Home education or homeschooling has been in the news quite a bit lately. There is an obvious difference between a parent who is suddenly forced to assume responsibility for his child’s education at home (among an already staggering array of responsibilities) and the parent who chooses to educate his child at home. It isn’t always a difference of a level of commitment, either.
One is stressed, confused, and concerned. The other is ready to learn how to learn and pass that along.
If you are the latter (or one of the former seeking help), you may appreciate understanding some of the benefits of home education.
The Benefits of Home Education
The Ability to Go At Your Child’s Pace
In an institutional setting, a student necessarily goes at the teacher’s pace. How otherwise could a teacher teach 30 different people at the same time? There are many students that will do well with this. But there will always be those on the mid- to outer edge of the bell curve who will not.
If you have a child that excels or needs remedial attention, home educating provides an excellent opportunity to meet your child where he or she is.
It is also important to note that there are very few of us who work at the same level in all subjects!
“Why — why,” said Elizabeth Ann, “I don’t know what I am at all. If I’m second-grade arithmetic and seventh-grade reading and third-grade spelling, what grade am I?”
The teacher laughed at the turn of her phrase. “You aren’t any grade at all, no matter where you are in school. You’re just yourself, aren’t you? What difference does it make what grade you’re in? And what’s the use of your reading little baby things too easy for you just because you don’t know your multiplication table?”
“Well, for goodness sakes!” ejaculated Elizabeth Ann, feeling very much as though somebody had stood her suddenly on her head.
“Why, what’s the matter?” asked the teacher again.
This time Elizabeth Ann didn’t answer, because she herself didn’t know what the matter was. But I do, and I’ll tell you. The matter was that never before had she known what she was doing in school. She had always thought she was there to pass from one grade to another, and she was ever so startled to get a little glimpse of the fact that she was there to learn how to read and write and cipher and generally use her mind, so she could take care of herself when she came to be grown up.
The 24/7 Learning Model
When attending an institutional school of some type, our children get the idea that “learning” is what they do while between those walls.
In the 24/7 learning model, we can show our children and students that learning occurs each and every minute of each and every day. (I used to exclude time engaged in sleep but have since modified this to fit the reality that, yes, there are those of us who learn things in our sleep!)
The school model follows the factory model in that a worker goes to work, and when he comes home, he seeks entertainment as a reward.
In a 24/7 learning model children learn that every minute of their time can be fun and educational at the same time. In other words, we aren’t hoping that we are done learning so that we can move on to the more entertaining aspects of life. Learning IS fun! (And just to caveat, we do need to learn things we will likely not find “fun.”)
In other words, learning becomes our lifestyle.
The World is My Oyster
There is freedom to cover subjects when they are encountered. There is no constraint on what can be covered when. Yes, it is important to provide a structured continuum when it comes to developing skills — particularly reading, writing, and math. But when it comes to content subjects, a student can learn anything as it comes up naturally in his world.
As I have explained elsewhere on this site, we cannot anticipate the opportunities that will occur — opportunities too rich to pass up simply because our schedules say, “today is the day we work on multiplication, study the Roman empire, and dissect a frog.” Sometimes the best academic lessons are those that happen serendipitously. And sometimes the best homeschooling days are those that veered seriously off the beaten path.
The World is Connected
Subjects are a necessity for teachers in a school setting. But not so much in a home educating setting, particularly for younger students.
Again, caveat with the fact that skills really do need to be approached in a systematic way.
Short of that, however, particularly at younger ages, it is a wonderful thing to see young students make connections. To have them write through the curriculum. Or read through the curriculum. To appreciate the connection between science and history and geography.
Unit studies are one of several ways to accomplish this type of learning. Studies created around a student’s interest is another.
Efficiency Makes Time
Home educating is efficient. Just like tutoring. One-on-one education means you start where the student is, provide him with the next step, then move on. No waiting in line, no homework, no busywork, no wasted time.
This means that when it comes to homeschooling there is more time in an educational day than in an institutional school setting.
Time for developing a passion, experimenting, taking music lessons (or gymnastics or chess or whatever the interest). Time for just thinking. And reading. Don’t forget reading.
One of the things I always wanted to make sure our children GOT was that they were in control of what they learned. There were no excuses for not knowing something. If you don’t know it you find out. My job was to facilitate this learning endeavor to encourage them to learn anything for themselves.
It is one of those soft skills — or in today’s terms, one of those things that create agile thinkers.
So necessary (today and always).
Yes. Really. It’s just different — and in many opinions — better. Let me let Calvert summarize:
For one thing, homeschoolers do not have the same exposure to peer pressure and bullying, both of which are tied to poorer academic performance and lower self-esteem.
Parents often decide to homeschool because they do not want their child’s values to be defined by their peers or for their children to face social ridicule or bullying. In private or public schools, the pressure to “fit in” or achieve a perceived level of social status among classmates can be quite great.
Homeschooling also means less daily interaction with large numbers of kids in a child’s age group. And homeschoolers can end up spending less time each day participating in organized sports and activities with their peers.
However, this does not mean that homeschoolers have no access to their peers, or have no ability to play sports or socially interact with others outside their family.
In fact, on average, homeschoolers participate more in their community, are less sedentary, and socialize with a wider mix of adults (especially professionals) than their public school counterparts.
Who Will You Be?
What does it mean to be educated? That is the question you’ll need to decide. There really isn’t just one correct answer. Our four goals for education are below.
Of course there are other tangibles such as cost (how much or little do you want to spend), future prospects (not a problem), your qualifications (got love?), and what about algebra (there’s an app for that). You’ll find more about these on our Still on the Fence page.
What To Do Next
OK. You are sold, you are ready (or not), and here you go. Now what?
Someone else has summarized this entire website better than even I could. So I’ll borrow:
1) Enjoy your kids. 2) Include them in your daily routine as much as possible. 3) Teach them to read. 4) Read to them. 5) Talk to them about what you all read, and about current events, interesting news stories, scientific discoveries, family conflicts and dilemmas, biblical principles and controversies, etc. 6) Encourage them to talk to you about the same. 7) Start noticing what they’re good at. 8) Encourage and facilitate what they’re good at. 9) Memorize poems and Bible verses. 10) Ditch the TV; limit computer time.
Let’s unpack that.
1. Enjoy your kids.
It goes so fast!
2. Include your children in your daily routine.
Talk as you go. Children love to be involved in whatever their parents are involved in.
To see how this worked out in my own life scroll toward the end:
3. Teach your children to read.
It is not as hard as you think. As Ruth Beechick said, “You know phonics.” You do!
4. Read to your children.
Read aloud. Often. Have at least one time each day to read aloud to your children. You may be surprised at how long you keep up this habit!
5. Talk with your children.
Talk about what you read. Have discussions about what they read. Interact over news stories. No need to be “preachy.” Part of talking and discussing is listening.
6. Have your children talk to you.
What do they know? What do they think? What are they interested in?
7. Observe what your children are good at.
8. Encourage and facilitate the interests of your children.
- 14 Ways to Plan Studies Around an Interest
- Finding 10,000 Hours
- 4 Ways to Provide Time for Productive Interests
10. Ditch the TV; limit computer time.
Another way we like to put this around here is live a learning lifestyle. Leave room to think. Pursue quality in the way time is spent. And by the way, it starts with you!
One way to accomplish this is to encourage your children to make a list of all of the things they are interested in. Start working down the list by providing time, space, and resources to cover things on the list.
Over the years (19 and one half at the time of this writing) we have reframed these ideas. Here are a few other tries:
- 8 Things to Make Time for … No Matter Your Method
- 5 Ways to Get More Out of Your Homeschool Experience
Whoever you are, from whatever walk of life, whether you are in this for a few weeks or months, or a few years, or for the long haul, it is my hope that you will find something to encourage you, to make you think, and to make your life easier.
Homeschooling for Excellence by David and Micki Colfax
This book was written in 1988. If you are looking for an up-to-date resource guide — this isn’t it. That said, I love this book! It shows what is possible, it helps you get your thinking out of the institutional mindset to something more compatible with tutoring. Along with For the Children’s Sake, when it comes to learning it will provide you with the big picture.
Summer School for Mom
In this series we walk you through setting things up, beginning with the beginning. A few of the topics we cover include:
- Defining education and success.
- Fostering a love of learning.
- Establishing a routine.
- Providing time for thinking and exploration.
- Differentiating between skill subjects and content subjects.
- Going at the child’s pace.
- Selecting materials to fit you, your child, your family, and your goals.
- Valuing productive time.