Is Home Schooling a Viable Alternative?

     In the United States, children between the ages of 6 and 18 are required to attend school. For most children, this means attending a school under a government controlled public system with a prescribed curriculum. For others, it means attendance at some kind of approved or accredited private school. Some parents, however, dislike the whole idea of a school environment for a variety of reasons, and they seek other educational alternatives for their children.

     A number of options are available for parents to fulfill their legal obligations with regard to their children’s education, but one of the most popular choices in recent years has been for home schooling. A home school is technically an unaccredited private school, even if it involves only one family, and it can be operated quite legally. The question arises, however, as to whether this is a viable alternative for young children, and whether they are being deprived of valuable social interactions and peer relationships under such a system.

     Parents who implement a home school in their own residence, or work with a few other parents to establish one in the immediate neighborhood, do so for a variety of reasons. It may be that they do not have confidence in the public system to meet the needs of their children, especially if the children have special learning needs or physical disabilities. Others may dislike the social environment of the school. They may be concerned about the behavior of other students and the problem of bullying. But it seems that a majority of home schools today are established for religious reasons. Parents who are committed to a fundamental religious affiliation are not satisfied with a public education system that cannot meet their children’s spiritual needs.

     All parents want to provide the best resources for their children, and if religious instruction and spiritual growth are of fundamental importance to them, it is easy to understand that they want these needs to be adequately met. A home school situation, however, may deprive children of other important educational needs.

     Although different states generally require a full curriculum in all private schools, most have no legal requirement for certified teachers in home schools. It is naïve to think that uncertified teachers without training or experience can understand the neurological processes involved in learning sufficiently well to design and implement proper lesson plans. They have the advantage of small groups, of course, but many lack the education background that teachers need. In fact, legally, one does not even require a high school diploma to be a home school teacher in most states.

    Any parent considering a home school placement for their children needs to carefully consider both the advantages and the disadvantages of such a move. The public school situation may not be ideal, but it does reflect the real world, and it is in this real world that their children must survive. It may be more beneficial to their future life to learn how to cope at an early age, rather than being sheltered from it in a less stressful, but unrealistic, home school situation.

     There is no doubt that home schools can achieve some valuable educational objectives. Fortunately, many of them are designed and directed by parents who happen to be fully qualified teachers and a full program of co-curricular and extracurricular activities is offered. Small group learning is also a definite advantage. In general, however, parents should be wary of home schooling. The few obvious advantages can easily be outweighed by many significant disadvantages.