Some parents do it for religious or political reasons. Others wanted to curate their kids' education. And more than a few got frustrated when they saw just how challenging school was – or wasn't – for their children when everything shifted to zoom in 2020.
Whatever the reason, in 2020 – 2021, approximately 3.7 million students, or about 7% of all school-age kids in grades K-12 in the United States, were homeschooled. This number has increased dramatically since 2019, when around 4% of US children were homeschooled.
Even as the number of homeschooled children keeps rising, the jury is out on whether homeschooling is better than traditional public or private schooling.
On one side of the argument are those who believe that children who learn at home receive a superior education, leading to advantages in college admissions and scholarships. On the other side are those who argue that homeschooling can lead to social isolation and a lack of exposure to different cultures. Let's take a comprehensive look at both sides of the argument so you can decide for yourself.
There are several reasons why homeschooling is considered more flexible than traditional schooling. Sick days and vacations don’t have to lead to children falling behind at school. Parents can tailor lessons around illness, travel plans, and work commitments without adhering to a rigid curriculum or schedule.
Homeschooling is especially relevant due to the rising popularity of remote and flexible work. Parents who work remotely to maintain flexibility may find that homeschooling suits their family’s lifestyle better.
Individualized Education / Effective Learning
Every child is different, with unique interests and learning methods. What appears to be an appealing learning method to one student may be tedious, ineffective, and monotonous to another. 78% of peer-reviewed studies show that homeschooled students perform significantly better academically than conventional school students, further strengthening the argument that individualized education is more effective.
However, this is not practical for public and private schools as they cater to many kids in each classroom. With limited resources, personalizing teaching methods based on each student’s preference and strengths is unattainable.
Besides academics, homeschooling seems to positively influence career achievements and the likelihood of success as an adult. For example, 69% of peer-reviewed studies reveal that homeschooled individuals outperform in many aspects of adulthood compared to their counterparts from conventional schooling backgrounds.
The findings are not surprising as parents are more attentive to their children’s learning requirements and develop tailored tactics to address those needs better. Thus, compared to conventional schools, home education results in more effective learning.
Avoid In-school Safety Issues
By keeping children at home, parents can ensure their child is getting the education they need without worrying about them being bullied or forming destructive friendships.
Homeschooling also ensures that the growing violent incidents at schools across the United States do not impact the children. According to the National Centre of Education Research, there were 93 school shootings at public and private schools in the 2020 – 2021 school year. Unfortunately, 43 of these incidents resulted in deaths.
Help Kids Build Self-reliance and Maturity
Homeschooling can help children become independent and self-reliant. Learning at their own pace while self-motivating themselves to be accountable for their progress can instill confidence and a sense of responsibility. Homeschooling also allows children to explore their interests more deeply, leading to greater independence and self-direction.
In addition, children can develop time-management and organizational skills by managing their schedules around studies and extracurricular activities.
87% of peer-reviewed studies echo these benefits of homeschooling, confirming that homeschooled students score statistically much better on social, emotional, and psychological development metrics than those in mainstream schools.
Save Taxpayer Money
Homeschooling saves taxpayers a considerable amount of money in the United States by reducing the amount spent on public education.
According to the National Education Association, taxpayers spend around $15,240 per student per year. In the 2020 – 2021 fiscal year, the 3.7 million homeschooled pupils saved the US government more than $56 billion. Imagine the potential for future savings if the number of homeschooled students continues to grow.
In addition to saving money on education, homeschooling families also save taxpayers money by not using public services such as transportation and lunch programs.
While homeschooling has several advantages, weighing the benefits against potential disadvantages is critical before deciding whether to homeschool.
Time & Financial Investment From Parents
The biggest drawback of homeschooling is the extra time and financial investment required from parents. According to Time4Learning, homeschooling a child costs the parent(s) between $700 and $1,800 per year. At the same time, dedicating time to homeschooling may mean fewer working hours or loss of income for one parent.
As a result, it may become necessary to redo retirement plans, rebalance investments, and find alternate sources of income. All of these changes can become stressful if not planned in advance.
Furthermore, each state has its regulations when it comes to homeschooling. Parents must adhere to state-level homeschool requirements if they live in one of 23 states. For example, Indiana parents must provide instructions for at least 180 days per year.
In some states, there is no need to inform anyone if parents intend to homeschool. In other states, a lot of paperwork is required, including submitting standardized test results and a letter of intent.
The confusing regulations, additional time commitment, and financial expenses may put off many parents contemplating homeschooling.
Adjustment Period for Parents and Children
Teachers and staff receive training to create the right ecosystem for learning at a typical school. A tremendous amount of support is required to enable the proper mental and physical conditions for early education.
For parents, simulating the same environment at home can be a challenging learning curve. In addition, homeschooling demands parents teach a broad range of subjects, which can mean extra time commitments outside of work and lessons.
Families must make numerous adjustments for homeschooling to bear fruit, ranging from developing a workable schedule to finding the right teaching style. Finding the perfect balance for everyone to foster a healthy learning environment takes time, patience, and conscious effort.
Parents may find that balancing work and homeschooling commitments can take a toll on their relationship. Couples may not be able to recharge or spend time together. According to BMC public health research, homeschooling parents experienced much higher levels of psychological distress than those who were not. In the long term, parental stress can impact the emotional well-being of children.
Parents must take the time to reconnect and engage in activities outside of the daily grind.
Homeschooling is gaining popularity, with more parents opting to educate their kids at home. There are many benefits, as well as downsides, to homeschooling. Before making a decision, discussing all the pros and cons as a family is wise. Both parents and children must be aligned and committed before deciding if homeschooling is the right choice for your family.