The topic of homeschooling can conjure up a wide range of opinions. When considering this option, one might presume the homeschooled child is denied the fullness of a quality education. Some question the benefits of homeschooling, thinking this particular educational pathway will restrict a child from the typical social opportunities afforded a child in a more traditional setting. Approached with careful thought and planning, however, homeschooling has the potential to yield the benefits of a public or private education while also producing other positive outcomes.
Neil Postman once said, “Children are a living message we send to a time we will never see.” Public, private and home school teachers alike have the privilege of influencing the next generation and, in turn, impacting the future. Regarding education, G.K. Chesterton has said: “The most important fact about the subject of education is that there is no such thing. Education is not a subject, and it does not deal in subjects. It is instead the transfer of a way of life.” While most traditional methods of education focus primarily on imparting information related to various subjects, the ideal homeschool situation will provide the opportunity to impart lifelong values along with practical life applications of the required subjects.
One of the primary advantages of homeschooling is the focused time and attention bestowed upon its beneficiaries. By nature, public and private school teachers must multiply their time and attention upon a classroom full of children. Teachers in a homeschool setting are able to invest in more in-depth interaction with each child because their “classroom” size is inherently smaller. While a teacher of a large classroom must move forward in their lesson due to time restraints, a teacher in a homeschool setting can spend extra time in certain areas a child is struggling to comprehend.
Due to the smaller number of students, a homeschool curriculum can be uniquely tailored to a child’s personality and learning style. While public and private school settings mandate that the subject matter be presented in a more generalized way for the purpose of reaching a variety of personalities and learning styles, a homeschool teacher can hone the lessons to meet the needs of each particular child. Whether the teacher is a parent or a private instructor, they have a greater capacity to cater their teaching to specifically meet the child’s needs simply because they will know the child more deeply.
Homeschooling can also provide the consistency a child needs. In terms of scheduling, a homeschool is not required to shut down for extended lengths of time. If desired, a homeschool teacher can pace their curriculum to cover smaller increments over a longer span of time—scheduling vacations and breaks at more strategic intervals. While teachers in public and private schools must allow extra time for children to re-acclimate to the school setting after long vacations, the homeschool teacher has the luxury of reinforcing their lessons over time.
Homeschool teachers will have the same students year after year, offering another level of consistency. They do not have to spend a large portion of the year getting to know new students and trying to adjust to new personalities and learning styles, and they do not have to change classes of students each hour as is necessary in junior and senior high. In a similar vein, the students don’t have to adjust to new teachers, teaching styles, classrooms, classmates or settings on a frequent basis.
Often, homeschool students are viewed as “poor, deprived children” because the presumption is that such students are robbed of social interaction and involvement in school activities. Depending on the situation, however, the homeschooled child can have equal or greater opportunities for social exposure and activity. Because their lesson time is more focused, they can possibly learn more in a shorter period of time and therefore have more freedom for involvement in outside activities.
On a social level, children in public and private schools are typically placed in classes of children all their age and rarely interact with adults outside of their teachers or principal during the school day. Children in homeschool may have more freedom to connect with people of different ages and backgrounds. If the teacher is diligent in pursuing such opportunities, a homeschool child can visit retirement homes, homeless shelters, community service centers and even their own relatives and friends on a more consistent basis because their schedule is typically more flexible.
Homeschools are not limited to a school building or scheduling requirements. Not being confined to a particular location or timeframe enables homeschool children to explore other opportunities in the community, whether it be at the park district, a community center or the local church. While students in a traditional setting may only have a small amount of field trips per year, students in a homeschool setting can go on field trips as often as their teacher wants. Support groups are also available for homeschool families, and such groups often provide social interaction, community learning and outreach activities.
Traditional schools may have to limit their activities due to funding or administrative limitations, but homeschools have the freedom to expand their horizons in these areas. Also, homeschools are not limited to the subjects allowed by a school administration. If a child is interested in electronics, the arts, carpentry or anything not the primary focus at a traditional school, they have greater freedom to investigate these areas in a homeschool setting. Some public and private schools also allow homeschool students to attend a portion of the day for specific classes and to be involved in school activities and events.
Though homeschooling is sometimes viewed as limiting and restrictive, if approached in a positive way it can truly be freeing and filled with expansive opportunity. In a blog about education, Generation Cedar says, “We believe that ‘education’ is the transference of knowledge…when actually, knowledge is only a small part of a total education.” Homeschooling is more than an opportunity to transfer knowledge; it is the privilege of “transferring a way of life” and opening a world of unique opportunities to the next generation.