By Vicki Little
I’ve always carried an image around in my head about homeschooling that looks like a scene from “Little House on the Prairie.” For years, the stigma attached to home-schooled children has been that they are “strange, ” “socially awkward, ” or “ill-prepared for the real world.” These are outdated ideas that are quickly disappearing as the rate of children who are home schooled has steadily and substantially increased over the past 10 years. According to research posted by the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), homeschooling in the US is growing 2 percent to 8 percent per year, and currently there are about 2.2 million kids in grades K-12 who are home schooled.
I will be the first to admit that there is no way I could teach my own children. Case in point: When my son does his homework, he usually finishes the work while I’m still struggling to understand the question.
Plus my patience level is absolutely zero. My children and I would wind up in therapy if I tried to teach them. However, home-schooling has expanded into home-based schooling, which includes public K-12 online learning. Online schooling is growing in leaps and bounds. In public, charter, and private schools, online courses are being utilized to enhance learning, and in some cases, online courses are replacing teacher instruction for particular subjects. Many school districts also have online schools as a part of the district — very similar to the home-school programs. After doing some research, we presented all of the options to our children and discussed what is best for our family. Turns out, all four of us agreed that after our kids complete elementary school in the public school system, home-based schooling is the right option for us.
1. Home-based schooling does not have as many testing periods throughout the year. Therefore, the curriculum and daily schedule is not based on learning according to rigid standards, but rather, it is specific to the level of that particular student. The extra time and flexibility allows for more in-depth discussions and projects about subjects that interest the students.
2. Home-based schooling allows for more ‘life applications’ and down time. Time and resources are limited in the traditional school setting, which means that field trips are limited and school days are very structured. Home-based schooling means that kids can sit on the patio on warm days while they do their homework. They can take a trip to a museum to see an exhibit related to what they are learning. They can stop for an extra-long recess on a beautiful day or sleep late when the night before was busy. They will lose out on not having school on snow days, but it means no driving in bad weather! Further, the time school starts and ends is more flexible to allow for extra sleep at night, when needed.
3. Home-based schooling allows for a controlled environment to avoid mounting social stresses. According to the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation, “In situations of excessive stress or intense fear, social judgment and performance suffer through compromise to the neural processes of emotional regulation. Some stress is essential to meet challenges and can lead to better cognition and learning, but beyond a certain level, it has the opposite effect.” As children are growing, there are times when their hormones or lack of mature judgement override their sensibilities. Drama happens, bullying happens, and conflict happens. While all of this happens in any relationship, home-based schooling separates the social pressures from the academic environment so the latter isn’t affected.
4. School time will be spent focused on academics without social distractions, and there are other options for teaching social behavior. A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education found that students in online schooling instruction actually learn better than those in the traditional school setting. This is largely because they don’t have as many outside distractions — they don’t have to compete to get the teacher’s attention, and they don’t have to feel intimidated by other kids or worry about getting picked on while they learn. Proper social behavior is important, though, and it does need to be taught. Many of the K-12 online schools are connected to the local home school, so your child can go to specials with the other kids. Further, the time saved from passing periods, waiting in line, taking placement tests, or moving from one rotation to another can be put towards a multitude of outside activities that give children the same social experiences as school offers.
5. Home-based schooling allows us to meet our children’s particular needs. Every single child is different. They look different, they feel different, and they learn differently. My son learns better when he can take frequent breaks and think about the things he’s learned before he gets back to what he’s doing. He needs a lot of time to get his energy out, and he prefers to stand while he does homework. My daughter loves structure. She likes things neat. She prefers to get things done immediately and in one sitting. Home-based schooling allows both of them to learn in their unique ways. When a student learns something quickly, he or she can test and move on instead of waiting for a scheduled test date. If a child needs to run around the room for a few minutes, he or she can do so without disrupting the class. From personality traits, to learning styles, to anxiety levels, home-based schooling is easily customized to maximize learning.
There are pros and cons to any schooling decision, and while some kids may thrive in the home-based schooling environment, there are others who perform much better in the traditional school setting. The trick is finding what is best for your children and your family, and adjusting as needed to make it work.
Vicki Little is a work-at-home mom with two young kids. A Colorado native, she is the Publisher and Editor of Macaroni Kid Aurora and Downtown Denver. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering, reading, camping, or enjoying a bottle of wine with friends.
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