‘Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.’- Beatrix Potter (Khurana)
Homeschooling is a flourishing phenomenon within the United States. In the early 1980s, the general public had never heard of homeschooling, but today, almost everyone has (HSLDA). On average, homeschoolers tend to do better academically than students attending public schools. Despite the public’s contrary beliefs, children who are homeschooled also receive an exceptional amount of socialization. In addition, where flexibility is lacking in public schools, it thrives in the homeschooling world. According to the US Census, as many as two million American children are schooled at home, with the number growing as much as 15 to 20 percent per year. As homeschooling and public schooling are compared based on education, socialization, and flexibility, the reasons why so many families are converting to homeschooling becomes apparent.
The first of these reasons is the extraordinary education homeschooling provides.
One major difference in education between home and public schools is the class variety. Home schoolers may choose from a myriad of different classes. While some children might prefer to take physics their senior year, others may favor marine biology. Similarly, homeschooled students have their choice of electives. They have almost limitless possibilities, including classes like sign language, drama, Shakespeare, botany, and cooking. Furthermore, they may take as many of these as time permits, often three or more. In addition to class preferences, homeschoolers tend to achieve high academic standards. Due to small class sizes, children may move at their own pace and are not overlooked. Regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, parent education level, teacher certification, or the degree of government regulation, the academic achievement scores of home educated students significantly exceed those of public school students. On average, homeschoolers out-perform their public school peers by 30-37 percentile points across all subjects (HSLDA). Statistics also demonstrate that homeschoolers tend to score above the average on both their SAT and ACT scores (Bauman). As one can see, the wide variety of class choices and amazing academic achievements portray just how outstanding home education is.
However, America’s public schools do not compare. While homeschoolers have variety in their class choices, there are very few high schools which offer courses like marine biology. This means that if students intend to take a fourth year of science in high school, they are stuck with a class which may not interest them. In contrast to homeschooling, the average high school offers students a rather limited choice of electives, like the ever-present art, Spanish, P.E., computer skills, and band. Moreover, public schools limit the amount of electives a student may partake in, usually to two classes. Just as public schools are lacking in class choices, their academic acquisitions are similarly poor. US children rank at the bottom of nineteen industrial nations in reading, writing, and arithmetic (Whitehead; Crow 13). The large class sizes in public schools make it easy for a child to sneak through grades unnoticed. In the book Home Education: Rights and Reasons, this is verified: ‘Approximately four million adults joined the ranks of illiterates each year during the period 1975-84. These increases were offset somewhat by the recent efforts to increase adult illiteracy. However, such efforts to ameliorate adult illiteracy do not address the four million persons annually who slip through the schools without an ability to read (23)’Although the public schools are in a unique position to help; the task appears too difficult for the current system (24).’ Despite the mediocre education in public school, there are still many who disapprove of homeschooling.
Opponents of homeschooling argue that even if children do receive a better education at home, they will lack the proper socialization skills needed to be functional members of society (Whitehead; Crow 133). One of the most frequently asked questions homeschoolers encounter is ‘What about socialization?’ What most people don’t think about is the large amount of extracurricular activities in which homeschoolers participate. The homeschooled child, who spends only two hours a day, seven days a week, year round on basics alone, logs over three times as many hours ‘on task’ in a given year than does his [public schooled] counterpart (Whitehead; Crow 87). This means that homeschooled children have a great deal of free time in which to engage in outside activities. The data on homeschool students’ activities and community involvement reveal that, on average, these children are engaged in 5.2 activities outside the home, with 98% involved in two or more (HSLDA). Often, these activities include scouts, volunteer work, dance classes, field trips, and sports. Just as homeschooling can lead to positive socialization, so can it block negative socialization. Parents can control destructive influences such as various temptations, false teaching, and negative peer pressure (Whitehead; Crow 133). In addition, homeschooling can lead to exquisite family ties, as members spend so much time together. The family experiences unity, closeness, and enjoyment of each other (Whitehead; Crow 133). On the other hand, public schools do not have such a brilliant socialization technique.
Although children in public school may have some time for extracurricular activities, their time is usually squandered on endless schoolwork. Nevertheless, the negative socialization schools offer far outweighs the positive. John Holt, the author of Schools and Homeschoolers: A Fruitful Partnership, suggests that peer groups in school have a negative effect on children’that children learn from peers that it is ‘smart’ to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and even turn to drugs (Whitehead; Crow 134). Rape, aggravated assault, and robbery are common crimes at US schools. More than 400,000, or about 2% of the US’s 12-19 year olds were victims of violent crimes at their own schools, the Federal Government just reported in its National Crime Victimization survey (Whitehead; Crow 32). Finally, students in public schools have little time to spend with their family. For instance, the average child spends a mere 14 minutes per week in conversation with his parents, while he or she is presumably influenced by peers and teachers at school for approximately 30 hours each week during the school year (Whitehead; Crow 133).
The final factor homeschooling and public schooling may be compared by is flexibility. Homeschoolers are free to explore the world around them; they turn every moment into a learning experience. Furthermore, homeschooling encourages curiosity and free thinking by allowing children to learn by doing; not just by continual busywork. Students who are home schooled are also able to wake up at a reasonable hour. This means that children can get the amount of sleep they need. According to Michael J. Breus, children ages 7-12 need 10-11 hours of sleep and 12-18 year olds need 8 ‘ to 9 ‘ hours of sleep. By being able to wake up at a reasonable time, homeschooled children can focus more on their school work. Finally, homeschooling provides a serene atmosphere, allowing children to wear comfortable clothing, use relaxing seating, and work in a well-lit area. Students do not need to carry around an insanely heavy backpack, and most eat a nutritional home-cooked lunch daily–features that public schools lack.
Public school systems tend to be unyielding. Their confining curriculum makes it arduous to think outside the box. As Einstein once said: ‘It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.’ (Khurana). But free thinking is not the only issue with flexibility the public schools are dealing with. Children in public schools are often fatigued due to the early starting time of classes. One study of US high school students found that 13% were chronically sleep deprived (Breus). What’s more, public schools have anything but a comfortable atmosphere. Chairs that the students continuously sit in are hard and awkward, and lighting in school buildings is fluorescent and annoying. Students’ shoulders are weighed down with bulky backpacks, causing back and shoulder pain, and school lunches are nutritionally lacking and less than desirable. All-in-all, the free thinking, wake up time, and comfort of public schools make for a faux pas in flexibility.
Although homeschooling and public schooling have two main similarities’they are both intended for education and supply some sort of socialization’their differences are quite numerous. While home schooling provides exceptional class choices, a reputable education, positive socialization, a restful atmosphere, and open mindedness, public schooling simply doesn’t compare. Restricted class choices, inferior education, negative peer pressure, an awkward atmosphere, and a lack of free thinking are the ingredients that await students in public school. As one can see, when these two forms of education are studied based on education, socialization, and flexibility, homeschooling always comes out on top.
Bauman, Kurt J. Homeschooling in the United States: Trends and Characteristics. Aug. 2001. US
Census Bureau. 28 Feb. 2009
Breus, Michael J. How Much Sleep Do Children Need?. 29 May. 2008. Web MD. 5 Feb. 2009
HSLDA. 22 Oct. 2004. HSLDA Advocates for Homeschooling. 27 Feb. 2009
Khurana, Simran. Funny School Quotes. About.com. 5 March. 2009
Whitehead, John W., and Alexis Irene Crow. Home Education: Rights and Reasons. Wheaton,
IL: Crossway books, 1993.