Are parents capable of educating their children at home, or should this be left to qualified professors or academics? Parents will often stiffen up and say, “I am not educated enough to teach my child,” or “I leave the education of my child up to the professionals.”
Long before there was a law that children of a certain age needed to attend school, parents were teaching their children to read and write. Once a child is old enough to comprehend what their parent or guardian is saying to them, the parents are educating their children on the world around them. Prior to entering the public-school system, the parents are educating their child on how to navigate this world by teaching him or her at home.
Once their child reaches the age of compulsory attendance – “Compulsory school attendance refers to the minimum and maximum age required by each state in which a student must be enrolled in and attending public school or some equivalent education program defined by the law,” (Education Commission of the States) – most parents turn the teaching over to the school systems while they either go to work or stay home.
The question that comes to mind is, “When did the laws change that required a child to attend public school or to be educated at all?” Horace Mann, known as the “Father of Common School,” argued that, “’universal public education was the best way to turn unruly American children into disciplined, judicious republican citizens.’ Mann won widespread approval from modernizers, especially in the Whig Party, for building public schools.” (Wikipedia). In some cases, this works to the good of the population and in others it can degrade the values and morals of the community. It works toward the good of the population when it allows all participants to get an education that was only accessible to the rich who could afford to pay for their child’s education. In other circumstances, children were needed at home and not allowed to get an education due to responsibilities. This mainly applied to girls who would be the future home-makers and only needed to know how to manage a house, not be among the working class.
While the goal to provide an education that is universal is a noble one, this can create concerns for parents who do not agree with the teachings that are being presented on a neutral platform. Some universal teachings can conflict with the religious and personal beliefs of the parents.
While providing this luxury to all citizens of a community, regardless of social or economic status, the next stipulation that came into play was that children were required by law to be educated between specific age requirements or the parents or guardians would face penalties for disregarding this law. While the common school was set in place to allow education for everyone whether they could afford it or not, it eventually became the mandate for the public at large. However, parents are now in the situation where they must fight for the right to educate their children at home again, whether it is for religious reasons or just the fact that they want to be the ones to educate their offspring.
Parents who decide to take on the task of educating their children are often considered irresponsible with a lack of concern for their children’s future education and societal standing in the community. They may also be viewed by their community as being religious zealots who want to skirt the system that has been set in place for everyone.
Prior to the enactment of public education, it was thought that homeschooled children were smarter and more well-rounded individuals compared to their peers. Today, children who are educated at home or by private tutors have the one-on-one education that public-school children lack. Due to overcrowding or teacher/pupil ratio, students that need additional support in learning may suffer the lack of proper education or time that their personal situation warrants. If a child is struggling to understand the current lesson, due to time constraints educators cannot stop and review until the student picks up the material. If the child can’t keep up, he will flunk the class or end up repeating it until he graduates or quits. The benefits of the one-on-one education is that time can be granted a student who is struggling or teaching strategies can be adjusted for that one child, which cannot be duplicated in a public-school setting. Some students learn better by reading, hearing (auditory), or seeing (visual) the material in a way that promotes comprehension. Parents know their child better than anyone else and can easily adjust to meet the need.
Another benefit of homeschooling is flexibility in scheduling the education course. Instead of being at their desk for the timed school day, students have the freedom to take their education on the road if need be. The parents have the freedom to take a vacation which can also be combined with field trips. The student not only reads about the Grand Canyon, but also they can travel and see all aspects of the Grand Canyon in person and write a paper on their own experience. If the family does not have any travel constraints then they have the option of taking a few more days of study in another area. This allowance gives the student a hands-on approach to their learning achievements.
Home-education is not to be confused with mass education production. Educating children at home should be for the purpose of giving them quality education for the benefit of each student. There are requirements that home-school parents must follow to meet state guidelines. In Missouri one of the laws states that parents must “b) Offer at least one thousand hours of instruction, at least six hundred hours of which will be in reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies and science or academic courses that are related to the aforementioned subject areas and consonant with the pupil’s age and ability. At least four hundred of the six hundred hours shall occur at the regular home school location” (Families for Home Education). According to this law, parents must provide the required hours of education in the core subjects, but the content of that instruction is the choice of the instructor. If the parents would like to instill religious teachings in core subjects there is liberty to do so. Parents can also choose an “eclectic” curriculum which means “deriving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources” (Wikipedia). Becca, a mom who homeschooled for eight years stated, “My approach has morphed many times but it has always fallen under the category of what I term eclectic homeschooling. Basically, I use whatever works” (The Homeschooling Option).
Time constraints or strict schedules are not part of a home-schooler’s vocabulary. Due to the more relaxed pace of home education, school can start at 8:00 a.m. or in the afternoon. It is possible for single parents or parents who both work outside jobs to educate their children. Due to the persistence of parents and supporters of home education, many advancements have been created and instituted to allow more individuals to teach more advanced subjects. Workbooks for all grade levels can be found at the local retail market or publishing companies. Software companies such as Switched on Schoolhouse have contributed to the homeschool program by designing educational programs that allow customization of the curriculum or use the one they created. Many of these programs have been structured and evaluated by teaching professionals, which allows the parent to implement them with confidence. There are also free websites which allow printing of worksheets, certain subject material, or even allow students timed coursework such as math, spelling, and typing assignments which can be great supplements.
A parent who works a job in the morning can come home and educate their child in the evenings. Along the same lines of that freedom is the ability to homeschool during normal school times, year-round or times based on family needs. If there is a need for extra hands during a certain time period of the year, schooling can be adjusted to meet these demands.
Homeschooling allows many benefits to the student’s overall academic performance and should not be reduced to a mass education. Parents should have the ability to educate their children if they so choose without the interference from officials who would like to structure the curriculum. Homeschooled children have been proving, unlike their prior stereotypes, that the individualized education has made them more knowledgeable, well-rounded individuals who can relate to their peers and adults to a higher degree (National Home Education Research Institute). Homeschooled children are not isolated, withdrawn, uneducated, or dregs of society. They are starting to prove their place in the academic realm.
by Luann Avalos
“Horace Mann Wikipedia”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horace_Mann
“Education Commission of the States.”:
Families for Home Education https://fhe-mo.org/missourilaw
Lisa Rivero. “The Homeschooling Option”, 2008 pg. 93
National Home Education Research Institute: https://www.nheri.org/research-facts-on-homeschooling/