What does being homeschooled mean? What are the pros and cons?

Written Aug 31, 2016

In simple terms, being homeschooled means that the family has chosen to remove the child from traditional school, and assume responsibility for his or her education.

In the US, state and local policies determine how this is done administratively (sometimes as simple as submitting a letter to the school district), and reporting requirements.

Homeschooling Pros:

  • Parents can choose the method and/or curriculum for educating the student.
  • Freedom of schedule – there is no longer a requirement to get up at a certain time to attend classes (unless you choose to). Freedom of schedule also means that you can go on vacation anytime – avoiding the school break crowds.
  • You can select the environment, and people your child socializes with. (Your child is not required to spend hours each day with a group of children of the same age). This may help avoid an environment prone to bullying, peer pressure, etc.
  • Homework” is a choice, not a requirement. Homework: An unnecessary evil? … Surprising findings from new research
  • Family time – opportunities to spend more time together as a family.
  • More opportunities to get out and do “real-world” stuff.
  • Opportunities to dig deep when pursuing topics of interest. This also allows you to pursue topics like music, art, coding, etc., with the intent of leading to a career. You could spend thousands of hours practicing to become a concert pianist, for example, rather than studying calculus and other “required” subjects.
  • There are studies indicating that homeschooled students perform better on standardized tests.
  • Many colleges and universities are now seeking homeschooled students.

Homeschooling Cons:

  • Requires more time and effort from the parents. This can be an issue for parents who work outside the home. It could be mitigated by having other family members (such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, older siblings) monitor the student.
  • Requires more effort to review and select curricular and teaching materials.
  • There is a study indicating that homeschoolers who follow an unstructured curriculum do worse on standardized testing. Therefore, student progress and engagement must be monitored by the parent.
  • It is more difficult to participate in structured activities which are normally scheduled at traditional school (such as sports teams, chorus, band). However, many school districts allow homeschool students to participate in extracurricular activities (check with local school district to see if this is offered). Otherwise, you may have to organize, or pay for, these activities.
  • If you select a structured curriculum, you may have fairly significant out-of-pocket costs.
  • Some homeschool students report missing traditional school opportunities such as homeschooling, or even hanging out with their peers. (This can be accomplished in a homeschool environment, but takes more effort).

Summary

No big surprises. Homeschooling provides huge advantages concerning education choices, but comes with potentially significant cost and time penalties. Educational results are fairly common sense – the more effort made, the more likely the outcome will be better.

Anyone considering homeschooling should think carefully about the time, effort, and cost investments. They should think carefully about their goals for homeschooling, and the approach that will be used for learning.

From personal experience, I can also recommend ensuring that BOTH parents (if applicable) agree on the approach to learning. After one year of homeschooling our daughter, we still get into long discussions (arguments?) about how (and what) she should be learning.

You should also keep in mind that (at least in the US) you can always re-enroll your child in public school at any time.

Hope this helps!

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