Is homeschooling right for my family is a question that many parents are now considering. The decision to homeschooling is now on the rise. More parents worldwide, are making the decision to educate their children at home. In 2016, the U.S. National Centre for Education Statistics, revealed that 2.3 million students are being homeschooled.
Homeschooling however, is not legal in all countries. Some of these, (with exceptions in some cases), include:
Greenland, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Sweden and Bulgaria
What motivates parents to homeschool?
Why parents decide to take this route is varied. Research shows the main reasons tend to be linked to one or more of the following:
- Enables the parent to take advantage of one-to-one instruction. This provides more time for the child to take part in other activities including, socialising and non-academic learning.
- It is conducive to the family’s lifestyle. For example, families that may live in isolated rural locations, travel frequently, live overseas or whose children are involved with working, such as acting.
- Provides parents with control over what is being taught and how their child is being taught.
- Enables parents to cater for a child with special needs, aptitudes or abilities.
- Allows parents to provide instruction for a particular religion or moral position.
Approaches to homeschooling
Homeschooling parents can choose from a wide range of methods and materials. Some of these include: Classical Education, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Waldorf and from the theory of Multiple Intelligences. Often parents will use more than one approach or try different approaches to see which fits best for their child’s learning style.
With regard to the curricula and materials, research shows that parents use a variety, including utilising their: public libraries, homeschooling catalogues/publishers, specialist tutors, bookstores, education publishers, homeschooling organisations, distance learning, media (television, video and radio), internet, correspondence courses designed for homeschoolers and their local school.
Some parents also choose to unschool their children. The term, ‘unschooling’ was coined by American educator and author, John Holt in 1977. It refers to a curriculum free philosophy that emphasizes a more spontaneous and less structured learning environment. It’s main focus is on the child’s drive in their pursuit of knowledge.
Homeschooling is gaining popularity around the world. It was once considered a fairly ‘radical’ thing to do twenty plus years ago, but is now becoming more and more common in some countries. According to Dr. B. Ray from the National Home Education Research Institute, homeschooling may be the fastest growing form of education in countries such as the US, Australia, Canada, France, Hungary, Japan, Russia and the UK.
To give you an idea of the numbers, the diagram below shows six counties with their corresponding number of homeschooled children. (The numbers need to be taken as an estimate as the specific number varies with each report, but not significantly).
To highlight the rise in homeschooling, you can compare these figures to the figures below:
U.K.- 1995 = 10,000
Canada -1996 = 20,000
U.S.A – 1999 = 850,000
What does the research say?
The main concern that parents often have about homeschooling, is whether their child will be at an academic and/or social disadvantage. This concern may also increase for the parent if they are not a qualified teacher. The research seems to suggest however, that it could well be an unnecessary anxiety.
Firstly, research has shown that parents who have teaching degrees have children who perform at a similar level to those without a teaching qualification (R. Devitt, 2017).
Secondly, many studies suggest an academic excellence amongst homeschooled children. The Homeschooling Achievement, (a compilation of studies published by the HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association), has supported this claim. The booklet of studies summarised research in 1997 by Ray and the 1999 Rudner study. It showed that among the homeschooled children who took the tests, the average homeschooled student outperformed children from public schools by 30 – 37 percent across all subjects. The study noted however, that the research was not necessarily representative of all homeschoolers and isn’t a comparison with other schooling methods (https://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/543/666).
A further study in 2008, (Ray, Brian, 2009), found that out of 11,739 homeschooled students,, 37% scored above their peers in public schools on standardised tests.
R. J. Silverman (2005), also noted that on average, homeschooled students score at or above the national average on standardised tests.
Like any education method however, homeschooling is not without its critics. Professor R. Reich from Stanford University, who wrote, The Civic perils of Homeschooling, (2002), claims that homeschooling runs the risk of producing biased students, as some parents see the education of their children as something under their control and no one else’s.
Other critics claim that the studies showing that homeschooled children perform better on standardised tests do not compare with the mandatory public school testing, (R. Brian, 2009).
Another and often cited criticism is the perceived lack of socialisation of homeschooled children. Research however, seems to suggest that this is a perceived, rather than an actual issue. R. Silverman noted that studies have revealed that 98% of homeschooled children participate in one or more activities outside the home. Similarly, in 2003, the National Home Education Research Institute conducted a survey of 7,300 adults form the US who had been homeschooled, for more than seven years. Their findings showed that:
- 71% participated in an ongoing community service, compared to 37% of U.S. adults of similar ages from a traditional education background.
- Homeschooled graduates vote in much higher percentages than their peers. 76% of those surveyed between the ages of 18 and 24 voted within the last 5 years, compared with 29% of their peers.
- 58.9% report that they are ‘very happy’ with life, compared with 27.6% for the
general US population.
Is homeschooling right for my family?
As with deciding what school to send your child to, choosing to homeschool your child is a personal choice for the family. As we’ve seen from the research, the majority of homeschooled children appear to excel academically and have no issues with socialisation. But a parent would also need to consider a wide range of other factors in order to see if it is right for them.
The following set of key questions are aimed at helping parents to look closely at what homeschooling entails and whether it’s right for them. It can be downloaded from the resource library, which can be accessed here.
Some final thoughts…
Choosing to homeschool is a personal choice for any family. The research is interesting and I think serves to alleviate many of the concerns parents may have. It’s a route that we have not gone down and don’t have any plans to. However, I find it to be of great comfort, that should any situation arise where sending our daughter to the local school isn’t feasible, I would have the option to homeschool her until whatever the situation was, was resolved.
Over to you…
The question, ‘is homeschooling right for my family?, is a significant decision for children and parents alike. Are you homeschooling or thinking about homeschooling? I’d love to hear about your experiences or any questions you may have in the comments below.