Friday, January 23, 2009

Homeschooling Essay: Part 1

For one of my Education courses at the state university I attended, I wrote an essay defending "Homeschooling." I'd like to share this essay with you. I'm going to divide it into a couple of parts, since it is pretty long. Feel free to leave comments for discussion!

Home Schooling: The Benefits and Fighting the Stereotypes

Mention the word “home schooling” and one will get a lot of eye-rolling and under-breath laughs. “Home schooling” is a dirty word. Do not say it, do not even think about it, and everyone gets along wonderfully. What is so wrong with the word “home schooling?” An average middle-school child can mouth every “cuss” word at length and merely get a shoulder shrug from a nearby adult. However, mention the idea of home schooling and people get nervous. If a pro-home schooler can get a word in edgewise, perhaps one who opposes it can be enlightened to its benefits while being persuaded away from the stereotypes that haunt the home schooling organization as a whole.

In an educational society that emphasizes multiculturalism and accepting others without prejudice, we are overtly against parents educating their children in their homes, even well organized parents with successful home schooling students. Even as this paper was being discussed verbally between myself and classmates, many of my classmates assumed that my position would be anti-home school. Upon stating my topic for my paper, my statement was met by “oh, yeahs,” as if saying, slam it (the idea of home schooling)! To their dismay, my confident smile was met with their dropped-faces to suggest, “you’ve got to be kidding me? You’re in favor?”

The average student in the education department would be quick to admit that the proper choice for education is public or private schooling. Professors in the education department will be honest and admit that the public education system in the United States is in serious trouble, not for closing, but in trouble with properly succeeding to educate. In fact, due to this concern of students succeeding, the No Child Left Behind Act has been put into play as a way of boosting the education system. If there is not an increase in student productively, the NCLB Act will see to it that money given to the school is stopped. Suddenly administrators are seeing dollar signs and scramble to make the best possible decisions in effort to stretch their budgets.

One has to question where the money is going and how we have lost sight of educating students without the main concern being money. Meanwhile, students in the public education system are being cheated out of learning some amazing things. This brings me to the first benefit of home schooling, if parents do not have $10,000 per child, per year, they can still afford to educate their children. As public education educates more and more children the tax payers pay more and more money to go to an unknown source. Parents who home school know exactly how much money goes into their children’s education to provide them with the best resources possible.

A study was done by Brian D. Ray in 2004 which concluded that the total annual household income for home schooling families was eighteen percent, making under $25,000; forty-four percent making $25,000 to $49,000; twenty-five percent making $50,000 to $74,000 , and thirteen percent making $75,000 or more (Ray, 2004). If the average home schooling household makes an annual $25,000 to $49,000, the parents are going to be aware of how their educational dollars are spent. This should help enforce the need for every resource possible to be used to better educate the children. It does not work that way though.

Let us put this into perspective: If the government gives $10,000 per student, per year, then a family with three children should get an extra $30,000 per year. What could a family of three making under $49,000 do with an extra $30,000 a year? A lot! Even though parents who home school never see the kind of money public schools are rewarded, their resources far exceed the public school system. The home schooling student gets immediate benefits when money is put into the educational resources, as opposed the public educated students who rarely sees the thousands of dollars the school receives on their behalf. Even parents who fit into the lower percentage, making under $25,000, take advantage of the resources available including libraries, museums, colleges, parks, churches, local businesses, and free literature materials (Lines, 2001).

Another benefit of home schooling is curriculum enrichment. Imagine the things a teacher can do with her class if only she had more time with the students without a set of rules on what to test; notably, the standardized test. A teacher with time to take her students outside for science, or to a museum for history would help stop boredom in its tracks while engaging the students in discussion and deep interest; that is what home schooling parents get to do. Without a set schedule, parents can involve children’s touch and sights into the lessons. For example, taking children outside when discussing the seasons and involves children in the change of nature helping them accept change as it takes place. As a child, I never liked Autumn; this season meant things were dying, which was very depressing. A parent could take their child outside and explain to them why Autumn exists. Sure leaves change color due to the absence of chlorophyll, but why? Children will always be asking, “why?” Parents can go beyond what a teacher takes time to teach and explain to their children about ideas and concepts not normally taken into depth. Leaves die so trees can rest in Winter due to less water and sunlight, helping them to be ready for Spring time again.

Teaching children at home offers flexibility not allowed in the schools so children can grow and learn at their own pace with far less limitations. Suppose a child is very advanced academically and strives for more information; or what about the child that is further behind academically and needs more time for understanding concepts? Parents can tailor to each of their children’s needs, unlike a teacher would be able to. Teachers have many limitations that they simply cannot avoid. Parents of publicly educated children are expected to make up for those limitations at home, or the child misses out completely. Often the latter most likely takes place. Parents are better able to use the proper learning styles that suit their children, rather the one-style-fits all method of teaching. Understanding a child’s learning style is important in insuring they get the most out of their education.

When it comes to children with disabilities, many public school teachers find themselves out of their comfort zones as schools move to all inclusive classrooms. My professor recently proposed the question, how many classes does an education graduate leave with that will prepare him or her to work in a classroom with a student with a learning disability? One is the answer. Suddenly a teacher goes from having “normal” students to having one with a learning disability: what happens then? The teacher will most likely have a hard time including the student and be more likely to fail to educate the student properly.

Unfortunately, a teacher might unknowingly present underachievement to a child in order to avoid challenge without even realizing he or she is doing so. However, when the parent is home schooling her child with a learning disability, it goes beyond statistics and learning on a conceived one-size-fits-all time table. However, the parent recognizes that her child is special and that for the child to make achievements at her own timing, that itself is rewarding and demonstrates success. Jacque Ensign wrote, “Defying the Stereotypes of Special Education: Home School Students.”

Ensign gives great examples in her work that wonderfully illustrates the benefits of a child with learning disabilities being home schooled. She contends (1998):

The hallmarks of the educational philosophies and pedagogies of the homeschoolers are: 1)focus on the whole child rather than primarily on the child’s disability or extreme ability, 2)Individualized attention, and 3)care, patience, and respect for the child to lead the teacher in both the timing and the content of what the child is ready to be taught. (p. 7-8)

This simply cannot take place within the public school system.

One of the biggest reasons parents choose to home school is for religious purposes. Parents who want a certain religion instilled into their child’s life should consider how public education plays a part in his or her religious experience. The negative implications would be more apparent given that approximately seven hours a day is spent with peers and authority with different religious backgrounds. While there is nothing wrong with working along side someone with a different religious background, if a parent is working to foster their child’s spiritually, time spent outside of that religion can be crucial. For example, I want my children to be brought up under strong Christian values. To teach my children about living a Christian life, that lifestyle would need to be nurtured under my close supervision, most would call this “sheltering”. This is another “dirty word”.

The next post will contain the "Sterotypes of Homeschooling" and the references.


The Southern Housewife said...

Very interesting post. As a former educator, I have a lot of opinions on the subject. Good to hear both sides. :)

Melissa said...

Thanks, Jennifer!

I'm quite sure that there will be interesting thoughts on this subject. I really hope to hear from those who have home schooled, or were home schooled, as I don't fit into either of the two categories. it's good to hear from someone who actually was involved. I've heard A LOT over the years from people who know nothing about home schooling, they just run off of stereotypes.

Melissa :D

LS said...

While I see alot of opinion in your essay so far, I don't see any objective measures that show that home-schooled children develop the same skills and competencies as those in public, private, or parochial schools. What does the research say apart from a demographic breakdown and a description of core ideologies? Education is truly a specialized profession. Even though I have a graduate degree, I never would have felt comfortable trying to instruct my children in areas beyond my expertise once they reached middle school and high school age. I'll be interested to see the rest of your essay. Thanks for sharing it.

Melissa said...


This essay may include some of my opinions, however there is plenty of research involved here. Please see Part 2, which has been posted today. That should answer your question about the presence of fact versus "core ideologies". I would like to add that public education does have it's far share of ideologies :D

There are a lot of home-schooling parents out there who are very successful, and feel very comfortable teaching their children. I am also sure that there are some that hit difficult stages in their teachings and they must call upon fellow home-schooling parents to help them through difficult subjects so they may help their children succeed. There should be no shame in that, as long as the resources available are used to the best extinct possible.

Thanks for your comment!

Melissa :D

Thumperdd said...

Hi, Melissa! I want to thank you for sharing your take on home-schooling. Apparently you've done some thorough research, as have I.

This year marked our first year of homeschooling. I have two children, one a senior in conventional school and one a 7th grader at home.

Over the years I have witnessed a progressive decline in the quality of teaching in the schools in my area. That combined with heavy emphasis on test scores (which generally means - rush, rush, rush who cares if you retain anything), poor school management and severe overcrowding made me consider this option for my senior...I now sincerely regret not homeschooling her. As it is she may not graduate this year as she had spent the last 5 years more concerned with socializing than learning.

My 7th grader came home nearly everyday last year with headaches and irritable, not to mention he was picking up terrible habits and mannerisms. He slowly changed into a child I felt disconnected from and someone he himself didn't like. At Christmas break last year he begged not to return to school. I vowed that if he made it through the end of the year I would make a change.

Homeschool has been the best decision I've ever made for my childs education. I no longer worry about what he might have missed. I know. I was there. I have an opportunity to allow him to express himself completely and help pick out his own curriculum. I can customize most studies to suit his own learning style.

We made a lot of sacrifices for this to happen - 2 incomes to 1, changes in insurance and downsizing our lifestyle. The benefits have been off the charts. I have my son back - the laughing, expressive, loving child I raised, not the grumpy, mouthy, selfish child from 6th grade. Our relationship is stronger than ever and we enjoy learning together.

My favorite things about homeschooling - we do bible study as a 1st course every morning and we volunteer together in the community several times a week. My son will learn to place God first in ALL things. Incorporating serving into our lessons with hopefully encourage him to continue serving as an adult. These are things that he wouldn't normally learn in public school.

Anyway, I've rattled on long enough. Thanks again. God willing this post will help others understand the other side of homeschooling.

In Christ,

Melissa said...


Thank you so much for commenting. I'm so glad to hear from a homeschooling mother.

I think that others who read your comment will find it very encouraging and helpful.

I really think you did the right thing taking your son out of public institution. There are countless things that you may have saved him from.

I like what you said about his learning style. There are so many learning styles, and there simply cannot be a one-size-fits-all learning style.

My sister is considering homeschooling. She has three boys in kindergarten, third, and fifth grade.

My nephew in the third grade has had a hard time this year with his teacher. His spelling test are to be taken on the computer. They are timed, and he has little experience with a computer (he's an outdoor boy :D ). He is struggling with that because he gets nervous and feels rushed.

The teacher tried to get my sister to test him for ADHD/ADD. I told her "Do NOT do it." If he were to get tested and it turn up with something, he would be labeled forever...and she would have a completely different child on her hands.

The same child that the teacher thought should be tested, stood at the front of the church in a tux as my ring-bearer and didn't move a muscle. He likes to watch people work and do things, and almost always comes up with a better way at doing it :D He is a hands-on, active child. He would certainly be misdiagnosed.

His teacher lets other students in the classroom grade the work papers. When my sister looks over his paper work at home she sees lots of right answers marked wrong, she asks him "Why are these problems marked wrong?" He looks at the paper and says, "Oh, Johnny Doe graded that....he doesn't like me." Hmmm...

Thanks for your comment, there is really so much you have said that others can use to help them see the benefits of homeschooling. Thank you for taking a "risk" to save your son.

Melissa :D