Home schooling is the education of children at home.
The advantages usually cited by proponents include: individual attention, customized curricula, efficient use of children's time, a safer environment, freedom from harmful peers, religious instruction, privacy, parental control, and accurate socialization to adult society.
The disadvantages cited by opponents include: nonstandard instruction, uncredentialed teachers, lack of accountability to society, lessened support for public schools, and improper or inadequate socialization with peers.
In the U.S. in 1999, homeschoolers scored about 23% higher than publicly-schooled children on refereed nationally-normed tests. Most employers find home-schooled persons work with less need for supervision. In 2001, public school grades are deprecated by many college-entrance procedures, and a GED taken at less than 18 years of age, combined with good scores on the SAT and ACT permit entrance to most colleges and apprenticeships. The individualized instruction and customized curriculi may compensate for other disadvantages.
Many home-schooling families address socialization concerns by joining numerous organizations, including private, campusless independent study programs, and specialized PE, Art, Music, and Debate enrichment groups. Most are also active in five to seven community groups, as opposed to the one to three common in other families.
Most homeschooling families make substantial economic sacrifices to educate their children at home. One parent, almost always the mother, refrains from working in order to give instruction. If there are preschool children, homeschooling can be a better economic use of a parents' time than combining low-paying work with child-care and poor public schooling. Many home-schooling mothers say that the extra time they spend with their children is precious.
A family interested in home-schooling should first decide what their educational goals are, and then go to home-schooling conventions and curricula fairs to locate options. Curriculum shops and mail-order houses can help locate conventions. Most families find a trip to a home-schooling convention fascinating, because of the number and scope of options.
There are three basically different types of homeschooling curricula: unit-studies, special materials, and all-in-one curricula.
Unit studies teach most subjects in combination, around central subjects of interest to most children. For example, a unit study of American Indians would combine age-appropriate lessons in Social Studies (how did Indians live?), Art (making Indian Clothing), History (What happened to Indians in the U.S.), Reading (usually by a reading list), Science (Plants used by Indians). Next month, the unit-study subject would change to "Construction," or some other real-world subject or culture.
Unit studies make excellent use of student time by combining several fields into one study time, and permit students to follow personal interests. Unit studies also permit a family to study together. For example, in an Indian unit, a 10th-grade daughter might make a deer-skin coat as her Art project, while a 1st-grade student might make construction-paper tipis.
Unit studies require an organized, motivated teacher, and active students. Unit studies require large amounts of preparation and if inadequately prepared, provide inadequate drill on basic skills. To offset these requirements, home-schoolers often purchase unit-study guides that suggest materials, projects and shopping lists, and supplement them with specialized curricula for math, and sometimes reading and writing.
Special materials are excellent for improving skills, and easy to prepare. Usually they consist of workbooks, possibly with text books and a teachers' guide. Often the teachers' guide will give exact words for a teacher to say. Many specialized subjects are only available in this form.
Special materials are frequently used for math, which requires sustained, progressive effort, and primary reading, when a child first learns to read.
However, children often find special materials boring. Also, some parents may over-focus on skills while excluding Social Studies, Science, Art, History and other fields that help children learn their place in the world.
All in one curricula
All-in-one curricula arrive in a box, usually covering an entire year. They contain all needed books and materials, including pencils and writing paper. They are designed for home-learning. Most such curricula were developed for isolated families who lack access to public schools, libraries and stores.
All-in-one curricula are easy to purchase and use, and require minimal preparation. The teacher's guides are usually extensive, with step-by-step instructions. They are usually designed around standard grade-levels, so that home-schooled students can return to public school with minimal friction. These programs are usually academically excellent, and may include nationally-normed tests, and remote examinations to yield an accedited private-school diploma.
All-in-ones also lack freedom for children to pursue personal interests. The curricula tend to be generic, with limited resources, and often more repetition and less outside reading than other forms. There is often an intimidating schedule, and a high work-load.
Freedom of Instruction
Unusual options are available to home-schooling families. The family curriculum is usually integrated with vacations, religious activities, community organizations, reading and other family activities. Education can proceed flexibly, at students' own paces, year-around, even with frequent traveling. Religion, ethics, and character topics are frequently taught. Many home-schooling families teach a Classical education, often even the Trivium, including Latin and even Greek. Home-schooled children often study a second language. Geography, Art and Music are often taught. Money-management and business studies may be integrated with the family business. Math programs usually terminate in Calculus for high-school students.
Links and Organizations
In the U.S., prominent national organizations include the Home-School Legal Defence Association (HSLDA), whose Web site is http://www.hslda.org, and the Christian Home Educators' Association (CHEA). The HSLDA provides legal insurance, advice and nonprofit lobbying for a small yearly contribution. The CHEA provides local conventions, curriculum fairs, and contacts with local home-schooling co-ops, which can be hard to locate.
See also: educational philosophies