I believe both going to school and being homeschooled have unique benefits and advantages.
I’m not writing to advocate one form of schooling over another. I am writing because I believe the strengths of homeschooling go largely unnoticed, and I would like to point some of them out. I’m approaching these reflections from the perspective of educational pedagogy, not morality (although that also plays an essential role in education), or finances and other factors that could make homeschooling preferable.
Right now, I work in a private school, so I see on a daily basis the benefits a school has to offer, as do many other people. I think the advantages of homeschooling, in terms of educational pedagogy, are less well known, possibly because homeschooling has received such a bad rap from the media and from many public/private school advocates.
Ironically, I believe the main strengths of homeschooling are differentiation and inquiry-based learning, the exact two areas many systems of education are currently pushing to improve. Perhaps they would do well to take a lesson or two from their homeschooling counterparts.
I am not saying that every homeschooling situation gives rise to these opportunities, but that the parameters of homeschooling, if implemented well, allow for them, and MANY, MANY homeschooling families have tapped into this potential.
- Homeschooling allows children often have a say in the resources they use. Their parents purchase or put together a curriculum with guiding topics, but the children can have input in what books they read and what topics they explore more in depth. This enables them to identify and pursue their individual interests and talents within the parameters of their curriculum.
- Homeschooling allows children to help develop their own experiments and projects to demonstrate what they learn. This gives them continual opportunities to develop higher level thinking skills, making predictions, analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating.
- Homeschooling allows children to take their learning experience outside of the “classroom”. They do complete a number of “traditional” desk assignments, but they learn a lot by interacting with their environment.
- Homeschooling allows children to discover and maintain conditions that best help them study. It might be alone in a quiet room, or listening to classical music, or sitting outside under a tree. The actual location is secondary to the objective of learning – whatever location enhances learning for the child is fine.
- Homeschooling allows children to adapt their schedule based on their learning needs. Again, differentiation. If a child learns better in the afternoon, they can do their studying then. If a child learns best by doing all their studying first thing in the morning, or by dividing their studies into blocks with fairly long breaks in between, why not, as long as they are maximizing their learning potential through their tailored schedule?
- Even though many people fear the risk of lacking “socialization”, homeschooling can actually have the opposite effect, especially if the homeschooling family participates regularly in a homeschooling group or other extracurricular organizations. The homeschooling environment frequently involves students of multiple ages studying different curriculums in the same home. This gives each child the opportunity to learn how to deal with people of all ages… how to respect people in authority, learn from older peers, and reach out to help younger children.
- Many homeschoolers are very well articulate, able to formulate an opinion, justify it, and communicate it clearly and persuasively. This is largely due to points already mentioned above, namely their ability to explore areas of interest and learn through experience. It also has to do with the flexibility of curriculum – students are able to study a given topic from multiple resources, which can give them a broader understanding of the subject.
Again, I am not suggesting that everyone rush to homeschooling and shut down the public and private systems. There is a valid need for all three. I AM suggesting that the public and private schools consider implementing, to the degree possible with a large student body, some of the methods used by homeschoolers, such as, for example, giving students more say in what resources they use, allowing more flexibility of scheduling, allowing students more freedom of movement (which implies teaching them more responsibility) so they can study in a variety of places when not in a particular class, and allowing students more of a say in developing their own experiments and assessment projects.
I hope that, as time goes by, homeschooling educators can contribute more to dialogue and research in tangent with public/private school educators, so all dimensions can mutually learn from each other’s experiences and methods, and together take the broader field of education forward.