I have experienced both home-schooling and public education, and I found I learned far more and tried much harder in home education. Although I found the drawback to home education to be a reduction in social contact, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Home education offers less distraction with the ability to work one-on-one with a teacher, be it a parent or a distance education correspondent. Being able to talk to the teacher is a big help; with large classrooms it can be very hard to ensure the quality of everyone’s learning. Much of my education was through online correspondence, and worked similarly to a classroom environment without having to deal with the distraction of many other students. I was able to contact all of my teachers through phone and e-mail and they would almost always be available during regular school hours.
By working through Argyll Home School, I used a nearly identical curriculum to the public school system. The difference was a flexibility to work on subjects at leisure. I found that minimally-directed learning helped me learn time management skills essential for college. Of course, my parents were the primary force that kept me focussed on my studies, as you can’t expect any elementary student just to sit and do their homework all day.
I entered the public education system for the last two years of high school. The first difficulty I found here was how enforced the learning felt. It seemed that the teachers relied more upon intimidation for students to get their work done. What I found most intimidating was the constant barrage of tests and minor assignments designed to motivate students to read the textbooks. As a studious student, I worked myself into a frenzy trying to keep up with all of the little details and mini assignments due every single class.
By the end of my second year, I had already begun to take an entirely new attitude to learning: avoidance. Most of my new friends also employed the strategy, and I found that students had trouble accepting anyone who is a hard worker, as it makes them feel lesser somehow. Combine a collective attitude with the numbing effect of constant assignments, and my grades began to slip.
Don’t ge me wrong, I had to work very hard in home school as well. The difference was that the teachers would provide larger assignments and give students more time to work on them. There were also fewer small tests, so the level of pressure was much lower.
Although the public system seems geared to prepare students for “real life” by throwing as much stress their way as possible, it doesn’t seem to culture a good environment for learning. Personally, I can’t learn well under high-stress situations, and that described just about every day at public school for me.
As I believe learning is the entire point of education, home-schooling is a superior route. The HSLDA (Home School Legal Defence Association) provides research that shows superior academic excellence in home-schooling. They summarize an independent study that found “homeschoolers, on the average, out-performed their counterparts in the public schools by 30 to 37 percentile points in all subjects” (Academic Statistics in Homeschooling, October 22, 2004).
And as to whether public education is better for preparing students for “real life,” how much “real life” do you want them exposed to? High schools are notorious for drug and alcohol use, and combined with high stress (much of it social stress), it puts many students into a slump they have trouble getting out of in time for college or university.
With home-schooling, students can still be involved with clubs and events to make friends, and their education won’t be so closely tied to social distractions. Having a quiet workspace, the ability to create a well-tailored, individual curriculum and a relaxed environment make home-schooling a better way to learn.
J. Michael Smith, President and Michael P. Farris, Chairman. Legal Research Supplement, October 22, 2004. Academic Statistics on Homeschooling.
Retrieved Jan 14, 2009 from www.hslda.org.