Can I really homeschool? Read this article on homeschooling misconceptions and decide for yourself.
My encounter with homeschooling began as a child, at about the age of 9, when my parents decided to pull my siblings and me out of a Chinese school so we could all be homeschooled. After praying about it for a year, my mom waited for my dad’s “go” signal to do it. Though initially reluctant about the radical move, within a year’s time, God moved in his heart and he wholeheartedly gave my mom the blessing to homeschool.
It was one of the best decisions my parents made for our family. From this point on, the homeschooling experience rooted itself into the core of my being. I believed then as I believe now that it is a superior education with superior benefits. Yes, this may sound like a biased opinion, especially since my siblings and I transitioned and navigated through high school and college without difficulty. However, I have also met hundreds upon hundreds of other homeschooling families who share the same sentiment because they have seen the results in their own children. The conventional school set-up cannot compete with the tailor-fit, customized education that homeschooling provides.
Since this was my perspective from the moment I first became a mom, homeschooling was my number one option for my children’s education. So when I was asked to write an article on the misconceptions about homeschooling by HAPI, I must confess that because I was sold on it from the very beginning I wasn’t one of those parents who had a whole lot of fears about educating my own children. But these misconceptions do exist and they need to be addressed. Often times, it is these very misunderstandings about homeschooling that prevent people from doing it. (Please be aware that these misconceptions are localized to the Philippine setting but include data from the Philippines and the US.)
Misconception # 1: Homeschooling is only for out-of-school youth, sickly children, actors or actresses who need a flexible education, or conventional school rejects.
When Edric and I attended the Homeschooling Forum organized by the Department of Education last year, it felt like we were sheep among wolves. We were there with representatives from TMA Homeschool and other homeschooling organizations to present best practices for home education. Sadly, the opinion of educators is that homeschooling is an alternative – when no other option makes sense or exists. Edric did a great job of presenting a case for home schooling by sharing achievement test scores and giving a profile of homeschooling families in the Philippines.
Facial expressions changed as school owners, principals, and Dep Ed officials realized that homeschooling is a superior education. From sceptically uninformed, they became curious and wanted to know more.
A majority of the time, parents choose to homeschool because they believe it is a better education. But the journey to this point may vary for each family. Some will do their own research. Others will attend orientations (and attend again). Or they will observe other homeschooling families whom they know and see a positive difference in the children. Still others will proceed with sending their children to a conventional school but never quite feel peace or satisfaction with the outcome. A good number will actually be disgruntled with their child’s school experience and seek out homeschooling as an option. And yes, there are those whose children need special learning conditions because of health reasons or because they are professional athletes or in the entertainment industry.
Families may homeschool for a number of reasons, but more often than not, it is a choice made with considerable thought, planning, and analysis of pros and cons.
Misconception # 2: Homeschoolers are deprived of healthy social interaction.
This is a favourite. I have yet to meet a homeschooled kid that does not know how to make friends or engage in conversation. In fact, the longer a child is homeschooled, the more confident and outgoing he becomes. Now, there are some aberrations. If parents are teaching an only child and they live in a remote provincial area cut-off from the rest of humanity, then yes, that child may struggle through the friend-making process. Yet, the majority of homeschoolers attend playgroups, coops, see their friends often, and are enrolled in all kinds of enrichment classes.
On one occasion, my eldest son, Elijah, had a neighbour friend over to play. They were talking about school and this friend of his said, “You should go to school so you can have many friends.” Elijah responded, “You have no idea how many friends I have. I have so many friends I can’t even count them.” And it’s true! My children may not be with their friends every single day, but they have many opportunities to socialize.
Yet this is not the most important consideration. As parents, we need to correctly understand social development. It is different from socialization. A child sitting in a classroom with 8 year olds all day long, every single year, is not in a normal social environment. This isn’t the condition of the real world he will one day be a part of.
The most natural social environment is the home – where children develop healthy relationships with their parents and siblings, with the Lord, and then with others. Sharing, deference, respect, kindness, forgiveness, and submission to authority are key traits of good relationships. And when these are learned at home, they are applied outside of the home.
Misconception # 3 – Homeschooling is cheaper than conventional schooling.
To this statement, I have to say that homeschooling is as reasonable and as expensive as you make it to be. It can be cheaper because you eliminate the high cost of tuition, transportation, uniforms, daily allowances, and packed lunches. But as a homeschooler you can also spend alot on field trips, music, art, PE classes, books and materials, or an umbrella program. You decide on what is worth the cost.
My family may spend less or more than others. The education we pay for goes beyond books and materials. We expose our children to activities that enrich their learning experience. Some families, however, will spend even more. They will take their children on quarterly trips out of the country or they will enrol them in so many different classes so they can learn art, several musical instruments, and different sports. It’s really a matter of personal preference when it comes to cost. Spending more or less, however, does not spell the difference between a better education and a lesser one. A parent’s involvement and teaching is what makes homeschooling a better education, not cost.
Misconception # 4: Parents can’t teach their children if they aren’t professionally trained.
I love to explain this one. Personally, I believe that parents make the best teachers because we know and love our children better than anyone. We have the motivation to help our children succeed and we have the sensitivity to detect whether they are “getting it” or not. Besides, homeschooling is not like teaching a classroom (teachers are better at this because they have been trained to manage large numbers of children). Academic instruction in the home, however, is done one is to one. It is tutorial in nature.
A parent sits down beside her child to explain concepts, dialogue, interact, monitor, and encourage the learning process. She doesn’t need to be an expert at every subject. The greater challenge is being patient, unconditionally loving, positive, flexible, and having the wisdom to address character and heart issues. Most of all, a parent needs to have a higher purpose for teaching. These are more important qualifications than having a teaching degree.
Removed from the institutional learning environment where the pressure to excel and succeed is very high, it is actually easier for a parent to encourage the love for learning in the relaxed environment of a home. In school, a child must keep up with the pace. A teacher cannot suspend the lesson plan to cater to the minority in the classroom who are falling behind. Each child is expected to learn the same way everyone else does and to cope. If he does fall behind, he must be tutored at home or by a professional, or he is put in another “section.”
In contrast, a parent is better able to respond to her child’s learning needs. She knows when her child doesn’t get a topic, when he is struggling through a lesson, or when it’s too easy for him so that he gets restless and bored. A parent is very much aware of the facial expressions, gestures, posture, disposition, and attitudes of her child. She can spend more time on a topic or go quicker through a lesson. And because she is the parent, she can prioritize the instruction of her child’s heart – his character – which will, in turn, make him more receptive to her teaching.
I often challenge parents to ask themselves, “What is the goal of my instruction?” Is it merely to teach required subject matter? Is it to make sure they get a good job, profession or business that will provide for their needs and for their future family?
All of us need to define what life success is for our children and teach them in that direction. In our family, Edric and I have based our definition on God’s word. In Deuteronomy 6:4-7 it says that parents are to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and to teach this to their children. Therefore, the goal of our instruction is beyond academic success. It is to raise our children to love God with all their heart and live for him, which will impact everything they become and do in the future.
Misconception # 5: Homeschooling is only for religious people or Christian conservatives.
In the past, I would have said this was true. The homeschooling movement in the Philippines began with Deuteronomy 6:4 to 7 as its originating conviction. But, as the movement has grown, many families are choosing to homeschool because they believe homeschooling is a superior education, and not necessarily because of a biblical mandate. They want their children to learn outside the context of a four walled institution. Or, they want to have control over what their children learn. Recently, Newsweek published an online article entitled, Why Urban, Educated Parents Are Turning to DIY Education, that explains how parents are opting to educate their own children because they believe that family is important. (http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/01/29/why-urban-educated-parents-are-turning-to-diy-education.html)
In the US, for example, homeschooling is no longer limited to Bible-believing Christians. It is gaining popularity because of its benefits, which are relevant to all families. Dr. Brian Ray, who is the foremost researcher in America for home education presented the latest findings on reasons why parents homeschool:
- customize or individualize the curriculum and learning environment for each child,
- accomplish more academically than in schools,
- use pedagogical approaches other than those typical in institutional schools,
- enhance family relationships between children and parents and among siblings,
- provide guided and reasoned social interactions with youthful peers and adults,
- provide a safer environment for children and youth, because of physical violence, drugs and alcohol, psychological abuse, and improper and unhealthy sexuality associated with institutional schools, and
- teach and impart a particular set of values, beliefs, and worldview to children and youth.
Misconception # 6: My children’s academic future will be compromised.
I can present data and facts about how well homeschoolers do academically. But there are certain realities that parents also need to consider. Parents may opt to homeschool independently or under an umbrella program. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Independent homeschoolers run the risk of getting denied entrance into conventional schools that require report cards and grades, regardless of how well they do on their entrance tests. Independent homeschoolers must also take and pass the Department of Education’s Validation Test if they want to receive credit for the levels they studied at home. But independent homeschoolers can fully customize their child’s education which many parents find desirable. They are not required to follow the grading system or an organization and have a free hand to choose curriculum and materials. Many independent homeschoolers also band together and share best practices with one another.
Families who are connected with an umbrella organization or homeschool program often have to comply with the program’s requirements for promoting a child to the next level of instruction. They also have to subscribe to the organization’s philosophy of education. While certain programs offer flexibility in terms of curriculum choices, not all programs have this option. But families can easily transition into the conventional school when they feel their children are ready. Umbrella programs have a relationship with the Department of Education which allows them to credit the work accomplished by a child enrolled with them. Children are issued report cards and documents that schools require. Homeschool programs also offer a sense of community for families and a support system that includes trainings, events, and even music, art, and PE classes.
Academically speaking, homeschoolers do just fine. They often excel when they enter the conventional school because they are self-directed learners who are motivated to work hard and have acquired good study habits. Results borrowed from TMA Homeschool’s achievement testing, for example, show that nearly 50% of homeschooled kids perform 2 grade levels higher than their school-going peers in Math, Language, and Science. And most of their students get into their school of choice.
U.S. homeschooling statistics show that…
- The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests. (The public school average is the 50th percentile; scores range from 1 to 99.)
- Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income.
- Whether homeschool parents were ever certified teachers is not related to their children’s academic achievement.
- Degree of state control and regulation of homeschooling is not related to academic achievement.
- Home-educated students typically score above average on the SAT and ACT tests that colleges consider for admissions.
- Homeschool students are increasingly being actively recruited by colleges.
Personally, I believe that academic success is a natural by-product when parents focus on teaching their children character and values. Responsible and disciplined children study well and do their best!
Misconception # 7: Homeschooling my children will mean giving up my job, career, or business.
I’ve often been asked the question, “Can I work and homeschool?” If you are a supermom, then yes. But I will be honest with you. Homeschooling is a full-time job. I’ve got four kids and if I had an 8 to 5 job I wouldn’t be able to commit what is necessary to give my children quality instruction time. But I have known some pretty incredible women who homeschool and have a part-time job, or at least a flexible one that allows them to control their own schedules. However, it is not the ideal set-up. Something gets sacrificed in the process because it is not easy to manage homeschooling, work, motherhood, wife duties, etc and give your 100%. It can be done but it is exhausting. Moms either burn out or have to make a choice. A better option for a woman who wants to supplement her husband’s income is to start a home based business. This keeps her accessible and available to her children, and allows the children to contribute and help out in the business.
When Edric and I conduct pre-marital seminars or counseling, or when we speak at marriage retreats, we share a simple principle. PRIORITIES. Priorities will determine whether homeschooling + working is the best choice for a family. We encourage people to follow this order of priorities — God, spouse, children, work/ministry, friends. If work or ministry makes a woman unable to follow her order of priorities than something has to change. But if she can efficiently manage homeschooling and work, without compromising her hierarchy of priorities, then why not?
Misconception # 8: I’m not patient enough to teach my own children.
Welcome to the club. Honestly, no homeschooling parent has perfect patience. I’ve interacted with hundreds. This is a common struggle.
I never realized I was impatient until I started homeschooling! Homeschooling my children exposed my weaknesses and failings. It made me want to be a better mom, to make the changes necessary for maximum impact in the lives of my children. However, this was not enough. I had to come to a point of recognition that I am limited. If I do not walk with God or have a personal relationship with him that is deep and intimate, I do not have a reservoir of grace to draw from when I teach my kids.
A parent who enters into a personal relationship with Jesus experiences victory over weaknesses and sin, and receives his enablement. Some of the most effective homeschoolers I know are committed followers of Jesus who understand that parenting is a spiritual journey that requires spiritual empowerment.
Last September 2011, Edric and I were able to attend the HSLDA conference in Branson, Missouri. (The HSLDA conference is a gathering of homeschool leaders across America that happens yearly.) I felt intimidated at first. Edric and I were much younger than everyone. I met and listened to families who have been homeschooling for over twenty years. Some had homeschooled for thirty years! (The average number of children per family was 7.) What made these parents effective homeschoolers was not their perfect attitudes or personalities, it was Jesus Christ in them. That is the secret to good parenting and good homeschooling!
So can you homeschool? I definitely think so! But this is something you have to weigh and consider carefully. Now that you have had the misconceptions clarified, it is time to research, attend parenting seminars, homeschool orientations, talk to other homeschoolers and their kids, discuss the possibility with your spouse, and pray for discernment.
 Brian Ray, RESEARCH FACTS ON HOMESCHOOLING (as of January 2011.) National Home Education Research Institute. http://www.nheri.org/research/research-facts-on-homeschooling.html
 TMA Homeschool’s Achievement Testing as of December 2011. 198 elementary students tested.
 Brian Ray, RESEARCH FACTS ON HOMESCHOOLING (as of January 2011.) National Home Education Research Institute. http://www.nheri.org/research/research-facts-on-homeschooling.html