1/21/2012

Top 10 Reasons to Homeschool

How can I be a public school teacher and yet also a fan of homeschooling? As I see it, there's no conflict. Our public/private schools provide an absolutely essential social safety net, ensuring that all children - no matter how constrained their family circumstances - receive an education sufficient to allow them to function as adults and citizens in this increasingly complex world. But for those families that have the option and the passion to homeschool, there are so many potential benefits.  Here are some of them (in no particular order):
  1. Learn at Your Own Pace.  Public schools are constrained by their mission to deliver content that is aligned with a child's physical age. However, that's not how humans develop. Kids mature, both physically and cognitively, at different rates. Homeschooling allows you to accelerate, decelerate, or otherwise modify your curriculum to suit your child's cognitive readiness, free from the pressures inevitably exerted by standardized tests, teachers, and peers.
  2. Choose Your Own Instructional Strategy. There are so many pedigogical methods (styles of instruction - for example, Socratic, classical, Montesorri, etc.), each offering different and potentially exciting way to engage your child in learning. Homeschooling allows you to choose the pedigogical method that best suits your child ... or, better yet, to "mix and match" the best of several methods, creating a pedigogical approach customized to your child's learning style and intelligences.
  3. Values.  This often means "Christian values" when it comes to the current homeschooling community, but I use the term in a much larger context. Every family has values - whether it's a belief in hard work, healthy/sustainable living, living for the moment, or caring for your family, your church, your community, or your world. Homeschooling is an opportunity to infuse those values not just into your child's life, but also into their curriculum. (And if one of your values happens to be spending quality time together as a family, homeschooling is definitely a step in the right direction!)
  4. Scheduling/Quality of Life.  School is more than an intellectual constraint on your child; it's also a physical constraint on the family. Does your child have a vocation or passion that requires extra classes, lessons, or practices? Would you like to be able to expose your child to museums, natural wonders, historical sites - attractions that are typically open during school hours? Do you want to be able to travel as a family whenever you want - not just during the summer or spring break? Homeschooling allows you to wake up, eat, learn, take field trips, and vacation when you want - not when a school schedule dictates.
  5. Efficiency. Guess what? Homeschooling is efficient! Without lines and locker time, buses and set schedules, students are able to spend just as much time as they need on their academics - leaving all that time left over for other things.
  6. Authentic, Experiential Learning. Why do we teach our children to use textbooks, only to prepare them for careers and responsibilities that don't come with textbooks? Homeschooling allows students to learn from authentic materials, firsthand observation, and personal experience ... in short, the ways in which we, as adults, continue to learn throughout our lives.
  7. Functional Skills.  Schools may do a decent job of teaching kids to be scholars, but they do a less consistent job of teaching kids to be mature and responsible adults. Homeschooling allows you to infuse critical functional skills - such as cooking, paying bills, working, and maintaining a household - into your child's curriculum.
  8. Social Skills. I know - this is more typically offered as an argument against homeschooling! But what's natural about learning your social skills in a building inhabited by 900 people who are exactly your same age and maturity level? The world is a much more complex place, and the sooner children learn to interact with the real world in real contexts, the better.
  9. Electives. Life is too short to limit a child's interests to only 2 electives per semester! Homeschooling allows you to expose your child to multiple non-academic interests at one time.
  10. Make Your Child Responsible for their Own Learning.  Do your child a favor; make them responsible for their own learning as children, and they'll continue to learn for the rest of their lives.  With apologies in advance for butchering a timeless (and timely) quote: Give a child a fish and they'll eat for a day; teach a child to fish and they'll eat for the rest of their lives. In a world that is becoming exponentially more complex every decade, is there any more important gift you can give your child than the gift of lifelong learning?

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