An Introduction to Homeschooling

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Homeschooling is an educational option that allows parents to teach their children at home instead of sending them to school. There are today a wealth of resources and opportunities available to homeschooling families, and in a landscape of increasing school choice homeschooling has become more and more accepted by the public at large. Parents choose homeschooling for a variety of reasons. Modern homeschooling began in the 1970s and 1980s, championed by progressive educational reformers hoping to free children’s inner creativity and conservative evangelical leaders concerned about the environment of public schools. There are now around two million children being homeschooled, and in the early twentieth century homeschooling has become increasingly diverse, both in terms of race and class and in terms terms of parental motivations. See Homeschooling Numbers and and Homeschool Demographics.

Parents choose homeschooling for a wide variety of reasons. Some parents have concerns about the social environment or academic quality of local public schools. Some want to ensure that their children are educated in accordance with their religious beliefs. Some believe their children will learn better through child-directed learning outside of a classroom setting. Some have children who were bullied in school or have health problems or demanding practice schedules. A growing number of families enjoy the flexibility homeschooling offers, and many children may find that homeschooling is a good fit for their natural learning styles or personalities. If there is one thing that can be said about parental motivations for homeschooling, it is that they are anything but monolithic. For more, see Reasons Parents Homeschool.

While homeschooling is legal throughout the United States, the level of oversight for homeschools varies from state to state. Most states require parents to notify state or local education officials of their intent to homeschool, and half of all states have some form of assessment requirement. Most states have days of instruction or subject requirements and a smaller number of states have parent qualification and bookkeeping requirements. Some states require none of the above. The patchwork and often woefully inadequate nature of homeschool oversight means that there are few protections in place safeguarding the interests of homeschooled children. For more, see Current Policy.

Research has shown that children who are homeschooled can succeed academically, especially when given support and resources from their parents. Many homeschool parents are driven and motivated, and are extremely involved in their children’s education. They educate themselves as they go along and seek out resources, tutors, or classes for those subjects they may not be able to teach themselves. In many ways these parents are more facilitators or coordinators than teachers. However, while homeschooled children can succeed academically, that success is not guaranteed. In cases where homeschool parents are not driven and motivated or do not place as much importance on their children’s academic progress, homeschooled children may struggle academically or even not receive any education at all. For more, see Academic Achievement.

Homeschooled children are typically involved in an array of social activities, including homeschool cooperatives, dance and music lessons, church and Sunday school, field trip groups, and other classes, clubs, and groups outside of the home. With the networking potential of the internet and the greater social acceptance of homeschooling, the opportunities available to homeschool families have grown in recent years. If parents put in the effort to find social outlets for their children, homeschooled children can be well socialized and can integrate well into society. In contrast, if parents do not ensure that their children have adequate opportunities to meet their social needs, homeschooled children may be lonely, develop social phobias, or have difficulty integrating into society. For more, see Homeschooling & Socialization.

An increasing number of states allow homeschooled children to enroll in public school part time to take individual classes or to participate in public school athletics and other extracurricular activities. Some studies have found that as many as 20% of homeschooled students enroll in public school part-time.  Some states have public school at home or public or charter correspondence programs that allow children to be taught at home while receiving benefits from enrollment in public school. “Cybercharters” have become popular among some homeschoolers, and a number of charter schools have developed programs where children come to an actual school for classes once or twice a week and are otherwise educated at home. In an increasingly educationally diverse world, homeschooling offers a variety of flexible and creative options.

Feedback from the first generation of homeschooled students, now in their 20′s and 30′s, indicates that those who are homeschooled responsibly frequently do well in college and professional life while those who were neglected or subjected to an abusive homeschooling environment often face low-wage job prospects, poor integration and connection with their communities, and struggles with poverty and dependency that could have easily been prevented. For more, see Homeschool Outcomes and Abuse and Neglect. The quality of a child’s homeschool experience depends almost entirely on the parents’ dedication to providing a functional, nurturing environment with optimal conditions for education and healthy child development.

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