Pros and cons of home schools

While a relative outsider to the scene, home schooling has managed to carve out an important niche and establish itself as a credible, viable, and effective means to educate children.

Earning the legal right to home school was a hard-fought battle in many countries, and continues to be challenged. Most countries, however, now recognise the right of parents to educate their children at home. There are legal variations relating to accountability requirements and meeting education standards. Parents of home schooled high school students also need to consider university recognition and acceptance standards.

Home school is difficult to define because it takes on so many different forms. Some home school families literally create their own curriculum and find nontraditional means to educate their children that range from creative to out-and-out strange. Other home school families purchase and use services or packaged curriculums that are highly regimented and structured. Still others use blends of various techniques including the ones already mentioned.

Above all other education methods, home schooling requires the most from parents. Their involvement is key to success and is often intense and challenging. Commitment level, available time, and teaching skills are significant factors to be considered before parents begin home schooling. Today’s marketplace provides unprecedented support for home schoolers, making this option more feasible than ever.

One of the major objections to home schooling is a supposed lack of socialisation of children. This objection is based on the observation that children who spend most of their time at home do not have daily interaction with their peers like their institutional counterparts. Supporters of home school point out that there are many relational alternatives to six-hour days at school and they have taken action to intentionally provide their students with activities that include most, if not all, of the options available to students in more traditional schools.

Today, home schooled children participate in athletic teams, academic competition, bands, and the like. They also enjoy freedom to learn through experience and real-life interaction such as travel, field trips, and internships. Progressive home school practices have all but debunked the socialisation objection.

Generally, in academics home schooled students compare favourably to their public- and private-schooled peers. But the variance between students can be great. The key is a skilled parent-teacher who is up to the task and who utilises available resources to maximise the opportunities.

In the past, home school families were on their own and had to create or discover curriculum and material for instruction. Many families still opt for a homegrown approach, but there are many excellent home school organisations that provide curriculum, teacher training, parent and student support, and even cooperative learning programs.

Home school families have complete latitude to provide religious instructions without limitation. Successful families have a good plan, good support, and a passion for their work. The keys are intentionality and sufficient knowledge to lead a long-term education process.

Trends in home schooling

1. Home school/public-school blends. Many public schools allow students to enrol in selected classes. Typically, these are maths and science classes that require higher skilled teachers or special facilities.

2. Home school/private-school blends. Many private schools offer similar services as public schools. These services may include offering home school families with a la carte classes that require more teacher expertise, a group environment, or perhaps lab facilities.

Other private schools utilise a home school blend in order to expand student population without adding facilities. A program called University Model Schools, for example, is an intentional home school/private school blend that specifically assigns education curriculum to both the home and classroom. This approach is intended to create a university-like setting that uses both self-study and classroom instruction.

3. Home school associations. These are best described as cooperatives in which parents collaborate to provide education collectively to their children. The variations in associations include parents teaching a particular discipline to a group of students and pooling their time and talents to organise field trips, sports teams, music programs, and other group events. Essentially, they strive to provide the services normally found in an institutional school.

Often these home school associations use church facilities. For example, on most Thursday mornings if you walk into New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, you’ll find yourself in the middle of a throng of primary-age children. They will be working on art projects, writing stories, participating in plays, moving from classroom to classroom, and engaging in multiple learning activities. You are not walking into a private school; you have arrived on the day when the local home school association meets. It is a chance for collaboration and fun and learning on a major scale. Think of it as an educational swap meet.

4. Virtual Schools. Many children are being taught at home via computer and with curriculum that is controlled out of a central facility. They have instructors, assignments, and other activities much like a classroom setting, but their classroom is in their home. Parent involvement in such programs is significant, but not as much as other home school methods. Virtual schools can be private schools or even independent schools providing services into the home. The common denominators that define virtual schools are the central importance of the computer as the learning and interaction tool, and the centralised control of assignments by the virtual school operator.

5. Home school curriculum providers. There was a time when homes schoolers were left on their own to create a curriculum. Some still opt to do it themselves, but it’s no longer necessary. There is a variety of for-profit and not-for-profit companies that develop curriculum for use by home schooling families. The approaches are wide-ranging. Typically, these programs provide all of the material and instructions a family needs to create a robust home education program.

Pros of Home Schooling

  • Flexibility with curriculum. It can be tailored exactly to what your child needs.
  • Increased “face time” with your children.
  • Daily opportunities to incorporate spiritual/biblical material.
  • Flexibility with sports, arts, music, etc.
  • Have better control over peer influence.

Cons of Home Schooling

  • Usually there is a greater demand on the parent’s time.
  • Increased expense if you’re not using the state-provided curriculum.
  • Special activities may require more effort to pursue.
  • Students may not be exposed to “expert” teachers.
  • Home schooling may require that a portion of your house be devoted to a school room.
© 2007 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Adapted from "Handbook on Choosing Your Child’s Education" a Focus on the Family resource published by Tyndale House Publishers.

Jim Mhoon

Jim Mhoon is a National Certified Counsellor and member of ACA. He draws on extensive experience as a non-profit executive with organisations such as Focus on the Family, Medical Teams International, Partners International and CRISTA Ministries and from personal life experience including growing up in a single parent home, raising a special needs child and being married for 31+ years.

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