Is Homeschooling Right for You and Your Child?
With more and more parents wanting their children to receive and education different from that being offered in the public school system, homeschooling is becoming more popular every day. Currently, there are approximately two million children home schooled in the United States – and that number is growing by about 10 percent per year. While some Americans are adamantly against homeschooling, studies show that kids who are homeschooled perform well on standardized tests, excel in college, become self-directed learners, and succeed as adult employees. Notwithstanding, if you're mulling over the option of homeschooling your children, there are many factors you should consider to ensure it will beneficial for them.
For parents thinking about homeschooling their children, below is a list of the pros and cons to consider. This list was derived from the day-to-day experiences of many families from across the United States who've turned to homeschooling as an alternative to the public school system. We'll start with the pros.
Ability to teach what you want, when you want. Probably the biggest benefit of homeschooling is the ability to choose your child's curriculum. You choose what your child studies, when they study and for how long. No one knows your child better than you. And now one cares about your child's progression more than you. If you want to spend more time study math, you can do so. If American history is of particular importance, you can include it in your child's curriculum. Children also have the ability to spend more time focusing their studies on areas of interest, such as art or science. In most states, homeschooled children have complete autonomy to complete their curriculum at their own pace. Notwithstanding, a bit more relaxed and less ridged structure than the public school setting, homeschooled kids tend to learn just as fast as kids in the public school systems – and sometimes much faster. (Due to new regulation, some states now mandate that certain curriculum be taught in a home school setting.)
Freedom to choose. While homeschooling in many ways can be quite demanding, in one way it can be a big relief. Families who home school their children are no longer constrained by the daily, weekly and monthly schedule imposed by the public school system. Families may choose to set up a homeschooling routine the mirrors that of the local school system, so that that their kids are off when other kids are off, but their lives no longer revolve the school's calendar and school hours. Families find they have much more freedom to go on vacation and live their live according to their own schedules.
Increased emotional and physical safety. These days bullying is prevalent in most public schools. While not every kid is bullied, its happens to quite a few – and the result can be devastating. It's not only emotionally damaging, but it makes receiving a good education and learning close to impossible for some kids. Unfortunately, drugs and gangs also show their face in the public school system. Homeschooling avoids all of these potentially harmful influences. Other negative influences that homeschooling avoids include peer pressure, competition and poor self-esteem issues. During the high school years, most girls struggle to maintain a high level of self-esteem. Studies show that girls who are homeschooled have high self-esteem that remains intact throughout their high school years. Homeschooled children also don't have to worrying about the whole issue of “fitting in” that plagues just about every child in the public school system.
Increased productivity. In most class rooms in public schools there is 1 teacher for every 20 to 30 children. Not only does each child in a public school receive very little one-on-one instruction from their teacher, they also end up doing a lot of unnecessary busywork. In a homeschool setting, children can often accomplish in a few hours what it would take all day to accomplish is a public school. Kids attending public schools often have a ton of homework – because the classroom setting isn't conducive to getting a lot accomplished. Homeschooled kids rarely have homework, as homework is completed while class is in session.
Freedom of religion. Religious beliefs and values are important to many families. While separation of church and state is at the core of the U.S. Constitution, historically religious values have always been a part of our public education system – but not anymore. Public schools today are going as far as to debased the strongly held religious beliefs and values that are central to the belief system of many American families. Homeschooling allows parents to incorporate their religious belief and value system into the educational curriculum for their students.
Better relationships. Some opponents of homeschooling assert that homeschooled children are less social and more introverted than publicly educated children. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Homeschooled children are not only as smart as publicly educated students, they are more emotionally stable, exhibit less destructive behavior and are quite socially adept. As previously mentioned, as adults homeschooled children are successful in both their interpersonal and occupational relationships.
Increased stability. Case studies indicate the homeschooled children are better equipped to deal with challenges they may face, such as the death of a loved one, illness, or life transitions like a move. When children are homeschooled, moving to a new city or state is far less traumatic than it is for children in the public school system – for many reasons.
More rest. Recent studies have suggested that getting the right amount of sleep is more important to the emotional and physical health of children than we ever imagined – especially for teen age youth. Sometimes sleeping in, just a little bit, is just what the doctor ordered. Early morning sleep can be especially beneficial, especially for kids that aren't morning people. Some children who attend public schools go to school exhausted and come home exhausted due to poor sleep habits.
Even though there are numerous pros to homeschooling, there are also several cons. Fewer friends, lack of extra-curricular activities and limited opportunity to interact with other children are just a few. Below we've listed the most common complaints from homeschoolers.
Increased stress. Life is already stress enough for most of us, but if you're homeschooling your children, it can get even more stressful. First, homeschooling takes a lot of time and effort. Day in and day out, lesson have to be prepared and children have to be taught. It's time consuming and can sap your energy. Homeschooling isn't as simple as most people imagine. It doesn't consist of a few obedient kids who are great at paying attention and following instructions. Parents who homeschool have to deal with many of the same issues as teachers do. They must also provide their children with hands-on learning experiences and activities. Homeschooling is not spent at the kitchen table with textbooks and worksheets – as many people envision. Homeschooling can be very draining physically and emotionally.
It can be expensive. Homeschooling isn't cheap, especially if you're used to being a two income household. Almost all homeschooling homes are one-income families. Living on one income is just a fact of homeschooling. This can be a big sacrifice if money is tight – but most homeschooling families find the sacrifice well worth having their kids reap the benefits of being home schooled. There is also the cost of books and supplies to consider. As home schooling is not subsidized by tax payer dollars – as public schooling is – parents must cover all costs associated with homeschooling.
Prepare for kid overload. We all love our kids. And why are you considering homeschooling your kids in the first place. Obviously, because you love them. But let's get real, being with your kids 24/7 can get bit overwhelming. If you decide to homeschool your kids, prepare to be with them all of the time. If you can't hand being around your kids that much, then you may want to reconsider your decision to homeschool. But for most parents who decide to homeschool, the time they spend with their kids is just another opportunity to grow closer together.
Limited extra-curricular activities. Parents homeschooling their kids have to come up with extra-curricular activities. This can be a time consuming process – a task that many aspiring homeschoolers don't appreciate until they're actually homeschooling their kids for the first time and find themselves overwhelmed with the work load. It becomes even more difficult as children move into the teen years and become interested in sports. While community sports are usually available for younger kids, teens that are homeschooled are often confronted with limited opportunity to be involved in team sports. While some public schools allow homeschooled kids to participate in their athletics programs, many do not.
Increased scrutiny. Even though there are more homeschoolers today than ever before, homeschooling is facing increasing scrutiny, criticism and negative pressure from federal government and mainstream educational organizations. Homeschooling seen by many as outside mainstream thinking and what's acceptable. Unfortunately, a large number of Americans see homeschooling as threat to mainstream educational systems and feel that all students should be educated through the public school system. Some critics just can't handle seeing regular parents doing a better job at educating their children than the “highly” trained professionals in the public education system. Homeschooling is seen by many as a fringe institution that exists too far outside of societal norms to be acceptable.
So there you have it! The pros and the cons of homeschooling. So is it really worth it? Well, most homeschoolers who say, “most definitively”. Everything in life that's really worthwhile usually requires effort and sacrifice.
Charlotte Mason was a Christian educator who lived and worked in Britain during the latter part of the last century. Today her work is undergoing a revival in home school circles. Why? This article will attempt to answer that question!
For Charlotte Mason, education was not a list of skills or facts to be mastered. Education was an atmosphere, a discipline, a life. I think most of us would agree with her that education is a life process which is not confined to the classroom. Are we practicing this concept, or are we duplicating the public school classroom regimen in our homes? Are we educating our children for life or for achievement tests?
In the Charlotte Mason method, whole books and first-hand sources are used whenever possible, rather than textbooks. Textbooks tend to be crammed with facts and information, at the expense of human emotion. This is deadening to the imagination of the child.
Miss Mason advocated what she called "living books." Children, she thought, should read the best books, not graded readers or textbook comprehension paragraphs. Educators think they are doing children a favor by taking scissors to cut out pages of the best books. Charlotte called this putting literature in "snippet form." Children deserve to have more than just a nodding acquaintance with the best authors.
A child gains knowledge through his own work digging out facts and information. He then learns to express what he has learned by clothing it in literary (conversational) language -- in short, narrating it back to you. Miss Mason said that asking children to narrate back what they have learned is the best way to acquire knowledge from books. Because narration takes the place of questionnaires and multiple choice tests, it enables the child to bring all the faculties of mind into play. The child learns to call on the vocabulary and descriptive power of good writers as he tells his own version of the story.
Miss Mason's schools never gave homework? Correct. If you follow her method there is no need for homework in the elementary years because the child immediately deals with the literature and proves his mastery by narrating what he just learned back to you. Instead of homework he gets a cozy evening with a good book and parental attention. We want our children to be eager to learn, don't we? So why do Christian private schools bow down to the American homework grind?
Charlotte Mason believed in introducing the child to the humanities while he is still young, while he is forming his personality. In her view education is for the spiritual and intellectual benefit of the child, not just to provide the skills needed for making a living. Short goody-goody stories are shunned for whole books that follow the life of an admirable character. Morals are painted for the child, not pointed at the child.
Miss Mason wanted children to be motivated by admiration, faith, and love instead of artificial stimulants such as prizes, competition and grades. What, there were no grades in her elementary schools? No As, Bs, Cs, or Fs? No happy-face stickers or gold stars? Correct again.
Lessons in the Charlotte Mason scheme of things end at 1:00 p.m., and the afternoon is free for leisure. Leisure for children usually means running, climbing, yelling, and so forth, all out of doors. Handicrafts or practicing of an instrument, chores, visiting lonely neighbors, observing nature, or cooking, may also be accomplished during this time. Unfortunately, public school children arrive home just in time to see the sun set and do homework. What a waste of time and ability! What drudgery!
Through Charlotte's method a child gains the skill of educating themselves. Students do not depend upon notes they have taken of a teacher's lecture where most of the information has been predigested by the teacher. With Charlotte's method the carefully chosen words of an author are commented on by the child in essay form, either oral or written, starting at age 6-7. Much explaining by the teacher (this includes you, Mom) is a bore. Why is this lecture method still begin carried out in high schools?
Inspiring the love of knowledge in children depends on the presentation of ideas. Ideas are what the mind feeds on. To quote Miss Mason, "Ideas must reach us directly from the mind of the thinker, and it is chiefly by the means of the books they have written that we get in touch with the best minds." This includes all forms of human expression. This is why Charlotte said, "Varied human reading as well as the appreciation of the humanities is not a luxury, a tid-bit, to be given to children now and then, but their very bread of life."
Homeschoolers following Charlotte's philosophy and method try to give their children abundant portions of the humanities at regular periods. They don't allow themselves to get stuck in a routine which emphasizes skills alone. "Oh, we only had time for math drill, spelling, and grammar, and a few pages from our history textbook today. Tomorrow we will hopefully have time for poetry, and maybe a little music appreciation." When fear of a poor showing on the achievement test allows skills to take precedence, humanities take a back seat. The result: lessons become wearisome, children become fed up, mom gets burned out. The children are starving for knowledge touched with emotion, and for ideas.
In the Charlotte Mason method, lessons are kept short, enabling children to develop the habit of attention and preventing the contrary habit of dawdling over lessons. "Oh, you're not finished with your one math page yet? Well, then there is no time for a short romp in the back yard. Perhaps you can finish your math page in less than 15 minutes tomorrow."
Charlotte didn't concern herself with grammar lessons until the children were well into the habit of narration. She thought it was more important that the child learn to express himself correctly. He should have daily opportunities to have an opinion, make a judgment, no matter how crude, develop a train of thought, and use his imagination. Are you using grammar lessons for first, second, third grade children that replace this free use of expression? I am disturbed at curricula that claim to be based on Charlotte's method, yet spend time inappropriately breaking down parts of speech to the exclusion of familiarity with the literary content. Let's be careful not to prune the child's natural inclination toward language. In the early years, he might score slightly lower on achievement tests, but you can't serve two masters. I have notebooks I've filled with my children's narrations.
When Charlotte says education is a discipline what she means, in Victorian-day terms, is that proper education inculcates good habits. The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days. On the other hand, she who lets habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction. The mother needs to acquire her own habit of training her children so that, by and by, it is not troublesome to her, but a pleasure. She devotes herself to the formation of one habit in her children at a time, doing no more than watch over those already formed. Remember, to instill habits:
- Be faithfully consistent. The danger is when we let things go "just this once."
- Forming a habit is using perseverance to work against a contrary habit.
- Formation is easier than reformation. Nip the weed in the bud.
- Whole books; very few textbooks, if any.
- Narration in place of workbooks; grammar is saved for a little later.
- An emphasis on the humanities.
- Short lessons, especially for drills and skills.
- Formation of good habits.
- Free afternoons; no homework, no grades.
- Unedited literature; no readers.
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