About Homeschooling - At The Tip Of The Pencil - A review of the professional literature
What you need to know about homeschooling: What is it? How common? Why? Advantages and disadvantages, and what does daily routine has to do with it?
By Dr. Sarah Itzhaki
WHAT IS HOMESCHOOLING?
Homeschooling is an alternative form of education in which students are educated at home, rather than in a regular school.
IS HOMESCHOOLING COMMON?
According to the US Department of Education, 850,000 students were educated at home in 1999. In 2003, more than one million students (2.2% of the school-age population) were home-schooled. This is a conservative assessment, and numbers may have reached as high as 1.9 to 2.4 million in 2005–2006, according to the National Home Education Research Institute. Incidence of Homeschooling is climbing annually at the rate of 7–12%. This trend is likely to continue due to supporting legislation and improved communication. The Internet provides parental support through networking, blogs, online purchase of curriculum material, online learning services, etc. (1)
HOMESCHOOLING: DO WE GROW WITH IT OR OUTGROW IT?
After one year of homeschooling, only 63% of students continue the following year. Then the rate stabilizes at 73–94% for two to six years. After the sixth year, only 15% of secular homeschoolers and 48% of religious homeschoolers are still homeschooling their children (2).
DO HOMESCHOOLING FAMILIES HAVE SPECIAL CHARACTERISTICS?
According the Department of Education, homeschooling families have some general characteristics (1-3):
* White non-Hispanics comprise 85% of the families, but increasing numbers of minorities are engaged in homeschooling.
*The number of boys and girls engaged in homeschooling is about equal.
* The families are larger than average (three or more children).
* Most children are homeschooled for at least four years.
* Most families have two parents, of which only one is in the workforce. Usually the mother is the predominant teacher, but both parents are involved.
* About 87% of families have an annual household income of less than $75,000. (Those who are dissatisfied with public schools may not be able to afford a private school education for their children.)
* In most cases, at least one parent has a college degree.
* Children study a wide range of subjects with an emphasis on math, reading, writing and science.
* Since the education is child-centered, flexible and individualized (involving both homemade and purchased materials), homeschooled students participate in special studies and community work, such as volunteer work, animal care, missionary work, gardening, national competitions, etc.
* More than 75% of families regularly attend religious services. Most are Christians, with increasing numbers of Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Mormons and others.
WHY DO PARENTS HOMESCHOOL?
In short, parents are dissatisfied with what their children experience in a regular school setting. Some of the reasons are detailed below (1-3):
* Unsuitable religious and moral instruction. (72%)
* Unfavorable school environment (85%): adverse social interactions, such as peer pressure, bullying, drugs, sex and lack of safety.
* Parental and/or child’s dissatisfaction with academic instruction and progress. (68%)
* Health or behavioral problems, either physical or mental, of the child; needs of exceptionally bright children; other special needs. (Parents of children with these issues may perceive that their children are not properly taken care off in regular schools.)
* Changes in teaching methods as a direct result of the introduction of national testing. Many primary school teachers have adopted a more didactic teaching style: instructing pupils rather than encouraging them to discover things for themselves. Such pedagogical changes may decrease some pupils’ happiness in school. (4)
* Alternative life styles.
WHAT ARE THE ACADEMIC AND SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES OF HOMESCHOOLING FOR ADULTS WHO WERE EDUCATED AT HOME AS CHILDREN?
One must consider with caution the information about the consequences of homeschooling. It is difficult to gather EBM (Evidence-Based Methods) information about it due to its decentralized nature. However, based on available research, the following implications of homeschooling on academic and social success may be formulated.
ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT (5)
Research shows that homeschoolers rate as high, if not higher, in academic achievement, critical thinking and preparation for college. Regardless of parental academic background, race, or financial status. The most important implication of this research is that the two great divides faced by children educated in public schools—race and social class—are inconsequential in the achievement scores of homeschooled children. This shows that the significant impact of an unfavorable environment on education may be overturned given the right conditions. (5-6)
SOCIAL INTEGRATION (7)
Homeschooled children are not isolated from social and group activities. They are active in sports, music lessons, summer camps, jobs etc. Studies show that social development in homeschooled children is as good if not better than their regular schooled counterparts. Their self-image is significantly higher, and their problem-behavior scores are lower. Adolescent homeschoolers don’t lose their sense of self or identity, as they are not involved in peer pressure groups, which are so prevalent in schools. Adults who have been homeschooled as children are more involved in the community and have a more developed sense of curiosity in the world around them:
* 98% of homeschooled individuals have read a book recently versus only 68% of the general population.
* 71% of homeschooled individuals participate in community service versus 37% of the general population.
* Of people age 18–24, those who are homeschooled have a 76% voting rate versus 29% of those who are not homeschooled.
WHY DOES HOMESCHOOLING RATE SO HIGH? WHY IS IT SUCCESSFUL WHERE REGULAR SCHOOLING FAILS?
Even if you don’t plan to homeschool, it is important to understand how the aspects of homeschooling that differ from those of regular schools help youngsters strive to learn and feel content, motivated and happy. The answers to these questions may help improve regular schools, offering children the best of both worlds.
* Thomas (8) suggests that one of the key differences between home and school learning is that the former allows individual teaching. The learning is suited to the pace and personality of the student. While this used to be much advocated in schools, it has become impossible today, because every class has about 30 children and only one teacher. (9)
* The opportunity to adapt the environment to the learning styles and needs of the individual child is the crucial element in the effectiveness of home education. Homeschooling provides for flexible application of discipline and a flexible yet fixed use of time, as well as a relaxed and encouraging learning atmosphere.
These factors enable the child to plan, learn and review his or her studies, and thus become an independent, confident learner, highly motivated and curious. In this process, the adult becomes the learning manager, rather than the teacher. (10).
This means homeschooling is a one-to-one parent-child activity; learning is individualized and tailored specifically for the child, and is not limited to conventional learning materials. It places emphasis on issues that are important to the parents, as well as on the regular curriculum. It can use enriching materials that may enhance social and emotional learning and development; such products as “The Two Tuba Switch.” This educational combination of toys and book provides parents and caring adults the means to enhance learning with a hands-on experience of play, role play and reading. The toys and book promote learning about empathy and socializing in society by enabling children to identify with a boy who does not feel perfect. While having fun, children learn how to become a compassionate member of humanity.
IF IT‘S SO GOOD, CAN IT ALSO BE BAD? WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES OF HOMESCHOOLING?
Homeschooling is not suitable for all children or parents, mainly due to but not limited to the following:
* Parental burn out can occur. The responsibility of teaching in an individualized, captivating manner is perpetual; it requires persistence and unlimited inner resources. Studying is not always sitting down with the books. It is also a hands-on experience gained by field trips to learn history, biology, etc.
* Can one (or even two) parents comprehend, convey the knowledge of or assist with curricula in a variety of subjects at any level—especially in the higher grades, where the level of studying increases?
* Being with the children all the time and dealing with every aspect of their lives may not be suitable to all families. Accepting children’s imperfections and hardships may become strenuous and a source of conflict in the family.
* A child’s social interaction with peers may be reduced, which he would have by going to school.
* A child may be unable to join team sports, which are a part of school life.
* The household may have a reduced income if one parent does not join the work force.
* Time management is one of the most prominent cons of homeschooling: allocating time for the child’s activities, such as study, recreation and TV, as well as the adult-teacher (usually Mom) managing with limited free time. This makes organizing a daily routine crucial for success.
DAILY ROUTINE IN HOMESCHOOLING: HOW IMPORTANT IS IT? CAN IT ALSO BE FUN?
As there are no outside determinants of daily routine in homeschooling, such as fixed school hours, the structure of the day and routines are flexible. This is good and not so good at the same time (no pun intended). The positive side of flexibility in the daily schedule is that it can be adapted to the child’s characteristics; for example, a child with a delayed circadian clock is able to go to sleep late and wake up late without being late for school. What is not so good when there are no outside constraints is the risk of time drifting away, uncontrollably wasted, without learning. As usual, the best solution is the middle route. Thus it is important to plan an individual daily routine that includes studying during the day along with other activities. Establishing a routine with the child, rather than just “laying down the rules,” preserves the original motives of homeschooling and maximizes its advantages, as described above.
It’s clear that homeschooling does not suit all families; furthermore, homeschooling is not perfect, and it has its drawbacks. The most important idea in this review is that if the merits of homeschooling were adapted to regular school settings, pupils would have the best of both worlds.
Disclaimer: This article is a short review of the literature it cites. The writer has not written her own opinions in this article.
1. National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES). US Department of Education. “Homeschooling in the United States 2003: Statistical Analysis Report.” NCES 2006–042.
2. Isenberg, E. J. “What Have We Learned About Homeschooling?” Peabody Journal of Education, 2007; pp. 82 (2–3), pp. 387–409.
3. Tiny, C. M. and Arora, J. “School-Aged Children Who Are Educated
at Home by Their Parents: Is There a Role for Educational Psychologists?” Educational Psychology in Practice, 2003; p. 19 (2); pp. 103–112.
4. Mccallum B., Gipps, C., and Brown, M. “Primary Teachers’ Beliefs About Teaching and Learning.” British Education Research Journal, (1996) Summer.
5. Barwegen, L. M., Falciani, N. K., Putnam, J., Reamer, M. B. and Stair, E. E. ‘‘Academic Achievement of Homeschool and Public School Students and Student Perception of Parent Involvement.” The School Community Journal. 2004; p. 4 (1): pp. 39-58
6. Collom, Ed and Mitchell, Douglas E. “Home Schooling as a Social Movement: Identifying the Determinants of Homeschoolers’ Perceptions.” Sociological Spectrum, 2005; p. 25 (3); pp.273–305.
7. Lopez-Haugen, D. “The Social Competence of Homeschooled and Conventionally Schooled Adolescents: A Preliminary Investigation.” Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering. 2006; p. 66 (7-B): pp. 3974.
8. Thomas, A. “Educating Children at Home.” (1998) London: Cassell.
9. Dowty, T. (Ed.). “Free Range Education: How Home Education Works.” Stroud: (2001), Hawthorne Press.
(10) Meighan, R. “Home-based Education Effectiveness Research and Some of Its Implications.” Educational Review, 1995; 47(3): pp. 275–287.