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Homeschooling

From Academic Kids

Homeschooling (also called home education and sometimes spelled home schooling) is the education of children at home and in the community, in contrast to education in an institution such as a public or parochial school. In the United States, homeschooling is the focus of a substantial minority movement among parents who wish to provide their children with a custom or more complete education which they feel is unattainable in most public or even private schools.

Contents

Overview

Homeschooling is an alternative means of education that has proven to be controversial in the United States. The general historic foundations of homeschooling originate with the informal education systems that existed in the United States before the rise of public schools in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For example, famous figures such as Thomas Jefferson, Jane Austen, Abraham Lincoln, Geronimo and Louisa May Alcott might be considered to have been homeschooled as they were self-educated or had mentors or tutors growing up, but received little formal schooling.

Although estimates vary, roughly 1 to 2 million children are homeschooled in the United States, about 90,000 in the UK[1] (http://www.home-education.org.uk/), and about 26,000 in Australia/New Zealand[2] (http://www.hea.asn.au/hea/resources/disp_res.asp?type=4&id=60). Individual motivations to homeschool, homeschooling methods, and results of homeschooling (both social and academic) are varied, and are the source of vibrant debate.

Homeschooling motivations

Proponents of home education invoke parental responsibility and the classical liberal arguments for personal freedom from government intrusion. Few proponents advocate that homeschooling should be the dominant educational policy. Most homeschooling advocates are wary of the established educational institutions for various reasons. Some are religious conservatives who see non-religious education as contrary to their moral or religious systems. Others feel that they can more effectively tailor a curriculum to suit an individual students academic strengths and weaknesses, especially those with learning disabilities. Still others feel that the negative social pressures of schools (such as bullying, drugs, crime, and other school-related problems) are detrimental to a childs proper development.

Options which make homeschooling attractive to some families also include:

  • Allowing a longer exploratory play-oriented childhood, encouraging the development of rich imagination and pre-academic skills which can foster later academic success
  • The flexibility of the education schedule allows each student to work at his own pace, enjoy family vacations, and integrate outside activities or current events with subjects they are studying.
  • Religion, ethics, and character topics not included in public school curriculums can be freely taught.
  • Non-traditional curriculums (see "Methods" below) and unusual subjects such as Latin and Greek can be taught.
  • Geography, art and music curriculum can be enhanced
  • Money management and business topics may be taught and integrated with a family business.

Homeschooling may have a financial impact on families. In addition to having to purchase school supplies and curriculum materials, a homeschoolers parent(s) often cut back or refrain from employment outside the home in order to supervise the childs education. This may have long-term career consequences as well. However, many homeschooling parents say that one unique benefit is the additional time they get to spend with their children.

Public opinion of homeschooling

Gallup polls of American voters have shown a significant change in attitude in the last twenty years, from 73% opposed in 1985 to 54% opposed in 2001[3] (http://eric.uoregon.edu/trends_issues/choice/home_schooling.html).

Opposition to homeschooling comes from varied sources, including organizations of teachers and school districts. Opponents' stated concerns fall into several broad categories, including: academic quality and completeness; loss of income for the schools; socialization of children with peers; political correctness; and fear of religious or social extremism. Opponents often argue that homeschooling parents are sheltering their children and denying them opportunities that are their children's right while depleting the schools income.

Legality of homeschooling

In the U.S., homeschooling is generally viewed as legal, although in many states homeschool parents are occasionally threatened with prosecution under truancy laws. The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled on homeschooling specifically, but in Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972)[4] (http://www.oyez.org/oyez/resource/case/449/) it supported the rights of Amish parents to keep their children out of public schools for religious reasons. Registration practices vary from state to state; for example, in California homeschoolers must register as private schools (a category which has no minimum-enrollment requirement), and are required to have attendance records and lesson plans available for state inspection, although this is rarely performed. In 2002, California Secretary of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin announced that such registration was illegal for homeschoolers, but this has not been tested in court. Other states require submission of curriculum plans or require standardized testing.

A few school districts have extension programs which allow homeschooled students to use district resources, such as school libraries or computer labs, or meet with a teacher periodically for curriculum review and suggestions.

In the United Kingdom, section 7 of the Education Act, 1996, states*:

The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable:
a. to his age, ability and aptitude, and
b. to any special educational needs he may have,
either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.

Homeschooling methods

There is a wide variety of homeschooling methods and materials. Many homeschoolers base their work on a particular educational philosophy such as:

Others use a broad combination of ideas or allow the child to develop his or her own motivation (see Unschooling below). Because homeschool laws vary widely according to state statutes, official curriculum requirements vary.

Unit studies

Unit studies teach most subjects in the context of a central theme. For example, a unit study of Native Americans would combine age-appropriate lessons in social studies (how different tribes lived), art (making Native American clothing), history (the history of Native Americans in the U.S.), Reading (usually by a reading list), science (plants used by Native Americans). The following month, the unit-study subject could change to "Construction," or some other broad topic of study. Supporters say unit studies make excellent use of student time by combining several fields into one study time, and permit students to follow personal interests. Unit studies also permit children of different ages to study together. For example, in a Native American unit, a 10th-grade student might make a deer-skin coat for an art project, while a 1st-grade student might make construction-paper tipis. Homeschoolers often purchase unit-study guides that suggest materials, projects and shopping lists, and supplement them with specialized curricula for math, and sometimes reading and writing.

Special materials

Special materials focus on skill-building. Individual subject materials usually consist of workbooks, sometimes with textbooks and a teachers' guide. Many specialized subjects are only available in this form. Special materials are frequently used for math and primary reading. Critics say that some parents over-focus on skills while excluding Social Studies, Science, Art, History and other fields that help children learn their place in the world.

All-in-one curricula

All-in-one curricula are comprehensive packages covering many subjects, usually an entire year's worth. Some call them "school in a box." They contain all needed books and materials, including pencils and writing paper. Most such curricula were developed for isolated families who lack access to public schools, libraries and shops, or are overseas. These materials typically recreate the school environment in the home, and are typically based on the same subject-area expectations as public schools, allowing an easy re-transition into school if desired. They are among the most expensive options for homeschoolers, but are easy to use and require minimal preparation. The teacher's guides are usually extensive, with step-by-step instructions. These programs may include nationally-normed tests, and remote examinations to yield an accredited private-school diploma.

Community resources

Homeschoolers take advantage of educational programs at museums, community centers, athletic clubs, after-school programs, churches, science preserves, parks, and other community resources. High-school level students often take classes at community colleges.

Eclectic curricula

The majority of today's homeschoolers use an eclectic mix of materials. For instance, they might use a pre-designed program for language arts or math, and fill in history with reading and field trips, art with classes at a community center, science through a homeschool science club, PE with membership in local sports teams, and so on.

Unschooling

Unschooling is an area within homeschooling in which students are not directly instructed but encouraged to learn through exploring their interests. Also known as interest-led or child-led learning, unschooling attempts to provide opportunities with games and real life problems where a child will learn without coercion. An unschooled child may choose to use texts or classroom instruction, but it is never considered central to education. Advocates for unschooling claim that children learn best by learning from doing. A child may learn reading and math skills from playing card games, better spelling and other writing skills because he's inspired to write a science fiction story for publication, or local history by following a zoning or historical-status dispute.

Homeschooling results

Academic results

The academic effectiveness of homeschooling is disputed. While homeschooled students generally do extremely well on standardized tests[5] (http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/000010/200410250.asp), critics argue that such students are a self-selected group whose parents care strongly about their education; such students would also do well in a conventional school environment. Increasingly, colleges are recruiting homeschooled students; many colleges accept a GED as well as parent statements and portfolios of students' work as admission criteria; others also require SATs or other standardized tests.

Opponents argue that parents with little training in education are less effective in teaching. However, some studies do indicate that parents income and education level affect home educated students' performance on standardized tests very little.

Homeschooled children's curricula often include many subjects not included in school curricula. Some colleges find this an advantage in creating a more academically diverse student body, and proponents argue this creates a more well-rounded and self-sufficient adult. Opponents argue that homeschoolers' eclectic curricula often exclude critical subjects and isolate them from the rest of society, or present them with ideological worldviews, especially dogmatic religious ones.

The results with gifted and learning-disabled children is particularly controversial.

Social development

A common concern voiced about homeschooled children is they lack the social interaction with peers that a school environment provides. Many homeschooling families address these concerns by joining numerous organizations, including independent study programs and specialized enrichment groups for PE, Art, Music, and Debate. Most are also active in community groups. Homeschooled children generally socialize with other children the same way that school children do: outside of school, via personal visits and through sports teams, clubs and religious groups.

ERIC, the Education Resources Information Center of the U.S. government, has published multiple articles on homeschooling. Here's an excerpt from one which examined several studies on homeschool socialization:

"According to the findings, children who were schooled at home 'gained the necessary skills, knowledge, and attitudes needed to function in society...at a rate similar to that of conventionally schooled children.'
"The researcher found no difference in the self concept of children in the two groups. Stough maintains that 'insofar as self concept is a reflector of socialization, it would appear that few home-schooled children are socially deprived, and that there may be sufficient evidence to indicate that some home-schooled children have a higher self concept than conventionally schooled children.'" [6] (http://www.ericdigests.org/1995-1/home.htm)

Proponents argue further that the social environment of schools:

  • eradicates individuality and creativity.
  • sinks to the standards of the lowest common denominator
  • involves bullying, drug use, early sexuality, defiance, criminality, materialism, and eating disorders.

and that socialization in the wider community:

  • leads them to use adults as role models rather than peers
  • better prepares them for real life
  • encourages them to be more involved in youth organizations, church organizations, and sports
  • helps them develop an independent understanding of themselves and their role in the world, with the freedom to reject or approve conventionial values without the risk of ridicule.

Opponents of homeschooling offer the following criticisms concerning socialization, pointing out that not all homeschooling families participate extensively in community activities:

  • Interaction with peers and different social groups is essential to learning to live in society.
  • Schools are a unique environment that provide students with necessary social networking skills that help them succeed in the workplace and in the politics of high-level business. Real life includes school as well.
  • Homeschoolers tend to live in an insulated world where they aren't exposed to a variety of ideas, which can prevent any personal growth and independence later on in life.
  • If children are insulated from unpleasant social situations, then they will be left unprepared when they are inevitably left to make their own way in the world. Children should be allowed to live and learn from their mistakes rather than sheltered from reality.

Some persons oppose homeschooling because they fear that children in such homes could be trapped into a cult-like atmosphere and raised entirely without a view of the larger social world. These persons say that there is a pronounced risk that religious or social extremism could be taught to children in the sheltered environment of a homeschool.

See also

Footnote

Resources

External links

USA

General:

Research:

Legalities:

UK

  • Home Education UK (http://www.home-education.org.uk/) - Contains links to UK, US, European and Australian home education organisations
  • Diversity-Otherwise (http://www.diversity-otherwise.tk/) - UK multi-cultural home education
  • HSLDA UK Webpage (http://www.hslda.org/hs/international/UnitedKingdom/default.asp) - Legal information and links to UK home education organisations.

Publications

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