and homeschooling options, I have taken the opportunity to ask opinions of a mixture of individuals from varied backgrounds. From the educator to the social worker on to the random person in the checkout line, I have asked as many people as I can about opinions on homeschooling. As you read this, you may be thinking why do I care about someone's opinion? I would reply that it may matter depending on the community you live in. For example, when in a discussion with an aspiring social worker who has high hopes to make it up the ladder to the top in a child protection services agency, she freely shared her anger over homeschooling saying that children fail to get proper socialization, rarely follow through on required (her words) immunizations, and simply cannot get quality education at home. When asked what experiences she had had in the past, she admitted that she only knew one family. When asked if she had been to trainings or had any other exposure, she admitted that she hadn't. The conversation was quickly halted. In her defense, she is not alone in her views. The same type of conversations took place between me and other people in varied fields. For example, others sharing the opinion of the future social worker included, but was not limited to a lady at the post office, a man standing at the entrance of a store collecting donations, an elementary school teacher, and a medical doctor. Few of the conversations I had went the other direction; that is, the person praised homeschooling.
The researcher part of me acknowledges that this attitude may be one that is simply isolated to a specific community or section of the country (several of my conversations took place on the road from Kentucky to Alabama), but I also realize that if the attitude is the prevailing one, it can be detrimental to any family choosing to home school. I will leave further speculation on this up to you, the reader. I am admittedly biased on the subject of homeschooling and have taken some time to explore possible risks associated with choosing to home school in a community that is not supportive.
Homeschooling: Brainstorming the Bad
Let's explore the side of homeschooling that may present barriers or potential barriers to homeschooling families.
- There's a monetary cost. Homeschooling can be costly. There may be curriculum, supply, and even food costs to name a few.
- There's a time cost. Homeschooling requires some dedicated time regardless of the style of homeschooling that is chosen (there are several).
- There may be a legal cost. Most states have regulations requiring that families notify the school district where they reside that they are homeschooling. Some states even reserve the right to have school officials and social workers inspect the home, schedules, materials, and more. Know thy state. Information on state laws can be located in another article I wrote. Look for the home school legal defense discussion.
- Socialization can be a consideration. In this mention of socialization, I want to make clear that when discussing lack of socialization, I am referring to social events or activities such as sports teams, clubs, band, cheer leading, dance teams and other school sponsored activities that may be more accessible when a student is enrolled in school. More on socialization is discussed in the good section of homeschooling.
- Social norms may be a consideration. Let's face it, homeschooling is not seen as normal. I had the chance to witness an occurrence of a homeschooling mom shopping with a child in tow. I was browsing a clothing rack looking for bargains when a conversation grabbed my attention. What seemed like a well intended concern, a retail sales worker asked a little girl if she was sick. It was, after all, a school day and the girl (I would have judged her to be around 10 years old) was out shopping with her mom. I found myself staring at the interaction in anticipation of the outcome. The mother shared that her daughter was home schooled. Although I could not report what the retail worker was thinking exactly, her distaste for the idea of home schooling was apparent on her face. The conversation halted. The mother paid, the rushed the little girl toward the door. The retail worker stared until the family was out of sight then proceeded to discuss home schooling and shared her fear with a coworker that the little girl was be denied proper education. After all, her mother had brought her out shopping while she should be home teaching. The coworker listened, nodding her head in agreement.
Homeschooling: Brainstorming the Good
Now, let's take a moment to look at the other side of the points made in the above section.
- The monetary costs may be lessened. Support groups for homeschooling may share curriculum created by parents having knowledge in specific areas. Food costs may be decreased depending lunch costs in the public school versus the home cost. Public schools may cost money in some states. For example, in Alabama, some schools have a registration fees, book fees, sports fees as well as other school fees.
- The time cost may be worth it. For example, homeschooling families have the opportunity to go beyond the classroom. Geography and history can be studied through travel to actual places, and science can be studied through hands-on activities that help parents and children bond. Other areas such as reading may be done, in part, through a reading club. You get the idea. While many states dictate the requirement of yearly hours that a child should be participating in home school studies, busy work can be eliminated in the homeschooling environment. Since a homeschooling family has the luxury of focusing on a particular child's level of education, busy work that might otherwise be given at a public school can be thrown out saving time.
- Legal issues may be a risk, but there are certainly steps that can be taken to eliminate serious problems in this area. In the above section, I mention knowing the laws. Staying up-to-date on those laws is certainly important. Joining a group such as the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) may help reduce risks. This group can help defend as well as keep parents informed of changes in the law. An additional step that a parent should probably consider if a state or locality has homeschooling regulations is contacting the local school district to verify any requirements. This small step can avoid serious issues later.
- Let's look at socialization for a moment. Specifically, I want to address the argument that homes schooled children lack proper socialization to function in society. While home school environments may differ widely in the degree to which a child is socialized (keep in mind my definition in the above section), this is an areas where home schooled children are protected from the full impact of public school socialization which differs from my personal definition, but is nonetheless a problem. Socialization in a public school system may include increased likelihood of early sexual encounters (including exposure to sexually transmitted diseases), bullying, and alcohol and drug use, Socialization in a public school system also exposes children to ideas, morals, and values that may not be in alignment with the values at home. Another tidbit of information that I would like to add here is that some school districts allow students to participate in school sports. It's worth checking into if it is an area of interest. Additionally, most communities have sports and other activities that are not affiliated with public schools.
- Addressing social norms may be an area that causes undue stress on a homeschooling family. To prevent feeling alone in the quest for quality education, joining a support group can help tremendously. Networks of home school groups may be found in many communities. If you are unable to find one via an online group search, consider starting one. Even in the small community where I reside, there are at least two groups. Both are Christian-based, but if your interests are in the nondenominational or nonreligious area, others may be available. Attending local library events may also yield connections with other homeschooling families.
Stepping beyond the classroom
Homeschooling for College & Other Final Comments
I wanted to add this section on homeschooling for college into the article because I see it as a both a benefit and drawback of homeschooling. Based on my research (which I will share more specifically in an upcoming article), home schooled children may find themselves ready for college earlier than publicly and privately schooled children. This may seem a plus, and to some degree it certainly is, but the question of adequate accommodations for young folks to participate in college alongside those nearing adulthood can be a concern. This is not a problem that should be attributed to a homeschooling family, but an issue in the public college system; specifically, more programs are needed to accommodate early entry students. As early entry student numbers increase, I suspect that colleges will find new and innovative ways to accommodate them.
I want to end this article with a story of a 13-year old college sophomore at a local college. I was proctoring exams during final exams week when a colleague began talking about his daughter who would graduate in two years from college. Normally, I would not take note of a common conversation, but then I heard him say, "...she'll be 15" in a conversation about her graduating from college. I couldn't help myself. I had to know more. I learned that he and his wife had pulled his daughter out of the public school system when she was in third grade. Since that time, he, his wife, and other family members had taken part in the homeschooling process. In this homeschooling case, the 15-year old would be headed to medical school after graduation.
While this story may be the exception, there are clearly benefits to homeschooling children. Based on my work as a contractor with child protection workers, research in the field of education, and every day conversations with friends, colleagues, and strangers, I find that there is a lack of understanding and a generally negative view of homeschooling families. There have been some valid concerns brought up during those conversations such as unqualified parents (I would offer that a college education does not make one an educator), neglect in the home (come on, do we really believe that the majority of parents are neglecting their children's educational needs?), and one which I found interesting was that homeschooling families neglect medical needs (I believe that is called a logical fallacy - look it up).
Admittedly, I am biased, but not so much that I can't see the possible limitations, complications, and frustrations that may be related to homeschooling. I see them. I just happen to believe that the benefits far outweigh the negative aspects.
Homeschooling Articles - Have a Look!
The following links have additional information on some of the areas discussed in this article. There is a wealth of information available on the web. Pay attention to the sources used to glean information so that you are getting high quality information. My view is one of many, so I encourage anyone who is considering the homeschooling method of education to do the research before diving in. I will post a link to the homeschooling book I am working on as soon as it is completed.
The following PBS article discusses the socialization aspect of homeschooling:
The following HSLDA article discusses the possible costs of homeschooling:
ABC 15 Video: Benefits of Homeschooling
Direct link to the video above:
You can also click the following link to access the video above on YouTube:
Would you consider school if you have access to support and resources?
Homeschooling: Addressing the socialization complaint
Recommended for getting started:
Thank you for reading!
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