Have you seen it in the news? A story opens something like: "Abby Smith is your average high-achieving teenager. Except she's learned since Kindergarten ...from the comfort of her own kitchen table!"
Then you read, "The Smiths, like a growing number of American families, choose to let the yellow school bus pass them by. Their children learn at home."
And whether you think the Smiths are admirable or crazy, they've piqued your interest. What motivates them to go against the grain and homeschool?
Just ask a homeschool family why they do it and you'll probably get an enthusiastic bunch of responses.
Some of the top reasons we've found:
Homeschool parents can ensure their children receive the academic attention, help and challenges they deserve. The one-on-one tutorial style helps children thrive and discover unique gifts.
Who knows and loves your children more than you and your spouse? Why shouldn't you be the central influences in their educational and moral formation?
Think about the schoolteachers you know. Don't they have their hands full? They're typically supposed to teach 20-30 students at a time who have a vast range of abilities, learning styles, and special needs. But when children learn at home, they can receive the personal attention and freedom they need.
And consider the influence you could have in your child's character formation. You could deal with the fallout as your children learn values from peers and teachers with unspecified agendas. Or you could raise your children in a positive learning environment, with your own views of character development.
Homeschooling allows families to strengthen their personal family values, follow a curriculum that emphasizes specific moral teaching, and encourages their children to follow their dreams. And no matter what path they follow, families can weave meaningful discussions about faith, citizenship, service and character into everyday learning.
2. Close-knit families
Many parents rejoice in the close family bonds that homeschooling can facilitate.
Instead of just meeting (perhaps) at the dinner table between long school days, sports practices and piles of homework, homeschool parents and children learn side-by-side daily. They have plenty of relaxed time to actually get to know and appreciate one another.
Especially if families teach multiple children with the same curriculum, they spend their days building upon shared experiences and points of interest.
Homeschool families often spend considerable time reading together each day (especially if they use a literature-based curriculum). These precious times build lasting memories as children get lots of special time with Mom and Dad.
It's not uncommon to find homeschooling families "doing school" by reading out loud on the couch with Mom and the little ones cuddled up together.
As students get older, parents and students reap the rewards of having cultivated those close relationships. Instead of teenagers moaning about how their parents don't understand, those teens have spent years learning that their parents are a great source of life wisdom and direction.
Rhonda W homeschooled her children from preschool through high school. One son had serious learning difficulties that made reading and handwriting an enormous struggle. He would never have been able to keep up with classmates in school and he might even have concluded he was "stupid."
But through homeschooling, Rhonda worked with his difficulties and his strengths. She shared in March 2010:
I still tell people about my son whom we had tested for learning disabilities at the end of 5th grade – his reading, handwriting were at 1st grade level. But his content areas – science, history, even vocabulary (that one still blows me away) – were at or above grade level! All because I was reading aloud great literature to him.
What an inspiring story. Even with severe learning challenges, Rhonda's son was able to excel because of his time homeschooling.
Homeschooling tends to let children thrive academically, whatever their special gifts and needs are.
In public schools, teachers with full classrooms have to sacrifice certain academic goals simply to maintain order in the classroom. They often struggle to keep a large group of students moving along at more or less the same pace.
But homeschool families get to meet their children where they are academically.
Do you have an 8-year-old math whiz who struggles with reading? No problem. You can push him in math while making sure he gets the special reading time he needs. He might not even be aware he's ahead or behind.
Children with special needs and gifts are especially well-suited to thrive in homeschool. Classroom teachers—out of sheer, overwhelming workloads—sometimes view such children as burdens and struggle to meet their IEPs (Individualized Education Programs). But in a homeschool, all children can get the attention they need from their teachers.
Of course, children who are "little geniuses" can move as quickly as they'd like through homeschooling. Instead of getting in trouble at school because they're bored, they are free to fly at their own pace.
And for the "average" homeschool child? Many professional studies have demonstrated that homeschoolers consistently out-perform their classroom school peers.
The latest extensive scientific study on the matter shows that homeschooled students scored 34-39 percent higher than average on standardized achievement tests. In other words, while the national average for all students is the 50th percentile, "the homeschool national average ranged from the 84th percentile for Language, Math and Social Studies to the 89th percentile for Reading."
For the easy-to-read report featuring this study and other fascinating statistics, click here: Homeschool Progress Report 2009: Academic Achievement and Demographics.
4. Positive environment
It's no secret that the classroom school environment is toxic to many children. Overworked and underpaid teachers often struggle to teach too many children in one classroom. They are supposed to use one curriculum in one way to reach a hodgepodge of children: some with special gifts, others with special learning challenges, some exhibiting behavior disorders and others just learning English. And all of these children are supposed to progress at the same pace!
Does that make sense to you?
Bullies can make school a nightmare for those they persecute. The social pressure to "fit in" can cause even the best kids to make destructive decisions. And of course, many parents fear the school violence that seems to dominate headlines.
In light of these realities, do you really believe you are doing your children a disservice by giving them a positive, loving place to learn and grow? Or is the safe environment of your home a great gift to your impressionable young children?
Many families find their children are better able to gain life skills, genuine confidence and a strong work ethic through homeschooling than in a classroom environment.
Interaction with other students in homeschool support groups and co-ops, sports teams, church youth groups, music ensembles, volunteer opportunities, friends, neighbors and family provide plenty of opportunities—and mostly positive opportunities—to learn and grow alongside other children.
5. Religious and moral training
A 2007 survey by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that 36% of homeschool parents reported the main reason they homeschool is to provide religious and moral instruction.
Homeschooling gives parents freedom to educate their children through the lens of their faith. Families from many traditions (including Christianity, Judaism, Islam and New Age spirituality) value the opportunity to pass on their faith to their children.
Christians often homeschool because they desire to have a greater role in raising their children to become disciples of Christ. Proverbs 22:6 often encourages such families: "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it."
For many families across the US and around the world, the local public schools are simply out of the question because of poor academic standards, safety concerns, or a myriad of other reasons. In this case, the "obvious" thing to do is turn to private schools.
But private school tuition can range from $4,000 per student per year for "cheap" schools to well over $20,000 a year for elite schools. Many families simply cannot or do not want to commit such a large portion of their income to tuition.
Besides offering many academic and social benefits that private schools typically can't provide, homeschooling is much more cost-effective.
Even "high end" curricula cost only a fraction of one child's private school tuition. And some programs—Sonlight being one example—are designed for you to use one package with more than one student at a time. (When you're reading books that appeal to a wide range of ages, why not?) And if the age range is too wide, the right kind of package will permit younger students to use the same materials years after their older siblings first used them.
Many families find their choices narrowed down to:
- Sending their kids to unacceptable public schools;
- Having both spouses work outside the home in order to pay for private school tuition; or
- Homeschooling, thereby foregoing expensive tuition and allowing one spouse to stay home with the children.
Whatever your circumstance, homeschooling really can be a wise and economical option.
7. Sleeping late
Homeschooling offers unparalleled freedom and flexibility. No one else is dictating your family's schedule and study habits.
Does your 7-year-old work best sprawled out on the floor? Great.
Do you want your kids to get enough sleep every night (compared to the rampant sleep deprivation among public school kids)? Wonderful. Start "school" at whatever time you'd like in the morning.
Instead of pushing through the morning sprint each day to get the kids dressed, teeth brushed, lunches packed and out the door in time for school, homeschool families can cultivate a more natural, relaxed home atmosphere.
Do you want to travel 6 months of each year? Pack your curriculum and go for it.
Do you move frequently? Live overseas? Homeschooling can make location changes smoother for children and parents.
Is your child a virtuoso musician, Hollywood actor or Olympic-level athlete? Homeschooling lets families pursue big dreams without sacrificing crucial academics.
Do you want to take Fridays off to hang out with other homeschoolers, go on field trips, or head to piano lessons? No problem.
With homeschooling, you decide what your family's routine should be.
Assuming you find the homeschool option attractive, you may feel overwhelmed as you try to figure out where to go from here. Before you fret about finding curriculum and starting school, why not simply dream about your family's reasons to homeschool? Grab a pen and paper and start listing your reasons.
Then get some guidance from homeschool moms and walk through the crucial steps of "How to Set Great Goals for Your Homeschool." [pdf]
If you are ready to look at some of the wonderful books and subjects awaiting you, click one of the options below: