Under most circumstances, homeschooling is the best form of schooling/education for children that exists in the world. I say most to allow for extreme or unusual cases where things don’t work as they should – severe disabilities or disorders, long term illness, I don’t know, there are probably other cases too, but you get the idea. Having said that though, homeschooling provides scope for a much more individualised approach for your child’s education, meaning that there will be plenty of people for whom a special needs child will make them better suited to a homeschooling environment.
As far as educational outcomes go, the worldwide evidence is simply overwhelming: Homeschooling is superior. It is a hands down victory. This cannot be stated clearly enough: If anyone suggests to you that the case is not obviously, clear cut, backed up universally by all the available evidence and beyond dispute, they need more exposure to the information. This is a settled issue: Homeschooling on average produces markedly better academic results. This, for many parents, is the main drawcard for the homeschooling option.
See here, here, here, or… you get the idea. I won’t multiply examples. Just Google it.
It is simply a falsehood that you can’t teach children well unless you’re an accredited teacher. Homeschooled children receive a superior education to children who attend the local government school. It also enables a far more customised approach to education. Children are diverse, they don’t all learn the same way, and what works for one child may not be as effective as another. While a school might be able to pump extra teaching resources and time into catching up with this diversity and moving away from an “education mill” model, for the homeschooler it is natural – why wouldn’t the education of each child be uniquely tailored to that child?
The one comment that I hear more often than any other when somebody finds out that we homeschool our children – and other homeschoolers will guess what it is before I ever say it – is, “what about the social aspect? Do they learn to interact with other children?”
Here’s how I look at it: Take animals in the wild vs animals in farms. Do animals in the wild get to interact in a normal, healthy way with other animals? Of course. What about animals in a farm, or maybe a zoo? Do they interact naturally with each other? To some extent, yes. Children in homeschooling are like animals in the wild. They, with their families, form natural communities: Families, neighbourhoods, churches, sports clubs, social organisations, you get the idea. What’s more, because it’s not a forced environment like a zoo or a farm, you don’t have the serious social problems associated with schools: bullying and being forced to belong to the same social group as the bully, being forced to associate with groups that are frankly bad for them (gangs, antisocial behaviour, violence, smoking/drugs, fill in the blanks). Picking up a line from my sister (they also homeschool their children), when people ask me whether our children are “missing out” socially I tell them: “Oh no, we make sure they don’t miss out. We beat them up, steal their lunch, teach them bad habits, encourage them to be promiscuous, all that stuff.” The other person usually sees the point! Do we shelter our children? Of course. We’re their parents, and they’re all younger than twelve years old. What kind of irresponsible people would we be if we didn’t shelter them?
I want to reiterate this is clearly as I can: In virtually every way, homeschooling is superior to other kinds of education. Schools just cannot compete with it. It’s barely even a close race. I say all this in advance in bold terms because I don’t want anyone to think that what I say next reflects in any way a lower view of homeschooling. I continue to hold the above view of homeschooling.
Now for the next part: In a couple of days time, our children will start attending a school. It’s not a public school, but it’s a school. Five days a week, from 9am until 3pm (I think). It’s not a decision we relish for their sake, but it’s one we’ve had to make. My wife is a wonderful mother and has been doing a really outstanding job with our children. But something had to change. As I’ve been saying from time to time, I have virtually no time to do the things that I really need to do if I am ever going to move into the area of employment that I spent all those years getting degrees for: academia in theology or philosophy (or both).
What’s more, I currently work a pretty low paying job, and our financial situation could be a lot stronger (actually, it needs to be. I don’t think the employer envisages someone on this salary supporting a family). I figured it would only be a temporary measure while also work at home, I get material published and boost my profile to improve my chances in academia, but the trouble is, working full time actually prevents me from doing that to the extent to which I need to do it, so I end up just staying in that low paid role, supporting our family. Financially, something does need to change.
So we need a little more cash, and I need a little more time, even just a free day each week. So the children are going to school – a less than ideal situation education-wise, but the best school that we are able to make use of, a small local Christian school with a very flexible approach to education. Ruth is going to be looking for some work, maybe just a few days a week, and when that happens, I will see if I can work fewer hours.
If that all goes to plan, I will be much better placed to work towards landing an academic job, and if/when that happens, we will be in a position to revisit Ruth’s employment situation and the children’s education options. The long term plan is about what’s best for the whole family. We’d like to be in a position to homeschool again.
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