Mangum: To homeschool or not to homeshool?

By Jeff Mangum, “School Maze”

I have two preschool-age children who will start kindergarten soon. A couple of friends have decided to homeschool their young children instead of sending them to public school. I keep wondering whether I should consider doing the same. Is homeschooling more or less effective than a public school education?

Asking whether a homeschool education is good or bad, effective or ineffective, is like asking whether the public schools are doing a good job — the answer depends on the school and the needs of the individual child.

Some homeschoolers do a very fine job. For others, there is far too much “home” and not nearly enough “school.”

I remember one homeschool family who epitomized the best that homeschooling has to offer. The parents were completely dedicated: They had a strong, carefully planned curriculum, devoted sufficient time to the school day, and made teaching their children their highest priority. Their obviously gifted children were academically advanced, thoroughly engaged in learning, and obviously having a wonderful time. The 8-year-old boy proudly showed me the website he had designed to announce his political endorsements.

By contrast, I witnessed firsthand the legacy of poor homeschooling in the life of a foster child who lived with our family many years ago. He had been out of public school for several years and supposedly had been homeschooled. But in reality, he had not been “schooled” at all. When he came to our home, he was two to three academic years behind his peers and had to be placed a grade behind his chronological age. Even then, he struggled to keep up.

Obviously, most homeschool experiences fall somewhere between these two extremes. And the reality is that no one really knows how well homeschooled children do in comparison to their public school peers. While all public school students are tested each year, homeschool students are not — the homeschool community has strenuously opposed mandatory standardized testing. As a consequence, there is simply no reliable data available to compare the academic performance of homeschooled students to public school students.

Homeschooling has many advantages. Parental involvement in a child’s education has a profound impact on student achievement, whether a child is educated at home or in a public school. And a parent is able to give a child more attention than any teacher with 30 other students possibly can. Moreover, homeschooling enables parents to teach the family’s moral and spiritual values along with academic subjects. Public schools must remain strictly secular.

But even homeschool advocates acknowledge that there are disadvantages to homeschooling. Establishing a curriculum that covers everything a child needs to know is a huge challenge, even for trained educators, and some homeschooled children have knowledge “gaps.” Students who are exposed only to their parents’ teaching styles and viewpoints may not receive a broad and varied education. Homeschooled students do not get the opportunity to compete and cooperate with peers, including peers they do not like. They miss out on the wonderfully democratic experience of being thrown into a diverse group with whom they share all the academic, social and emotional challenges of growing up.

For its part, PUSD acknowledges and supports parents’ decisions to homeschool their children. Martha Parham, PUSD’s director of Alternative Programs, put it this way: “The overwhelming majority of homeschool parents we work with are diligent and sincerely devoted to their children’s education and simply choose to be more involved in the process. Their hearts are in the right place, and most are doing a good job.”

Parham emphasized that PUSD stands ready to partner with homeschool parents, by providing materials, making classes available to homeschooled students (through New Directions or distance learning), and facilitating standardized testing. PUSD is working to expand the partnership between the district and homeschoolers. And by involving PUSD, homeschool parents may help the district receive additional funding. It is a wonderful win-win opportunity.

How do you feel about homeschooling? Share your views at school.maze@gmail.com.

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Posted by Staff on Nov 16 2011. Filed under Columnists. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

13 Comments for “Mangum: To homeschool or not to homeshool?”

  1. The number of factual errors and misinformation in this article is staggering. I would appreciate it if authors attempting to write about homeschooling would conduct some basic research prior to writing. Let’s correct four major fallacies.

    1. “The reality is that no one really knows how well homeschooled children do in comparison to their public school peers… there is simply no reliable data available to compare the academic performance of homeschooled students to public school students.” Dr. Lawrence Rudner ‘s 1998 study Homeschooling Works and Dr. Brian Ray’s Progress Report 2009: Homeschool Academic Achievement and Demographics both clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of homeschooling over a public school education. http://www.hslda.org/docs/news/200908100.asp

    • EducatedThinker

      Arby – Your link to the website of the "Home School Legal Defense Association," an organization which describes not just all of its officers and directors, but all of its employees, as "followers of Christ" (directly from the "ABOUT" page of their website) and which describes its mission as dedicated entirely to advocating on behalf of homeschooling, which cherry-picked a study from well over a decade ago supporting their advocacy and then "commissioned" Dr. Ray (the President of the "National Home Education Research Institute") to confirm that study, is what you consider authoritative on this issue? So authoritative, in fact, that you cite it as the basis for accusing Mr. Mangum's very balanced article of containing a "staggering" amount of factual errors and misinformation? I think it is apparent who has more credibility on this issue, and who never received the benefits of a "liberal education."

  2. 2. “Students who are exposed only to their parents’ teaching styles and viewpoints may not receive a broad and varied education.” This is only possible if and only if homeschooled parents are the only teachers a homeschooled child is exposed to, and if the parents purposely teach with a narrow scope. The truth is that the vast majority of homeschooled children are taught by adults other than their parents through co-ops, dual credit college courses, and through special programs offered by organizations such as 4H and college extension offices. Homeschooling parents with particular academic strengths often teach other homeschooled children, so a homeschooling parent who is weak in math might be able to have their children taught math by another homeschooling parent who is better in that subject.

  3. 3. “Homeschooled students do not get the opportunity to compete and cooperate with peers, including peers they do not like.” A great many homeschooled children participate in programs such as scouting, martial arts, and community sponsored athletic programs such as little league, pee-wee football, soccer, etc., that are lead by people from a variety of backgrounds. Their peers come from a variety of backgrounds. It is ridiculous to think that in these activities every gets along. Bullies and difficult personalities do not stop their behavior when they leave school each day. It’s short-sighted to believe that there aren’t homeschooling bullies who make can make co-op activities a challenging experience for everyone involved.

  4. 4. “They miss out on the wonderfully democratic experience of being thrown into a diverse group with whom they share all the academic, social and emotional challenges of growing up.” Only if they never leave their homes. See #3 and 4 above. _

  5. Mykidsmom

    I love how the author says that some homeschooled children will have "gaps". Every person has "gaps" in their education because it is impossible to know everything. I would wager, however, that most homeschooled children have fewer gaps in things like history, grammar, etc. when compared to their public schooled counterparts. I know that teaching my child has clearly shown me the gaps from my public school education as well as my degree in education that I now consider worthless.

  6. Teresa

    I have to second the comments made by Arby. I am also going to take issue with the example of the foster child cited by the author. He commented that this child "had not been 'schooled' at all" and used this as an example of poor homeschooling. If he wasn't "schooled at all", then he also wasn't homeschooled and his case, while sad, is totally irrelevant to the conversation.

  7. Harvey

    Home schooling is a great option for parents who are dedicated to teach them. If you get lazy parents, you get lazy output. Public school in Poway isn't that bad, but if you go to other areas, you'll be forced to put your child with students who may not care as much. Hopefully that doesn't rub off into your kids. Home school kid's do need socializing. Sports are a great compliment to it. Private school is yet another good option not mentioned. The fact that you have the choice to school your children through public school, private school, or home school is a great thing.

  8. Jamie

    So what if he was behind? Perhaps he still would have been if had gone to school. Perhaps he would have sat down at a certain age and "caught up" on his own. Kids are pretty smart, and sometimes while it may look to others that he's "behind" (and what does "behind" mean anyways? I hate the fact we compare our children to other children to see if they are "smart enough" or "on grade level", ridiculous!) he may be ahead in other ways. This article is just another example of an ignorant person acting like they know anything about homeschooling. Do your research first before you write another article spread your ignorance.

  9. Tom Yarnall

    I find the comments of the author and all respondents are about equal and worthless. Using anecdotes and generalities to establish fact is a useless exercise. In this case there are too many variables to consider and until there is a good tool to measure the total effect there will never be an acceptable conclusion.
    I believe each family should continue to be given the liberty to do what they think is best for their children. We already have too much government intrusion into parental responsibilities for their children's development.

  10. EDB

    I thought this was a good article. It was thought provoking and brought up a couple different points. I think home schooling is good when the parents are willing and dedicated to putting in a lot of effort. The public school system is pretty awful, but I think it fits some kids well, especially when their parents can't teach them during the day.

    • Suzan D Reed

      Who says people only learn during the day, our whole family learns 24/7, and I do count sleeping because that's when my brain does it's daily processing and sorting of events and info. I have a lot of single parent friends who homeschool also. Some of the best science and history shows are on PBS in the evenings. Love NOVA and Frontline. Independent Lens is great for civics. Watch C-Span. The opportunities to learn are endless. Kahn accademy is free and available on the web 24/7.

  11. Suzan D Reed

    BTW I am a Homeschool parent from NV, and my sister homeschools in OC, CA. I hope thing are well there in Poway, by San Diego.

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