Like any other schooling choice, the choice to homeschool has pros and cons. Because homeschooling usually takes place primarily within the family home, and involves close association of family members, the choice to homeschool is a very personal choice. Depending on one’s community, it can also be a choice for which you may or may not receive much support. This article explores the considerations that can go into making a homeschooling decision.
Homeschooling can give parents un unparalleled opportunity to participate more fully in their child’s upbringing as they take on the role of teacher as well as parent. When the parent-child relationship and the parent’s skill are such that they form a good basis for a teaching situation, the results can be extremely rewarding. Particularly when a child is eager to be homeschooled, or is joining part of a family tradition by being homeschooled, the experience can enhance a child’s education immeasurably.
Parents can build on their deep and extensive knowledge of their child’s likes and dislikes, personal interests, and talents, and focus particularly on any areas that need development. If they have a gift for making instruction interesting and adapting curriculum to their child, they may actually find that they can cover more material in a school year than what is mandated, or have shorter school days and devote their time to other interests or activities. Because a homeschool education can focus more on individual children, rather than a group of 25 or 30, a very different kind of education can be offered.
Not having to stay in the classroom as the primary location, homeschooling parents can offer their child a set of experiences that takes place throughout the community, not only in and around your home, but also in the library, the park, the theater, the zoo, the grocery store, and the playground. The care of the household and a parent’s work can also be integrated into the homeschool program.
Homeschooling can also build on a parent’s knowledge of their own best educational experiences, and avoid the situation in which the parent has a difficult time staying in the educational loop. In the best circumstances, homeschooling can be meshed with family life and take place with neither the demands of the classroom or the demands of the family disrupting the other. In a family with more than one child, schooling need not mean that the older child suddenly has very little time with younger siblings.
Not every parent or home situation is equally adaptable to meet homeschooling requirements. Parents who are used to and thrive on interactions with adults, whether social or in the workplace, may find this element of their lives somewhat curtailed. The repetitive tasks of learning and the long hours of being what may be seen as “authoritarian” may not be good for some parent-child relationships. While teaching, coaching, and guiding are certainly parts of parenting, The focused use of these skills to convey curriculum requires a different kind of energy and commitment.
Another issue is learning styles and developmental levels. The imagination that can see how to share some bit of information, strategy for learning, or skill with someone else who thinks very differently does not come with equal ease to all. Different people learn best in different ways, and trying to understand how someone else learns best can be complicated. In addition, parents may be hard-pressed to keep up with subjects or interests that don’t fall within their own areas of expertise or experience, as well as finding the pedagogical demands taxing.
Particularly when a child has a disability, the professionally trained staff beyond the classroom teacher may have a lot to offer a child that is not easily secured in a homeschool setting. But a gifted child who could use advanced classes or a child whose chief delight is some activity that’s communal may also be best served by at least part-time participation in a public or private school. So while it may not be easy to come to this conclusion, sometimes it can be better for one’s child to be taught by someone other than oneself.
While homeschools can use the community as their classroom, there are certain things that may be difficult to come by. One is the socialization that is provided by being in a classroom of peers and seeing the variety of approaches, interests, and strengths they bring to the same situation that you are in. Another is the opportunities that only work with large numbers: musical ensembles, team sports, and theater productions to name a few.
Another thing to consider is the availability of specialized tools, equipment, and supplies. Whether for art, science, or music, schools can afford to have materials that may be prohibitive in the homeschool setting. Budget can affect a number of homeschool elements, including having the time free from work to spend with one’s child, and being able to devote a suitable space in the home to the child’s education on an ongoing basis.
Like many other decisions, the decision to homeschool may not be black or white. But unlike some other decisions, it is not irrevocable: a child can go back to school if that seems the best choice for whatever reason. And that fact alone might make it worth trying . . .