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Does Homeschooling advance or hinder education?

By Malkie Khutoretsky
 Getty Images: Chris Hondros
the perspective - Salon cooperation
*Updated 2020
There are many preconceived notions about the concept of homeschooling. The entertainment world has sold us on a picture of macrame and totalistic ideologies. For example, the opening sequence to the film Mean Girls would have you believe that those who are homeschooled are  – or end up being – socially awkward.
Alternatively, let’s consider the public school system. There are serious underfunding issues and skyrocketing class sizes, which lead to passionate teachers practically being muscled out. Not to mention gun violence plaguing schools, and fears of coronavirus, it’s no wonder, then, that homeschooling has increased by almost 62% in just a decade. Parents are unlocking a new world of education. Could there be something to this increasingly popular homeschooling thing after all?
The following are three disadvantages and three advantages of homeschooling.


The Cons of Homeschooling


The Ultimate Echo Chamber

According to a 2017 government report, only a quarter of parents take any prep courses before homeschooling their children. The legislation on homeschooling differs so dramatically from state to state and case to case, making it extremely difficult for any sense of community between peers. This lack of exposure to other peers and teachers and their diverse experiences begs the question of whether the homeschooling environment deprives a child of a holistic education. In contrast, a school is a place where a child’s views are challenged by different personalities, points of views and ways of life. They also have access to nurses and guidance counselors. Not to mention that when children attend a traditional school, they are exposed to socialization, and organized music and sports programs, which opens horizons further, contributing to their development.


Financial Burden

For many families, the question of education is limited to what is most accessible and affordable. For homeschooling to work, at least one parent is typically playing an active role in the education process. This means planning and execution of a curriculum. As such, homeschooling either means one spouse gives up their job and income or else hiring a tutor to be brought in. Homeschooling does not come with scholarships or donors. With the poverty rate in America at nearly 12%, with almost one is six kids living in poverty, is homeschooling just another privilege keeping the educated, educated, and the working class, struggling?


Homeschooling Sets Unnecessary Hurdles 

The GED, or high school equivalency test, demonstrates that the level of knowledge obtained by a student is that of a high school graduate. The GED is generally viewed as the equivalent to a high school diploma, which is why it is the most common standardized test for a homeschooler at the end of his or her education. And although it is common to take the GED, people who pass it are no better off than high school dropouts in the eyes of many employers. Jobs that require only a GED will keep your child at minimum wage with little room for growth. Navigating the job market is a daunting task at the best of times. Isn’t every parent’s mission to prepare their children for the great big world? As there are more college and employment options with an accredited high school diploma, it seems beneficial in the long term to educate children through traditional school systems.


There’s no place like home(school)


Active Members of The Community

Homeschooling as an educational practice builds itself on the values of family, community and involvement. While many homeschooled children are, as the name implies, schooled at home in a one-on-one situation, others learn while participating as active members of their community. Unlike public or private schools, homeschooling methods, are varied and highly adaptable. Every day is a possible field trip, a lesson to learn out in nature, at science museums, cultural experiences, or volunteering in communities. A rural student and an urban student both have the advantage of seeing the consequences of their actions as the world around them changes – and learning from the unconventional experience.


Fosters Genuine Academic Curiosity 

By taking on homeschooling, parents are role-modeling for their child the ideals of personal responsibility and a strong sense of identity. Children develop a sense of agency about their learning, and its trajectory, when they feel their role in it. Homeschooled kids are hardly limited on options. Seventy-four percent of homeschool graduates aged 18-24 go on to some form of tertiary education. Homeschool graduates also have a college graduation rate of 66.7% compared to traditional high school graduates’ whose college graduation rate is 57.5%. Plus, as the culture in many traditional school systems breeds an atmosphere of competitive achievement, students can become focused on ‘winning’ rather than learning. Homeschooled students likely face less to no competitive pressure.


A Sound Investment

Research shows that family income has little to no influence on their ability to successfully homeschool. Public schools, on the other hand, receive funding according to district. This means students’ education is staggered depending on their financial situation. With public schools choking under shrinking budget and often misappropriated funds, it’s hard to face copping the hidden costs of public education.  For instance, costs involved in extracurricular activities, tutors to help keep your child’s head above water in a competitive environment, and whatever laptop and accessories the school deems mandatory.


The Bottom Line: What worked once in the public school system may not be working any longer, especially in today’s unprecedented times. Perhaps homeschooling, despite its personal and monetary commitment, is the right alternative. What do you think? Are we moving towards a future of educational pioneers or should we leave the educating to the classroom?


SALON is an award-winning online source for news, politics, culture, and entertainment. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

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