Home schooling is a controversial subject. It has been ever since the introduction of public schools that have actually been around for less time than their renegade, older sister. This is a fact that most people are unaware of. Popular understanding has it that home schooling is something of a young upstart. Home schooling was the original way of teaching.
Think of Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and, in England, Jane Austen. All home schooled. Granted home schooling has assumed a higher level of formality than its predecessor, but the fact is, the concept is not a new one. Over the years, the percentage of families’ home schooling has grown substantially. The United States, with its emphasis on the individual, leads the world in this form of schooling with 50,000 home schooled children in 1985 growing to 1.5 million in 2000. This means that more and more people are taking their children out of conventional schooling.
What makes parents make this decision? After all, it is not one to be taken lightly. Home schooling teens takes time. It eats away at the family finances because one parent must essentially be employed as teacher for love, not money. This means that a family that chooses to home school is making some financial sacrifices. These may have long-term consequences as the dedicated parent-teacher may find it challenging to re-enter the job market after years in the home. Both parents need to be behind the project because home schooling affects the way a family operates in many ways. Some parents share teaching duties while others elect one parent to take on all home schooling responsibilities. The word here is ‘responsibility’.
Once you have undertaken to take upon yourself the educational responsibility of your child you will need to dedicate several hours a day to that pursuit. Home schooling teens takes more than just the formal lesson hours. It requires a more all-encompassing approach that will need to incorporate experiments, projects and current affairs into the child’s curriculum. Home schooling parents have to create a structure that formalizes the process so that it can be sustained without having to reconsider parameters on a daily basis. Some parents find it helpful to conceptualize the process to the extent that they give their home school an identity along with a schoolroom and set hours.
So knowing all this the question remains: Why would parents make this sacrifice? Most parents decide to home school in order to live out a life philosophy that is not well represented in the traditional school environment. Whether the philosophy is essentially purely educational, religious, political or a broader one that incorporates many aspects of life, they feel that they are better qualified to convey this to their teens. Now, when you take a look at the regular schooling, it is not hard to see that it is a flawed instrument. Those who are anti home schooling claim that the system is not perfect but it IS a microcosm of life itself and that, in itself, teaches our children how better to cope with the vicissitudes of life. They claim that home schooling will have a profound negative effect on a teen’s ability to socialize with their peers.
Home schooling opponents claim that home schooled teens are temporarily sheltered from a world that they will eventually be at the mercy of. They worry about home schooling being an insular environment for fanatic parents to incubate their beliefs unchallenged by outside intervention. Many studies have tried to put a finger on the legitimacy of these fears but the evidence they come up with is not conclusive. ERIC, the hopefully impartial, Education Resources Information Center of the U.S. government reported that home schooled children appeared to be at no particular disadvantage in terms of the raging debate concerning the ability to socialize and participate in the society at large. Their researchers claim that home schooled children ” gained the necessary skills, knowledge, and attitudes needed to function in society”. They found that they did so at the same rate as their peers who were receiving conventional schooling.
Apart from these controversial issues and the sheer size of the task, homeschooling teens offers great potential for a creative and original education that honors the individual needs of the student along with the natural pace of that student’s learning process. Home school offers variations on curricula that lend themselves to a more innovative and unique approach to learning. Parents who are good home school teachers will sharpen the interface between what is book learnt and what is happening in the world so that students will have more of a feel for the relevance of the subjects they learn. How home schooling finally turns out really depends on how enthusiastic and disciplined the participants in the process are. It has remarkable potential for families that are prepared to take it on, though parents must make every effort to ensure that the child’s exposure to people, other than their parents, must be a priority.
Home schooling can fail for a number of reasons, the most significant being the use of the method to maintain a rigid control over your teens interface with the world at large.