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Homeschooling

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Homeschooling is just what it sounds like: children being schooled at home, usually by their parents. Sometimes parents from two or more families will share the duties of schooling their children. Ideally this would be done to access the strengths of each parent as a teacher; one may be a mathematics whiz, another may be an English major, and so on. It is also done to give the parents a break from teaching.

Homeschooling can be a good option for kids whose needs aren't met by a traditional school, and where at least one parent has sufficient time, knowledge, and experience to take on the task. But if the education is low-quality, or if the family is too isolated from the outside world, the homeschooled children may not be adequately prepared to become adults.

Reasons[edit]

In England and Wales, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) lists the following common grounds for parents to choose homeschooling ("elective home education", in DCSF parlance):[1]

  • Distance or access to a local school
  • Religious or cultural beliefs
  • Philosophical or ideological views
  • Dissatisfaction with the system
  • Bullying in school
  • As a short term intervention for a particular reason
  • A child's unwillingness or inability to go to school
  • Special educational needs
  • Parents' desire for a closer relationship with their children

Some of these reasons make sense. Others… not so much.

An Australian study of 676 children in homeschooling found that the majority of them were homeschooled because the school had failed to properly accommodate a developmental difference (such as giftedness or a disability). Only 19% were being homeschooled for lifestyle reasons.[2]

The teachers[edit]

The most common model for homeschooling requires one parent, typically but not always the mother, to stay home with the kids and teach them from books specifically designed for homeschooling. This means that "home school parents are, by definition, more heavily involved in their children's education [than] public or private school parents. Home schools can easily pace and adapt their curriculum; public and private schools typically have a mandated scope and sequence."[3]

Homeschooling parent/teachers are not held to the same standards as public school teachers in various US states.[note 1] While many teachers have college degrees, those degrees may lack any relevance to a child's school curriculum. But as long as their children/students pass standardized tests, [4] few people raise questions about this disparity — no apparent harm, no apparent foul.[note 2]

Performance[edit]

Performance of homeschooled vs public-schooled students has been difficult to measure in part because it is difficult to reach homeschooled children in a systematic way. Another complication is that many court cases and some publications have relied upon someone who has a known confirmation bias and who routinely cherry-picks his samples — Brian Ray, who is head of the National Home Education Research Institute (which is Christian-oriented).[4] For an example of Ray's bias, almost all of his samples were "White, Christian and came from two-parent married families", but 41% of US homeschoolers were not White, 56% of parents did not have a bachelor's degree, and 21% were living in poverty.[4]

There have been five studies on homeschooling from from 2004-2018 in the US and Canada, which do not show consistency in results across the studies.[4][5][6][7][8][9] However, Robert Kunzman, a professor of education at Indiana University and who is head of the International Center for Home Education Research, has said that the best of these five studies is the one by Cardus,Wikipedia[4] a conservative Canadian think tank that describes itself as being Christian and being based on Judeo-Christian values.[10] The Cardus surveys have been conducted in three years thus far.[4][7] Kunzman and Milton Gaither summarized the Cardus research by saying, "homeschoolers as a whole do not have great educational and economic success if measured by conventional standards like a college degree and a high-paying job."[11] Kunzman and Gaither noted that other researchers have noted that these standards may not be motivating most parents who homeschool their children.[11] The children, however, do not get a say in this, and one of Ray's harshest critics is his estranged eldest daughter, Hallie Ray Ziebart, whom he homsechooled and whom Ziebart accused of physical abuse in the form of corporal punishment.[4]

Arguments for homeschooling[edit]

Valid reasons for homeschooling[edit]

That is a pretty cool trebuchet.
If something is not working at home or if she has mastered concepts faster than I expected, I don't have to convince anybody we need to make a change or skip curriculum, I can just do it.
—Danielle Staer, mother of a highly gifted autistic child[2]

There are various reasons to accept homeschooling aside from being a far-right religious nutter. Some parents may pursue careers in which they are rarely settled in one location, such as career military officers and touring musicians, and find homeschooling their children to be more practical than enrolling them permanently in a school.

In other cases, the reasons are determined by the interests or abilities of the child. For example, parents who believe their child to be especially gifted, or wish them to be, may feel that the child could not reach their full potential in a public (or even private) school, and instead educate them, often intensively, at home. Some are "child prodigies" with a particular skill, such as musicianship or athletics. These inevitably take a lot of practice time, and cannot easily fit around a school schedule. Sometimes these children, or their parents, have little interest in pursuing other educational studies. Similarly, a child may be more interested in learning a craft than in pursuing an academic education. However, if the majority of homeschooling time is given over to a particular subject, the child may miss out on a balanced general education, which could disadvantage them later in life.

Kids with disabilities may be homeschooled. A rotten school district or a really good parent could mean that homeschooling is a better option. (Autistic kids, for example, are at risk of victimization from bullying, and have a lot of enthusiasm for learning related to their passionate interests. A specially-tailored curriculum might be perfect for them.) Not every school district offers quality special education services, either, and some disabled kids face discipline for being "difficult" just because adults refuse to understand them.

In a few cases, a student's reasons for being homeschooled may relate to negative or traumatic experiences in a school environment, such as bullying or even assault, leaving them feeling unsafe at school.

A much rarer reason for homeschooling is a medical one: some students have severe health problems that make exposure to contagious diseases hazardous. For example, an immunocompromised child might not be safe around kids whose parents opted out of vaccines. A child who has developed a mildew or mold allergy, due to sick-building syndrome, is likely to benefit from homeschooling.

Homeskool kid makes good![edit]

Homeschooled kids often win contests such as spelling bees and math contests. However, it's unclear how typical these few prize winners are among the total population of homeschooled students. For instance, because many of today's homeschooling materials are Bible-centric,[note 3] it's a sure bet that some of those students' homeschool Young Earth creationism education lacks any real value. The Biology Blue Ribbon at the science fair isn't likely to go to a child who makes a diorama of Adam riding a dinosaur.

Issues[edit]

The homeschool industry[edit]

People who question the claim that the homeschooling industry has such a lock on the information about homeschooling will have it tough to find anything but positive feedback. (After reading some of it, one might think that "propaganda" is a more accurate description.) If one enters the word "homeschooling" into a search engine, followed by words like "myths", "horror stories", "cons", etc., one will be greeted by hundreds of links dispelling myths, horror stories, and cons as lies. Websites with legitimate stories about the negatives of homeschooling are almost impossible to find. This lack of critical information raises questions among those seeking information about homeschooling. It also raises the possibility that there are no "horror stories", but the likelihood of nothing going wrong for anyone is nil.

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education supports quality homeschooling, but is also critical of homeschool abuses and the often lax government oversight by many US states. Abuses can include inadequate education, child abuse, child labor violations, withholding of academic documents, and medical neglect.[16][17] "Twenty-five states do not require homeschooled students to ever take a standardized test. Almost half of the states that do require testing allow parents to avoid this requirement either by claiming a religious exemption or by operating as a pseudo private school."[18]

Bob Jones University Press is purportedly the largest source of homeschooling textbooks in the US, which is not an encouraging sign for homeschooling. BJU Press is purportedly the largest publisher in South Carolina, which is not an encouraging sign for South Carolina.[12]

Collective homeschooling and the fight against government regulation and oversight[edit]

Three protesters in Germany decrying alleged government overreach. Do these protesters even know German?

Homeschool classes aren't necessarily just one child being schooled at home by their parents. For instance, Andrew Schlafly, the son of anti-feminist political activist Phyllis Schlafly, has around 58 in his homeschooled history class. If you are wondering how one man could accumulate up to 200 "homeschooled" students and charge them $250/semester (in 2011),[19] the answer goes by the term collective homeschooling. That is, students gather at the home of a parent/teacher for class. Usually, such people are defined as private tutors — a job title that requires a teacher's certificate in some states. Many homeschool advocates constantly fight against all such government efforts to regulate homeschooling, including:

  • Accreditation of all homeschool programs.
  • Certification of parent/teachers, including those who teach other people's children.
  • Oversight of curricula and teaching materials.
  • Requirements that any home or other building used for collective homeschooling carry extra liability insurance to reflect its use as a school facility, meet stricter building and fire codes, and/or be properly zoned for such use.

In much of Europe, homeschooling is either illegal or is only allowed subject to restrictive conditions.[20] In some countries, this is due to a view that children's rights to participate in society through schooling override parents' rights to control them; in others (e.g. Sweden), to the idea that the state apparatus and certified teachers are better equipped to deliver unbiased quality education than parents;[21] and in still others, to fears that extremists might use homeschooling to indoctrinate children (e.g. in Germany it is prohibited for fear that covert neo-Nazis might make use of it). In the UK, homeschooling is legal but rare, and is stereotypically associated with left-wing radicals.

Actual homeschools[edit]

Alpha Omega Academy[edit]

Alpha Omega Academy is not to be confused with Alpha-Omega Institute, which also offers a homeschool program.

For an example of an actual homeschool and the things that it teaches, take a look at Alpha Omega Academy (of Iowa). AOA was an accredited, and on the surface seemed to have a perfectly viable (if overtly religious) curriculum.[22]

However, look beneath the shiny exterior and you'll find that students at AOA are being taught to believe that science is wrong when it doesn't agree with the Bible. The biology curriculum is informed by the work of Ken Ham, asserting that the Earth must be 6,000 years old,[23] or reinforcing the usual anti-evolution rhetoric.[24]

Oh, yeah, plus racism.[25]

Topics like history and English are taught in the most bare-bones fashion possible while still maintaining the same religiosity that you see in science classes. A Bible class is required to graduate from the school, and health class is handled about as well as you'd expect it to be.[26]

The online nature of the school, combined with the isolationist mindset of many parents who homeschool their children, means that many of the students have limited social contact, which makes it difficult for them to learn how to question their beliefs (or their education), inhibits the development of critical thinking, and makes it difficult for them to get help if they realize that they are being denied a decent education or experiencing other forms of abuse.

Others[edit]

It's not all bad, though. For an example of a secular homeschooling curriculum with all the accreditation one could ask for (per the Committee on International and Trans-Regional Accreditation), which was the first and is still considered (at least by the United States Foreign Service, which officially recommends it) to be about the best, see the Calvert School.Wikipedia

See also[edit]

Icon fun.svg For those of you in the mood, RationalWiki has a fun article about Homeschooling.

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. Though, in fairness, the teachers at Catholic and other private schools generally aren't either.
  2. Standardized tests are generally optional for homeschoolers.
  3. Many homeschooling resource websites have areas dedicated to Bible studies. Purportedly the largest one is BJU Press (part of Bob Jones University).[12] Three examples of smaller outfits include: Sonlight,[13] Mott Media,[14] and HomeschoolingSupply.com.[15]

References[edit]

  1. The Review of Elective Home Education: Second Report of Session 2009–10 (16 December 2009) House of Commons Children, Schools and Families Committee.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Homeschooling is on the rise and for children like Ayla Staer it has helped end a 'vicious cycle'
  3. Scholastic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics of Home School Students in 1998 by Lawrence M. Rudner (March 23, 1999) Education Policy Analysis Archives 7(8). Archived from May 3, 2009.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 How a true believer’s flawed research helped legitimize home schooling: Brian Ray says home-schooled students do better. His daughter tells a different story. by Laura Meckler (December 11, 2023 at 6:00 a.m. EST) The Washington Post.
  5. Home-Schooling in the US by Clive R. Belfield (January 2004) National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, Teachers College, Columbia University. Occasional Paper No. 88.
  6. The Impact of Schooling on Academic Achievement: Evidence From Homeschooled and Traditionally Schooled Students by Sandra Martin-Chang et al. (2011) Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science 43(3): 195-202.doi:10.1037/a0022697195.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Cardus Education Survey 2018: From the Classroom to the Workplace (August 19, 2019) Cardus.
  8. Homeschooled adolescents in the United States: developmental outcomes by Sharon Green-Hennessy (2014) J. Adolesc. 37(4):441-9. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2014.03.007.
  9. Homeschooling In Kentucky by Deborah Nelson et al. (2018) Office Of Education Accountability, Legislative Research Commission of Kentucky. Research Report No. 454.
  10. About Us Cardus Education Systems, Australia.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Homeschooling: An Updated Comprehensive Survey of the Research by Robert Kunzman & Milton Gaither (2020) Other Education: The Journal of Educational Alternatives 9(1):253-336.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Deb Richardson-Moore, "BJU Press Has Quietly Risen to Top in Homeschool Publications". Greenville News, 26 May 1996.
  13. Homeschool Bible Curriculum Sonlight.
  14. About Us Mott Media.
  15. HomeschoolingSupply.com
  16. Oversight Lacking: Under The Guise Of ‘Religious Freedom,’ Some Fundamentalist Homeschools And Day Care Centers May Be Subjecting Children To Harm by Rokia Hassanein (June 2017) Americans United.
  17. These activists want greater home-school monitoring. Parent groups say no way. by Lisa Grace Lednicer (March 2, 2017) The Washington Post.
  18. Educational Empowerment: A Child’s Right to Attend Public School by Carmen Green (2015) Georgetown Law Journal 103:1089-1133.
  19. New Jersey home schooling: The Wild West of education by Julie O'Connor (Jul. 10, 2011, 10:15 a.m.) NJ.com.
  20. See the Wikipedia article on Homeschooling international status and statistics § Europe.
  21. Home-school ban in Sweden forces families to mull leaving by Michal Elseth (July 18, 2010) The Washington Times.
  22. Alpha Omega Academy (archived from October 5, 2015).
  23. Screenshot of a test question asking whether Earth is 4.6 billion years old
  24. True or false: "If the theory of evolution were true it would not be possible to classify organisms into distinct categories." Because we all know that evolution makes rapid, extreme changes that leave a species in a state of constant chaos.
  25. Image of a textbook seemingly comparing animal breeding to interracial marriage. What?
  26. "Activity: Examine yourself" with questions of whether you obey God and trust Jesus.
  27. Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto (2010) New Society Publishers. ISBN 0865716692.
  28. The Underground History of American Education, Volume I: An Intimate Investigation Into the Prison of Modern Schooling by John Taylor Gatto et al. (2017) Valor Academy. ISBN 0998919101.