The homeschooling community is usually either ignored or reviled in discussions concerning the educational systems in America but those who disregard the homeschool movement are ignoring a large group of people who have much to contribute to the discussion. On both an individual and national scale, homeschool families can improve education and should be included in the conversation.
For individual students, homeschooling can improve their educational experience by providing personalized instruction, a schedule perhaps better suited to the student, and more opportunities to study areas of interest. A child who has attended public school and is then brought home for education will find significant differences in their school experience. The public school setting is designed for classroom management of a variety of behaviors and academic levels. Public school teachers are responsible for as many as 25 students and must try to adjust the standard, prescribed curriculum to meet the needs of each of those students all while maintaining order in the classroom. Is it any wonder that teachers get burned out? When a student tranfers from a public school setting to a homeschool environment, they are allowed to have some input in their education and the schedule for the day. The instruction provided and projects assigned are specifically targeted to their developmental readiness and academic goals. The homeschool teacher is not distracted by 24 other students, administration conflicts, or frustration with the provided curriculum but is better able to focus on providing appropriate and interesting material to their students. This is an improvement in education.
On a national level, educators and educational researchers should take advantage of the homeschool environment to study the differences in learning between public school students and homeschooled children. The strategies employed in the homeschool setting can be utilized in various ways within a public school classroom to reach students who require a different educational model. Education professionals and researchers often discount the homeschool parent/teacher as a resource for improving instructional models, altering classroom management strategies, or increasing the efficacy of curriculum. In reality, a homeschool parent/teacher can offer ideas to public school teachers on how to best reach a child who seems uninterested in a specific topic, how to manage behavioral issues while still giving attention to the student who is behaving properly (who better to give this advice than a Mom at home with several children all day!). Homeschool parent/teachers can also offer advice on tailoring standard curriculum to meet the needs of specific students based on their experiences in combining different curriculums or altering it to meet the needs of their children.
Any discussion about educational practices in America should include input from each of the factions providing that education to our children. It is a disservice to both the public school system and homeschool families to not take advantage of the opportunity to learn from each other, exchange ideas and strategies, and offer support for the challenging work of educating our children. It should be the goal of every educator in every setting to improve education in our country and we can do it best if we work together.
Mimi Rothschild is a veteran homeschooling mother of 8, writer of a series of books called Cyberspace for Kids, and passionate advocate for children and education that is truly worthy of them. In 2001, Mimi and her late husband founded Learning By Grace, a leading provider of online Christian homeschooling Academies.