When the tomatoes at your local market are less than desirable, you may start looking elsewhere for your produce. No one intentionally shops for tomatoes that are unripe, hard, and green, or worse, bruised and blemished. If the supermarket produce is less than satisfactory, consumers may turn to a specialty grocer, the weekly farmer’s market, or start their own garden plot at home in the backyard or in a few pots on the patio or balcony.
A similar phenomenon is happening with education. Consumers (parents), who have become dissatisfied with the educational product of the mainstream schools, are turning to other means for their children’s academics, including the do-it-yourself method, homeschooling.
My husband and I turned to homeschooling because of health reasons: our daughter suffered from migraine headaches, and the school nurse didn’t believe us or our doctors. My daughter’s frequent absences were a problem with the school’s administration, although her grades never slipped, since I was able to tutor her at home and keep her on track with the rest of the students. Meanwhile, I had noticed that the classroom’s progress was not ideal. The teacher got important concepts wrong and was unable to teach critical math skills. This ineffectual teaching forced us to take matters into our own hands. Literally. I do not have a teaching degree, but I quickly realized that I could certainly do no worse than our local elementary school was already doing.
Our reasons for homeschooling are not unique. A survey of homeschooling families today would reveal many who are motivated by their children’s health concerns or special needs issues. Another, larger group would say they are dissatisfied with the quality of education provided by today’s schools, both public and private. Those parents who are re-teaching the material to their child every night, as I was, cannot help but see that they are already the primary educator of that child; they just have the worst time slot of the day in which to do it. Classroom size and the related student-to-teacher ratios, the disappearance of fine arts programs, and sex and violence in the schools are sub-topics of the “quality of education” issue.
A few more families would list flexibility as their primary reason for choosing homeschooling: students can pursue a variety of individual activities, while still maintaining their academic endeavors. Today’s homeschooled students may very well be tomorrow’s Olympic champions or symphony musicians, since the freedom of a homeschool schedule allows more time to focus on one’s passions. Childcare concerns, changes in the job market, and relocation of the family also depend on the flexibility of homeschooling to help families maintain stability during lifestyle changes.
Some families opt for homeschooling after the government schools have failed to meet their students’ needs. Some families are able to decide before preschool (or even sooner) that they want to keep their children at home for school. Some families homeschool for only a year or two, while others prefer home education from preschool through high school and even on into college-at-home. The duration is determined by the family’s preference, just as the methods and materials used are also each family’s choice.
I am often asked about the benefits of homeschooling, a difficult question simply because of the vast range of its answers. First and foremost, I see the improved relationship of the family as the chief benefit, even before any academic advantages are considered. Parents and children bond as teacher and students in a way that non-homeschooling families just cannot understand. The freedom and flexibility of the homeschooling schedule allow for spontaneous family activities, all of which have educational benefits, whether obvious (or intended) or not. That relaxed schedule is a tremendous boon to most families — the opportunity to do things in whatever order or method works best for each family and each student (which, incidentally, is the philosophy of Guilt-Free Homeschooling: homeschooling should be comfortable, relaxed, and fit your family’s lifestyle).
The one-on-one attention that homeschooling provides is far superior to any classroom. Even large families are able to provide individual attention to each student when he needs it, along with the training in independent learning, which prepares homeschooled students for handling college classes (and life in general) on their own. Parents of special needs students find that no teacher, no matter how well trained, can know the student or love the student as well as the parent can. The parent who has lived with the special needs child 24/7 since birth understands more and at a deeper level than a teacher who is hired to cover seven hours a day, five days a week, nine months of the year.
Homeschooling is extremely popular with conservative Christian families, although it is practiced by families of every religious and political persuasion. Besides the reasons of academic excellence and personalization, homeschooling allows families to emphasize their own philosophies and worldviews. Government-mandated curricula are often based on evolutionary principles, which are diametrically opposed to Creationists’ beliefs. Homeschooling allows these families to use materials that support their beliefs, such as that life is sacred and a precious gift from God, the Creator. Government-funded schools do not allow prayer and do not teach the Bible, even as literature, although many anti-Christian religious philosophies and practices are now showing up in those same schools under the guise of “diversity.” Families for whom personal Christianity is the guiding force in their lives want to see their children educated with God-centered principles, a Creationist viewpoint, and a Biblical worldview. They will not accept submitting their children to antithetical teaching day in and day out.
Homeschooling is not a fad, although some people treat it as such. Public schools, sponsored by a government, are the “new kid on the block.” Personal tutoring had been the educational standard for centuries, until the time of the American Civil War, when it became fashionable to apply industrial methods to education by grouping local children together for academic efficiency. The homeschooling movement, in general, is providing a return to excellence and individuality in education, a return to a focus on the family as an institution in society, and a return to individual responsibility as a primary duty of citizenship. In this postmodern era, some old-fashioned homeschooling is just what this world needs.