Numerous research studies uncovering the advantages of homeschooling have been conducted over several decades, indicating that among many benefits, homeschooled students tend to score higher on standardized tests, are better prepared for college and even get more sleep than their public school counterparts. Apparently, an increasing number of parents and guardians have taken note as indicated by the growing numbers of those who homeschool their children. Approximately 3.4 percent of the school-age children are homeschooled – double the percentage (1.7 percent) of those homeschooled in 1999.
Given the plethora of data that indicates homeschooling works for many students, Education Secretary John King’s concern about homeschooled students is brow-raising to say the least. He voiced his worries recently to reporters at a breakfast which the The Christian Science Monitor hosted. While he said that there are homeschooling families that do well, he told those in attendance that he worries that homeschooled students aren’t “getting the range of options that are good for all kids.” According to Politico:
I taught in public and private schools for 11 years and believe that there are things that many public schools are doing well, but I am also a firm advocate for the individualized instruction homeschooled students tend to experience via a wide range of options, including but not limited to community art centers that offer classes such as acting, music appreciation, dance, art, sewing, songwriting, etc. In our family’s case, not only did my husband and I both work as teachers, I also worked as a newspaper reporter and columnist, so teaching our two children to write is easy for me. Not only has my husband worked as a certified art teacher, his art has been and is currently on display in a one-man show. Teaching our children art is second nature to him. My husband is also a businessman.
He will teach our children the nuances of entrepreneurship. He has played chess for most of his life. The benefits of children learning chess is well-documented, and he taught our 8-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter how to play when they were 5 and 4. Heck, he even taught me! My husband is also a professional carpenter, having held general contractor’s licenses in four states. He’s teaching our children carpentry. My husband was a high school tennis and basketball coach. He’s teaching our children those sports as well.
Just in our homeschooling household alone, our children are being taught Spanish, coding, chess, tennis, basketball and carpentry, and we’re adding business, agriculture, sewing along with organized sports on top of regular academics. Subjects that we are not well-versed in, we supplement via our community recreation center, community arts center and the internet. College prep and dual-enrollment courses are also literally at the fingertips of many homeschooled students.
While I understand that many homeschooling parents aren’t certified teachers as both my husband and I are nor are most writers or artists, the research shows that many homeschooling parents are providing their children with a good education. Such families include the Bush family of Florida, whose children graduated from high school and college simultaneously. In addition, there are approximately 59 education choice programs now in place from which families can select. I can’t even begin to list the free resources available via the internet such as free music lessons, free second language lessons, free lesson plans and free hands-on science activities. In addition to all we are currently exposing our children to, they are also learning about coal and its uses with actual chunks of free coal from the American Coal Foundation.
King stated that he worries that “students who are homeschooled are not getting the kind of the rapid instructional experience they would get in school” unless parents are “very intentional about it.”King touts the rapid instructional experience of public school, yet math and English language arts scholars have voiced concerns repeatedly that Common Core doesn’t prepare students for college.
King also said the school experience includes building relationships with peers, teachers and mentors – elements which are difficult to achieve in homeschooling, he said, unless parents focus on it.
What is so normal about being with a group of people who are the exact same age as you for six hours a day for 180 days a year? In what other venue of life do we only spend chunks of our lives with people who are exactly our age? Some of the ways parents ensure that their homeschooled children interact with others is by being members of the numerous homeschool co-ops, being active in their community recreation center and in their community arts centers’ lessons and activities, having their children participate in community sports, enrolling their children in various library clubs and simply letting their children play with the other children in their neighborhoods. That sounds like plenty of opportunities to “socialize” their children to me. Meanwhile these very opportunities afford homeschooled students the chance to interact with mentors as well.
A shining example of the “socialization” that is available to many homeschooled students is that of former quarterback Tim Tebow who played football as a homeschooled student in Florida because the state permits homeschooled students to play on public school sports teams. He then became the first homeschooled student to win the coveted Heisman Trophy.
Given the number of problems plaguing numerous public school systems, it would seem that King wouldn’t voice any concern about data-supported homeschooling. Here are just a few of the problems King might lose sleep over:
- According to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress, administered by the U.S. Department of Education, just one-third of all eighth-graders in public schools can read proficiently.
- Roughly two out of 10 students don’t graduate high school at all.
- The United States ranks in the middle of the pack on international assessments such as the Program for International Student Assessment.
- There’s also the pervasive problem of bullying in schools.
- For some students, the very act of traveling back and forth to school is a life-threatening endeavor on a daily basis.
In addition to those problems, black students tend to encounter considerably more:
- Black children tend to encounter racial bias from those who educate them as early as preschool.
- Black children are sometimes subjected to questionable lessons, such as one that included a slavery simulation where slaves (students) were sent back to the plantation to be beaten. (The students weren’t physically beaten). There was also the instance of a teacher administering a “ghetto-themed” test, which depicted characters called “pimps and hos.”
- There are many instances of black students being bullied or taunted with racial slurs.
- Black students are less likely to be identified as gifted.
- There are school districts that have been sued for discrimination against black students.
- Federal data shows that black students are four times more likely to be suspended from school than white students.
Attending a brick and mortar school isn’t the only way to be educated. It’s simply one way. Homeschooling is another. Maybe King’s ultimate concern is that more parents will select a method of educating their children that they control themselves.