To Homeschool or Not to Homeschool

For a long time I was paddling back and forth between the idea of homeschooling and sending Gavin to regular school. It was hubby who laid down the law and stated that Gavin would go to school that finally crushed any lingering thoughts about homeschooling. Well, okay, it didn’t crush all lingering thoughts, but it did put an end to our discussion of homeschooling.

I know it seems odd that I should write this since I am not a homeschooler so what would I know about homeschooling? Perhaps because it allows me to comment with less bias since I am not attempting to defend my decision? Although we do not homeschool, I do see a lot of merit in homeschooling and often wonder if I have made the right choice not to homeschool. In the past, whenever I have put forward the idea of homeschooling, it was often shot down by arguments against it not because they are valid arguments but because there is a certain stigma about being homeschooled.

What’s the stigma? That homeschooled children are “weird”. Because they lack a “normal” education, they somehow become misfits in society and behave strangely. The irony is that these comments often come from people who hear from other people about homeschooled children. They are never first-hand experiences with a homeschooled child. It seems to me that much of these are misconceived notions being spread around like a hoax chain-email.

When I speak to individuals who have met homeschooled children (some now adults), I hear a completely different story. These children are bright, successful, engaging and socially pleasant individuals who appear to be everything I hope my children turn out to be like as they grow up.

And if there really are “weird” homeschooled children, then let me ask this question: does every child that goes through “normal” school turn out “normal”? I’m sure we have more than our fair share of “weird” children coming out of schools but we don’t hear about them because they took the road commonly travelled.

And if you need further convincing, read what Shaunti Feldhahn from The Seattle Times has to say in Home-schooling in the modern world: Success of home-schooled children.

Why Consider Homeschooling?

Why NOT consider homechooling? It is not news that a growing number of parents are turning towards homeschooling because they are dissatisfied with what the schools are offering their children. As Penelope Trunk put it the “school system is really just the biggest babysitting institution in the world”. Of course she was referring to the US school system, but I think there are plenty of parents around the world who might say the same of schools in their country with the possible exception of Finland. Then again, if we had more schools like the ones in Finland, it wouldn’t be a problem.

But I digress… Why consider homeschooling? These are just some of the reasons put forward from Isabel Shaw on Family Education:

  • Homeschooled kids consistently score higher than their schooled peers on standardized tests.
  • By the time homeschooled kids are in the eighth grade, they are four years ahead of their schooled peers.
  • It takes as little as two hours a day of homeschooling to keep up with and exceed the amount of learning going on at school giving children more time to pursue other things they enjoy.

She also talks about less bullying, less peer pressure, unspoken dress codes, social cliques, and safety issues (some schools have made it mandatory for children to pass through metal detectors before entering the compound).

But what about socialisation? Aren’t homeschooled children socially inept because they lack adequate exposure to other children of their age? This has been a common argument I hear against homeschooling and this is what one parent has to say about it:

True socialization is not about 45 children in a classroom regulated by bells and being asked to concentrate by a harrassed teacher.  It is not 20minute recess breaks where one has to fit in a toilet break, a snack, catch up on home work and perhaps a little bit of play.

True socialization is not about being told off when you help your classmate with work he struggles with.  Nor is it about being segregated in to Malay, Chinese and Indian for the class quiz.  And it sure as HELL ain’t being rushed off from one tuition class to another so you can score enough A’s to get into a better class.

My friends come from all over the world.  They range from 20 years older to about 15 years younger.  Some of us are poor and some are rich.  Some live in Malaysia, some elsewhere.  Some are HSers, most are not.  Some are religious, some chronic athiests.  Some are married with kids, some are dating.  Some are straight and some committed homosexuals.  Each and everyone is special and precious and almost ALL I DID NOT MEET IN SCHOOL.

I guess the point is that if a parent is going to take the trouble to homeschool their children, they will certainly ensure that their children receive the opportunities to socialise. Now with homeschooling on the uptrend, socialisation is becoming easier than ever because homeschooling networks make it easy for homeschooled children to meet up and socialise.

What about Homeschooling Success Rates?

How can parents without any background in education teach their children better than fully qualified teachers? Unfortunately, not all the teachers in schools are “fully qualified” as I am sure many parents can attest to. Neither are all teachers bad, because like everything else, there are good teachers and there are bad teachers. However, when it comes to homeschooling, the results are often usually better because parents are possibly some of the most motivated teachers around because it involves their children. Personally, I would never have the patience to teach a group of children, but my children? That’s a different story. When you are the parent, it is always different.

If you want success rates, there are plenty and the results are very positive:

With all the positive feedback on homeschooling, I would like to end with a quote from Jada Pinkett Smith that I thought was rather apt, “The school system in this country—public and private—is designed for the industrial age. We’re in a technological age. We don’t want our kids to memorize. We want them to learn.”

More:

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

27 thoughts on “To Homeschool or Not to Homeschool

  1. Ditto.

    I think most parents would ponder about this at one point or another. It is ridiculous to waste 12 years in a school education that teaches my child to act like a copy machine. It is sad to see creativity and imagination of a child slowly ebbed away.

    It is also extremely sad to hear parents say, “I am sending my 2 year old to school because I can’t stand her tanturms/nonsense anymore.” Huh? Some parents DO look at education instituition as highly paid babysitters.

    If you homeschool Gareth, can I send my Little Tiger to you? They are almost the same age…hehe 🙂

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    1. Jessica – that’s what I keep asking myself. I know we’ve already committed Gavin but I can’t stop asking myself if I made the right decision. I am very happy with his teacher but I do worry whether we will always be lucky to get a good teacher. Already his teacher has said that I’m the only parent he has spoken to so much and I wonder when they are going to start hiding when they see me approaching… Then again, that’s what all the advice says for parents who still decide to send their children to regular school – to make sure you keep in good contact with your children’s teachers so you can be aware of any problems and address them as they crop up.

      Yeah, even I have to admit it is somewhat a relief when Gavin goes off to school for half a day because Gareth is a lot easier to manage on his own. I had the two of them together at home for 8 weeks before school started and it was so exhausting!

      Heh… if hubby has his say, neither of our boys are ever going to be homeschooled. He says I can do whatever I want with them after school but they have to go to school. He believes in that whole rite of passage of school.

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  2. Hi Hui-Wearn,

    Do you have a system to follow, and if there is, can you share what is the system that most of the homeschooler in Malaysia would likely to follow…..Again, is there any support team here in Malaysia for parents who homeschool their children ? Wish to hear from you. Thanks.

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  3. a few months ago, Shen. hubby is very supportive.

    Fz Teh:
    there is no fixed syllabus per se for HS, there are homeschoolers who follow a syllabus e.g. Sonlight, AOP, there are some who mix & match and there are some who ‘unschool’. All kids are different hence learning for them can be customised.

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    1. Hui-Wearn – great that your hubs is so supportive. Mine seems stuck to the idea of school because it was what he did… Sigh… Now I’m trying to figure a way to do a merge of the two so I can fulfill his need for them to go to school, but give them a the HS advantage. I’m just so scared of them losing the interest to learn. I’ve been talking to the teacher about what they do in school and so far it sounds okay. I do wonder though when the teacher’s going to start hiding when I appear because I seem to be the only parent so obsessed about her child and asking so many questions…

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  4. Shenli- Thanks to the link.

    Hui-Wearn- Thanks. So sorry I have tons of questions, please enlighten me how does the child get assessed academically if he/she has no system to follow ? Earnestly waiting for your reply.

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    1. Thanks for the link FZ! Just out of curiousity, what do you do in terms of comprehension with V? So far, with Gavin, we just talk about what we read and what happened. I’m just wondering if there’s more I can do to work on his comprehension skills.

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  5. I have know people who were home-schooled and it almost seemed as if they were more advanced than most kids. But they were also involved in school functions such as sports and field trips. With the different ways they can get involved with the local schools I think helps them out to not be so sheltered and learn about all thing.

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  6. Fz Teh :
    there are many ways to assess a child in their HS progress assuming there’s a syllabus: Worksheets, Writing, Hands-on projects, Narration & Discussion and of course tests & quizzes.
    For exams e.g. A-levels, private tutoring may be required to prepare for it.

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  7. Hui-Wearn – I think I am basically doing the HS program to my daughter most of the times ( because she is not a school-going child at the moment) except the fact that I don’t actually assess her with any specific topic, and my assessment is more to the strengthening of foundation skills such as memory, TT, Maths skills, reading skills, general comprehension and am wondering how far MUST I do with her looking at her age…….. already feeling so guilty to get her sitting there learning abacus. Is this called HS ? Does HS child go for enrichment class ???? But one thing for sure she has plenty of times to play.

    Many thanks.

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  8. Hi Shenli- I used Book A and Read And Think, by Victoria Readers when was 4, then on books I by Black Cat Series, then again Singapore Primary I English and Comprehension Skills, you may find the latter at MPH. Then I found this book titled KS2 English Revision by Anne Loadman, but she doesn’t do any exercise in this workbook because some topics need the child’s opinions which I dont think she can offer any validity to me right now but I read the entire concept as how I read Maths concept to her. I find this way works.

    I have recently found one pretty good grammar book titled ” Essential Grammer In Use” by Raymond Murphy, even though this book stated ” a self-study reference and practice book for elementary students of English” , that said, I personally find its pictorial illustration is definitely much much better for the younger children to comprehend compared to Singapore workbooks.

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  9. This was a well-thought-out article. Nice to hear the defense of homeschooling from you even though you aren’t a homeschooler.

    I have 9 children and have schooled them all at home, with no regrets. My youngest is 12 and oldest is 30. The oldest is currently studying for a doctorate in physical therapy after being employed in this area for awhile and the other older children have various careers or are in college/training for one. We did send our children to public high school either part way through or all 4 yrs, but I know there are many homeschoolers who don’t find this necessary.

    What is most appealing to me about homeschooling is the time the teaching parent gets to spend with the children. Now I’m only teaching my 12 yr old, and this is time that is precious to me. Also, I really enjoy learning along with my children.

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    1. Thanks Diane. Although we don’t homeschool, I do work with my older son to supplement what he learns at school and I do agree that I love the time we get to spend together. Sometimes I miss my older son when he is away at school but it is nice to have the special one-on-one time with my younger son who is often easily neglected because my older son is so vocal and attention-demanding. I don’t know how you managed to divide yourself amongst 9 children! I find that I am struggling with just 2!

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  10. Shen-Li, yes, it can be difficult to juggle tending to many children at once– this was not easy for me, and I can’t say I have any simple solutions for homeschooling parents with a large family, but I did find ways to have the kids do much of their writing and math independently, and we studied some subjects like history/geography either all together or in groups. I’m selling some products on my website (www.gentleshepherd.biz) that were things we used, that did work well with my group. What’s on the website is just a beginning– I have lots more in files on my home computer that I’m gradually making into books/e-books. Some of the curriculum items are for preschoolers and can easily be used by anyone, whether they are doing homeschool or traditional school. And some of the creative writing/art materials have been used by non-homeschoolers who were looking for something their kids would enjoy doing during vacations, or just because they like to draw/write.

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  11. Dear Diane,

    I practically support the idea you shared to readers in your article, i.e. along the line you mentioned to ask the child to stop and back to learning while he/she was still having fun. I personally feel this is of utmost importance to parents who like to homeschool their children, to let children appreciate the importance of defer-enjoyment and for fact of discipline…..because I too practiced this method to my daughter when she was 2, in one incidence when I started bringing her out to play, thought she had played non-stop 3 hours, perspired profusely on the playground, knew she needed rest , so I requested her to to rest and read a book with me to cut back her over energetic body ( back then book was the only thing to make her quiet), after that I released her again, well, I still practice this until now, and I personally notice she has becoming a child with strong will and discipline. And I believe I acquire this through nurture!

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  12. Hi Shenli,

    May you share where you purchased “Stereogram 3-D book”, local bookstore ? Internet ? Hope you could provide details if you could still recall. I just checked with Book Depository, the copy is too costly USD 300 + for a 36 3D book, and I don’t think it’s worth to buy. Many thanks.

    Yesterday I came across a good copy titled ” Cosmos” from Popular Ikano, mine was the last copy, you may check with other Popular if they still have this copy, if you are interested. The book comprised mostly with pictures on stars, planets, nebulae, comets, moons, etc. And the book is with unusual big size, with special offer RM87 ( less 10%) ISBN : (UK) 978-1-84724-125-2, is definitely worth the price.

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  13. Thanks for sharing Diane. I only have two children and it feels like teaching them at home is so difficult because they are at such different stages in development. Additionally, they have such opposite personalities that it makes it hard to do things together. Aristotle likes order and Hercules seems to thrive on disorder – he’ll mess up everything which drives Aristotle mad.

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  14. FZ – so sorry for the late reply. Try looking on ebay. Stereogram books are hard to get now because they seem to have lost their following. ebay is usually a good place to look for books like these that aren’t very popular any more.

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  15. Hi Shenli,

    Thanks to your link that I have purchased 4 magic-eyes books together with books on some historian scientists such as Thomas Alva Edison, Gregor Mendel, Isaac Newton, Marie Curie, Alexender G Bell, L. Pasteur etc. Hope all are perfectly good corresponding to all reviews written.

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