There is a lot to be said for public education. There is an equal measure of points to be made against learning in school - or a greater measure, depending on who you talk to.
In theory, public education levels the playing field: every student is exposed to the same dose of information in the same manner, and is assessed on their retention of facts through the same means and by the same systems.
Unfortunately, being exposed to information doesn't mean learning and it certainly doesn't imply anyone can do anything with the information they did internalise. There's plenty more to say about exams, how mainstream educational initiatives leave little room to develop creative thinking and problem-solving skills...
And then, there's supplemental education.
Plenty of parents engage tutors and academic coaches to give their progeny an edge over 'the competition' - and they're not half-wrong in seeing their children's classmates in that light. Even though school is not meant to be competitive, the job market certainly is and we all know that those with the best marks in school are the ones who get the most rewarding jobs.
All of that addresses only public education. Throw private schools into the mix and you end up with even more disparity of access to quality educational opportunities... to say nothing of the fact that, like wealthier families who engage tutors to help their kids succeed, the wealthiest can afford to private school fees.
That is why so many caregivers are turning to homeschooling.
If you're reading this, you too might be considering pulling your children out of school and teaching them yourself. Before you decide, your Superprof wants to lay out some of the advantages of students learning outside of standardised education parameters.
We won't be one-sided about it; we'll also show you the pitfalls. And then, we'll wrap things up by drawing comparisons between homeschooling and school lessons.
A Few Facts About Homeschooling
Schooling at home is nothing new; for centuries, it was the only available education solution. Even then, learners studied only what they needed; a farmer's son might learn how to calculate crop density, for instance, and a merchant's son would learn to count money and maybe write signs.
Throughout history, females were generally left out of the educational loop. As long as they could keep house, raise children and occasionally help out with the family concern, that was work enough for them. They learned everything they needed to know at their mothers' knees.
Isolated incidences of females being educated splash through historical records. For instance, Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi was apprenticed the same way as Leonardo da Vinci was. Still, for the most part, only women of privilege were granted education... but not expected to really do anything with their knowledge.
The early 1500s saw public education take root in Europe.
It was a messy affair because everyone had their own ideas of what should be taught and how, and each had an agenda - often religious. Indeed, the drive for public, standardised education was founded in the newly-formed Protestant religion: Martin Luther promoted the idea that each man's salvation lies in his ability to read and understand Scripture.
The Industrial Revolution brought about the largest changes to public education. Giants of industry believed that a learned workforce would be more capable so, along with teaching the need for punctuality and personal hygiene, workers were taught how to read, write and cypher - but just enough to do their job. A thirst for knowledge was not encouraged.
And that's how we got where we are now: education is a means to a more qualified workforce. Industry drives the economy. Therefore, everyone must be educated to keep the economy growing.
Several educational theories later, the mentality still persists that students are empty vessels yearning to be filled with all the knowledge their teachers can impart. Today, more and more educational psychologists disagree; so do a lot of parents.
Fed up with the constraints imposed by cumbersome Departments for Education, countries around the world are reversing their mandate that every child must partake of standardised education, once again permitting parents to decide on and pursue the educational pathways that they feel would suit their children the best.
Naturally, there are a few adamant exceptions. Homeschooling is flat-out illegal in Germany and the Netherlands, no matter what the student's circumstances are. However, it is legal in Ukraine and the UK, provided that certain strict conditions are met.
Other countries only make allowances for special cases, for instance, if going to school presents undue hardship on the student - maybe s/he struggles with a physical disability or lives too far away from any school.
Of those, Sweden presents the most interesting case study: caregivers who apply for permission to homeschool their child are generally turned down, even though the law permits the practice in certain circumstances. Likewise, legally filed appeals of those case rulings are denied.
Why Is Homeschool Education Is Catching On
This year, kids all over the world are being homeschooled in record numbers, thanks to the pandemic.
We can give COVID credit for the segment of homeschoolers that, until this virus made life impossible, never contemplated having their parents teach them English and maths.
The growing enthusiasm for homeschooling is due to other factors, though. Here they are, contrasted with public education:
- Varied learning styles are better supported in the homeschool environment
- Mainstream education generally favours only one type of learner
- Bullying and peer pressure are virtually non-existent
- These proliferate widely in schools
- Greater flexibility in what is taught and teaching methods
- 'teaching to the test' - that says it all.
- Kids learn when they're ready - if they're more advanced than their peer group or gifted in a certain subject, they may learn at their own pace.
- earning advanced placement is a strenuous ordeal if a student's academic achievements are noticed at all.
- Special needs are more readily addressed: who knows kids better than their parents?
- ADD, ADHD, autism and dyslexia are managed apart from main learning incentives
These contrasts might not be immediately obvious to everyone. That is why so many parents ask what the main differences between learning in school and home education.
In general, it's quite a difficult question to answer as these differences develop from the fundamental approach and philosophy to education, quite different to an institutional one, which home school families develop over time through a variety of approaches.
Another fundamental difference lies in the various curricula.
Public schools have no choice but to teach the curriculum set forth by the Department for Education. Private schools' curricula are guided by the philosophy that drives that institution: if it is a religious school, the curriculum will reflect that.
School districts may have some leeway over the textbooks they use and the exam boards they assess their students through but, in general, there must be this much math, that much English and a certain number of electives offered. Which electives are offered depends on the availability of qualified teachers in any given subject.
Language learning has long been a point of contention in UK public schools. There are simply not enough language teachers to satisfy students' demand.
Homeschoolers have so much more leeway in their choice of resources. They might settle on a Christian curriculum or opt for a project-based syllabus. Some parents, so they don't stray too far away from what is taught in schools, follow a traditional curriculum.
As for extracurricular activities - music lessons, sports and arts education: public schools are limited to offering the subjects that they have qualified teachers for.
Homeschooling parents may engage tutors to offer their children a variety of learning experiences. Furthermore, while school field trips are convoluted affairs requiring much coordination, homeschoolers may go to the museum, the theatre, art galleries or to the gym on any given day as part of their learning and enrichment experience.
There is plenty of good to be said for homeschooling, isn't there? Now, let's look at the downsides...
The Pitfalls of Homeschooling
School teachers spend years at university and undergo rigorous training before they're turned loose on the nation's children. By contrast, parents don't have to have any qualifications, development or training to teach their children.
More than anything academic, the school concept is meant to teach kids how to function in society - remember how, earlier, we talked about giants of industry deciding that educated workers are more profitable?
Homeschoolers may miss out on an integral part of their social development if their parent doesn't take care to blend lessons at home with social experiences outside the home. Elementary lessons in social behaviours such as sharing, cooperating and collaborating are generally a part of family life but learning how to share with people outside one's tribe takes a bit of work.
Competition is another developmental aspect that homeschoolers might miss out on if their parent doesn't assiduously provide such opportunities. Everyone needs to cultivate a certain level of competitiveness to flourish; if a child's sole experience is competing with siblings, s/he may not be adequately prepared to succeed professionally.
Finally, maybe the greatest stumbling block of all: the cost of homeschooling.
Public education is free and, as your child partakes of this free education, you're free to pursue anything from your higher education aspirations to a career.
If you're the parent doing the teaching at home, you lose all of the time your children would have been in school. If you were working, the loss of your job costs your family money and the curriculum you choose to teach can dig a sizeable hole into the family budget. Those books and resources are not cheap, either.
And then, you will have to have a dedicated learning space in your home. It should be outfitted with chairs and tables or desks, and there should be a few teaching aids: a whiteboard, some visual media - maybe a computer/projector setup or, if you prefer traditional learning, maps and educational posters.
You will also have to pay for all of the enrichment activities you want your child to have and, if it takes a private tutor to permit such experiences, the cost of tutoring is on your shoulders, too.
How Homeschooling Measures Up to School Learning
Keeping your kids out of a bad environment in school - away from bullies, drugs and the pressure to fit in are some of the main reasons that parents today choose homeschooling over public education.
Along the way, both the parent and the child discover that homeschooling offers so many more benefits than personal safety and emotional well-being.
Once you get into homeschooling, incorporating external activities with peer groups, you'll find:
- Your child will enjoy a more natural social experience with a wide range of people of all ages, backgrounds and settings.
- The learning is tailored to the individual’s needs rather than institutional needs, e.g. school and politics.
- You can utilise the individual’s interests, build on strengths and support weaknesses and develop potential often wasted in a school setting.
- Learning and life become integrated, as is more natural, rather than separated from one another and you can utilise learning opportunities in the real world. Consequently, there are plenty of opportunities to build essential life skills like independence, motivation, organisation, social and emotional aptitude, and confidence.
- The family can work together rather than the parent feeling excluded from their child’s education, something that, parents report, strengthens family bonds. That is especially useful during the teen years!
If you've had to oversee your child's online learning during COVID lockdown, you know that home education is not as daunting a proposition as you might have thought. To the contrary, if done right, it makes kids' learning experiences richer and more expansive than any school could provide.
Besides the ten bulleted points we promised in our article's title, we've loaded up more reasons to consider homeschooling your child.
Should you decide to take the plunge - formally withdraw your children from school and have a go at teaching them yourself, won't you let us know how you get on in the comments section?