This morning there was a post on the Uncompahgre Gorge blog by danielquenton. He asked the question, "Are private schools better than homeschooling is? What do you think?"
Of course, I can hardly ever resist a question like that. And having a fairly strong opinion on this issue, I had to get my 2 cents' worth in!
I believe (pretty strongly, too), that generally speaking, for most kids, homeschooling is better. Here are some reasons why:
1) Homeschooling provides by far the best teacher-student ratio. This means kids get a more individualized education, and waste less time “learning” what they already know, and doing worksheets in order to keep them busy while the teacher tries to help someone else.
2) Homeschooling takes advantage of a completely different format than classroom education. Kids learn science more effectively, for example, by experiencing the world around them - real gardening rather than bringing home little bean seeds in a jar that ultimately gets thrown away; catching a grasshopper in a jar and watching it eat before releasing it; bird-watching in the backyard or a nearby park; playing with soap bubbles and water to experience the properties of each; and so on. They learn history better by field trips to places where things happened, by reading biographies, original sources, and historical fiction in a comfortable, friendly environment, and then by discussing what they’ve learned with family and friends (rather than reading a textbook full of information processed and made dull by a committee, and then answering a bunch of questions about it). They get a much better foundation in math by cooking, sewing, helping remodel the basement, etc. - and they understand the relevance of it. They get more out of literature when they read whole books rather than just excerpts. And they learn art and music more thoroughly when they see it built into their parents’ lives rather than just as another class they have to get through. Private schools, no matter how good, simply can’t offer the advantages of the homeschooling format - real, whole books, life experience, field trips, observation of real life, interaction with and mentoring by many different people, time to explore, apprenticeship, discussion, and much more.
3) Homeschooling teachers are far more invested in their children’s success than private school teachers can possibly be. After all, ultimately the responsibility for how the child turns out belongs to parents (even when they send their children to school). No one says, “Well, it’s no wonder that child turned out so bad - they had such a terrible third-grade teacher.” The buck stops with the parent, and in homeschooling, that’s even more true.
4) Studies have shown that one of the top measures of a child’s academic success is their relationship with their teacher. Homeschooling parents go to great effort to maintain a good relationship with their children. There’s no guarantee that a child will have that kind of relationship with their teachers, even in a private school.
5) Homeschooling allows the teacher to use any curriculum or format that fits a particular student, and to use different curricula or formats for each student. And when students outgrow the teacher’s ability (which they will in many areas - and which, incidentally, some students will do in a classroom approach as well), homeschooling allows the teacher to seek out a different way for the student to learn - whether an online or correspondence course, a college-level class, a book, a mentor or tutor, or some other approach.
6) Homeschooling allows a family the flexibility to determine their priorities based on what’s best for them as a whole group. They have the freedom to put up their textbooks and take a six-day trip back east, as our family did last spring. (Dad bought a car in New Hampshire and we drove it back to Colorado, stopping to enjoy historic Massachusetts, a town in New York named after our family, and Niagara Falls, among other things. Our kids learned more history and geography from that trip than they would have learned in weeks of textbooks, and the learning is alive and real to them still a year later.) Or they can decide to do a bit extra during the summer so they can take time off when other kids are in school. Or they can skip math on a day when the kids are restless and bake cookies instead (a great lesson in fractions or multiplication, especially if you halve or double the recipe).
In short, generally speaking homeschooling is a much better option for most kids. Of course, there are some parents who do not have the self-discipline necessary to keep their kids on task; there are single parents who really can’t make the time to educate their kids; and there are selfish parents who aren’t willing to give up their own agenda to make their kids a priority during the years they are being educated. There are also kids who hate being homeschooled or who desperately want to go to school. Those families might be better off putting their kids in private school. But for parents who care about their children’s education and are willing to dedicate the time and energy necessary, home schooling really provides a much better education.
There’s a reason why the Columbia Missourian online had this quote at the end of their article on homeschooling yesterday:
“The dean of academic affairs at Columbia College, Terry Smith, home schooled his children and remains an influence on the recruitment of future home-schooled students. . . .‘There are no home-schooled students at Columbia College that haven’t excelled,” Monnig said. “They are all really involved, and most are on the dean’s list.’”