Homeschool can be your friend
11 October 2018
By Michael Cole

The face of education is constantly changing.

Unfortunately, education is not.

I know that sounds like a contradiction, but give me a minute or two to explain. Look around you, see all the new gadgets and software out there. Look at what your child interacts with on a daily basis.

You will see smartphones, game consoles, and a host of other electronic gadgets. When I was growing up, a trip to the library involved a car ride and the card catalog. Today, I read most of my books on Kindle, and maybe make it to the library once or twice a month to check out books that I cannot find at Amazon or other online booksellers.

Your child may read, and read a lot, but it is most likely going to be through some gadget.

Back when I was in school, there was memorization of tables and charts over the learning of concepts. With search engines, education should have changed with it.

But it hasn't.

Public Schools are still governed by textbooks and worksheets. Memorizations and standardized testing. 

You want more for your child. Let's face it, public education is not currently up to the challenge of preparing a student for the 20th Century, let alone the 21st.

The jobs that are hot today, and the jobs that will be hot tomorrow, do not rest on how well your child knows multiplication tables from memory, the periodic table, or any formula in physics. 

As I said, we have search engines for that.

Today, we need to educate our youth to understand the concept behind what they are learning so they know what to look for and what values to plug in.

Think about it.

Back when we where in school, we memorized all sorts of formulas, did we need half of them? Or were they just something to take up space with all the other useless trivia.

If I asked you right now, how do you figure velocity, if you had a traditional science teacher, in your head, you probably think this:

Velocity is Distance divided by Time

You would be correct. 

But let me take it a step further, what if I asked you to do a problem using Newton's Second Law?

If you are like most adults, after you try and figure out why a cookie would have a law and a formula, you would remember something vague about Sir Isaac Newton.

Most likely all you would remember is that there were an apple and three laws involved somehow.  

Then it would occur to you to Google the formula:

Force is equal to mass time acceleration

Today students should be learning not so much as the formulas to use, but where to look for them and how to apply them. This opens up a whole new world.

Critical thinking and the application of the Scientific Method should be their basis in education.

Unfortunately, it is not.

And since you are reading this article, you must be convinced that your child's education is a little lacking for your tastes.

But you are still on the fence.

After all, you are reading this.

So let me give you some peace of mind and dispell some of the myths that are floating out there in the realm of homeschooling. 

Homeschooling is no longer a "fringe" phenomenon.' Homeschooling
was common in the United States before the nineteenth century, but by the
early 1980s the practice was illegal in most states.

Since then, homeschooling has enjoyed a dramatic rebirth. Today, homeschooling is legal in all states. Estimates of the number of children currently homeschooled range from 1.1 to 2 million. The 1.1 million estimate represents 2.2 percent of the school-age population in the country. 

Even conservative estimates place the number of homeschooled children at twice the number of students enrolled in conservative Christian schools and more than the number of students enrolled in Wyoming, Alaska, Delaware, North Dakota, Vermont, South Dakota, Montana, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Hawaii, the ten lowest states in terms of student enrollment combined.

Moreover, scholars estimate that the number of children receiving their education through homeschooling is growing at a rate of ten to twenty percent per year(Reich 2002)

So, no matter the reason, Homeschooling is fast becoming a viable alternative to both failing public schools and cost prohibitive private schools. The internet has put a high-quality education at anyone's fingertips.

I worked for several years in an alternative education environment. In that school, you would see the district send its students that had done things that had violated school rules to such a degree that they could no longer be allowed in a regular classroom setting. 

We saw students from as low as the sixth grade all the way up to seniors in high school. Our students would be in our classroom for as little as 15 days all the way to the entire school year. If I remember, I had at least one student that was assigned to my classroom for a year and a half.

A self-contained alternative classroom is just that. The students never leave that classroom for the entire day. Some schools have cafeteria items delivered for lunch, they have their own restrooms or restrooms are used only at certain times of the day.

At no time are the students in this classroom allowed to interact with other students.

Here I became aware of several truths with the students here.  Many had severe deficiencies in their education. I would never say that a learning disability was the case in every circumstance, but most students were behind on their studies. In some cases as much as a grade level or more.

I saw in these cases, that the student could and would be better served in a small setting. I had some parents take their children out of public school and try homeschooling.

 Our educational system has become a cookie cutter factory. Classrooms have only gotten bigger and bigger.  When I was in schools, a classroom of twenty-four or more was considered an oversized classroom. Now my wife teaches Spanish language classes of thirty students.

There is no way that a student can receive the education they need in classes where the teacher has little or no one on one time.  This means students fall through the cracks. They are forgotten.

Since the teacher is under pressure to not have a large percentage of failures, teachers are forced to water down the lesson to keep their numbers up.

The result is classes that students are not learning what they need to be learning to prepare students for the post-education world. There is a joke that goes around many faculty lounges:

Of course it is 'No Child Left Behind!' SImply becuse no one ever goes anywhere!

Knowing this, I believe that in many cases, homeschooling might be a good option for students in the twenty-first century.

the big choice.

Homeschool vs Public  School

We have all heard the stories about kids that went through Homeschool.

  • Children not being adjusted well to social interactions; 
  • a biased education based more on the parent's beliefs than actual educational fact;
  • certain STEM subject being neglected because of parents not understanding the subject matter. 
  • difficulty applying for and being accepted into college.

So let's look at each one of the items and see if we cannot dispell some of the myths and offer advice on how to create a working path around it.

First off, let me say that it is not hard to get started in homeschooling.

I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have read or responded to the argument, "but homeschooling leaves a kid socially awkward for lack of interaction with kids their own age."

 

There is striking irony surrounding homeschooling, perfect strangers seem far more worried about homeschooled children’s social development than their own parents are. For example, a survey of public school superintendents found that 92% believed homeschooled children do
not receive adequate socialization experiences (Mayberry, Knowles, Ray, & Marlow, 1995).

Educational psychologists representing the American Psychological  Association published their opinions about homeschooling in the APA Monitor (Murray, 1996). These psychologists warned parents that their children may experience difficulty entering “mainstream life” and may not grow up to be
“complete people” if taught at home. And a study of parents whose children attended public schools reported that 61% believed homeschooled children
were isolated (Gray, 1993). One participant described the “majority” of homeschooled children as “socially handicapped” (p. 10).

After reading that, I do not want to even be near a homeschooled child, they paint the child as being a serial killer in the making. I am not even sure I want to learn at home anymore.

Balderdash I say.

“The perception of homeschooled students as being isolated, uninvolved, and protected from peer contact,” therefore, “is simply not supported by the
data” (Montgomery, 1989, p. 9). Nevertheless, the social world of homeschooled children is not the same as that of children attending conventional schools (Chatham-Carpenter, 1994).

In my years in education, when a student had transferred into High School after years in homeschooling, I cannot recall a single instance where the young man or young woman lacked social skills of was overtly shy because of it.

Social behavior in homeschooled children has been studied from three different points of view: from the perspectives of parents, objective observers,
and the children themselves. For example, Stough (1992) and Smedley (1992) had parents of homeschooled children and parents of children attending traditional schools complete the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales (Sparrow, Balla, & Cicchetti, 1984), a widely used measure of social development.

While Stough found no significant differences between the groups, Smedley found that homeschooled children received higher scores on the communication, daily living skills, socialization, and social maturity subscales of the test. In a similar study (Lee, 1994), homeschooling parents rated their
children higher than did the parents of conventionally schooled children on the Adaptive Behavior Inventory for Children (Mercer & Lewis, 1977)

There might, and put the emphasis of might, have been a problem with socialization of homeschool vs public school children twenty or thirty years ago, but that is no longer the case. 

Two words: The Internet.

Today it is not uncommon for kids to interact with people all over the world in terms of social media. I myself have hundreds of friends from around the world and around the corner that I only interact with on social media.

Even if a child was not allowed access to social media, there would still be ample access to other people and to learn social skills and behavior from.

Little League, Girl Scouts, Youth Soccer, Boy Scouts, Church, are just a few instances in which a homeschooled child has the opportunity to interact with peers.

it is homeschooling, not solitary confinement.

Unless the parent decides to lock little Johnny in the basement until he was 18 and then only let out if he were very, very good, the homeschool student will be given ample education in social skills needed to function in society.

To dispell the myth, studies found that homeschooled children engaged in fewer antisocial and self-destructive behaviors than a matched group of public school students. Ray (2003) studied adults who were homeschooled as children and reported that they are more involved in civic affairs and less likely to be convicted of a crime than the general population (see also Knowles &
Muchmore, 1995; Ray, 1997; Webb, 1990). 

Other than to recommend that the homeschool student is encouraged to join and participate in local activities like scouts, any parent can easily see that there is not a credible claim on a lack of socialization by the homeschooled child.

indoctrination, not education

Indoctrination

This topic invariably comes up when the conversation turns to homeschool. It is easy to point out that yes, many parents that are more devout in certain religious or cultural beliefs have been known to withdraw their children in favor of a more religious homeschooling, there is no evidence that a homeschooled adult has any more or less radical beliefs than a public school child.

Depending on who you ask, either the school or the homeschool environment is guilty of indoctrination on some level.  The critics are quite vocal in their opposition to homeschooling over it.

The loudest critical view is that homeschool indoctrinates students with a fundamentalist worldview. Stanford University political scientist Professor Rob Reich wrote in The Civic Perils of Homeschooling (2002) that homeschooling can probably result in biased students, as many homeschooling parents view the education of their children as a matter properly under their control and no one else's

Just do a quick internet search for indoctrination and homeschooling and be amazed. If you have a progressive slant, there are articles about how public school might want to mistreat your child and his or her progressive views. There are articles left and right about school bullying by more conservative peers and teachers.

Not to be outdone, there are just as many articles by the right talking about the dangers of an indoctrinated secular agenda that attacks Christianity and forces homosexuality and promiscuity on the child.

I am not going to delve into the arguments one way or the other. I do believe in a high-quality education; that said, I also believe that the parents should be involved in that education.

If the parents can give a child a high-quality homeschool education, then more power to them.

Besides, if you look at most complaints of public school, there are accusations of indoctrination in all forms of education whether it is public, private or homeschool. The question boils down to what the beholder sees as education and what they see as indoctrination

There will always be a level of indoctrination in any form of education, that cannot be avoided.  Every lesson, every truth that is handed out to students in many cases carries the taint of indoctrination.

Think about any historical event you were taught in school. 

Let's pick an easy one. The American Revolution.

In the United States, it is heralded as an important event, when a small group of 13 Colonies stood up for freedom and liberty.

When recounted in America, you read about Lexington, Concord, Saratoga, Valley Forge, Yorktown.

You read about John Paul Jones and, "I have not yet begun to fight!"

Or Nathan Hale as he was about to be executed, "I regret that I have but one life to give to my country!"

Every American has seen the painting of a gallant George Washington as his troops crossed the Delaware River in the bitter cold to attack the Hessians at Trenton.

Ever thought about how history books in the United Kingdom look at it?

Ungrateful Colonists who did not want to be forced to pay for a war that largely was for their defense.

13 Colonies that the Crown preferred losing to Jamaica and the Sugar colonies of the West Indies.

A war that the Rebels only won with the help of other European states.

Who is right? Who is wrong?

Both are right. The indoctrination happens in the presentation of information.

So  I would take any talk of saving kids or subjecting kids to indoctrination is nothing more than arguing over degrees of influencing factors.

If a child is taught critical thinking skills and uses them, after time, he or she will glean the truth.

science and math are their own languages

Science and Mathematics.

Upfront, no one is really an expert at science, technology, and mathematics (STEM). The fields are always expanding, evolving and becoming more intense.

In all honesty, a student without a well-rounded knowledge of these STEM subjects will find it hard to compete. So the next question is,

Can Homeschooled students receive an adequate STEM education?

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) publishes some of the only data on homeschooling gathered using more scientifically reliable random sampling. This month, the NCES has released an analysis of data they collected in 2012, touching on homeschool numbers, demographics, and—for the first time—academics. “We appreciate the efforts the NCES puts into gathering this vitally important data on homeschooling,” said Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, a 501(c)3 nonprofit founded by homeschool alumni. “The results of their study raise major concerns about homeschoolers’ access to education in STEM fields.”

The NCES asked parents of homeschooled high school students whether their children had studied a variety of STEM subjects. The number of students whose parents reported that they had taken chemistry or physics was concerningly low—only 34%. While some of these students were likely in the early years of high school and might still take these subjects, children who attend public school generally take chemistry in the 10th grade.

According to parents’ reports, 69% of these students had taken biology; this course is typically offered to public school students as high school freshmen. Less than half (47%) of homeschooled high school students had instruction in scientific inquiry or experiments, indicating a lack of exposure to the scientific method. While a confluence of research and data points has long suggested that homeschooled students experience a math gap, these findings raise concerns about homeschooled students’ STEM attainment more broadly.

STEM fields are vital to our nation’s economy; homeschoolers should be receiving the same opportunities as other children to succeed in these fields.

So how do homeschool students compete?

Very few parents have the educational background to teach in-depth science courses. It is not saying anything disparaging about parents in modern America, just that the average American's knowledge of such fields as chemistry, physics, biology, calculus, or any other advanced STEM course is lacking.

But there are options.

There are several websites that can offer a more in-depth classroom instruction on STEM subjects. I will not offer any links on the subject for the simple reason as that I do not want to be seen as endorsing one product over another.

But, I will caution the following, you get what you pay for and do your due diligence.  Not all STEM courses are created equal.

I will tell you this, it is something that I have told any student and family asking me to help them design a homeschool curriculum for them, make it fun and educational.

Living in South East Texas, there are a lot of possibilities out there to make it so.

Doing a lesson on astronomy? Take the student to Johnson Space Center and NASA.

Doing something on nature? There is the Big Thicket National Park or even the backyard to pick up leaves and look at them under microscopes. My favourite activity is to collect ditch water and look at the creatures you find in it through a microscope. Seeing the single cell organisms, drawing them and then using the internet to try and identify them.

STEM can be applied to almost any daily activity. By showing students how science works everywhere from rockets to rye bread.

Wonder and amazement are the best teachers for STEM.

So it is an obstacle, but not an impossible one to overcome.

You have graduated, now what?

Beyond High School

So you have your homeschool education and diploma.

No what?

You are probably wondering what your child can do with a homeschool diploma. After all, it is not a traditional school with transcripts and the prestige of a school. 

So what doors does that open?

As you look around you see so many job requirements for a diploma GED or its equivalent.  At first glance, you see many fields seemingly closed to the homeschooled child. 

Even the military has decided to up their requirements. You now need some version a degree to be considered for military service.

So at this point, you might be worried that homeschooling your child will be more detrimental to your child than leaving them in school.

You would be wrong.

There are many avenues that a homeschool student could take to put them on the path to a bright and prosperous future.

So let's discuss a couple options that parents have in the realm of opening the door for children that are homeschooled.

Certification through a homeschool group.

There are many homeschool organizations and online schools that issue diplomas. If your student has "enrolled" in their program and completed their curriculum, they can issue a diploma.

The positive aspect of enrolling your child into an online program for the purposes of being in an accredited program is that their high school transcript will allow them access into any job or college field that might otherwise be closed to them.

Even better, if after a school year or two, if homeschooling is not for them, then they have transcripts that they can use to not lose ground in public school. Those course transcripts will help them keep pace with their peers.

On the bad side, the school has control of the curriculum. If you pulled your child out of public school because you were unhappy with that the school was teaching, you might find yourself in the same spot with the online school.

That can be largely headed off by looking at the course curriculum ahead of time.

There are also the problems of access. Some schools might require access to high-speed internet in order to watch videos or even participate in live stream lectures. For those who live in more rural areas, or have internet connections that cap data, this can be a great hurdle to many online schools. 

That needs to be something to take into account.

Let's go onto a couple more options.

CLEP.

CLEP is a series of tests offered by the College Board to offer college credit for subjects that students already have a degree of mastery in. In fact, as a bit of background, I have home tutored several students that have dropped out of high school to continue their education.

My curriculum for them is based on the idea of passing the CLEP tests.

So, by the time that they have finished their time with me, they usually have enough credits to enter college as a sophomore and not a freshman. Each test is worth 3 credit hours and many Universities accept up to 15 credit hours to be transferred in from CLEP.

I have my students take the core classes that will help them bypass their freshman year almost in its entirety. For a student that wishes to go to college right out of a home school or home tutoring environment, I personally think that this is the most beneficial path to take.

I also highly recommend GED preparations.

Let's face it, not every kid is meant for college. Either they will not benefit from a college education, or their career goals do not require it.

So instead of putting more stress on the student, let's mold the learning experience to fit the student. Here the curriculum is more geared towards the basics of a high school degree.

Here, the education is set more at a level of basic high school competency. Math will focus on areas like fractions and word problems, English will center of main ideas and reading. Students can use their GED to enter into college, but the will most likely be required to take some remedial courses before starting the core classes.

Now, for some of you, your child might be only 6 ot7 with years before we need to start thinking about such things. It never hurts to be prepared for that day. And in seeing what will be required of your child beforehand can guide you to set the foundation of a bright educational future for the student.

Getting Started

Now, you might be saying, that is fine and all, but where do I find the material to teach my child. 

That all depends.

If you are dealing with a younger child, the preparation may not be as time-consuming or challenging as an older teen student.  

Do not despair, there are resources out there that I have used, or have looked into that can make homeschooling your student. 

I won't guarantee that this advice will remove ALL of the stress, just that it will make some of the stress disappear.

I cannot stress how important planning is for homeschooling your child. If you think that it is just going to be you using flashcards and having them write things, then you are going to be in for a rude awakening.

You cannot and should never be in a position where you wake up and decide that today you are going to teach multiplication or reading. There needs to be a structured lesson plan with a set goal in mind.

For instance, you are preparing the student for say, Texas History.  You need to take into account what will be taught.

Say you are going to start with the Alamo.  You cannot just pop in the movie and ask the kid to take notes. Then display mastery of the topic.

It will take steps.

I could go step by step in helping you build a lesson plan for this lesson, or I could tell you that teacher face the same challenges every year to help them design the curriculum they need to teach students.

Some teachers have gotten to the point that they just buy curriculum, lesson plans, worksheets and other materials from websites and teachers groups that they are part of.

Many times for my tutored children, I have gone to for lesson plans when I was stumped on the proper way to teach a subject. My wife has done the same for her Spanish classes.

You should do the same when you are stumped.

I mostly use a website called Teachers pay Teachers. I have found that it is a website full of resources for all subjects, grades, and learning levels.

Recently it has even started selling and giving out lesson plans for homeschool children. I personally cannot vouch for the homeschool material on the site, but if you are looking for material geared towards specific lesson material, a resource like this is invaluable.

There is, of course, this website, SpellQuiz, that I think should be integrated into any curriculum. Remember, all the science, history, math, or whatever content to teach your children is useless if your student cannot comprehend the material.

Spelling, reasoning, and understanding of the written word is an absolute must. So any curriculum you use should include a heavy emphasis on that.

Above all, my best and biggest advice is to borrow and steal teaching theories and curriculum. Take what works with your student, expand on it and go with it. Teachers are doing the same things. 

Harry Wong, a giant in the field of teaching has said this:

"Effective teachers can be defined with a single word, Effective teachers steal! Teachers who beg, borrow, and steal good techniques are teachers whose students will achieve."

Take what works for teaching your child. In the end, it will not be any one single action or act that you will do that will convey the lesson and the homeschool curriculum. You will find out that taking a little bit from multiple areas will work best.

The goal for any homeschool education

Wrapping it all together

The choice to teach your child at home is not an easy choice to make. It should never be done without having thought about it fully.

Are you doing it for the right reasons?

Are you willing to dedicate the time and effort that goes with the training, planning, and execution that homeschooling requires? This is not a fly by wire, seat of your pants project. It requires discipline, dedication, and responsibility on your part and the part of your child.

Take all of that into account. Teaching your child in a homeschool environment will be the most rewarding, difficult choices of your life as a parent. There will be times that you love, and times that you not only question how good of an idea homeschooling was but whether even having children was a good idea.

Trust me you will have both of those days.

A lot.

The best homeschool environment should be one that takes a little from every aspect of education. An environment where the student is challenged to think, to grow, to be creative. You are not just instilling the ability of a student to master subjects like science, mathematics, reading, or history. 

You are teaching them to wonder, creative thinking, a sense of the beauty of the world. You are not so much as teaching them what to know, or what to think, you are teaching them how come. 

A homeschooled child in the right circumstances can be a productive member of society. In many cases, the student can be a person that has not lost sight of their dreams, a citizen that has not lost their wonder of the world around them; a citizen that is well educated.

You are not just homeschooling your child, you are preparing a doer of the next generation the skills and critical thinking tools to change the world.

Carl Sagan once said, and I will close this out with:

We should be teaching our children the scientific method and the reasons for a Bill of Rights.

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:

Chatham-Carpenter, A. (1994). Home versus public schoolers: Differing social opportunities. Home School Researcher, 10(1), 15-24.

Knowles, G. J. & Muchmore, J. A. (1995). Yep! We’re grown-up home-schooled kids and we’re doing just fine, thank you! Journal of Research on Christian Education, 4(1), 35-56

Lee, W. J. (1994). The socialization of homeschooled and public-schooled children. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of La Verne, La Verne, CA.

Mayberry, M., Knowles, J. G., Ray, B. & Marlow, S. (1995). Home Schooling: Parents as Educators. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Montgomery, L. (1989). The effect of homeschooling on the leadership skills of homeschooled students. Home School Researcher, 5(1), 1-10.

Mercer, J. R., & Lewis, J. F. (1977). System of multicultural pluralistic assessment: Parent interview manual. Cleveland, OH: The Psychological Corporation.

Murray, B. (1996, December). Home schools: How do they affect children? APA Monitor [online], 27. Available: www.apa.org/monitor/dec96/home.html.

Ray, B. D. (1997). Strengths of their own. Salem, OR: NHERI Publications

Ray, Brian D. (2003). Adults Who Were Home Educated. Salem, OR: NHERI Publications.

Reich, Rob. (2002)  BRIDGING LIBERALISM AND MULTICULTURALISM IN AMERICAN EDUCATION 145 

Smedley, T. C. (1992). Socialization of homeschool children. Home School Researcher, 8(3), 9-16.

Sparrow, S. S., Balla, D. A., & Cicchetti, D. V. (1984). Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales: Survey form manual, interview edition. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.

Stough, L. (1992). Social and emotional status of homeschooled children and conventionally schooled children in West Virginia. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of West Virginia, Morgantown, WV.

Webb, J. (1990). Children learning at home. Bristol, PA: Falmer Press.

 

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