Recently called “the most prominent home-schooler in America” by the Los Angeles Times, Rick Santorum has suggested that he would cut federal funding for education and encourage Americans to home school their children. This got my attention because it is not entirely unrealistic that he will be our next president, and to be frank, I have always found the concept of home schooling to be a bit wacky. But then last week I saw on Facebook that a college friend I respect and know to be very intelligent is homeschooling, and it made me wonder: could homeschooling be best for our kids?
Overcoming my apprehension about homeschooling is not going to be easy. As a former teacher, it strikes me as a bit arrogant for a parent to think they can teach their child better than a credentialed teacher. To become a teacher I had to get a masters’ degree in education, pass a four hour credential test, and then spend six months student teaching. People often dismiss what teachers do and assume they can do it themselves just as well, but the reality is that teachers are trained professionals doing a job much more difficult and nuanced than it looks from the outside.
Another problem I have with homeschooling is that our public school system offers kids a lot of benefits that the home cannot. Technology labs, art studios, gymnasiums and sports fields, counselors, resources for students with learning difficulties… the list goes on and on.
Lastly, I think it is important that kids interact with their peers and not be isolated at home. Kids need to experience the bumps and bruises of a social group; to learn the lessons of working together. There’s also all of the things the home schooled will miss – rites of passage like prom, football games, and school plays.
Home schooling is not without its benefits, however. One-on-one attention from a parent can be tremendously helpful to a child, especially when class sizes continue to grow due to cutbacks and funding problems. Teachers today have more students and less resources, and the quality of our kids’ education is hurting because of it.
Another positive of home schooling is that parents can individualize the curriculum for their child. This allows a kid to focus on his or her strengths and weaknesses, and not be at the mercy of a more generalized curriculum that aims to educate forty kids of differing needs all at the same time.
There’s also the disturbing problem of bullying in our schools. It’s horrific to think about how many kids are committing suicide because of abuse heaped upon them at school. That fact, combined with horror of school shootings, means that our schools are a much scarier place than they ever should be.
Despite this, I still think Annie will benefit most from attending public school, and I also worry that moving our society toward home schooling would benefit the rich and middle class (who have the financial resources and education to successfully home school), but be inequitable to the poor.
While I am still a proponent of traditional education, I am definitely more open to home schooling than I was before. Our kids are lagging behind the rest of the world. Maybe it is time for another approach?