Is Home School Right for Your Kids?

Home School Pros & Cons

by Laura Pickford Ramirez

The number of parents who are educating their children at home is growing. According to The Parent Survey which is published by the National Household Education Surveys Program, in the spring of 1999, approximately 850,000 students were home schooled. (In 2001, the numbers topped one million which comprises about 1.7 percent of the U.S. population.) For those parents who are considering home schooling, this article will lay out some of the pros and cons of taking charge of your child's education. For those who plan to continue with the public education system, this will prompt you to think about ways to provide a well-rounded education both in and out of school.

Parents home school their children for different reasons. Often there is a precipitating event or series of incidents at school that causes a parent to remove her child from the public school system. I've spoken to many parents and each of them had different reasons for homeschooling their children.

One parent was worried because her child had been labeled ADHD. This child was performing poorly and frustrated because he was getting left behind in school. She purchased a behavioral program that teaches ADHD kids how to focus and now, he excels in a home school environment.

A father of two boys took his kids out of school after the death of their mother. The boys were turning into troubled kids: acting out their grief, being defiant with teachers and lashing out at other kids. This dedicated dad decided that he needed to take his kids out of the public school environment, so he could help them correct angry behaviors and spend more time with them, so their hearts could heal. Although it was difficult to hold down a full time job and teach his kids at home, he made the sacrifice and it was well worth it because his boys are fine young men today. As a parent, you only get one chance to raise your kids.

Another parent home schools her three young boys because they are all exceptionally smart and were bored in school. These children are small for their age and were constantly being teased. Another friend pulled her child out of school after her child was victimized by a bully and the principal decided it wasn't fair to give the bully consequences. Although home schooling is not for everyone, in order to make the right choice for your family, you should carefully weigh the pros and cons.

Yet another parent found that her daughter was having difficulty learning to read. When she objected that her child wasn't being taught to read phonetically by sounding out words and the school system refused to do anything about it, she took her out of school to teach her child to read.

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Parents who home school take charge of their children's education.

One advantage of home schooling is that you take control of your child's education. This means that you emphasize what you feel is important for academic promotion and success in life. As a home school teacher, you select and follow a curriculum or let your child proceed at his own pace. You can also encourage your child's exploration of passionate interests and spend more time in the areas in which he needs extra help.

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If your child learns primarily by doing, rather than hearing or seeing, then you can structure the lessons in home school so he learns in the mode in which he is best suited. (This is especially important for children who are not highly verbal--the population on which traditional school places its focus. If your child is a slow learner, it may be because his is more visually or kinesthetically oriented.)

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Another advantage of homeschooling is that you can include important subjects that are often neglected in traditional school. For instance, to enhance your children's vocabulary comprehension, you can teach Latin and Greek. Since Latin is the root of all romance languages, knowledge of common root words, prefixes and suffixes will help your child in determining the meaning of unfamiliar words.

In much the same way, you can teach that there are many ways to solve a problem. For instance, if your child is fascinated by math, teach the concepts of Vedic math. Vedic math is a system that teaches children to make calculations in the same way they read--from left to right. This mirrors the way the brain works, allowing children to perform complex calculations easily in their head. This method allows you to quickly calculate change, double-check bills or multiply long numbers in your head. (To read more about this system, go to: Vedic Math Lessons.

In a home school environment, you can insulate your children from bullying, teasing, foul language and other inappropriate behaviors. As a parent, I've been surprised by some of the language my children have learned at school. By homeschooling your kids, you'll have more control over the influences to which your child is exposed.

Another advantage of homeschooling is that the family can take a break and go on vacation whenever it's convenient. This means that you can travel off-season and take advantage of reduced airfare and hotel costs. You can make travel a part of your child's studies. If you can afford to take a road trip or travel internationally, you can make it a fun, but educational trip. This is a great way to expose your child to different regions and cultures. Rather than just reading about these places, your child wil be mired in the experience. This will open his eyes to the world.

Now that we've laid out some of the advantages of home schooling, let's talk about some of the disadvantages. The first and most frightening thing for parents is that homesechooling places the responsibility for their child's education squarely in their lap. Since parents are not licensed teachers, they may feel insecure about their ability to teach. Although teachers are highly qualified by their experience and credentials, a parent can follow a curriculum plan.

Another disadvantage of home schooling is that some parents are afraid they won't have enough patience to work with their children each day. When I mentioned to a girlfriend that I was writing an article on homeschooling, she said, "Oh, I could never do that." When I asked why, she said that she wouldn't have enough patience and that she really needed the break that sending her kids to school affords her. This is a valid point. Some personalities are better suited to homeschooling than others. Many parents need some time away from their children. Before you decide to home school, you should carefully consider your disposition.

Critics of homeschooling have pointed out that since homeschooled children are exposed to fewer kids, they may not learn the socialization skills that are paramount in learning to live peaceably with others. While it's true that home schooled children are exposed to a smaller population of children, many areas have home school co-ops that organize field trips, special classes, and major events, like proms. Still, getting together with kids once a week is different than having to deal with children of different temperaments and from different socioeconomic classes and belief systems every day.

In the same way, homeschooled children are exposed to a limited number of authority figures. Children who go to public school must learn to get along with principals, music teachers, computer teachers, librarians, administration and cafeteria personnel. Children must learn to get along with authorities who may have biases against them. By contrast, a child may encounter a teacher who takes her under her wing and encourages her interest in a particular subject. Although these encounters with other authorities may be positive, negative or neutral, they increase a child's exposure to authority figures other than the parents. This is important in terms of learning to get along with a variety of people.

Of course, the biggest disadvantage of home schooling is not to the children or family, but to the public school system itself. Parents who home school are committed individuals who are willing to make sacrifices to ensure that their children get the best education possible. When these dedicated parents leave the system, they often leave a gaping hole.

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Homeschooling is not for everyone. Before you make the decision to home school, carefully weigh the pros and cons. If your children are bored, harassed, or being left behind in public school, you may want to consider homeschooling.

Once you decide what's best for you and your family, proceed with confidence. There are plenty of resources and caring people who will be willing to offer guidance. If you decide to homeschool, make a firm commitment. Rest assured that if it doesn't work out, your children can return to the public school system.

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