The first part of the question is easy – there is a substantial body of research on homeschooling, and the results are generally overwhelmingly positive in support of homeschooling. Research Facts on Homeschooling
In my view, the biggest advantage of homeschooling is CHOICE in the philosophical approach to education. Of course, this is a result of the converse – that most schools suffer from a lack of choice in the philosophical approach.
The second part of the question is more problematic.
Firstly, understand that it is difficult to generalize – almost every homeschool experience is unique (cf. advantages).
In my experience, I agree with numerous writers that there is a period of “de-schooling”. This is a time when the homeschool family comes to terms with the realization that “our” homeschool is not the perfect learning experience initially imagined. It is a lot more messy, and hectic. However, over time, a routine is established (and the magic begins – oops, sorry, I’m supposed to be talking about disadvantages).
Another disadvantage is that (at least in our family) each parent has different ideas about how the learning should take place. I happen to be very supportive of unschooling, while my wife would be comfortable with a more traditional approach. (Fortunately, I handle most of the day-to-day logistics of the homeschooling, so I get my way much of the time). This has led to numerous heated discussions. I recommend that both parents think carefully about the learning approach early on. (Single parents can skip this part).
I initially expected that I would spend a lot of time trying to convince family and acquaintances why we chose homeschooling, but this did not happen. I suspect it’s because I already had done my research, and was able to factually explain the benefits of homeschooling.
We have not had a problem with socialization. Our daughter has numerous friends – has playdates; attends a group language class; hangs out at the gym with us and numerous other kids; etc. However, I know of one or two kids who have opted to return to traditional school because they miss the social life (I also know of kids who tried going back to school. and immediately returned to homeschooling).
I have been disappointed with much of the curricular material online – with the exception of MOOCs (such as Coursera). We even tried a gifted course from a very reputable university, which was very disappointing. I have found that our daughter has settled into the following learning modes successfully:
- self-learning e.g. YouTube videos
- reading (self-chosen)
- BrainPop videos
- Guided discussion
The last item for discussion may draw some nasty comments. In my experience (participating in homeschool activities), it seems that there are a lot of “weird” homeschool families out there. (Maybe it’s us that’s weird!). I know there are lots of homeschool activities in our area, but we have had difficulty finding other families with similar interests to us. Perhaps we are the anomaly, but it may be beneficial to explore the homeschool groups in your area.
Although I have focused on the disadvantages, I should emphasize that our experience with homeschooling has been overwhelmingly positive. I view the disadvantages cited above as minor annoyances, or as challenges to be overcome while adjusting to homeschooling.
We got through de-schooling (with an initial scary obsession with Minecraft … which passed). After one year of homeschooling, our 10 year-old daughter has settled into a routine:
- Daily piano and violin practice
- Daily readings from “Models for Writers”
- Daily selected readings from SPQR
- One or two concepts from PreAlgebra daily
- Weekly piano, violin, art, badminton, and mandarin lessons
- Digital graphics and animation – usually daily, which she posts on her YouTube channel (this is entirely her own choice, on which she often spends several hours a day)
- Writing project, 2–3 times per week. Again, her own choice, and she posts her results to a popular writing website.
- We have also occasionally monitored Coursera courses, which are excellent.
We are always evaluating how far we will continue with homeschooling. My review of the research suggests that the benefits continue through high school and into college, so I am currently inclined to continue homeschooling indefinitely.