Home Schooling – A Viable Alternative?

Home schooling is a form of training and education, in which the children are taught at home by the parents or tutors, rather than in schools. Other common term for this type of education are domestic education, home education and home teaching. Unlike convention schooling systems home schooling can look very different according to where you choose to look. The spectrum ranges from highly structured, traditional education-oriented practices up to very open, formless educational experiences where there is little or no presence of a curriculum.

Since the 1980s, home schooling in the United States experienced a distinct revival. The motives of the families who practice home teaching, are diverse. The desire for home schooling is not only a religious phenomenon. In surveys and studies the most often mentioned reasons are:

• Parents refuse to force her child against his will into school.
• The school is contrary to the educational ideals or educational objectives of parents.
• The children have suffered serious bullying or psychological damage at school.
• Parents see better educational opportunities for their child in the home schooling.
• Parents believe home schooling offers the child the possibility of learning self-determined.
• Parents simply reject the State school system.
• Parents insinuate the school system pursues a hidden curriculum which precludes the official educational objectives, We can    loosely call this a Libertarian view.
• Parents reject the school environment as a form of socialization
• Parents want to protect their child from drugs, gangs, violence and degrading treatment.

In the United States about 1.5 million children are home schooled. This has doubled over the last 10 years. The growth in has been made possible by the Internet and the easy and large scale access to textbooks and teaching materials that contain complete curricula and can efficiently be used by non- trained teachers. These materials represent not only the curriculum of the school year, but contain all of the exercises and tests in the form of worksheets and interactive web-based projects.

In Europe, home schooling is still less common and sometimes limited. The numbers of practicing families vary greatly depending on the countries and are often hard to identify because of the freedom of the registry. In 2004 over 20,000 children were home schooled in the Scandinavian countries, in France up to 160,000 children. In some countries such as Ireland, Italy and Spain, the freedom of education and the possibility of home schooling are supported by constitutional law.

In Austria, there is no basic compulsory education, but only a teaching duty. “General” provisions on education must be made available to every child in the county and the choice to partake in state education is reserved for the child’s parent or guardian. Critics of religiously motivated home schooling stress that children of parents with strict religious ideas must have the right to experience curricula that introduces other world views with teachings about sexuality, science and tolerance of cultural/ethnic diversity.

An important aspect of the child’s development is social competence. 
If you are interested in home schooling or already even practice it, it is likely that you will have questions about the challenges of socialisation. “How can my child get a fully rounded education if they are not learning in a social setting?” and “Spending time with their families is not the same as spending time with their peers”. There is not one fixed answer to this, it very much depends on the temperament of the individual child as to whether they will experience some kind of adverse effect from learning on their own. Some children clearly benefit from this experience, sometimes because of the need more of a one-to-one teacher/student relationship. Other children thrive in larger groups and clearly suffer from not studying with in a peer group.

We spoke with one family in Louisville, Kentucky who described their home schooling curriculum as “rich and diverse” stating that they found creative ways to apply real life learning experiences to their oldest son’s subjects. For example during his hand skills project he actually went out and helped a local contractor do construction on a friends house. Also as part of his math project he helped work out his families insurance claim after they lost their garage roof in a storm! This is an interesting method of blending curriculum into development of “life skills”. The family went on to say that the child’s confidence and self esteem has improved greatly from when he was in formal schooling the previous year.

The Canadian psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld has demonstrated in his seminal book “Our kids need us” that the orientation of children to their peers is a fatal mistake in the educational process. He thinks that children and young people take their identity, their values and behavior codes increasingly from immature peers, instead of from their parents and mature adult personalities.
A major advantage of home school children over others is that they live and often learn together with different ages… young adults, mature adults and elders. Just the interaction of different age groups under the senior authority of a mature adult promotes a positive social behaviour.

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