Deciding where to send your child to school is arguably one of the biggest choices a parent has to make. Ultimately, where you send your child or children to school has the potential of shaping the kind of person they become and the experiences they have.
Schooling options for parents include public school, private schools, alternative options such as charter schools, and home schooling. Home schooling in the United States is legal, and many parents choose this as the method of schooling for their child.
In fact, home schooling is the fastest-growing form of education, according to independent research conducted by organizations ranging from the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), a nonprofit research and educational organization, to the federally funded National Center for Education Statistics.
The decision to home school a child generally involves funding and availability of a parent’s time. Although a public education is free, some parents are turned off by what they perceive to be the low quality of a public education and the design of the curriculum, which many feel doesn’t allow for the individuality of the particular student to shine.
For some families who don’t like the thought of public school, private school may simply not be a viable financial option. Accordingly, home schooling is a very viable option for many families. Like everything in life, there are pros and cons to home schooling your child/children. Let’s take a look at some in detail.
Control over what your child learns – Although every state has the legal authority to set educational standards, it may not limit how parents choose to meet those educational standards. As a result, a parent that is home schooling a child has more freedom to design the educational curriculum.
Such curriculum can be tailored to the child’s specific strengths and can work to improve weaknesses. In a public school environment, it is very difficult for teachers to tailor lessons to individuals, since they simply don’t have the time or budget available. Also, for children that are mentally or physically challenged, a home schooling environment/curriculum can address their specific wants and needs.
Keeps family closer – Home schooling has the ability to bring a family closer together. When a parent stays home to administer their child’s education, they often have time to form a closer bond than they otherwise might. Also, many home schooling parents say that at-home education alongside brothers and sisters brings siblings closer together.
Flexibility – As a “home schooler,” you are not constrained by the school’s uniform code, schedule, vacation dates, class schedule, etc. The child and parent have more flexibility to learn on more fluid terms. If something seems to work well, it may be put into practice; if it does not, it may be scratched. In a public school setting, on the other hand, making these changes is time-consuming and full of red tape – if possible at all.
The above sounds great, correct? Well now let us take a look at some of the drawbacks to home schooling:
Time intensive – A parent that home schools their child must be both parent and teacher. Parents must spend time designing the curriculum to emphasize their child’s strengths and improve upon their weaknesses. There are, however, some excellent pre-made curricula on the market, which parents can simply tailor to their children’s needs.
Isolation – A home schooled child may feel isolated from his or her peer group. This may result in the child lacking certain socialization skills or being overly dependent on his/her parent. Although public schools have their downfalls, they are an excellent medium through which children learn to interact and form relationships.
Many home schoolers, aware of this potential problem, are careful to socialize their children through home school co-ops (which are easier to find now that home schooling is becoming more popular) and extra-curricular activities.
Limited Opportunities – Critics of home schooling argue that home schooled children have a much more difficult time with college admittance than do children who have attended a traditional classroom setting. Home schooled students will ultimately face challenges when applying to college including lack of traditional transcripts and a diploma. Most colleges will still require the student to take standardized tests, such as the ACT and/or SAT.
This problem can be mitigated by careful record-keeping on the part of the parent, by helping high-school students choose appropriately challenging curriculum, and, for some, by taking local college courses in conjunction with high-school classes.
Difficult – It may be difficult for both parent and child to separate the teacher/student relationship from the parent/child relationship. Parents may have the tendency to be too strict or too lenient. Boundaries may be blurred as the child receives different types of discipline from both a parent and teacher.
Deciding whether to home school your child is a difficult decision, and it is not one that should not be taken lightly. Some parents are convinced of the benefits of home schooling while others see only the drawbacks. In the end, no one can make the decision as to what is best for your child and your family except you. There are certainly many factors to consider.
Published or updated April 5, 2013.