The Battlefield of Schooling Options: Home Schooling

I was hoping to get this post out much week, but the last couple weeks wound up being fairly busy and I just didn’t have the time to get this finished. Better late than never right?

Here is my last schooling option that I’m going to take a look at. It is the home schooling option. It seems to me that this option has become an increasingly popular option as more and more people become dissatisfied with public schools for a variety of reasons. Maybe it has always been popular and I just wasn’t exposed to it when I was younger, but today I hear about it fairly often.

So naturally as we think about schooling options for Ryan this is one we’ve considered and thought through. As with all of the other options there are a host of pros and cons I’ve thought of. I by no means claim to know all of the nuances or if we’d really fall into the pros or cons mentioned, but they are out there and need to be considered.

Flexibility

Homeschooling is definitely the option that allows the most flexibility. Want to teach all through the year instead of three fourths of the  year? Go for it. Want to be able to take family trips to museums, libraries, historical sites, or other cities during the school year, and even incorporate that into your teaching? No problem. Want to additionally teach about your faith and connect it into certain subjects? You can do that.

Now there are constraints on this flexibility. Looking up info for my state (Pennsylvania) about homeschooling, parents are to have a portfolio of a students work for a year sent to the school district they’re currently living in to be reviewed. They’re also required to do standardized testing in grades 3, 5, and 8. There are also requirements for the education as well, here is an example from PA, but most of the subjects are fairly general and allow for some amount of freedom.

Homeschooling definitely allows for a flexible schedule that can be beneficial for some families wanting to pursue it as an option. There are a couple negatives that I could see spinning off of this positive, but I’ll come to those later, as I think they’re significant enough to have their own mention.

Hand Crafted Education

When you go to public or even private school there will be a classroom that contains more than just your child. This means that you’ll go the pace of the classroom and depending on the child that may be too slow, too fast, or just right. By going the home schooling route it allows for  you to cater to the needs of your child or children by having them be able to follow a path that matches where they are.

Need a bit more time on a certain subject? You can take that a bit slower or focus on it a bit more for a spell. Finding that the lessons are a bit too easy? Feel free to speed up and go a little further in that particular subject. These are both option if you’re taking a home school option. This point definitely ties in with the idea that home schooling is flexible, but I think is maybe looking at it from the child’s perspective more than the parent’s.

The drawback here is that your child may get too used to everything revolving around him or her. This won’t be the case forever. College, the workplace, and many aspects of life won’t speed up or slow down to their whims, so I could see where this could potentially also do harm once they’re done with the home schooling process.

With Your Kids All Day Long

This is an aspect that can either be positive or negative. To home school it requires being with your kids every day. Not only does that mean you have to be with your kids everyday, but homeschooling requires teaching your children.

Now, this could be a great thing. You love your kids and want to spend every moment with them and you never get tired of being around them or having to meet their every need or desire. Typing that out though, I wonder if there are any parents like that… but anyhow you have a good relationship and the thought of having them stay at home all the time doesn’t phase you. Maybe it’s even a bit exciting.

However, maybe you love your kids and need breaks from being around them. Maybe you kind of look forward to time alone when they’re napping or sleeping at night. The idea of teaching them every day and not having many breaks from them may seem quite daunting. I certainly think that’s understandable, but it will be a con to the idea of homeschooling.

Teaching is Harder Than You Think

I’ve taught in a number of settings before. I’ve led Sunday school classes, small groups, and prepared sermons, but I can tell you that these things aren’t necessarily easy to prepare for. Now I realize that these things aren’t necessarily equivalent, but I do think the general action of teaching is a difficult one no matter the venue, age, or subject.

Both Kristen and I are fairly well educated, but even we feel a bit inadequate to teach both our children the entirety of K-12. Admittedly, we’d probably be able to make it through elementary school fairly decent, but getting to high school I’m worried we wouldn’t do so well. I mean a positive would be that we’d be learning stuff that we’ve long forgotten, or maybe never learned in the past. The negative is that I’m not sure that’s the best for trying to turn around and teach it.

Not only does it require intelligence to teach and pass on information, but it also requires time and diligence. You’ll have to prepare lessons, set up trips, drive to trips, teach, and all of these things on a regular basis. So not only are you having to spend all the time with your kids, you’ll also be spending a good amount of time figuring out what you’ll be teaching, how you’ll want to teach it, and actually teaching. This will take quite a bit of time, I’m sure you could ask any professional teacher about such things and may or may not like what you hear.

Bottom line it seems that a lot of home schooling proponents think that teaching is easy. That teachers are just bozos that they picked up off the street to teach their kids. That’s why the school system is so bad right? I’m not sure it’s as easy as that, and if you think it is than I somewhat worry about the quality of education you’re really going to provide as a replacement.

Requires Flexible Parents

As I said above, flexibility is a positive of home schooling. However, it really requires a situation where one parent has to be available at all times. This could be that one parent stays at home, or that both parents have flexible jobs that they can arrange their hours in such a way to have one parent who is always able to be teaching the kids.

This won’t be a possibility for a lot of families out there. Many families have both parents working to pay bills and make ends meet. So there is a bit of a financial security aspect to home schooling. It maybe isn’t quite the same as private schooling where you have to pay tuition, but it could result in less income in general, which may be better or worse depending on the situation.

I’m already the one staying at home with the kids, so this wouldn’t necessarily be an issue with us, but I know that it could be with others. Of course I’m not sure if that’s my plan for the course of the next twenty or so years that it would require to school both of our kids either. So it’s worth noting as a potential negative.

One Voice to Rule Them All

Another potential negative from the positive of flexibility is that it can result in too much control on the parent’s part. Now this could look a number of different ways in my mind. Here’s a few that come to mind.

One of my personal fears of homeschooling is that homeschooling can simply become an echo chamber for what we believe. Homeschooling certainly can limit the number of voices that speak into our kids lives. While I understand the appeal to this, I worry that I could begin to believe that Kristen and I have the right opinion on everything, or that this is the message that will be picked up by our kids. I’m sure that many are able to overcome this hurdle easily, but it is a worry that I have about homeschooling.

Related to this is the fact that control can go to a parent’s head. When we’ve taken on quite a bit of control on what our child learns and how they learn it, I could see it difficult to give up control on other decisions and begin micromanaging our kids lives. Again am I saying that every homeschooling parent does this? No, I’m just saying a worry that I’ve had about it.

Some parents want to home school so they can control what their kid learns, that can lead to a lot of control in other areas too. I mean public education isn’t the only way to learn wrong things. It just makes me worry about how I or other home school parents would deal with that control. Especially as kids become teenagers and young adults and want and almost need to be able to have at least some responsibility and decision making power.

Potential Isolationist Policy

Another aspect where I worry about with homeschooling is that it seems like a lot of people do it as a form of separation, with overtones of being superior. I guess I worry about that tone a bit, particularly when it comes from Christian circles and treating anyone outside the acceptable lines and somehow inferior either explicitly or implicitly. Add in that your voices wind up being one of the potential few teaching voices in your kids life and you could very well pass those ideas along even if you don’t mean to.

I think that if we were to home school we would need to be very very intentional about getting invovled in our community with other programs and people. Something that right now we’re not very connected in, since we’ve been here for about five months, with about three of four of them being a nasty winter. So I worry that we could be unintentionally isolationist if we were to go the route of home schooling.

Wrapping It All Up

I’m getting long here so let me wrap up. As I’ve said with all three options there are potential positives and negatives for each option out there. I don’t agree with people who try to tout one option as completely superior or more godly or whatever than the other. In my opinion in probably depends on the parents, the kids, and the area that you’re in.

So this is true of homeschooling as well. I think that homeschooling has the potential to be amazing. I also think that it has the potential to be damaging and can even be abusive in some cases. People can use it to truly seek a better way to educate their children and others can use it to control every aspect of their child’s life to dangerous degrees. I’m also not sure of those who just want to home school to spite the government or whatever.

You may wonder after all this where my preference lies. Well to be honest I think that for us, public school would be my top choice. It is an easy way for us to engage with the community, you have trained professionals involved in the acts, and we currently live in a good school district. Do I think it is perfect or the only way? No, but it is probably my preferred way.

After that I’d probably choose homeschooling. As I’ve said we don’t have the best private schools around where we are, and I’d probably feel better teaching our kids ourselves than sending them to the ones locally. This would probably only be an option that we’d follow if we have severe problems with our local school district. It’s not something I’m planning on having to act on, but it would be what I’d probably turn to if something ever did come up.

Private schools, well they’d be my last choice. They’re the most expensive option and in looking at what we have locally, I wasn’t too impressed or they’re just further than what I think we should have to go for a private school. So that’s where I stand on these issues.

What do you think? Any pros and cons that you’ve dealt with? Some you’d add? Remove? Feel free to let me know.

 

 

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