Most parents take for granted that their children will be going to a public or private school for a dozen or more years, starting at about age 5. But a growing number of American families are rethinking their idea of education and opting to teach their children at home. Odd as it may seem to some, there are certain advantages of homeschooling that might make you give it a second look.
Nearly 1.7 million American children are currently homeschooled, or 3.3 percent of the student population, according to the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI). The National Foundation for Education Statistics breaks the figures down further: Homeschooling families are predominantly white, two-parent households that are likely to have three or more children, live in the suburbs or city, and earn a middle-class income. They're more likely to homeschool younger children (kindergarten through 5th grade) than older ones.
You may think of homeschooling as an antiquated concept right out of Little House on the Prairie. Or maybe you associate it with fringe members of society, such as families living off the grid, or ultra-religious clans who try to shelter their children from the evils of the secular world. But in fact, homeschooling families come in all sizes, shapes, and personal beliefs. They may choose to become at-home teachers because the public schools in their area are struggling, or because they disagree with the system's emphasis on standardized testing and Common Core curriculum. Whatever their reasons, homeschooling families enjoy a number of added benefits that they may not even have expected when they first chose this path. Here are just a few:
1. Homeschooling parents choose their preferred curriculum.
Depending on where they live, homeschooling parents may be required to teach certain subjects, formally assess their children's progress, and to meet attendance requirements, according to Education Week. But one advantage that appeals to many parents is the freedom to use the curriculum that they feel best meets their family's and child's needs.
2. Homeschoolers avoid the hassle of commuting.
No traffic jams, waiting for the school bus, or sitting in line at the school drop-off point for homeschooling moms — and no getting up at the crack of dawn for their kids, either (unless an early day works for your family). The classroom is just a few steps away and ready to go at a moment's notice. Of course, the flip side is that there are no snow days, either... unless Mom decides to postpone the lessons until her students have done a few sledding runs first.
3. Homeschoolers have flexible schedules.
Homeschooling laws vary widely from state to state, USLegal.com explained. Most states have no minimum requirement of the number of days or hours a homeschooling parent must teach per year, and even those that do have looser rules in general than the ones for public schools (for example, Tennessee mandates only four hours of instruction per school day). Homeschooling families aren't required to keep the same calendar days as public schools, leaving them free to plan vacations during times when most kids are in class. (Imagine avoiding the lines at Disney World by traveling in early September.)
4. Homeschooled children learn in a safe environment.
School isn't the sanctuary of learning it once was. News headlines about bullying, vandalism, and shootings are enough to make any parent fearful every time their child enters school. Homeschoolers have no such fears; they can learn and study without the added stress of lockdown drills and harassment. True, there have been instances of abusive parents and guardians who homeschooled their children in order to hide the signs of abuse and neglect, but these are exceptions rather than the rule.
5. Homeschooled kids have less social drama.
Unlike kids who learn outside the home alongside other children, homeschooled students have the peace of mind that comes with avoiding gossips, mean girls, bullies, and peer pressure during the school day. But that doesn't mean these kids never socialize either. Some parents in a community may opt to join other local homeschooling families and conduct some lessons together. And spending less time in a classroom opens frees up a child's time to join more clubs and sports teams — which may make it easier for the kids to find friends who share their interests.
6. Homeschooling parents have more say over what their children learn.
Parents who think their school district's curriculum falls short of the mark — say, not enough women represented in history class, or a decreasing emphasis on the arts — may appreciate the freedom homeschooling offers to teach literature, social studies, science, and other subjects to their own specifications. They can also focus more time on the things that really interest their children, which in turn keeps the kids engaged in learning. Plus, "teaching to the test" is a non-issue.
The flip side to this, of course, is that children's education may be influenced by their parents' personal beliefs, which may worry some critics.
7. Homeschooled children learn at their own pace.
In a traditional school setting, all children in a class go through each unit of study at the same rate of speed. Students who are struggling, or bored because they need more challenging material, are at a disadvantage if the teacher doesn't have the time to give them the guidance they need. A homeschooling parent has the advantage of being able to give that one-on-one time. If their child needs more intensive practice with the times tables, they can spend an extra week or two without having to worry about rushing to start on division problems.
8. Homeschooled children have more freedom to learn outside the classroom.
A public school child might go on three or four field trips a year, if they're lucky. A homeschooling family can go to museums, zoos, and historical sites as often as they choose. A mom who teaches her children can offer math and science lessons through cooking, or have them create their own comic book to practice writing characters and plots.
9. Homeschooling parents are deeply involved in their children's education.
Most parents have only a general idea of what goes on in their child's classroom — and no clue of what their child really means when they say "nothing happened at school today." Homeschooling parents have no such issues. Nor do they have to contend with forgotten homework, parent-teacher conferences, or PTA fundraising responsibilities. They know exactly what their children are learning and how well they know it, without the struggle of keeping up with the other aspects of school life.
10. Homeschooling parents have more quality time with their children.
Perhaps the biggest benefit to homeschooling is the opportunity it affords the at-home parent to be a parent. The six-plus hours a child spends at school is six fewer hours they might be growing closer to their family; that time gap grows wider if one or more parents work outside the home. Having a child learn at home during those important school years means more time to talk, share ideas, and make memories together. Any parent who's watched their child go from a kindergartner to a high school graduate in an eyeblink will tell you that's a pretty big deal.