When the 2016-2017 school year gets underway many parents will begin homeschooling. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that in 2012 roughly three percent of students in the United States were homeschooled, or around two million. With the numbers increasing each year it’s clear that homeschooling is here to stay. Choosing that route comes with some benefits and challenges you should be aware of before deciding if homeschooling is right for you.
“One of the biggest benefits for us, is that since my husband is in the military, I don’t have to worry about my boys missing something major in their education, especially with their math and reading skills,” explains Katie Beauchamp, who has been homeschooling for 10 years and is coordinator of MAHE (Maxwell Area Home Educators). “Homeschooling also keeps the family as a priority in my children’s lives, including when family from out of town visits. We’re able to take off and spend time with them.”
Although reasons for homeschooling vary, the NCES reports that the most common reasons are that parents are not satisfied with the school curriculum and they have concerns about the school environment. Many parents don’t approve of certain subject matter being taught, while others feel the school is not safe or that their child won’t learn the moral principles they desire. Other reasons for homeschooling include not wanting a child to be labeled as learning disabled or as having attention deficit disorder (ADD). Some families feel they can help a challenged student more at home.
Another major benefit that many homeschooling families cite is the fact that their child gets more of an opportunity to explore and go in-depth with subjects that interest them. Schools are known for keeping people on pace and all learning the same thing at the same time, while a homeschooled child may take an interest in astrology, for example, and get to really explore that subject more. Students taught at home often get to learn at a comfortable pace, get more hands-on learning experiences, and have the opportunity to take more field trips to museums and other educational places. Homeschooled students also get more one on one time with the teacher, because it is usually just them, their parent and possibly some siblings, rather than a classroom with 20-30 students who are learning the subject matter.
Jill Jones, an Opelika, Ala. mother, is homeschooling her 10th grade daughter this year for the first time. Her daughter, who has Asperger Syndrome, has been in mainstream schools her whole life and even though her mother says she is a bright student, her grades did not reflect this because she has a difficult time taking standardized tests. Jones has discovered that there are challenges that come with homeschooling.
“The disadvantage, and something that homeschoolers won’t often tell you, is how frustrating it can be to spend your day doing a lot of work with nothing to show for it. Of course, if you start homeschooling at the beginning of their school career, this is probably not as apparent,” says Jones. “Of course, I had several distractions, including a 2 ½ year old who demanded a lot of attention.”
Another challenge for many parents is that they worry a great deal about having their child’s education in their hands. Yet the research shows that there may not be reason for so much worry. A report in The School Psychology Review explained that the “data has consistently shown that homeschooled children typically score higher than the national average on achievement tests.” That can also be seen when comparing ACT Assessment tests, a widely accepted college entrance exam. ACT, Inc. reports that homeschooled students score higher on their test scores than do public school students. Additionally, another report in 2010 in the Journal of College Admissions, also had a higher overall grade point average.
Perhaps the biggest challenge homeschoolers face are stereotypes. One of the biggest being that many people believe a homeschooled child doesn’t get properly socialized. However, the research doesn’t support that myth. The School Psychology Review reported: “Students from homeschools and traditional schools have been found to attend extra-familial social activities with the same frequency, belong to the same number of organizations (e.g., scouting and church youth groups), and socialize equally as often with relatives and friends.” Most homeschoolers belong to support groups where they often engage in outside classes, play sports and take field trips.
If you’re thinking about homeschooling, make sure you research first so you know what it takes. Get involved in support groups so you get off to a good start and make the most of local resources. Just like sending your child to school, homeschooling does come with its own set of benefits and challenges. The more you know ahead of time, the better prepared you will be to meet them head-on.
Jacqueline Bodnar is a freelance writer living near Daytona Beach, Fla. with her husband and two children.