So your tiny baby is suddenly a lively 4.5 year old and you’re seeing notices that it’s time to enroll them into school. But you are not sure that public school is the best fit for your family. Here are some factors to consider when trying to decide between homeschooling and public school for your child. Kindergarten is the perfect time to try out homeschooling and you can read why here. This post will cover homeschooling vs. public school in general.
Discussing the advantages of homeschooling will naturally shed light on the shortcomings of the public school system. However, there are some distinct advantages children have in public school and these will be explored. Finally, I’ll focus on ways to bring these seemingly disparate worlds together. For the record after teaching my child at home I have an ever greater respect and appreciation for those who teach full classrooms of children. Kudos to the teachers out there.
TAILORED CURRICULUM (+1 for homeschooling)
The greatest advantage homeschooling has over any school, be it public or private, is being able to completely tailor the learning experience to the student. Regardless of ability or situation homeschooling can easily accommodate your student. The individual attention parents are able to give their children means more questions get answered, roadblocks are easier to identify, and time is utilized more fully. Curriculum can be adjusted to learning style, temperament, and personal interests. In large public classrooms teaching to the middle is the default leaving both ends out.
FLEXIBILITY (+1 for homeschooling)
Another great advantage of homeschooling is the flexibility. Time flexibility means that you can work around family schedules. It allows for learning to fit into family life rather than family life revolving around the school’s hours and calendar. There is no commuting, nor packing a lunch, and you can take vacations when everyone else is in school and flights are cheaper. In fact location flexibility means you can take your learning on the road! What’s not to love?
SOCIALIZATION (even match)
One of the common criticisms of homeschooling is a “lack of socialization”. This assumes that that learning is limited almost completely to the home environment much like most public school teaching is conducted in the physical school building. That could not be further from the truth. Learning co-ops, field trips, meetups, art classes, and team sports are some of the varied opportunities available for homelearners to learn and socialize. In fact there so many opportunities that it can become quite overwhelming trying to fit everything in.
BULLYING and PEER PRESSURE (-1 for public schools)
When it comes to socialization the public schools look pretty scary, at least the ones portrayed in the media! Extreme bullying, early sexualization and sexual harassment, access to alcohol and drugs, guns and other weapons at school, and the driving force behind a lot of these problems – peer pressure. While the news reports obviously focus on the worst of the worst, these issues are pervasive and parents have legitimate concerns. Homeschooling can provide a safe environment where kids can be kids and not little mini-adults. They have the rest of their lives to worry about adult concerns.
AGE SEGREGATION (-1 for public schools)
There is one way in which homeschooling trumps the schools in diversity though. In public schools there is an artificial segregation by age groups. This limited age range overemphasizes the peer group and increases the impact peers have on children. At most homeschool events there is a wide range of ages and children naturally develop friendships across age groups. Children interact with everyone from younger siblings to the adults in real life settings, and for the most part are comfortable socializing with everyone regardless of their age.
DEVELOPING SELF CONFIDENCE AND THEIR OWN IDENTITY (advantage: homeschooling)
Conformity is not a hallmark of a homeschool education. Homeschoolers are an eclectic bunch so bullying and peer pressure become less of an issue when you provide atypical kids with an atypical peer group. Children can be their own unique selves, growing and exploring without worry about how they will be perceived by their peers. On the other hand children do need to learn to act autonomously which they are required to do from their first day in public school.
RESOURCES (advantage: public school)
Access to resources is the one place where schools have a great advantage. They have the capital to invest in facilities such as gyms, courts, laboratories and theatres along with expensive equipment, spreading the cost out over many students. But of course this all depends on the school district, and varies widely. Also, subjects considered “extras” are being phased out of many schools to focus on academics to improve the school rankings.
BRIDGING THE GAP (advantage: everyone)
The schools are pinched for resources, space and are limited in what they can achieve for individual students. Some are getting more flexible and going beyond the building. There are partnerships between schools and homeschoolers in the form of Distance Learning programs, online courses and some onsite offerings where homelearners can complete courses such as science labs that would be difficult to replicate at home. It is the best of both worlds – individualized learning with shared resources.