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. This is 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.
Collective homeschooling and the fight against government regulation and oversight
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 58 "homeschooled" students, 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. 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. 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, and in 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.
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."
Homeschooling parent/teachers are not held to the same standards as public school teachers in various US states (though, in fairness, the teachers at Catholic and other private schools generally aren't either), New Jersey being one example. While many have college degrees, those degrees may lack any relevance to a child's school curriculum (business administration, theology, basket-weaving, for example). But as long as their children/students pass standardized tests, few people raise questions about this disparity — no apparent harm, no apparent foul.
Despite this, studies in the USA (which mention in their very abstract that they are not controlled experiments, and also note that homeschooling parents tend to be far more affluent than average) demonstrate that "at every grade level, the mean performance of home school students whose parents do not have a college degree is still much higher than the mean performance of students taught in public schools." In fact, "having at least one parent who is a certified teacher appears to have no significant effect on the achievement levels of home schooled students. The test scores of students whose parents had ever held a teaching certificate were only three percentile points higher than those whose parents had not — in the 88th percentile versus the 85th percentile."
The homeschool industry
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, you might think "propaganda" is more accurate.) If you enter the word "homeschooling" into a search engine, followed by words like "myths," "horror stories," "cons," etc., you 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. "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."
Bob Jones University Press is purportedly the largest source of homeschooling textbooks in the US,, which is not an encouraging sign for homeschooling, and BJU Press is purportedly the largest publisher in South Carolina, which is not an encouraging sign for South Carolina.
Other reasons for homeschooling
There are various reasons to accept homeschooling aside from being a far-right religious nutter. In the UK, homeschooling is stereotypically associated with left-wing radicals, usually atheists, who consider conventional schooling to be capitalist propaganda. 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.
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 that they are unable to return to school.
A much rarer reason for homeschooling is a medical one: some students have severe health problems that make exposure to contagious diseases hazardous.
- 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
Homeskool kid makes good!
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, it's a sure bet that some of those student's homeschool science 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.
It is also quite possible that these shining examples of success come from other groups besides fundamentalist Christians who homeschool: those hippy types who don't want their children indoctrinated by "the establishment" to become capitalist tools (note the irony), or parents who feel that they can provide better facilities for their gifted or otherwise special-needs children. For example, disorders on the autism spectrum are sometimes associated with increased ability with mathematics or memory, the skills tested in math and spelling competitions. Since children with autism often have difficulty with social situations, their parents may homeschool them in order to give them a good education without forcing them into the often difficult social environment of a public or private school, while their natural abilities lead them to win these competitions. Also, there is much less of a need for a balanced education in for a homeschooled child, so they can focus an inordinate amount of time on something of little actual educational value, such as learning how to spell obscure words. On the other hand, the amount of understanding of linguistics, language evolution and other languages that a student acquires preparing for a national level spelling contest should not (opinion) be sneered at.
- John Taylor Gatto: Author of several books, including Weapons of Mass Instruction and The Underground History of American Education.
- Andrew Schlafly: Conservapedia is part of his homeschool curriculum. See his article for more details.
Alpha Omega Academy
For an example of an actual homeschool and the things that it teaches, take a look at Alpha Omega Academy. AOA is accredited, and on the surface seems to have a perfectly viable (if overtly religious) curriculum.
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, or reinforcing the usual anti-evolution rhetoric.
Oh, yeah, plus racism.
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.
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 learn how to question their beliefs (or their education), retards 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.
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.
- Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). The main organization fighting against all homeschool regulations.
- Links to articles concerning textbooks used for homeschooling:
- Creationism/ID textbooks declared not adequate preparation for college.
- "11 Eye-Opening Highlights From a Creationist Science Textbook"
- State DOE links A comprehensive state-by-state list of Board of Education website links for America.
- Coalition for Responsible Home Education — Advocates for homeschooled children's welfare
- Rudner, Lawrence M., Ph.D. "The Scholastic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics of Home School Students in 1998". Education Policy Analysis Archives. Volume 7 Number 8 March 23, 1999. ISSN 1068-2341 Retrieved 17 March 2009.
- 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.
- These activists want greater home-school monitoring. Parent groups say no way. by Lisa Grace Lednicer (March 2, 2017) The Washington Post.
- [https://georgetownlawjournal.org/articles/51/educational-empowerment-child-s-right/pdf Educational Empowerment: A Child’s Right to Attend Public School] by Carmen Green (2015) Georgetown Law Journal 103:1089-1133.
- Deb Richardson-Moore, "BJU Press Has Quietly Risen to Top in Homeschool Publications," Greenville News, 26 May 1996.
- Jenny Moore, "Greenville Benefits from BJU in Economic, Social Areas," Greenville News, 20 September 2006, 9A.
- Many homeschooling resource websites have areas dedicated to Bible studies. Three such examples: