Schoolhouse or Home School?
What do George Washington and the Hanson brothers have in common? Do you give up? Well, the answer is that both of them were educated in their homes. Queen Elizabeth, Thomas Edison, and Theodore Roosevelt were also educated at home. According to the Home Education Research Institute, 1.5 million students are staying home for class today. This number is five times more than ten years ago (Kantrow and Wingert 66). This trend leads to many questions. Does home school education work? Do students receive a proper education? How does a home school student s education compare to that of public school student? Does home schooling isolate a child socially? These questions are concerns of parents, educators, and politicians alike. The future of America rests on the academic and social education of our youth, and home school education should be considered as an effective alternative to public school education.
In the past, parents mainly chose to educate their children at home because of religious preference. These parents viewed the public school system as a source of negative influence on children. Violence, sex, drugs, and peer pressure were influences these parents sought to avoid. However, today parents have other reasons for home school education, which primarily all point to a lackluster public school system. Other reasons include a desire to build a strong family closeness, safety, and a handful of parents chose home school for their children because of special needs such as disabilities or special talents. However, no matter how good the reasons, the home school education system must prove to be an acceptable alternative to public schools.
There are many advantages to giving a student a home school education. First, parents can make direct decisions concerning what their children are taught. According to the Home School Statistics and Reports in 1997, written by founder and President Dr. Brian D. Ray, seventy-one percent of the parents who educate their children hand pick the curriculum from a variety of books, videos, and educational manuals. Another twenty-three percent order entire cirriculum packages (Ray 14). With the technology of today, parents have an unlimited source for information via the Internet, which can be easily integrated in home school education.
The study also shows the education level of the parent supervising and administering the curriculum has little or no effect on the quality of education received by a student. Home-educated students whose parents did not have college degrees scored equally high on tests compared to students whose parents had college degrees(Ray 56). In addition to students own parents teaching them, groups are formed among home school families. These groups allow students to be taught a variety of subjects by different parents that have a better understanding of subjects such as algebra, chemistry, and biology. These groups also take field trips, participate in sports, and do volunteer projects together.
Another advantage of home schooling is the quality of education received by the student. How do home school students compare with public school students? This is a very important question to answer, but the answer can never be a concrete one. However all of the research I did shows that students educated in their homes have an equal or higher level of academic skills compared to the public school students. In the 1997 and 1998 ACT test scores, home school students averaged a score of 23; meanwhile the public school students averaged a score of 21(Farris 8). Also, on nationally standardized achievement exams home students again outscored public school students by at least thirty percentile points(Ray 7). While these numbers can t truly reflect the comparison, an equal percentage of students from both groups seek college education(Ray 9).
The government on all levels faces problems concerning the public school system. Funding for schools tops the problem list; local school boards and city governments are continuously fighting for tax proposals, meanwhile students in the schools suffer because of poor facilities and low salaries for teachers. The cost for taxpayers to send one student to a public school for one year is approximately $5325, while a home school student costs a parent $546 per year (Ray 11). Could an increase in home schools cut taxes? Could the money allotted for education now be used more effectively if there were fewer students? Maybe or maybe not, but if fewer students were in public schools, the chances of giving the public school student a better educational environment would increase.
Many people who oppose home school programs claim interactions with other children at school are vital to their education. However, this argument usually does not work because parents who home school do not want to release their children into the negative influences that infect the public school system. After an interview with Beverly Decateau, a mother who taught her children at home for over seven years; I found that home school students participate in equally as many or more activities than public school students do. Her children and many others she knew of were active in church groups, Four-H groups, sports teams, and dance squads. All of these activities can be considered social interactions. I don t believe the public school system has a responsibility to socialize students; that job belongs to parents. In a public school system, some students can be pinpointed and teased, and these images can damage children for life.
Despite the several advantages of the home school system, many people still oppose home schooling. Home school students may not miss interactions with other students, but they will miss the experience. Certain experiences at school are considered an important part of the American way of life. Public school students will never forget experiencing homeroom parties, pep rallies, and finding classes on the first day of high school. Can a home school student s experience compare? Probably not, but to what importance these experiences play in the education and socialization skills of a student depends on each individual student.
Home school education can cause problems among children and parents. Children who have parents constantly looking over their shoulders may have difficulty breaking away from home to attend college or enter the workplace. Children might also have trouble respecting their own parent as an educator, and this lack of respect may have a negative effect on the student s education. In order for home school education to work, the parents must be willing to sacrifice time and patience above and beyond the average parents. The parents must also be willing to give up their own careers for the future of their children. Furthermore, not all children can be successful home school students. The children must be able to make friends in informal settings, and see home school education as a way of exploring different avenues of learning.
Not everyone can educate their children at home, but the more students who can receive a solid education at home would improve the education given to students at public schools. Fewer students would lead to smaller classrooms where higher paid teachers could give more attention to public school students. Funds and taxes could be used more effectively because there would be fewer students to accommodate. In the future we should support home school programs and public school education to interact with each other for the benefit of all students. Regardless of where the education of America s youth takes place, it is vital that parents have a major role in the education of their children in order to build strong families and a strong America.
Decateau, Beverly. Personal interview. 2 NOV 1998.
Ray, Brian D. Home School Statistics and Reports Home School Legal Defense Home Page.Dec 1997 http://www.hsdla.org//.