Don’t look now, but a revolution is currently sweeping education. For years, students participated in an almost universal prototype: institutionalized schooling, typified by standardized testing, controlled curricula, regimented structures, and rigid scheduling. But now, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 55 million students are finishing the academic year after weeks of distance learning from home (or, as some have called it “crisis schooling”).
Students had to adjust to remote education. Their everyday lives were turned upside down. The coronavirus pandemic forced teachers to scramble accommodations for distance learning, with two-thirds of educators reporting that lockdown orders make it challenging for them to do their jobs. Parents must now juggle the work of scheduling, supervising, and instructing their children.
This situation has been referred to as “homeschooling.” Though there are differences, it is similar to the experience of the approximately 2 million children, or 3.3 percent of American students, whose parents have chosen to home educate.
Some have struggled with these circumstances. Some have adapted but desire the end of a stressful season. Others have flourished. Recent polling suggests the experience has opened the eyes of many parents to homeschooling benefits. In one survey, about 40 percent indicated they were in favor of homeschooling next fall. In a USA Today poll, six out of 10 parents reported the likelihood of homeschooling.
Yet many questions remain for educators and parents alike. How will schools open in the fall? When (or if) they do open, will teachers return, considering one out of five reports they may not? Bearing in mind the measures suggested by the CDC, will students be required to wear masks? Will class sizes be limited and desks separated by barriers? Will cafeterias be open? Will students be permitted to play together, or will they be forced to stay strictly six feet apart?
Taking such questions into account, it is not surprising that many parents want to provide long-term stability to their children’s education by considering homeschooling.
Also to consider is the ever-persistent talk of future lockdowns due to COVID-19. Indeed, schools in other areas of the world have reopened only to close again. Given all that’s going on, it makes sense that many parents who want the best for their children wish to lay the groundwork now for what their families will face in the fall.
Parents have much to think about. But they, not any educational establishment or government, must be respected and applauded for carrying the responsibility of determining what is good for their children.
For those leaning towards homeschooling, here are 10 things to consider:
1. You are already a teacher: As a parent, you have been teaching your children all sorts of things since they were born. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Families are children’s first and most important teachers.” There’s no doubt that parents are a critical foundation of educational success. That point should never be forgotten.
2. You have a profound relationship: Students learn best from teachers with whom they have deep relationships. Parents tend to know their children best. Those who homeschool their children, therefore, often discover that their established relationship promotes learning.
3. You are free: Freedom is precious and beneficial, especially when it comes to education. Homeschooling allows parents to exercise inherent liberties: the freedom to choose materials, what methods to employ, and which ideas deserve the most focus. An inherent advantage of homeschooling is that it also provides freedom from having such personal decisions thrust upon children by others.
4. You have time: You do not need to simulate institutionalized school at home. While there are valid reasons to learn how to work at a desk, sit still, raise hands, line up, ask permission to use the restroom, not all of these protocols are required all of the time. If they choose, parents can spend more time living a less rigid life and simply enjoying being together.
5. You are not chained to a building: This freedom to select what works best for your children and your family brings with it the ability to provide rich, tailor-made experiences. The potential for activities expands exponentially with homeschooling. Field trips to concerts, performances, and museums, are great options to consider when parents want to mix things up or reward their “students” for good behavior.
6. You are not alone: There are numerous homeschool support groups that exist across the nation. Homeschoolers frequently connect with one another online in cooperative learning groups. Within networks that form, social opportunities are plentiful. The level of engagement with these resources can also be adjusted to suit the circumstances, goals, and needs of each family.
7. Research supports homeschooling success: Data reveals that homeschooled students do well with the large variety of curricula and methods used by parents. Regardless of parental education and income levels, homeschoolers tend to flourish academically and socially. Homeschool graduates also make it into high-ranking universities like Harvard.
8. It is affordable: Private schools are expensive. Homeschooling generally costs less, and, between online resources and the great variety of affordable homeschooling curricula and academic support available it can be done at a reasonable cost. While homeschooling does require substantial parental involvement, parents can effectively balance homeschooling with employment. Furthermore, homeschooling students become proficient and productive self-educators, which is part of the point of education: to promote lifelong learning and adults who can exercise independence responsibly.
9. The trickle-down effect: When parents teach children, they also learn. In addition, when children of different ages study together, they augment and complement each other’s unique skill set. The younger particularly learn from the older students, which often puts younger siblings academically ahead. An added benefit is that the older children begin practicing teaching others as they pass along what they are learning. Essentially, this produces a collaborative, one-room schoolhouse environment.
10. A child is not a commodity, and neither is education: The goal of education is not to produce a “graduate.” The goal of education is to become educated: “To be considered educated…students should leave school with a deep understanding of themselves and how they fit into the world and have learned…complex problem-solving, creativity, entrepreneurship, the ability to manage themselves, and the ability to be lifelong learners.”
Education does not come in a package and its sole objective is not to find employment. To be educated is a state of being and it is the bedrock of living a full, well-rounded life and leading it well. Homeschooling provides parents with the opportunity to do just that.