I teach at a local community college and I have noticed every semester that I have more and more students who were homeschooled k-12. I have also noticed from listening to talk radio and reading the local editorials, that more and more people are dissatisfied with the American Public Education system. So I looked into this a little more and I found out according to the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) there are over 2 million home-educated children in the United States. And the number of homeschooled students increases by as much as 8% every year. Why might this be?
According to Brian Ray, PhD the 7 most common reasons given by parents and students who choose homeschooling are:
- Customize or individualize the curriculum and learning environment for each child. Ok so the first thing my cynical brain thinks of when I see customize the curriculum – is religious zealotry. But I want to be fair so I thought about my own curriculum. In addition to teaching community college I also teach at a public high school in Virginia. And I have to be honest, my curriculum is not the greatest, in fact it is even wrong. I teach a course that has an End-of-Course Standards of Learning test and the curriculum is mandated by the state. The curriculum has some significant omissions, several over-simplications, and maybe even some politically motivated content. I do not have any control over this. Point one goes to the homeschooler.
- 2. Accomplish more academically than in schools. According to USNews.com, homeschooled students graduate at a higher rate than non-homeschooled students. This shocks me because, anecdotally, I can attest that the homeschooled students I receive are often much less prepared for academic success than their peers. They do not understand the importance of general structure and their writing in average is considerably worse. I tend to go with what I see over numbers but I also realize I am a very small sample size. I am going to award a half point to homeshool.
- 3. Use pedagogical approaches other than those typical in institutional schools. Define “other than those typical” and is this literature based approaches? I have evaluated several teachers over the last ten years and I can assure you most public school teachers are employing sound pedagocial, research-based strategies. Without defining what approaches the homeschool teacher is using, I have to give this point to public schools. The score is Homeschool 1.5 to Public School 1.
- 4. Enhance family relationships between children and parents and among siblings. Recently I polled one of my classes to see how many of them had dinner as a family almost every night. Only 2 out of 21 said they regularly eat dinner as a family. TWO? Without any other research to go on I think I got to give another point to the homeschoolers. 2. 5 to 1.
- 5. Provide guided and reasoned social interactions with youthful peers and adults. I do believe many homeschoolers are doing a good job creating interactions with sports, scouting, and other such activities. I also believe there are some homeschoolers that are not creating these social interactions. Whereas, all public schooled students are at least exposed to other peers and other adults. For that fact alone, I am giving this point to public schools. 2.5 to 2.
- 6. Provide a safer environment for children and youth, because of physical violence, drugs and alcohol, psychological abuse, and improper and unhealthy sexuality associated with institutional skills. To this date, I have not heard of a home school shooting. And according to the Huffington Post, 17% of kids are using drugs, drinking alcohol, or smoking tobacco during the school day. I am not clear what they are referring to when they say “improper and unhealthy sexuality” but based on the other concerns – another point to the homeschool.
- 7. Teach and impart a particular set of values, beliefs, and world view to children and youth. Ok clearly the homeschoolers lose this one. To have a “world view” you need to hear many perspectives. I believe the more exposure a student has to different values and beliefs the better their own values and beliefs will be formed. I know my experience interacting with pluralistic populations has helped me to develop a better understanding of the world. Point goes to public school.
Wait did homeschool win? The score was homeschoolers 3.5 and public schools 3. But these were their reasons. If homeschool can only squeak a narrow victory with the reasons they gave, then I think public school may still be the winner.