Yes, I was homeschooled 1st – 12th grade, and as most other homeschooled students during the 80’s, I hated it. It was weird. It was backward. It was antisocial. After I graduated high school and entered the real world, however, I realized my education was much stronger than I’d thought. Now, home schooling is more popular than ever, and after years of working with both public and homeschooled students on a university campus, I feel I am qualified to give a fair and detailed review of home schooling.
My parents homeschooled me by satellite through Christian Liberty Academy, a private school. In the early 80’s, home schooling was taboo, and there were few options available for parents. The current popular method in which parents choose the curriculum was almost unknown. Satellite schooling was very expensive (it still is), but my parents chose this method because they felt neither of them was qualified to teach. In addition, laws protecting home schooling in Kansas at that time were questionable, and home schooled students were regularly forced into public schools if they failed to outperform public students on yearly grade achievement tests, giving weight to the defense that home schooling was superior education. My parents handed that torch to CLA, which assigned curriculum, graded exams by mail, and held us to exactly the same standards and schedules as their resident students. They completed my education with a formal diploma, which I later realized was a much more powerful an academic statement than the GED most homeschoolers obtain today.
Using CLA’s system, I regularly scored two grades higher than public students in my current grade. In high school, my coursework quickly went beyond my parents’ education levels. CLA offered many services, but individual assistance on textbook problems wasn’t one of them. That left me with the necessity of troubleshooting and solving new problems, and since my sister was a grade behind me, I had to understand them well enough to explain them to her. By the time I graduated high school at 17, I was already a successful analyst, problem solver, and teacher. In my late 20’s, I entered public school for the first time on my first day of college, where my solid high school education paved the way for my current success in acedemics.
Then And Now
So I’m bound to have a good review of home schooling then, right? Not necessarily. I’ve worked with a lot of home schooled students who are a product of a subculture that developed in the 90’s, and some of the cases are terribly sad. One 19 year old student I knew could barely read or write. Why? Because beginning in the 90’s, it became popular (especially among conservatives) for parents to choose their children’s curriculum and assume full responsibility for their education. Along with that began an age where parents let children ‘develop at their own pace’ and make their own schedules. That’s a recipe for college aged children who have the education of an 8th grader, and I’ve seen that very thing more than a few times.
To be fair, I have seen very well educated homeschooled students whose parents assumed full responsibility for them, but they are the result of qualification and a great deal of both work and diligence from their parents.
Social need of homeschooled students was – and is – one of the biggest problems and criticisms of home schooling. Homeschool co-op groups started when I was in high school as an answer to this need. It seemed to be the perfect solution – Get a bunch of local homeschoolers together for socializing! Co-op groups are still popular, but after years of observation, I’ve come to the realization that they’re not such a great solution after all. Why? Because there is much more to socializing than just throwing a bunch of awkward students together and calling it done. Socialization is a very complex mix of verbal and non-verbal communication that must be both learned and interpreted. After years of study, I believe most communication is cultural, which means it cannot be learned except from someone who already knows it. It’s mimicry – just like a baby learns to talk by hearing others speak. In a sense, these homeschool co-op groups are the ‘blind leading the blind’ so to speak, and anything that is learned by the students is contextual to the co-op group subculture. Thus, the socialization acquired from these co-op groups is a counterproductive alternative to normal socialization and only serves to further isolate this subculture. I often see formerly homeschooled students struggle with socialization skills years into adulthood.
Many homeschooled students from the 90’s and later are finding that the GED isn’t such a great alternative to the diploma when seeking employment or further education. Unless they are fortunate enough to know the right person, GED applicants for employment are often left with whatever the diploma applicants don’t want. Even then, they’re usually stuck in stagnant positions for years until they gain enough experience to be competitive in the real world job market. Those choosing to further their education find similar problems with academic acceptance.
It’s a big enough of a problem that the homeschool subculture is now offering alternatives to college – alternatives like College Plus. These alternatives are usually an extension of home schooling into secondary education, catering to students who are not qualified for public college. Again, the homeschool subculture says this is a great opportunity, but again, I disagree. It’s nothing more than an effort to lower the bar to substandard students, perpetuating the same problems they had in high school into young adulthood. Furthermore, students of these programs are often crushed when, after investing a lot of time and money, they find their courses are not accredited and are essentially worthless in real world academia. It’s an unfortunate problem that I encounter quite often while working with students attempting to enter a public university or applying for a high-level job.
My Take On It
So it probably sounds like I think home schooling is a bad idea. Not really. In a legal sense, I will always support parents’ right to make decisions concerning their child’s education. I watched my parents battle against institutional and law enforcement bullies for years trying to maintain that right. But beyond legality, home schooling presents some serious, potentially life-changing challenges that, if not addressed adequately, can cripple a child’s future permanently. With that in mind, I’ll give some of the pros and cons I’ve seen to different forms of home schooling.
Private Institutional Schooling via Satellite (Satellite Schooling)
Pros – High-quality education, diploma, institutional affiliation, options for graduation/prom/etc
Cons – High cost
Remarks – The only drawback I’ve seen with satellite schooling is the absurdly high cost, which can be many times the cost of public schooling. For this reason, satellite schooling is still a rare and somewhat privileged option for home schooling.
Independent Group Schooling Taught By A Qualified Teacher/Tutor
Pros – Potentially high-quality education, independently selected curriculum
Cons – High cost, possibility of unqualified teacher, GED
Remarks – I have little personal experience with this form of home schooling, though I’ve heard of it in a few communities of homeschoolers that include professional teachers. It’s sort of an economical version of the individual private tutoring practiced by the upper class. As long as the teacher is qualified, there should be no serious problems with this form of home schooling, though the lack of a diploma may eventually be problematic. One strong point is that independently selected curriculum can be customized to a student’s needs and abilities, possibly accelerating or specializing his/her education. (Curriculum customization should always go beyond a minimum threshold level of education – never dropping below it.)
Independent Schooling Taught By Parent(s)
Pros – Potentially high-quality education, independently selected curriculum, lowest cost form of home schooling
Cons – Possibility of unqualified teacher, GED
Remarks – This is similar to the professionally taught groups, but the risk of having an unqualified teacher is much greater. Parents should consider carefully and critically whether or not they are qualified to teach. If they aren’t, it may be best to try one of the other options.
Pros – Low cost, low standard of acceptance, online courses
Cons – Too many to list
Remarks – Don’t do it. Just don’t.
Overall, I think home schooling is a great opportunity for parents and children. Just like public schooling, it had its strengths and weaknesses, but for those willing to take on the challenge, home schooling can be a high-quality, personally enriching alternative to public schooling.